Google’s AI Is Changing the Way a 3,000-Year-Old Game Is Played

Winning Streak

Google’s DeepMind artificial intelligence (AI) wowed the world when it won in a series of Go against 18-time world champion Lee Sedol. The historic win was a first for DeepMind’s Go-playing AI, AlphaGo, but it wasn’t its last. Earlier this year, it defeated more than 50 top Go players online.

AlphaGo is clearly a force to be reckoned with in the world of Go, and now, Google is partnering with the best human Go players to explore the AI’s capabilities and how human players could learn from it.

“Clearly, there remains much more to learn from this partnership between Go’s best human players and its most creative A.I. competitor,” according to Google’s DeepMind. “That’s why we’re so excited to announce AlphaGo’s next step: a five-day festival of Go and artificial intelligence in the game’s birthplace, China.”

The “Future of Go Summit,” a collaboration between the Chinese Go Association, the Chinese government, and Google, is scheduled to run from May 23 to 27, 2017. Aside from China’s top Go players, leading AI experts from both Google and China will also be in attendance. The idea is to test AlphaGo’s creativity and adaptability, plus its ability to work in tandem with human players.

“The summit will feature a variety of game formats involving AlphaGo and top Chinese players, specifically designed to explore the mysteries of the game together,” Google’s blog post said. Those include “Pair Go,” a format in which Chinese pros will compete against each other while partnered with an AlphaGo teammate. Then, there’s “Team Go,” during which AlphaGo will compete against a five-person team of China’s top pro players. Lastly, the main event will be a match between AlphaGo and the world’s top ranked Go player, Ke Jie.

Growing Fast

AI is advancing rapidly and not just in the realm of games like Go. More and more frequently, we’re seeing AI that can do tasks previously exclusive to humans, such as writing stories, creating movies, composing music, and even conducting behavioral analysis. The exponential growth of AI is due, in large part, to rapid improvements in machine learning algorithms and neural network systems.

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Google’s DeepMind is a prime example. Apart from dominating at Go, DeepMind has shown that it’s possible for AI to have a memory from which it can learn. The AI has also outperformed human lip readerscontributed to medical research, and even revealed that AI could have killer instincts — a scary affirmation for those dreading the singularity. That’s just a sampling of what DeepMind AI has been able to accomplish, and it isn’t the only AI pushing research forward.

The Go festival in May will be another opportunity for AI research to grow. “[W]e will explore how AlphaGo has created new knowledge about the oldest of games, and how the technologies behind AlphaGo, machine learning, and artificial intelligence, are bringing solutions to some of the world’s greatest challenges into reach,” Google said.

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