In what sounds like the plot of a science-fiction movie, an artificial intelligence program developed by Google has not only mastered but surpassed all existing human knowledge of the game of chess.
In four hours.
According to a paper by Google researchers, in early December the AlphaZero artificial-intelligence program developed “superhuman” performance in the ancient game, coming up with completely new strategies and even besting Stockfish, one of the world’s most popular chess-playing programs, in less time than the average American spends watching TV per day.
“On the 6th of December, 2017, AlphaZero took over the chess world,” conceded British chess grandmaster Simon Williams.
AlphaZero came from Google’s DeepMind AI division, which has created, among other things, an artificial neural network that learns how to play video games, as well as a computer that mimics the human brain’s short-term memory.
AlphaZero is a tweaked version of AlphaGo, a program that was originally designed to master the Chinese strategy board game Go. AlphaGo learned strategies by watching human players, and ultimately became the first AI program to beat a professional human Go champion. In contrast, AlphaZero is completely autonomous. It was programmed with only the rules, and learned strategy by playing itself only.
“It’s like an alien civilization inventing its own mathematics,” MIT computer scientist Nick Hynes told Gizmodo. “What we’re seeing here is a model free from human bias and presuppositions. It can learn whatever it determines is optimal, which may indeed be more nuanced that our own conceptions of the same.”
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