Google's AI just beat the world's best Go player

Game of Go pits man against machine
Game of Go pits man against machine

A near perfect opening wasn't enough for man to beat machine.

A computer system that Google engineers trained to play the game Go beat the world's best human player Thursday in China. The victory was AlphaGo's second this week over Chinese professional Ke Jie, clinching the best-of-three series at the Future of Go Summit in Wuzhen.

Afterward, Google engineers said AlphaGo estimated that the first 50 moves -- by both players -- were virtually perfect. And the first 100 moves were the best anyone had ever played against AlphaGo's master version.

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"What an amazing and complex game! Ke Jie pushed AlphaGo right to the limit," said DeepMind CEO Demis Hassabis on Twitter. DeepMind is a British artificial intelligence company that developed AlphaGo and was purchased by Google in 2014.

alphago china

DeepMind made a stir in January 2016 when it first announced it had used artificial intelligence to master Go, a 2,500-year-old game. Computer scientists had struggled for years to get computers to excel at the game.

In Go, two players alternate placing white and black stones on a grid. The goal is to claim the most territory. To do so, you surround your opponent's pieces so that they're removed from the board.

The board's 19-by-19 grid is so vast that it allows a near infinite combination of moves, making it tough for machines to comprehend. Games such as chess have come quicker to machines.

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The Google engineers at DeepMind rely on deep learning, a trendy form of artificial intelligence that's driving remarkable gains in what computers are capable of. World-changing technologies that loom on the horizon, such as autonomous vehicles, rely on deep learning to effectively see and drive on roads.

AlphaGo's achievement is also a reminder of the steady improvement of machines' ability to complete tasks once reserved for humans. As machines get smarter, there are concerns about how society will be disrupted, and if all humans will be able to find work.

Historically, mankind's development of tools has always created new jobs that never existed before. But the gains in artificial intelligence are coming at a breakneck pace, which will likely accentuate upheaval in the short term.

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The 19-year-old Ke and AlphaGo will play a third match Saturday morning. The summit will also feature a match Friday in which five human players will team up against AlphaGo.

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