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Artificial Intelligence, Globalization and International Basketball

A strong declaration from a historically antagonist foe should put chills in the hearts of Americans preparing themselves for the world ahead: Russian President Vladimir Putin says the nation that leads in AI will be the ruler of the world  … The ruler of the world!

From the article (with some modification to avoid political landmines), we get the following:

“The development of artificial intelligence has increasingly become a national security concern in recent years. It is China and the US (not Russia), which are seen as the two frontrunners, with China recently announcing its ambition to become the global leader in AI research by 2030. Many analysts warn that America is in danger of falling behind, especially as the [current US] administration prepares to cut funding for basic science and technology research.”

Elon Musk, one of America’s foremost technology advocates, predicts that countries seeking leadership (and domination) from artificial intelligence will be the basis for World War III

Man, isn’t globalization a bitch? It’s great when other countries just blindly buy whatever we’re selling, but globalization eventually creates a level playing field. In fact, countries with a strong vision and commitment to investing in future technologies can excel in a world more and more driven by globalization. And while there may be some people that want to put the “globalization genie” back in the bottle, it ain’t happening!

So in order to better prepare our country for the effects of globalization on artificial intelligence, it is useful to understand the drivers of globalization. And there is no better example of the effects of globalization than what happened in the world of international basketball.

Globalization Explained Through International Basketball

In the beginning of the modern Olympics (considered to have started with the 1936 Olympics), United States of America (USA) basketball dominated international basketball, and was able to dominate international play using amateur players.

From 1936 through 1984, USA basketball went a combined 81 – 1 in the Olympics (won 81 games and only lost 1 game), with the only loss being in 1972 when the Russians beat the USA in a very, very controversial game

However in the 1988 Olympics, the USA basketball team legitimately lost to the Russians. And additional warning signs of the end of the USA’s international basketball dominance was in the air when the USA finished a disappointing 6-2 with losses to Puerto Rico and Yugoslavia in the 1990 World Cup.

The World Catches Up

Globalization had caught up with USA basketball. The international basketball players had gotten significantly better, and the USA could no longer dominate the Olympics with amateurs. Driving the globalization of international basketball were some key factors, similar factors that will be the drivers of the globalization of artificial intelligence including:

  • Increased awareness (and growing popularity) of high levels of basketball skills and capabilities driven by televised USA basketball games. International players could now envision the realm of what was possible from watching top-tier basketball competition and took opportunities to learn, understand and eventually replicate the best moves of the best USA players.
  • Widespread availability of basketball education and skills training. With the rapid growth of the Internet, videos and manuals where readily available to everyone covering key aspects of basketball including shooting, dribbling, passing, rebounding and defensive techniques. International players now had access to the same training techniques and tools that were previously only available to USA players.
  • Improvements in the capabilities of international coaching and personal trainers who were learning coaching and training best practices via conferences and foreign exchange programs with some of the USA’s leading collegiate and professional coaches.

As a result, competition got better and they got better fast! And the ability for the USA to dominate Olympic basketball with amateurs was under siege.

Introducing the “Dream Team”

The 1992 United States men’s Olympic basketball team, nicknamed the “Dream Team,” was the first American Olympic team to feature active NBA players. The Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame called the team “the greatest collection of basketball talent on the planet.” At the 1992 Summer Olympics held in Barcelona, the Dream Team defeated its opponents by an average of 44 points in route to the gold medal. 11 of the 12 players on the roster (all except Christian Laettner) have been elected to the National Basketball League Hall of Fame.

The 1992 Original Dream Team: Michael Jordan, Magic Johnson, Larry Bird, Charles Barkley, David Robinson, Patrick Ewing, Karl Malone, Scottie Pippen, Chris Mullen, Clyde Drexler, John Stockton and Christian Laettner.

 

However, one can’t stop the incessant march of globalization…

International players continue to make impressive improvements in their basketball skills and capabilities due to:

  • More international players are coming to US colleges where they can play basketball against top-tier college players. Today, international players make up about 11% of NCAA Division I men’s basketball rosters.
  • More US players are playing in European leagues, which are resulting in the up-skilling of the local European talent.
  • Finally, some of the best international players are playing professionally in the US including Tim Duncan (Virgin Islands), Hakeem Olajuwon (Nigeria), Dirk Nowitzki (Germany), Steve Nash (South Africa and Canada), Tony Parker (France) and the Gasol brothers (Spain).

Improvements in international awareness, education, training, methodology, tools and coaching will continue to put pressure on USA basketball, and it won’t be long before the USA dominance of Olympic basketball using active NBA players will also come to an end.

The Globalization of Artificial Intelligence

Thinking that we can reverse the trend in international basketball so that our amateurs can dominate Olympic play is over. Globalization has changed the face of international basketball forever, and created a level playing field where talented basketball players from anywhere in the world can now play at the highest level – the National Basketball Association.

These same aspects – awareness, popularity, education, training, methodology, tools and coaching – are driving globalization for advanced technologies such as artificial intelligence. We already know that advanced technologies like artificial intelligence are no longer just the domain of Silicon Valley and New York CityAnd likewise, artificial intelligence will no longer be just the domain of the US.

 

Excellent on-line, artificial intelligence training courses, like Andrew Ng’s new series of deep learning classes on Coursera, are readily available to folks in the US as well as in other countries, including Russia. Unless organizations, universities and our government invest aggressively in artificial intelligence over the next few years, we risk becoming second-class citizens in technologies that for the most part we developed.

The globalization genie is out of the bottle and there is no putting it back.

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