Business Technology

Saturday 20 January 2018

Google's DeepMind beats Go champion in historic moment for AI

Madhumita Murgia

A computer program has beaten the world champion of one of civilisation's oldest board games for the first time in history.

Lee Se-dol, a 33-year-old South Korean, resigned the first of five matches of the fiendishly complex strategy game against the AlphaGo program, which is built by the Google-owned British company DeepMind.

The game, which lasted a brief 3.5 hours, was officially declared as a win for AlphaGo in Seoul today. Commentators called it a "superb" game that would be studied for years to come.

The breakthrough is seen as a watershed moment for artificial intelligence, a milestone potentially more significant than  IBM defeating the world champion Gary Kasparov at chess in 1997. Go takes a lifetime to master and unlike chess, a computer cannot play by simply assessing all possible moves but must rely on something akin to intuition.

The game involves two players putting black and white markers on a 19-by-19 grid. It is said to have more possible playing permutations than the number of atoms in the universe.

The AlphaGo program, which uses algorithms, has practised by analysing data from 100,000 professional human games and playing itself some 30 million times.

Mr Lee, who has been a professional Go player since the age of 12, and won 18 international titles, said at a pre-game press conference: “It would be a computer’s victory if it wins even one game.”

“I believe human intuition and human senses are too advanced for artificial intelligence to catch up. I doubt how far AlphaGo can mimic such things.”

After the game he admitted that he was "shocked".

Promoted Links

Business Newsletter

Read the leading stories from the world of Business.

Promoted Links

Also in Business