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.
In an earlier blog article I wrote about how human intelligence differs from artificial intelligence, namely human intelligence is general intelligence while artificial intelligence is specialized intelligence. The article provides "food for thought" for those who fear technology evolution, and specifically AI. In today's article I offer more reflections on the evolution of AI. Put in simple words, AI is about Thinking Machines. The English computer scientist Alan Turing was the first academic who proposed to consider the question "Can machines think?" in 1950.
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.
The unstoppable march of the machine passed a significant milestone last month when Google Deepmind's AI AlphaGo program beat a world grandmaster at the ancient game of Go. This feat had not been expected to be achieved for several years. The victory wasn't from a machine that was able to beat the human by sheer'brute force' – crunching a huge amount of possible outcomes in a fraction of a second (which is how IBM's Deep Blue conquered chess). AlphaGo won by using intuition; playing itself at the game millions of times and learning from its mistakes. The result has sent shockwaves through the world of technology, and it has also raised the spectre of AI replacing humans in the workplace.