Hamza Shaban, for the Washington Post, 2017.
AI: 2, Humanity: 0.
A computer designed by Google researchers has beaten the world’s top Go player for the second game in a row, capturing the best-of-three match in Wuzhen, China, and confirming AI’s supremacy in what many consider as one of humanity’s most complex boardgames.
Ke Jie, a 19-year old Go grandmaster, began the game with stellar play, said Demis Hassabis, the CEO of DeepMind, the artificial intelligence firm that created AlphaGo, at a press conference, according to the Associated Press. Google acquired his company in 2014. But the Chinese prodigy was eventually bested by AlphaGo. In South Korea last year, DeepMind’s machine defeated another championship-caliber player, Lee Sedol, stunning some in the field of artificial intelligence.
“For the first 100 moves it was the closest we’ve ever seen anyone play against the Master version of AlphaGo,” Hassabis said after the game, according to the Verge.
“Today’s game was different from the first,” Ke said Thursday at the press conference, according to the Verge. “AlphaGo made some moves which were opposite from my vision of how to maximize the possibility of winning. I also thought I was very close to winning the game in the middle but maybe that’s not what AlphaGo was thinking.”
AlphaGo’s sudden dominance over human competitors has surprised AI researchers, who had suspected that machines would take much more time to master the intricacies of Go. The program began as a research project three years ago. In a 2016 Nature article, Google said that AlphaGo had beaten European champion Fan Hui, five games to zero, in a match that took place during the previous October, behind closed doors. That marked the first time any computer program had beaten a professional player at Go. The program went on to beat more stand out players.
AlphaGo’s wins have revealed the ways that computers can augment human capability and spur new ways of thinking. And more broadly, the computer program’s feat helps validate a more optimistic take on the future of automation and AI, one in which humans aren’t necessarily displaced, but are enhanced in some way.
This week’s match in China also demonstrated the very human limitations that can surface amid competition, primarily how stress and emotions can hinder decision making.“I was very excited. I could feel my heart bumping,” Ke said after the game, The New York Times reported. “Maybe because I was too excited I made some stupid moves.”
Beyond the game of Go, DeepMind scientists believe that the technology that powers AlphaGo can help societies develop better ways to conserve energy and boost health research.