Go and the Challenge to Artificial General Intelligence

Go and the Challenge to Artificial General Intelligence

This article aims to explore the connection between the game ‘Go’ and artificial intelligence. The objective is to answer the questions – What makes the game of Go, special? Why was mastering the game of Go difficult for a computer? Why was a computer program able to beat a chess grandmaster in 1997? Why did it take close to two decades to crack Go?

This article aims to explore the connection between the game ‘Go’ and artificial intelligence. The objective is to answer the questions – What makes the game of Go, special? Why was mastering the game of Go difficult for a computer? Why was a computer program able to beat a chess grandmaster in 1997? Why did it take close to two decades to crack Go?

“Gentlemen should not waste their time on trivial games – they should study Go”

– Confucius

In fact, artificial intelligence pundits thought computers would only be able to beat a world Go champion by 2027. Thanks to DeepMind, an artificial intelligence company under the umbrella of Google, this formidable task was achieved a decade earlier. This article will talk about the technologies used by DeepMind to beat the world Go champion. Finally, this post discusses how this technology can be used to resolve some complex, real-world problems.

Go – What is it?

Go is a 3000-year-old Chinese strategy board game, which has retained its popularity through the ages. Played by tens of millions of people worldwide, Go is a two-player board game with simple rules and intuitive strategy. Different board sizes are in use for playing this game; professionals use a 19×19 board.

The game starts with an empty board. Each player then takes turns to place the black and white stones (black goes first) on the board, at the intersection of the lines (unlike chess, where you place pieces in the squares). A player can capture the stones of the opponent by surrounding it from all sides. For each captured stone, some points are awarded to the player. The objective of the game is to occupy maximum territory on the board along with capturing your opponents’ stones.

Go is about creation, unlike Chess, which is about destruction. Go requires freedom, creativity, intuition, balance, strategy and intellectual depth to master the game. Playing Go involves both sides of the brain. In fact, the brain scans of Go players have revealed that Go helps in brain development by improving connections between both the brain hemispheres.

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