Earlier this month, Google’s DeepMind team made history when its AlphaGo software managed to defeat professional Go player Lee Sedol in a five-game match. The contest was billed as a battle between man and machine — and it saw the human player largely outclassed by his AI opponent.
Artificial intelligence is only going to grow more sophisticated in coming years, becoming more of a factor in everyday life as the development of this technology continues to progress. With artificial minds growing ever more powerful, humans may have to change the game to maintain superiority.
Back to the 90s
To get a true impression of how much progress has been made in the field of artificial intelligence in recent years, it’s useful to compare the AlphaGo AI facing Lee with IBM’s Deep Blue computer, which faced Chess grandmaster Garry Kasparov in the 1990s.
At the time, Kasparov was widely considered to be the best Chess player on the face of the planet. He had already seen off an AI opponent quite handily, dispensing of IBM’s Deep Thought computer — named for the fictional system capable of deciphering the answers to life, the universe and everything in The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy — in a two-game series held in 1989.
Undeterred, IBM continued development of its Chess-playing computer. In 1996, a new iteration of the project known as Deep Blue was transported to Philadelphia to face Kasparov. The computer became the first to win a game against the reigning world champion under normal time controls, but was dominated by Kasparov after that early victory and lost the series 4-2, with two draws contributing half a point each.
Fifteen months later, a rematch was held in New York City. Deep Blue took the match with two draws and two outright wins. Frustrated, Kasparov accused IBM of cheating and demand a rematch. The company flatly refused, and the system was dismantled.