Will artificial intelligence lead to a lot more cheating?

Controversy erupted in St. Louis last week when world chess champion Magnus Carlsen withdrew from a top tournament. One interpretation of his decision, based on his tweet, is that he thinks competitor Hans Niemann, who beat him in the third round, may have cheated with the help of a computer. Suspicions were further raised when Niemann admitted to cheating twice before, and when Chess.com released a statement alleging further cheating and banning Niemann from its site.

The chess world has been in turmoil ever since, encouraged by Elon Musk, whose tweets contemplated the possibility of cheating at chess with vibrating anal beads. In theory, the pearls would transmit messages from an accomplice, watch live matches online, and consult computer programs to convey near-flawless advice.

I don’t know what really happened in St. Louis, but I’m interested in this controversy as a harbinger of the future. The better the AI ​​gets, the more humans will use it to their advantage, sometimes by cheating.

The first reality is that many people will work harder to be connected to their AIs, secretly or not. The St. Louis Chess Tournament employed security precautions, including body searches, but that won’t be practical in most real-world settings. This will make people more likely to use their devices – headphones, hearing aids, phones – to alert them when a situation is problematic. The cheeky ones will just pull out their phones in the middle of trading sessions and read them for advice. It will not be necessary to obtain vibrating beads (although some prefer).

Being an accomplice will be a job in itself. Maybe they sit in the stands at a baseball game and consult an AI, and take off their caps every time they think the pitcher is about to throw a curveball rather than a fastball. . Or maybe those “poker faces” in Vegas aren’t so impenetrable after all, and an accomplice can signal when to fold.

The good news is that AI assistance, or cheating as the case may be, will lead to many advancements in human-machine interfaces. Currently, Google Glass is a flop, but some versions of the product may make a comeback. “Smart clothes” that transmit messages through fabric are another option. You may walk into a bar and receive a message indicating which of the most eligible – or highest paying – potential partners are sitting in front of you. Facial and gait recognition are also progressing.

A more subtle truth is that much of the cheating will be small and marginal rather than blatant. Consider computer cheating in chess. If you find a way to consult the computer on every move, you’ll win every game with near-perfect play. You will also be taken immediately. So you can cheat for just a few moves each game – enough to help but not so much to get detected. Since both sides will employ countermeasures and detect suspected instances of clearly superior performance, a lot of the cheating will be rather poor, and deliberate.

As decisive moments approach, games and competitions could become less honest – and tensions in the crowd will rise as people wonder if they are watching the real thing or an AI-assisted simulacrum. Brilliance will forever be challenged. Dishonest players, in turn, will need to carefully consider when to exercise their de facto “cheating privileges.”

You might think that better physical inspections of players would solve this problem, but advances in materials science will make it easier to circumvent the restrictions. Hans Niemann joked about performing naked to silence doubters. Maybe it will one day. Competitions are also increasingly online, whether it’s esports or online chess, so even a fully naked player could consult the AI ​​help on the other side of the room.

You might also think that most players aren’t cheaters, and maybe you’re right. At the same time, I’m an NBA fan, and I notice that players are often ready to commit flagrant fouls if they think the ref isn’t looking.

Perhaps a final lesson from the Carlsen-Niemann episode is that it will become increasingly difficult to know whether the cheating took place. The players will have a gray reputation, and perhaps the accusations of cheating will also be ambiguous, as already seems to be the case with some of the top chess players who have commented on the dispute.

AI can bring clarity to many competitive and gaming situations. But it will not always bring clarity to the competitions and games themselves, or to the humans who play and watch them.

More from Bloomberg Opinion:

• AI is poised to accelerate drug discovery: Lisa Jarvis

• AI’s hold on humans is beginning to tighten: Parmy Olson

• There is a legal intrigue at the World Chess Match: Stephen Carter

This column does not necessarily reflect the opinion of the Editorial Board or of Bloomberg LP and its owners.

Tyler Cowen is a Bloomberg Opinion columnist. He is a professor of economics at George Mason University and writes for the Marginal Revolution blog. He is co-author of “Talent: How to Identify the Energizers, Creatives and Winners in the World”.

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