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Brace yourself - this computer can learn, and it doesn't need your help

One News Page Staff Tuesday, 24 October 2017
Brace yourself - this computer can learn, and it doesn't need your helpby 👨‍💻 Graham Pierrepoint

The fear of technological singularity – whereby tech will supposedly grow to the point where artificial intelligence could overpower humanity – is yet, thankfully, to be fully realized. We are seemingly centuries away, if at all, from a Terminator-style situation – however, with robots on the rise and rise and with more and more tech becoming scarily intelligent, many people are prophesizing just how long it will take before AI takes control of much of society for its own. Will we ever let matters slip that much? Those in control of various experiments, of course, say of course not – but the development of one such AI in recent weeks has certainly set people talking on both sides of the argument.

Last year, an incredible piece of AI – AlphaGo – managed to beat a human grandmaster of popular abstract game known as go. It was a colossal event – while computers have been playing chess for years, this latest development showed that the spike in artificial intelligence comparing itself to humankind is hardly on the wane. This week, however, according to data published in Nature, it seems that the AI in question has a rival – one who has bested it 100 times to 0. The intelligence in question goes by the name of AlphaGo Zero – and the way it learns how to win at go is going to start concerning some people.

AlphaGo Zero can train itself without human intervention – and, it’s reported, it was able to become a master at the game simply by playing itself for three days. Its incredible strategic play comes from a basic knowledge of where to put pieces on the board – and beyond that, everything is sheer artificial brain power . AlphaGo spent considerable time learning the game by playing against thousands of different human opponents – while AlphaGo Zero has merely played itself over three days and can now trounce the preceding AI at its own game, quite literally. This is a huge moment for AI research – one that shows we may not be too far away from a different kind of intelligence coming into its own.

While the study only shows that the AI can master a game, it is incredibly stunning news for the development of artificial intelligence in its own right. In just a few decades, we may be able to have conversations with machines much sooner than we thought previously – better brush up on those social skills in case the toaster greets you one day soon!

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