Google AI faces off against a top human mind in epic Go tilt

It’s probably the toughest match yet for any computer program set up to battle the human intellect. Tonight, Google DeepMind’s AlphaGo goes up against the world champion in the world’s most difficult board game, Go.

In October, AlphaGo laid waste to European Go champion Fan Hui, winning all five games in the match. Tonight, the program faces Lee Sedol of South Korea in the first game of a five-day, five-game match to be live-streamed on YouTube.

The ancient Chinese board game is played with round black and white stones on a grid. The object is to surround enemy pieces and take over board area.

“Go is primarily a game about intuition rather than brute-force calculation used in chess,” DeepMind CEO Demis Hassabis said at a press conference Tuesday. “There are more possible Go positions than there are atoms in the universe.”

World champion Lee last month engaged in the Go version of trash talking. “I have heard that Google DeepMind’s AI is surprisingly strong and getting stronger, but I am confident that I can win at least this time,” he said in statement. Later last month, however, Lee looked into a less-than-rosy and not-too-distant future for the supremacy of the non-machine mind. “If artificial intelligence continues to advance, in a year or two years, it will be really hard to guess the results,” he told the Associated Press.

Human-versus-machine board game matches began rising to prominence in 1997, when IBM’s Deep Blue beat world chess champion Garry Kasparov. British computer scientist Matthew Lai has demonstrated an AI system that can learn to play international-master-level chess in 72 hours.

Pete Carey wrote last month about how machine learning — the computerized Go player is an example — is on the rise and getting better all the time.

Google bought DeepMind in 2014. The AI company takes on tasks beyond mere game-playing: DeepMind has been working with the U.K.’s National Health Service on apps for detecting kidney damage, and managing healthcare tasks.


Photo: A Go board (Wikimedia Commons/Donar Reiskoffer)


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