A computer has beaten a human professional for the first time at Go – an ancient board game that has long been viewed as one of the greatest challenges for artificial intelligence.
The best human players of chess, draughts and backgammon have all been outplayed by computers.
Now Google’s London-based AI company, DeepMind, claims that its ‘AlphaGo’ program has mastered the game.
The IBM chess computer Deep Blue, which famously beat grandmaster Garry Kasparov in 1997, was explicitly programmed to win at the game.
But AlphaGo was not pre-programmed to play Go: rather, it learned using a general-purpose algorithm that allowed it to interpret the game’s patterns.
This means that similar techniques could be applied to other AI domains that require recognition of complex patterns, long-term planning and decision-making, says DeepMind co-founder Demis Hassabis.
“A lot of the things we are trying to do in the world come under that rubric.”
Examples are using medical images to make diagnoses or treatment plans, and improving climate-change models.