Given the challenges that ordinary human beings encounter when mastering such games, a natural focus in Artificial Intelligence (AI) research is to build systems that can achieve the same level of game-playing performance as a Grand Master.
'Mental' games, such as Chess, Checkers and Go, are staples in every known culture in human history, from the ancient Egyptians to the Chinese. Mastery in such games requires formidable strategic skills that rely on a combination of intelligence, practice, intuition, and decision-making under uncertainty. Often, decisions ('moves' in game terminology) have to be made under constraints of time.
Building programs that could play complex games has a long history in AI research. Early, extremely influential examples, may be found in the work of such giants as Newell, Shaw and Simon, who first identified mastery in chess as an important indication of progress in building intelligent systems. Another game that witnessed breakthrough AI research, especially in the 1980s and 1990s, was Backgammon.
Fast-forwarding, in 1997, IBM's Deep Blue went down in history as the computer that narrowly beat then-reigning World Champion, Gary Kasparov, at Chess. In our own time, Google's AlphaGo has rocked the news for beating the reigning (human) World Champion, Lee Sedol, in the ancient game of Go in a best-of-five series of publicly broadcast matches. Even more recently, an AI called Libratus out-bluffed masterful human beings at Poker. Going beyond games of skill, a few years ago, IBM's Watson made the news for beating human players at the trivia game Jeopardy!, demonstrating that AI programs are becoming more proficient at understanding natural languages like English. In the years since then, AI-based conversational systems like Siri, Alexa and Cortana have become stapes in phones and computers. Some form of AI is even integrated into Barbie dolls and many cars currently on the street. The day may not be far when driverless cars are the norm.
Given the brief unfolding history above on AI and games, it is not unreasonable to say (albeit at the risk of some simplification) that many milestones in AI research are marked by the achievement of super-human performance in a particular game, such as Chess, that has withstood the twin tests of time and space.
Importantly, the same techniques used to build game-playing AIs are also being used to revolutionize entire fields, such as space exploration and medical research, traditionally considered separate from core Computer Science. Wouldn't it be cool to build an AI system that can beat a Grand Master in your favorite fame and that helps humankind find a cure for cancer (and explore Saturn) at the same time?
The three college-age defendants behind the creation of the Mirai botnet--an online tool that wreaked destruction across the internet in the fall of 2016 with unprecedentedly powerful distributed denial of service attacks--will stand in an Alaska courtroom Tuesday and ask for a novel ruling from a federal judge: They hope to be sentenced to work for the FBI. Josiah White, Paras Jha, and Dalton Norman, who were all between 18 and 20 years old when they built and launched Mirai, pleaded guilty last December to creating the malware that hijacked hundreds of thousands of Internet of Things devices, uniting them as a digital army that began as a way to attack rival Minecraft video game hosts, and evolved into an online tsunami of nefarious traffic that knocked entire web hosting companies offline. At the time, the attacks raised fears amid the presidential election targeted online by Russia that an unknown adversary was preparing to lay waste to the internet. The original creators, panicking as they realized their invention was more powerful than they had imagined, released the code--a common tactic by hackers to ensure that if and when authorities catch them, they don't possess any code that isn't already publicly known that can help finger them as the inventors. That release in turn lead to attacks by others throughout the fall, including one that made much of the internet unusable for the East Coast of the United States on an October Friday.
I have not quite finished Shadow of the Tomb Raider, the latest in Crystal Dynamics' rebooted saga of videogame icon Lara Croft. I'm not sure I want to, either. Following the violent archaeologist on a quest to a hidden city with the lofty goal of stopping an ancient apocalypse, Shadow of the Tomb Raider is a competent, occasionally enjoyable action-adventure romp. It'd be great, if only it weren't so nasty. Lara Croft is defined by her ability to endure pain.
This year that game is undeniably Fortnite Battle Royale, an online free-for-all that every teen in America suddenly seems to be playing. It's not just kids, though–everyone from rapper Drake to Los Angeles Laker Josh Hart is a fan. That groundswell of support has propelled Fortnite from a simple video game into a cultural sensation, with hundreds of millions of fans worldwide who play the game, wear the gear and even learn the characters' victory dances. "Fortnite is another in a long line of games like World of Warcraft or Guitar Hero or Minecraft that is changing everything underfoot," says Mat Piscatella, a video-game industry analyst with research firm NPD Group. Fortnite's big draw is a madcap multiplayer mode that drops up to 100 players on an island in a last-person-standing showdown.
Epic Games, the developer of Fortnite: Battle Royale, has announced the launch of its Fall Skirmish competition, which will give players of the popular game the chance to win a share of $10 million. The six-week series will begin next weekend (22 September) and conclude at the Twitchcon gaming conference in California on 26 October. "The new approach for Fall Skirmish will include both Competitive and Entertainment play formats. We're looking to incorporate some of these new formats into our large-scale events in 2019," Epic Games said in a blog post. "During Fall Skirmish, players will proudly represent themed teams and earn points based on their performances in both play formats.
I learned a few things from reading an excerpt from Yuval Noah Harari's book, 21 Lessons for the 21st Century, published in the October issue of The Atlantic. One is that it took a Google machine-learning program just four hours to teach itself and master chess, once the pinnacle of centuries of human intellectual effort, easily defeating the top-ranked computer chess engine in the world. Another is that artificial intelligence systems may be inherently anti-democratic and anti-human. New heights of computing power and data processing make it more efficient to centralize systems in authoritarian governments, Harari says, and will render humans increasingly irrelevant. "By 2050," he writes, "a useless class might emerge, the result not only of a shortage of jobs or a lack of relevant education but also of insufficient mental stamina to continue learning new skills."
Anyone who's experimented with a cloud gaming service knows that wired ethernet is almost required. At AT&T's Spark conference in San Francisco on Monday, I had a chance to try out Nvidia's GeForce Now service for PCs running over AT&T's 5G service, playing the newly-released Shadow of the Tomb Raider game on a generic Lenovo ThinkPad. The traditional way to run a PC game is locally, running the game off a hard drive or SSD on your PC, using the CPU and GPU to render the game as fast as it can. The downside, of course, is that you have to buy all of that hardware yourself. The trade-off is that the 3D rendering takes place on a remote server--a cheaper solution than buying a high-end graphics card, at least in the short term.
Three months after a 9-year-old girl was reportedly sent to therapy for Fortnite addiction that caused her to wet herself, a parent has taken the drastic step of smashing her children's iPads to prevent them from playing the popular game. TV presenter Kirstie Allsopp has been widely criticised for her parenting methods, however her frustration once again draws attention to the issue of video game addiction among children. Since launching last year, Fortnite has amassed more than 125 million players around the world, together with a fair amount of controversy. Its developer, Epic Games, has been accused of using "predatory" gambling techniques to encourage children to spend money in the game, while cyber criminals have targeted players through a series of complex campaigns. The latest iPad smashing scandal may seem relatively minor in comparison but opens up the debate over whether playing such games is harmful to both children and adults.
You can learn a lot about a person from the way they play Scrabble. Do they show off their SAT vocabulary or only know dirty words? Are they rule-sergeants or are they so competitive that they will stop at nothing to beat someone who is half their age? It seems his Scrabble strategy involves aggressive rule bending in order to win a game against a high school-age opponent. SEE ALSO: After losing trust of its users, Facebook assigns them a'trustworthiness' score This little Zuckerian anecdote comes to us from an extensive New Yorker profile about the Facebook CEO's approach toward the myriad problems currently facing the social network, and whether he's equipped to solve them.
The NFL is back in action, and along with it we have a slew of fall TV shows returning. That includes bingeable (it's a word) options on Netflix, Amazon and Hulu like Bojack Horseman season five, The First, Forever and American Vandal season two. For gamers, the standard edition of NBA 2K19 is here, plus the latest Tomb Raider game, while Blu-ray fans can get Oceans 8 or Batman: The Killing Joke on 4K Blu-ray. Look after the break to check out each day's highlights, including trailers and let us know what you think (or what we missed). Richard's been tech-obsessed since first laying hands on an Atari joystick.
Give a man a fish, the old saying goes, and you feed him for a day--teach a man to fish, and you feed him for a lifetime. Same goes for robots, with the exception that robots feed exclusively on electricity. The problem is figuring out the best way to teach them. Typically, robots get fairly detailed coded instructions on how to manipulate a particular object. But give it a different kind of object and you'll blow its mind, because the machines aren't great yet at learning and applying their skills to things they've never seen before.