The Google owned Artificial Intelligence Company Deep Mind announced a breakthrough last week via the scientific journal Nature.
Its Alpha Go computing system has appeared to master the ancient Chinese game of GO. While computers have been programmed to play board games and even retro computer games, the highlight being IBM’s Deep Blue beating Gary Kasparov at Chess back in 1997 this recent announcement appears to be even more remarkable.
For a start the game GO has a much higher amount of possible moves at any one time making it the most complicated game to ever be tackled by an AI. Alpha Go began by studying examples of real games (over 30 million positions) and then began playing itself with the help of 50 other computers, improving each time. Here lies the really interesting bit, no programming was involved at this stage, and Alpha Go appeared to be learning in an intuitive way, something the creators could not explain.
Now just think about that for a moment, an A.I. that appeared to be showing signs of intuitive behaviour. At this point the story begins to get very Sci-Fi indeed. Obviously the ramifications of this single breakthrough are mind boggling, we appear to have reached a point in A.I. technology that has inspired Sci-Fi literature and movie making for that past 50 years. It looks like Warhol was indeed correct, life is imitating art.
However before we all go searching for John Connor the good news is all the main players appear to be in agreement that a discussion now needs to happen around the need for safeguarding with one of the co-creators of Deep Mind Dr Demis Hassabis calling for a new debate to begin centred around ethics and their role in the ongoing development of A.I.
If you would like to get a bit closer to the building blocks of this story why not organise a school trip to San Francisco and visit Silicon Valley, the birthplace of this intriguing story. From Steve Job’s garage to Stanford University, the Intel Museum and Google, all the big players are present with Apple, Facebook and Ebay to name but a few of the leading global companies who locate here. Each company has made its own contribution to the world we live in today and each have their own back story waiting to be discovered.
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