AlphaGo, the A.I. that has consistently defeated the world’s greatest human Go players over the last two years, is retiring from the game. The robo-grandmaster will go out on top, after defeating China’s Ke Jie, the world’s top-ranked player.
The team behind AlphaGo, part of Google’s DeepMind unit, say they still plan to publish an academic paper detailing what building the A.I. has taught them, as well as working on tools to teach humans to become better Go players. But AlphaGo itself “is stepping back from competitive play,” and the team behind it will now largely shift towards using A.I. to solve problems in health, energy, or other fields.
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AlphaGo has little left to prove. In discussing his recent defeat, Jie described AlphaGo as “the God of Go,” while fellow professional player Shi Yue described the program’s play as “how I imagine games from far in the future.”
If history is any indicator, none of this will stop humans from trying to get better at Go. After IBM’s Deep Blue defeated world chess champion Gary Kasparov in 1997, it revealed new insights to human players, and chess is now as popular as it ever was. Jie’s unconventional moves against AlphaGo showed early signs that something similar could happen with Go.
Despite those silver linings, AlphaGo’s rapid ascent must also be seen as ominous. Many felt that Go, with its strategic subtlety and massive number of possible board states, would prove a bulwark against the encroachment of computers on human abilities. But AlphaGo’s defiance of those expectations sends a clear message: no skill or job can be considered truly insulated from the impacts of artificial intelligence.