Google's AlphaGo artificial intelligence program took a huge step Tuesday when it punctuated its convincing 4-1 victory over world champion Lee Sedol in Go, a game that dates back to ancient China and could be likened to a more intricate version of chess.
A day after the landmark victory, Demis Hassabis, the CEO and co-founder of Google's DeepMind, took to the company's blog to explain what its AI learned from defeating a world Go champion with 18 international titles.
"We've learned two important things from this experience," Hassabis wrote. "First, this test bodes well for AI's potential in solving other problems. AlphaGo has the ability to look 'globally' across a board — and find solutions that humans either have been trained not to play or would not consider. This has huge potential for using AlphaGo-like technology to find solutions that humans don't necessarily see in other areas.
"Second, while the match has been widely billed as 'man vs. machine,' AlphaGo is really a human achievement," he continued. "Lee Sedol and the AlphaGo team both pushed each other toward new ideas, opportunities and solutions — and in the long run that's something we all stand to benefit from."
Entering the best-of-five series for the Go match, many AI experts didn't think Google's AlphaGo had reached the point where it would be able to take out Sedol. But storming out of the gate and winning the first three games, before wrapping up the tournament win, 4-1, definitely helped change that feeling.
Google itself was surprised by the rout win.
"To everyone's surprise, including ours, AlphaGo won four of the five games," Hassabis said. "Commentators noted that AlphaGo played many unprecedented, creative, and even 'beautiful' moves. Based on our data, AlphaGo's bold move 37 in Game 2 had a 1 in 10,000 chance of being played by a human."
That being said, Hassabis says that Google's AI still has long way to go, although this win was definitely encouraging and a giant step in the right direction.
Hassabis revealed that Google will be giving its $1 million in prize money to "organizations that support science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) education and Go, as well as UNICEF."