Everyone is talking about the latest AI project, Chat GBT, and the responses have ranged from excitement to horror. In fact, Chat GBT has become such a cultural phenomenon that the site is running at such a capacity that you can’t even log in right now. Kind of like when you call the airline and they ask for your number and say they’ll text you when you’re next in line.
Meanwhile, AI is already affecting many industries, but none is more visible or game-changing than business math. The reason is that predicting future outcomes is essential to everything in sports. Think of some decisions that need to be made in real time. This type of predictive analysis based on data analytics has been around for a while now by the Oakland Athletics and its general manager Billy Beane who was able to compete favorably with teams like the Yankees with $125 million in salaries. Brad Pitt famously played his character in the movie Moneyball, based on the book about Beane of the same name.
The basic premise of Money Ball was that statistical analysis, such as the slugging percentage and on-base percentage, was a more effective method for predicting success that consisted of the business intuitions of baseball insiders than scouts and managers. Oakland’s owner at the time, Lew Wolff, took a big gamble in giving Beane latitude to test his thesis at a time when she was completely unknown. When I spoke to him, Wolfe said, “People thought I was crazy for letting Billy use stats to make decisions instead of the intuition of baseball experts.”
All of the major sports leagues are integrating AI into everything they do especially from a fan engagement perspective.
The NFL has already joined Amazon
While ChatGBT is not currently involved in predictive analysis, it has shown that the power of AI to collect massive amounts of data can lead to better decision making regarding player and game time decisions and influences on scouts, coaches and general managers. People have many important decisions to make that are critical to the success of the franchise such as:
Who do you craft or trade for?
Should a specific player start or be included in the game?
In baseball, the biggest decisions we see are when to pull the pitcher and what kind of reliever to bring in, or when to press the batter and who to call. In basketball and football we have the same kind of dilemmas – who and when should substitute. Each part of the game is different with different statistics about each game that takes place. With the power of artificial intelligence, we can literally sift through millions of data points in real time to determine a much better predictive analysis than Billy Beane could use just on a base percentage basis. The AI can predict everything from the expected performance if a player is included in the squad or game, or the player’s career outlook and injury probability.
The implication of all this is that in the future with advanced machine learning it will be daunting. The Lakers are a great example of struggling to find the best support team for LeBron James. With advanced AI, you don’t need a GM to make decisions based on survey reports or intuition to make the deal, the data will let you know which player fits the system best. So the GM and the Boy Scouts are gone.
After that you talk about the coach. Predictive analysis will tell you when to make substitutions. There is no guess work. The only caveat is when a superstar like LeBron James says they don’t want a bot to coach the team. Then everything collapses.
Many people feel that too much artificial intelligence will lead to a dystopian world. I’m not sure I don’t agree. LeBron, what do you think?