Google’s DeepMind-based AlphaGo AI managed to beat Lee Sedol, the world’s premiere Go player and 18-time world championship, in what represents a historical moment in the progress of artificial intelligence. Granted, the victory came in just the first match of five; the remainder will be played out over the next few days, through until March 15.
Lee Sedol seemed to have the upper hand for most of the game, until the last 20 minutes when AlphaGo gained a bigger lead on him. This may have happened because it’s harder for the AI to figure out an overwhelmingly winning strategy in such a complex game as Go. It can’t calculate too many movements ahead of time due to the enormous processing power that would require.
However, towards the end of the game, fewer moves are possible, which could mean it became much easier for AlphaGo to determine the best move at any given moment. Therefore, any mistake from Lee Sedol, no matter how small, could then be turned in a bigger and bigger advantage for AlphaGo as the game approached its conclusion.
Still, AlphaGo managed to hold its own with the world’s best Go Player for more than three hours. Perhaps if Sedol had taken a larger lead early on, he may been able to fend off the AI bot.
Even if Sedol wins all of the other four matches, Google still achieved a historical breakthrough in artificial intelligence with last night's win. It would then likely be only a matter of months or a year at most before AlphaGo and its DeepMind core, as well as the hardware processing power behind it, would improve enough to become unbeatable by any human player.
Since Google announced that its DeepMind AI can play and finish games from the 1970’s only about a year ago, the AI has already gone to play games such as Go and the 1990’s Doom video game. The improvement rate has been quite astonishing. The DeepMind AI is likely not too far behind being able to play any modern game in the same way a human would - by learning everything about the game from scratch.
The next match between AlphaGo and Lee Sedol will happen today at the same time, 11pm ET. It will be interesting to see whether Lee Sedol will use a different, perhaps more aggressive, strategy early on against AlphaGo, now that he learned how the AI plays, in order to get a larger advantage early on.
Lucian Armasu is a Contributing Writer for Tom's Hardware. You can follow him at @lucian_armasu.