Recently I returned from a trip to Seoul, Korea where I was asked to speak at the Global Sports Marketing Forum on the “future of sports.” This event was part of a series being planned to draw attention to the 2018 Winter Olympics in Pyeongchang, Korea.
Here’s how I began my presentation in Seoul.
In 1980, Carnegie Mellon University announced the formation of the $100,000 Fredkin Prize, named after computer pioneer Edward Fredkin, for anyone who could develop a computer capable of beating a world chess champion. In 1997, IBM’s Deep Blue team took up the challenge and proceeded to beat Gary Kasporov, the reigning world chess champion.
In 2011, IBM waged a similar battle on the TV game show Jeopardy. This time they pitted their Watson Computer against Ken Jennings and Paul Rudder, the all-time top Jeopardy champions. Again the computer came up the winner.
So if computers can win at chess and Jeopardy, are we about to see similar contests between robots and basketball players, driverless cars and NASCAR drivers, or robots and golf champions? More importantly, do we run the risk of automating these sports out of existence?
Yes, we will see many more human-vs-machine staged competitions. But no, this won’t jeopardize the sporting industry. We’re asking is the wrong question.
Even though the human-vs-machine competitions won’t be an issue, there are several possible threats around the corner for professional sports. Here’s why.