AlphaGo, a largely self-taught Go-playing AI, last night won the fifth and final game in a match held in Seoul, South Korea, against that country's Lee Sedol. Sedol is one of the greatest modern players of the ancient Chinese game. The final score was 4 games to 1. Thus falls the last and computationally hardest game that programmers have taken as a test of machine intelligence. Chess, AI's original touchstone, fell to the machines 19 years ago, but Go had been expected to last for many years to come. The sweeping victory means far more than the US 1 million prize, which Google's London-based acquisition, DeepMind, says it will give to charity.
In 1950, Claude Shannon published his seminal work on how to program a computer to play chess. Since then, developing game-playing programs that can compete with (and even exceed) the abilities of the human world champions has been a long-sought-after goal of the AI research community. In Shannon's time, it would have seemed unlikely that only a scant 50 years would be needed to develop programs that play world-class backgammon, checkers, chess, Othello, and Scrabble. These remarkable achievements are the result of a better understanding of the problems being solved, major algorithmic insights, and tremendous advances in hardware technology. Computer games research is one of the important success stories of AI. This article reviews the past successes, current projects, and future research directions for AI using computer games as a research test bed.
This book presents a methodology and philosophy of empirical science based on large scale lossless data compression. In this view a theory is scientific if it can be used to build a data compression program, and it is valuable if it can compress a standard benchmark database to a small size, taking into account the length of the compressor itself. This methodology therefore includes an Occam principle as well as a solution to the problem of demarcation. Because of the fundamental difficulty of lossless compression, this type of research must be empirical in nature: compression can only be achieved by discovering and characterizing empirical regularities in the data. Because of this, the philosophy provides a way to reformulate fields such as computer vision and computational linguistics as empirical sciences: the former by attempting to compress databases of natural images, the latter by attempting to compress large text databases. The book argues that the rigor and objectivity of the compression principle should set the stage for systematic progress in these fields. The argument is especially strong in the context of computer vision, which is plagued by chronic problems of evaluation. The book also considers the field of machine learning. Here the traditional approach requires that the models proposed to solve learning problems be extremely simple, in order to avoid overfitting. However, the world may contain intrinsically complex phenomena, which would require complex models to understand. The compression philosophy can justify complex models because of the large quantity of data being modeled (if the target database is 100 Gb, it is easy to justify a 10 Mb model). The complex models and abstractions learned on the basis of the raw data (images, language, etc) can then be reused to solve any specific learning problem, such as face recognition or machine translation.
In March 2016, DeepMind's AlphaGo beat Lee Sedol, who at the time was the best human Go player in the world. It represented one of those defining technological moments not unlike IBM's Deep Blue beating chess champion Garry Kasparov, or even IBM Watson beating the world's greatest Jeopardy champions in 2011. Yet these victories, as mind-blowing as they seemed to be, were more about training algorithms and using brute-force computational strength than any real intelligence. Former MIT robotics professor Rodney Brooks, who was one of the founders of iRobot and later Rethink Robotics, reminded us at the TechCrunch Robotics Session at MIT last week that training an algorithm to play a difficult strategy game isn't intelligence, at least as we think about it with humans. He explained that as strong as AlphaGo was at its given task, it actually couldn't do anything else but play Go on a standard 19 x 19 board.