what the heck

What the heck is… a centaur team?

By Oliver Smith 9 August 2017
Image: Getty/akinfiev_sergey.
Summary

Explaining the buzzwords of the moment: what is a centaur team and why are they growing?

Our weekly series What The Heck Is… exists to shed light on the strange unexplained acronyms and unfamiliar buzzwords that creep into our everyday lives.

From net neutrality to 4D we’re on a mission to explain the difficult to explain.

Today, ‘centaur teams’. No it’s not a tribe of mythical horse/persons.

It’s the most bonkers phrase you’re about to hear all the time.

What the heck is a centaur team?

At its simplest, a centaur team is one that’s part-human, part-artificial intelligence.

The phase can be traced back to chess grandmaster Garry Kasparov, who explored the ways that human players could be augmented with computers to improve their play styles.

It’s a model where humans bring common sense and creativity, which machines still lack, while artificial intelligence works its magic to spot trends and patterns across vast data sets.

Today centaur teams are springing up in a host of fields, with the pharmaceutical industry being the biggest.

Professor Andrew Hopkins, CEO of AI-based drug discovery firm Exscientia, says that AI and human teams can identify molecules that have the potential to become new drugs “in roughly one-quarter of the time, and at one-quarter of the cost of traditional approaches”.

That’s why GlaxoSmithKline just signed a whopping £33m deal with them.

Where else are centaur teams popping up?

Basically everywhere.

From nurses in hospitals working with AI to help them multi-task, to film and television where artificial intelligence can help to compose shots and edit entire trailers.

Even the US military is experimenting in how centaur teams might work in a future robotically-enabled war.

Am I already in a centaur team?

Quite possibly, without even realising.

The workplaces of the future will be filled with individuals and teams working closely with artificial intelligence.

It might sound wacky today, but in truth it’s no different from the technologies you already work alongside today.

Your AI assistant can already control your inbox, organise meetings and send out briefing notes.

So why not start your own centaur team today?

Our weekly series What The Heck Is… exists to shed light on the strange unexplained acronyms and unfamiliar buzzwords that creep into our everyday lives.