Yesterday, an artificial intelligence programme called AlphaGo beat World Champion Lee Sedol at the ancient game of Go.
Similar to Deep Blue’s 1997 win over chess grandmaster Garry Kasparow, this signals another major milestone in the development of intelligent computers.
The reason why this win is so important is due to the complexity of the game of Go. Whereas in Chess, at any one time there are approximately 20 moves that can be played, in Go there are likely to be more like 200. This means that mathematically there are probably more configurations of Go than there are atoms in the universe. It is also not usually clear which of two players is winning at any point, with experts saying they often rely on the “feel” of the board to tell. All this makes Go potentially the most complex game which humans play (well, apart from the game of love).
But while Deep Blue won its chess match through what is called “brute force” computing, using its supercomputer power to assess every possible move and result to calculate the best moves, AlphaGo needed a different kind of computation. One that is much more like how humans think.