'Stronger than the strongest human': AlphaGo software outsmarts board game champion

by Fredrick Graves May 24, 2017, 5:35
'Stronger than the strongest human': AlphaGo software outsmarts board game champion

The self-learning algorithm beat the world's current number one player, Ke Jie, on Tuesday in the opening fixture of a three game match in China.

In the first of three planned games at an event in the eastern Chinese water town of Wuzhen, AlphaGo, which is part of Google's DeepMind project, competed against Ke Jie, now ranked as the top player in the world. A computer that plays go has started a match against China's No. 1 player in a test of whether artificial intelligence can master one of the last games that machines have yet to dominate.

It faced off against 19-year old Kie Jie, who is the current human world champion of Go, a strategy game similar to chess that requires players to place black or white stones on a board and capture the opponent's pieces or surround empty spaces to build territories.

But AlphaGo's success is considered the most significant yet for AI due to the complexity of Go, which has an incomputable number of move options and puts a premium on human-like "intuition", instinct and the ability to learn.

Ke, who was once confident that he can defeat AlphaGo, has changed his attitude with the latter's landslide victory against top Go players over the past year.

On Monday night, Ke said on China's Twitter-like Weibo platform that "the advancement of AI has far exceeded our imagination" but added he would never play it again after this week. Much of the drama a year ago came from AlphaGo's unorthodox, baffling moves that later turned out to be inspired and even handsome, so it will be fascinating to see how the AI performs under these conditions. The victor of the match will win $1.5 million.

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Although AlphaGo and Lee Sedol played five Go matches against each other, there will be only three matches between the AI and Ke Jie this time around.

The second exhibition match, Team Go, is more straightforward: five Chinese pro players will basically gang up on AlphaGo, working together in an attempt to take the AI down. However, experts say that the margin of victory is not the AI's priority.

While playing down expectations of the outcome, he stressed that humanity's trumph over the machine is in the game's intangible magic, instead of the bits and bytes. Go may not be the endgame, but it's a beguiling, engrossing context for these conversations to be held in.

Players have said AlphaGo enjoys some advantages because it doesn't get exhausted or emotionally rattled, two critical aspects of the mentally intense game.

AlphaGo now has huge influence on the Go circuit, and was star turn at the Future of Go Summit, organised by Google, in China this week.


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