Whether it’s chess, Go, or Starcraft II, computer scientists are getting pretty good at building artificial intelligence that excels at games once dominated by people.
For the hapless humans who are left eating the pro-gamer AI’s dust, coming second to the bots again and again has a noticeable demoralizing effect, according to a study presented at a recent conference on human-robot interaction. While the psychological effects of playing games against a robot may not be groundbreaking, the study has dire implications for people who see more and more of their co-workers replaced by robots and AI — in other words, as we all start to lose at the game of work.
On Your Mark
In the study, human participants competed against an algorithm in a letter-counting task. Presented with a random string of letters, people had to count the amount of times the letter “G” appeared and drag a block on a computer screen to a space corresponding with the right answer. A correct answer earned them a point, while an incorrect answer froze their screen for ten seconds.
Earning more points than the AI competitor within a two-minute span would earn the participant the chance to win a cash prize, which the experimenters tweaked every now and then to see how it affected people’s motivation.
Throwing in The Towel
It turns out that people weren’t motivated by a higher pot on its own, but the extent to which they were discouraged by a superior AI increased when the prize value grew.
“I felt very stressed competing with the robot,” one participant is quoted in the research paper. “In some rounds, I kept seeing the robot’s score increasing out of the corner of my eye, which was extremely nerve-racking.”
READ MORE: Here’s what robots destroy when they compete with humans [MarketWatch]
More on automation: North America Put More Robots to Work in 2018 Than Ever Before
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