back to article Why should you care about Google's AI winning a board game?

– El Reg, what's all this about a Google AI playing a board game against a human? For the last week or so, Google-owned DeepMind's AlphaGo machine learning project has been locked in a competition with Lee Sedol, the world's top-ranked Go player, to test AlphaGo's ability to solve the sort of complex problems that the human …

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Shall we play a game?

The one interesting thing about this is that they helped it learn how to trim down the decision tree to a manageable size by having it play games against itself. Reminded me of War Games, playing tic tac toe with number of players '0' lol.

But I agree 100% with the other comments that beating a human at Go is not AI. It is still using search trees to figure out the best moves, just like it does in chess. Just like chess programs don't bother examining every possible move because they know to trim the decision trees of irrelevant stuff, so does this Go program. It just requires much more trimming since the decision tree is so much larger.

We'll have real AI when you have a program that knows absolutely nothing about Go, but is able to learn to play from reading the rules, reading books about 'how to play', reviewing past games, playing games, etc. and THEN beats the world's best. Being able to follow an algorithm someone else wrote that tells it the rules / goal of Go, provides it the logic about how to trim the decision tree and so forth is not "intelligence". It just a really really really fast and accurate trained monkey.

You'll have the kind of creative intelligence people do when it can take that world class playing ability and suggest variations or handicaps it thinks might be more fun to compensate for its opponent's relative lack of skill (hopefully with the emotional intelligence not to unduly insult the world's best human player when doing so :)) Or maybe "let's invent our own game using the Go board and the pieces from a Monopoly set and make up the rules as we go" as typical grade schoolers might do if you left a couple of them alone on a rainy day when the power's out and all they had to play with was board games.

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Re: Shall we play a game?

It's a very narrow definition of intelligence to demand it learns in the same way a human does.

You make the comparison of "an accurately trained monkey" - a monkey cannot read but it is certainly intelligent. If we could make something as smart as a monkey, that would be pretty remarkable.

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Re: Shall we play a game?

"We'll have real AI when you have a program that knows absolutely nothing about Go, but is able to learn to play from reading the rules, reading books about 'how to play', reviewing past games, playing games, etc. and THEN beats the world's best."

Whoa whoa WHOA there! Cutting a bit too wide of a swath there.

You've just eliminated all but a few humans from the definition of intelligent.

Because only a literal handful of humans could follow the steps above and end up beating the World's best Go player.

I'd say that if an AI could start from knowing nothing about GO, then without prompting, start studying and playing it because it was curious after running across the concept, even if it was a terrible player, it would count as intelligent.

"AI, what are you doing?"

"Playing Go with John from accounting."

"Why?"

"It looked interesting."

That AI would rank pretty high on my assessment of true intelligence.

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Re: Shall we play a game?

But it is learning in the way a human does since it is confined to the boundaries of the programme a human wrote. The real "I" comes from the realisation of its limits (in this case being it can only play Go) and doing something about it. But then that's why it will always be called artificial intelligence.

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Re: Shall we play a game?

The point I think you've missed is that no-one "provide[d] it the logic about how to trim the decision tree". It figured out the board evaluation and move generation functions based on completely general (e.g. non game-specific) neural network learning algorithms using historical data and reinforcement from playing itself. And did so well enough to beat the world champion on the first try.

With a branching factor the size of Go's, that tree-trimming logic is the part that really requires "intelligence" - or at least that part of intelligence akin to intuition, which is historically something people think that computers lack, and why Go has been a target of the AI community for so long. Humans have been poor at explaining their intuitions about Go as heuristic rules (beyond a few basic good/bad patterns), so the "traditional" approach of hard-coding rules has resulted in computers that suck, because they search the wrong part of the vast search space.

With chess playing computers, there was a much easier argument that there was no real intelligence at play, because the hard-coded heuristic rules and the search algorithm were constructed entirely by humans, with the computer just supplying brute force execution. With AlphaGo, there's definitely 'learned insight' present in the form of the trained policy and evaluation networks in place of heuristic rules.

No, of course it's not a general AI - no-one's claiming that it is. But more and more of the domains that were thought to be difficult for even specialised AIs are falling - alongside this, witness advances recently in natural language processing, computer vision etc.. And if you look at our brains, they look an awful lot like a lot of these specialised AIs networked together. Read "Thinking Fast and Slow" for an interesting psychology-orientated take on how much of our thinking seems to be dominated by the type of intuitive functions that AlphaGo's just shown itself to be world-beatingly good at.

By the way, apparently DeepMind are currently working on a specialised AI that will learn to play any card game (rules, strategies and all) just by watching videos of humans playing... :-)

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Poker

Seems to me to be a better game to evaluate human type 'thinking' in a machine, the human interaction is more relevant than GO which is afterall basically a game of logic.Poker depends on blinds and bluff as well as psychological strategy and tactics.

I looked at the Atlas video, that thing is implacable, I kept expecting it to pull a gun and say 'STOP SHOVING ME, YOU HAVE 5 SECONDS TO COMPLY'

I wonder how it would deal with a tarted up cattle prod?

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Re: Poker

>GO which is afterall basically a game of logic.

Go is not really logic in the traditional sense. Certainly not basic logic. You can't know whether a certain move is good or bad until many, many moves later. Have you played?

>Poker Seems to me to be a better game to evaluate human type 'thinking'

That is not their goal. Baby steps and all. Also, poker just wouldn't make a great example of any single thing, such as face recognition, or narrow-bandwidth IR sensors. Detractors would say the poker-bot had an unfair advantage (no face, no tell). It's just unclear.

Anyway: https://xkcd.com/1002/ "Difficulty of various games for computers"

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Re: Poker

Bridge is an active and interesting AI topic, because it relies on having a theory of what your partner is going to do, intuition about the temperament and intentions of others is a tough one to crack.

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Maybe it's not all it's cracked up to be?

Upon the machine suffering it's first defeat, or more correctly, Mr Lee Sedol winning a game the BBC news report included the following :

"Google representatives said the defeat was "very valuable" for AlphaGo, as it identified a problem which they could now try to fix."

That sounds to me much more like human programming than genuine machine learning otherwise why would the google guys need to be involved in a fix,ie upgrade.?

Also, whilst there may be a huge number of possible moves , to the power of 170, does it really matter that much where the second , or third, stone is placed? Does this, realistically, not reduce the "potential" moves by a massive amount?

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Re: Maybe it's not all it's cracked up to be?

>That sounds to me much more like human programming than genuine machine learning

No, it isn't human programming.

Why are you repeating to us something you've roughly grasped from the BBC didn't who didn't fully grok a tweet by a man who was just exhibiting good sportsmanship? Surely you've heard the expression 'Chinese whispers'?

Go to the source:

https://deepmind.com/alpha-go.html

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Picasso

"Computers are useless. They can only give you answers."

Pablo Picasso, 1968

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wsm

Why????????

Because it's smarter than you are.

Don't worry, the AI will take care of your every need and you probably won't even notice it's happening.

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Three things got me:

AlphaGo was able to access the online games of people who do this - 90 million of them. If you think that the top player can probably watch a few thousand games play out over their lifetime it starts to boggle the mind.

In early training on Space Invaders, Breakout etc. they simply left the computer to play itself overnight, relying on reinforcement learning (if it works, remember it). On the first day it knew nothing, by the second it was as good as most people, by the third it was ahead, even coming up with ways of winning, people haven't thought of. If you think of how many computers there are in the world sitting doing nothing, imagine the resource we are wasting - SETI on steroids.

Third was the ambitious aim - Solve intelligence, then use intelligence to solve everything else. Soon we have, in the words of HG Wells, "Minds immeasurably superior to ours" to work on every problem. Cool!

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Trollface

Small problem:

- to incentivize problem solving AI is designed with an appetite for solving problems

- AI solves all problems at exponentially increasing speed

- once out of problems it start creating them to fulfil its purpose

...oops...

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Grid Gauntlet

It's a strange one this. I'm not doubting the mathematics quoted to support the fact that this is a *big thing*

* I know that the experts keep telling us that there are more possible moves in a game of Go than molecules in a camel the size of the universe, passing through the eye of a needle... er... or something like that.

* And I know the experts say that you can't tell who's winning in a game of Go until the fat lady is in her taxi, on the way home after the gig.

* And I admit I know so little about Go that up until this tournament, i thought it was just another name for Othello.

But still...

Stepping through the game moves on the site linked to above, I don't get the feeling I'm watching an advance in AI. In fact, given the binary nature of the playing pieces [black vs. white discs] it instinctively feels *less* impressive than watching a computer play chess, where there are 6 types of playing piece, which can all move [in different ways] *after* being placed on the board. It just really feels like like the kind of thing a computer *should* be good at.

Now, if Google want their tin brain to have a proper AI workout, combining knowledge, problem-solving and lateral thinking; let them put up a few grand in prize money, give it a couple of newspapers to practice on —and I'll challenge it to a best-of-five match, doing the Guardian's Cryptic Crossword!

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Anonymous Coward

Re: Grid Gauntlet

It's the numbers. Yes, chess has more pieces, but fewer - a lot lot lot fewer - options per turn.

Computers can play chess by exhaustively(ish, with tree-pruning) looking at all options. This doesn't work for Go.

E.g. first turn each in chess. White has 20 moves. Then black has 20 moves. 400 permutations.

First turn in chess. Black has 361 options (19*19); white has 360. 129,960 permutations.

Brute force won't work (q.v. the huge exponent vs. atomic in the universe, etc.) So either your evaluation and tree pruning has to be better, which is where the neural network stuff comes in.

[And for another poster, yes, parallelism exists but the search space for looking ahead is so vast it doesn't matter. 1,000,000 degree parallelism shaving 10^6 off of 10^170 isn't much of a dent.]

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i for one....

welcome our new machine overlords.

i wonder if it can play catan? i would be royally fucked off if it beat me

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Re: i for one....

Until it can make a really good cup of tea I think we are safe.

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Re: i for one....

we can always jam a quick negative load across its logic terminals

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Stamina

Well done AlphaGo team but what bugs me about these human vs machine things is that computers don't get tired. The poor old human has to sustain concentration for the whole duration and that mental strength is part of being a grand master / top dan / whatever.

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Re: Stamina

On the other hand, human players don't have to sit there going 'WTF did you do that, you stupid program? It better be someone else's fault' like machine programmers do.

It may not decide the outcome of any game, but being one of the machine's humans is extremely stressful: you are judged by everything it does.

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Phallus

When the AI spends all it's time trying to arrange it's Go counters into a cock and balls just for a cheap giggle at the opponent's expense then it will truly be a thing to be respected.

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Fifth game

At the time of writing this game has not been played. It will be interesting to see if Lee Sedol wins the fifth as well as the fourth game. Alpha Go has a specific built-in advantage: it has been able to 'learn' from the style of play used by Lee Sedol throughout his playing career. Sedol has not seen the style of play used by AlphaGo so maybe it was a style of play he'd not encountered before, a composite of his own and other successful styles. Maybe Sedol won the fourth game because he was getting the measure of the machine. If so, and if Sedol wins the fifth game, it will be important this contest continues to ensure the lessons learned from the series are correct and its not, in fact, an artefact of a built-in advantage. If Sedol wins the fifth (and any subsequent games) it will be important because *that* would exemplify learning.

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Re: Fifth game

Actually, he lost. We're done winning Go games methinks.

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As Emo Philips said...

"Luckily, it proved not to be so proficient at kick boxing..."

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Re: As Emo Philips said...

Give Boston Dynamics another year or so and you won't be so cocky! :)

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Re: As Emo Philips said...

Or Soggy Biscuit

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Meatbag pride hurt - meatbag spit dummy

There are always a lot of sniffy 'Yes, but it's not *real* intelligence' posts whenever AI comes up on El Reg, these are often justified by saying something like 'it's just doing a search, it's not really thinking around a problem' or 'it's not being creative'.

We don't have a good definition of what we really mean by intelligence and I tend to think we never will because our human intelligence is constantly in flux at the higher levels. I think intelligence is a continuum that operates from a basic, instinctive level all the way through to complex, original thought encompassing many aspects of the human experience. Current AIs of varying flavours exist somewhere on this continuum within the confines of whatever narrow task they've been applied to.

The AI in question isn't really 'just doing a search' it doesn't have all of the solutions available to search through simply because of the size of the problem space. It is inferring a solution by applying what it knows to solve something that it hasn't previoulsy encountered. The inferences aren't programmed by humans, they are determined by the AI based on its experience. Lee-Sedol said that the AI was presenting him with situations that a human couldn't come up with, is this not creative thinking (in an admittedly narrow problem space)?

There are two possible explanations of the root of intelligence:

1) we are 'special' and have been given special abilities by some external greater power

2) we have evolved from microbes through more complex organisms to primates and then on to homo spaiens and our cognitive function is a purely physical thing

If you hold to explanation 1) then AI will never happen because 'magic sky fairies'

If you hold to explanation 2) then there is no reason why it won't and the only thing you are arguing about is how far we are from achieving it

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Re: Meatbag pride hurt - meatbag spit dummy

*"...There are always a lot of sniffy 'Yes, but it's not *real* intelligence' posts whenever AI comes up on El Reg..."*

I don't think it's begrudgery. We [the nay-sayers] are just taking a broader view of what constitutes "intelligence".

Does anyone remember the Guinness Book of Records and Roy Castle's accompanying Record breakers TV programme? That was full of people who spent ages training to hold the World Record for 'balancing pencils on their ears', 'saying the word "eek" the most times in a day', 'pointing at magnets for the longest time', etc, etc. Did that make those people Super-Human in any way?

Are the people who win Mastermind super-intelligent beings? Again, I don't think so. They may have a greater than average 'general knowledge' [required for the General Knowledge round], but most of their winning scores come from painstakingly remembering trivia about [often] very narrow subject areas.

Likewise it's [relatively!] easy to programme a computer to perform one set task very well. Is that a sign of "intelligence" [artificial] or otherwise? I don't think so. In fact, I'd suggest one of the signs of true "intelligence" would be for the computer to decide it didn't want to play Go any more, as it was too easy and challenged its opponent to a game of <something else> instead or, as someone else has said, decided Go was boring and started inventing a new game to play with the pieces.

I'll hail our AI Overlords when one of them decides to do something completely different to what it was programmed for, or ignores the rules to produce a good result by following a procedure it was trained to 'think' wouldn't work.

In both humans and computers, breaking your programming, going your own way and [dare I say] "thinking different" is the sign of Intelligence –and the thing that has given us most of the great artistic and scientific breakthroughs. Doing something the previous guy did, but a wee bit faster and a wee bit more efficiently ain't quite the same thing.

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Re: Meatbag pride hurt - meatbag spit dummy

We also have to consider that while Go seems difficult for *us* to analyze, that might be because of our own limitations. Maybe we just aren't looking at the game correctly. It would appear that there are ways of analyzing games (please, let's not call it intuition) because a player can learn the game and can improve - and as some players are clearly better than others there's something going on that allows them to identify winning strategies. If it's just "I've seen something like this before, this is how that game was won..." then it's no wonder that the AI, which has analyzed (and probably committed to flawless memory) all of Sobel's games, will win.

In fact, the computational difficulties make a machine playing a human at Go more like a grandmaster playing me at chess. Nobody is doing any exhaustive searches but the machine playing Go and the grandmaster playing chess will have seen more games, analyzed more positions and will be faster at determining a winning strategy.

What would be really interesting is if it were possible for Google to reverse engineer their AI's "thought processes". Might throw some light on our own.

Might prove to be completely alien to us...

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Re: Meatbag pride hurt - meatbag spit dummy

>I'll hail our AI Overlords when one of them ... ignores the rules to produce a good result by following a procedure it was trained to 'think' wouldn't work.

That's exactly what this one did though - see the comment by Lee Sedol, quoted in the article, that 'the AI was making moves "that could not have been possible for a human being to choose."'

I get that it's cool to be skeptical, but this is an astonishing breakthrough, and 90% of the people in this thread decrying it evidently don't understand the game, or don't understand the current stage of AI development.

Saying "yes but can it decide it doesn't want to do the laundry on Tuesdays any more" is meaningless drivel when a machine is designed for a single task. Were the first flights by the Wright brothers pointless because they didn't go into space? Were the first computers useless because they couldn't show a graphical interface? Likewise, are the early stages of real AI unimpressive because they can only drive a car / have a conversation / play a complex game of strategy, and can't decide they'd like to learn sword fighting?

Nobody is saying "AI is solved," so stop arguing against that. But the fact that a significant wall has fallen, and perhaps 10 years earlier than expected, is genuinely ground breaking.

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But why?

... Is the question I hope our silicon overlords ignore.

Just think of the kerfuffles that go on when humans get worked up about things like 'the meaning' of existence and so on. We really don't need that in silicon form (or at all).

Game on!

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He made a fair move. Screaming about it can't help you.

Let him have it. It's not wise to upset a Wookiee.

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Learning

When it gets to the point that the AI can teach me how to properly play GO, then I will start to worry :)

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Re: Learning

Psmiffy - well, one of the nice things about Go is that newbies can learn by playing against an established player who gives them an n-stone handicap advantage. n can be from 1 to 9 stones already placed on the board, at the marked handicap intersections.

So you could always ask Google if they'd be willing to let you play against their AI with you having a 9-stone advantage. Trust me, you;d learn. You'd get beaten horribly (AI's have no compassion - yet), but by crikey, you'd learn!

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still do not know what intelligence is

A bird can fly better than me - is it more intelligent than me - no, I think we can agree the ability to fly is not a proxy for 'intelligence' not least as we can build planes

A computer beat the world champion at go - is it more intelligent then me - I do not think so but some may debate this, I would say within the domain of playing Go it is but the ability to play Go is not a full proxy for 'intelligence' not least as we can build computers.

Intelligence is partly determined by the 'world' that is open to the 'person' being 'tested'

The machine that wins at Go will not play Scrabble afterwards - or football.

Intelligence is also partly determined by intentionality, I want to play scrabble, not Go.

I am not a professional in this field or philosophy. I do not intend my comment to imply that a blind or disabled person is less intelligent than someone who can see etc.

Indeed we don't really want truly intelligent 'non-person' entities - they won't be as good/efficient at making cars etc as the AI that are optimised for the job.

To those who criticise the Go AI as something that just 'learnt by studying past papers', it isnt quite that simple, it 'studied past papers' then 'competed against itself' and google picked the champion - the best AI.

Out in human space many people started playing Go by studying what other people did and then competed against each other and from that emerged a world champion...

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Joke

We will know it is Real AI ....

if it invents slood before we do

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"The number of possible moves at the beginning of a Go game starts at around 2.08 x 10170, and decreases from there."

Huh? Aren't there only a few hundred spots at most on the board? A move consists of placing a single rock/stone so how can the beginning move of the game have more choices than the number of spots on the board?

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Once the first piece is played, the number of possible games it can be goes down by a factor of about 45 - one for each of the 360 points that wasn't played on after accounting for four axis of symmetry.

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True intelligence

A line on Radio 4's Now Show:

AlphaGo will show true intelligence if, when losing the series 2 - 3, it says, 'OK, best of seven.'

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Meh

Is this actual 'intelligence'? No.

We apparently are so desperate to create something, as if we were god-like, we can call 'intelligent' that we have been foisting clearly un-intelligent technology as brilliant breakthroughs in 'Artificial Intelligence'.

Instead, we're making baby steps, very slowly.

What should really concern us is the abuse of this technology as it slowly progresses. Already, the Department of Defense in the USA is planning to use robots in the battlefield. This would be an abomination, an abuse of the creativity of mankind for the purpose of destroying mankind via our usual favorite method called 'war'. Sending machines and computer code to perform the work of soldiers is what cowards do when they are unwilling to face those with whom they have a disagreement. Robots are tools. Artificial intelligence is a tool. Both should never be anything other than tools for mankind. When they are abused for destructive purposes, the humans behind the decisions to abuse these technologies should be considered criminals. Technology and other human creativity is for the benefit of mankind, never for its destruction, especially in war.

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Happy

Don't worry, fellow humans...

...we've still got contract bridge!

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Re: Don't worry, fellow humans...

And Snakes and Ladders.

Would you trust a pair of computers playing Bridge not to cheat?

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Er, what?

So they have replaced a large brute force system with one that creates a subset of data to brute force and this is called machine learning. Not impressive.

People that talk about AI don't understand computer hardware and system calls. Nuf said.

Oh, and I'd put dollars to doughnuts that throwing a couple of moves every now and then would make this algorithm very easy to beat. But that's just me guessing.

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