Wednesday, March 23, 2016

Victory for AI

Demis Hassabis (photo by David Ellis for Google)
The AlphaGo computer program, developed by Demis Hassabis for the Google-owned company DeepMind, won a series of matches (9-15 March) of the game Go against Lee Se-dol, a champion of the game.

To a non-techie like me, this doesn't seem like such earth-shattering news. But it is being hailed as a great victory for Artificial Intelligence. In fact, in looking for articles as material to use with my students, I've been spoilt for choice.

First it's necessary to understand the complexity of the game Go. In an article from The Telegraph, it is described thus:

"Go takes a lifetime to master and unlike chess, a computer cannot play by simply assessing all possible moves but must rely on something akin to intuition."

Link to article, "Google's DeepMind AI makes history by defeating Go champion Lee Se-dol:

I also looked at an article on The Verge website, since it's oriented towards more technical readers. The article's title, "Google's DeepMind defeats legendary Go player Lee Se-dol in historic victory," seemed rather similar to the one from The Telegraph, since they both refer to the victory as an historic moment.


In addition to the detailed information about the game, about the computer program and about why this is significant for artificial intelligence, I decided to focus on the language in both articles that referred to the significance of this development.

Here are some examples.

From The Telegraph article:
  • makes history
  • has beaten ... for the first time in history
  • fiendishly complex
  • a "suberb" game that would be studied for years to come
  • the breakthrough
  • a watershed moment for artificial intelligence
  • a milestone potentially more significant than IBM ...
  • Go takes a lifetime to master
  • (a computer) must rely on something akin to intuition
  • this amazing program
From The Verge article:
  • historic victory
  • a huge milestone
  • legendary Go player
  • historic matches
  • the first time
  • such a perfect manner
  • amazing game
  • pushed AlphaGo to its limits
  • one of the great challenges faced by AI
  • made it tough for computers to crack
  • the most advanced effort yet
  • a complex network of deep neural networks and machine
  • a colossal moment for AI

In Wired magazine as well, an article uses much of the same vocabulary to describe the significance of this victory for artificial intelligence.

The article is "In Two Moves AlphaGo and Lee Seedol Redefined the Future."


Some vocabulary from the beginning of the article:
  • redefined the future
  • the enormously powerful and rather mysterious talents of modern artificial intelligence
  • machines are now capable of moments of genius
  • the historic match
  • the machine claimed victory
  • the victory is notable
  • the technologies at the heart of AlphaGo are the future
  • poised to reinvent everything

In fact, all of the articles I've looked at so far refer to the match as "historic" or "making history." This will be interesting to compare with other historic developments in artificial intelligence - and what the possible impacts could be. This is an aspect I will look at in my next post.

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