In a landmark achievement for artificial intelligence, a poker bot developed by researchers in Canada and the Czech Republic has defeated several professional players in one-on-one games of no-limit Texas hold'em poker. Perhaps most interestingly, the academics behind the work say their program overcame its human opponents by using an approximation approach that they compare to "gut feeling." "If correct, this is indeed a significant advance in game-playing AI," says Michael Wellman, a professor at the University of Michigan who specializes in game theory and AI. "First, it achieves a major milestone (beating poker professionals) in a game of prominent interest. Second, it brings together several novel ideas, which together support an exciting approach for imperfect-information games."
The recent win of AlphaGo over Lee Sedol--one of the world's highest ranked Go players--has resurfaced concerns about artificial intelligence. We have heard about A.I. stealing jobs, killer robots, algorithms that help diagnose and cure cancer, competent self-driving cars, perfect poker players, and more. It seems that for every mention of A.I. as humanity's top existential risk, there is a mention of its power to solve humanity's biggest challenges. Demis Hassabis--founder of Google DeepMind, the company behind AlphaGo--views A.I. as "potentially a meta-solution to any problem," and Eric Horvitz--director of research at Microsoft's Redmond, Washington, lab--claims that "A.I. will be incredibly empowering to humanity." By contrast, Bill Gates has called A.I. "a huge challenge" and something to "worry about," and Stephen Hawking has warned about A.I. ending humanity.
In the past two decades, we've seen chess grandmasters and the best Jeopardy players in the world alike fall in competition to computers. Heads-up No-limit Texas Hold'em poker may be next. But the future of artificial intelligence (AI) is about way more than games. Last April and May, Carnegie Mellon University's AI, Claudico (developed by Professor Tuomas Sandholm and his team), played an 80,000-hand tournament against four poker pros. When the game ended, three of the four players had bigger hands than Claudico.
If you happen to have a free 30 hours or so, I would highly recommend watching Google's AlphaGo program take on one of the best players in the world at the ancient Chinese board game Go. If you don't have that much time, you could instead just watch the 6-hour third match, where the program wrapped up the best of five series. It's literally history being made. Some news outlets have covered this feat, but I don't think many people understand how monumental this actually is. Back in 1997, when Garry Kasparov was beaten by IBM's Deep Blue in chess, people were more excited about the future of computing.
NEW YORK, NY - APRIL 12: Model, philanthropist, and investor Natalia Vodianova, Epytom founder and CEO Anastasia Sartan, and MSNBC'Your Business' host JJ Ramberg speak onstage during Vanity Fair's Founders Fair at Spring Studios on April 12, 2018 in New York City. "I'm close to artificial intelligence (AI) and it scares the hell out of me," said Elon Musk during HBO's Westworld panel at South by Southwest this year. "It's capable of vastly more than anyone knows, and the improvement is exponential." Musk cited the example of AlphaGo, Google DeepMind's artificial-intelligence program best known as the first computer program to defeat a professional human player at the boardgame Go. The AI had been trained to tackle the Chinese game "Go," which is a 2,000-plus year old abstract war simulation.