Wednesday, 2 March 2016

Google Throws Down The Gauntlet


Demis Hassabis Prepares for Five Game Match against Lee Se-Dol

The chief executive of Google’s artificial intelligence start-up DeepMind, Demis Hassabis is making preparation for the session of its life, a five game match against Lee Se-Dol who is one of the strongest players in the world at the ancient game of Go. Last year in October, the company’s program AlphaGo had achieved a historic milestone beating Fan Hui who had been the highest ranking European player of the game, scoring 5-0.

It had been the first time a computer had beaten a professional Go player in an even match.However, Hui was ranked about 800th in the world prior to AlphaGo and is a two dan player where his rank on the dan sale of professional play that tends to start at one, rising to nine. In contrast, Lee is a nine dan player with the second highest number of international titles to his credit.

 Due to the marked increase in his skill, Hassabis had been prepared to only rate AlphaGo’s opportunity of winning at about 50%. Hassabis, speaking from DeepMind’s headquarters near Kings ‘Cross station in London, in a conference room that had been named after pioneering logician Kurt Godel, had explained that for his company, winning the match was not the most essential thing.

AlphaGo – Gain Valuable Feedback

The $1m prize pool which Google had put up for the match would be donated to Go and Stem charities as well as UNICEF, should DeepMind win and winning or losing, AlphaGo would gain valuable feedback from battling with one of the strongest players which the game has ever seen, besides the feedback, which no one working for DeepMind would be able to give, the machine having surpassed its developer long ago.

The vice-chairman of Korea’s Go association, Park Chi-Moon had inserted a note of caution for humanity that `DeepMind was of the belief that Alphago has 50% chance of winning and that they believe they are in fact more confident.

However, Lee himself was more confident in his skills and standing on stage visibly nervous in front of the crowd in Korea, said that he will not be too comfortable in approaching the challenge and will not be too arrogant in his preparation. However, he added that the company had only five months in improving the system since its game again FanHui.

Possibility of a Clean Sweep

He commented that due to the time limits, he does not think that it would be a close match and believes that it will be 5-0 or perhaps 4-1 and the critical point for him would be not to lose the match. There could be a possibility for him of taking a clean sweep.

Hassabis agreed that the system seems to have various weak points and that part of the cause for the game against Lee was to gain more information on how to progress in those conditions. However he refrained from divulging in more details for fear of handing the game to his challenger.

But behind the fight for mastery over Go is a broader aim. The game seems to be a perfect test-bed for the machine learning techniques of DeepMind and the same systems which it had mastered Go would be soon put to use, enhancing the voice-controlled assistants on the smartphones of Google.

 In the longer term on tackling issues, regarding climate as well as healthcare modelling, an announcement on the latter would come later this week.

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