Computer beats Chinese champion in ancient board game of go

A computer defeated China's top player of the ancient board game go on Tuesday, earning praise that it might have finally surpassed human abilities in one of the last games machines have yet to dominate.

In the first of three planned games in the eastern water town of Wuzhen, the AlphaGo program held off China's world number one Ke Jie in front of Chinese officials and Google parent Alphabet's chief executive Eric Schmidt.

There is more at stake for Google than China, as the country already has a healthy eco-system of technological counterparts to suit its needs.

The summit, which will be attended by AI experts from Google and China, will "explore how the technologies behind AlphaGo, machine learning and artificial intelligence, are bringing solutions to some of the world's greatest challenges" such as energy and medical usage, Demis Hassabis, CEO and co-founder of DeepMind, said in a blog post.

AlphaGo's win against Korean legend Lee Se-dol over a year ago is still fresh in our memories and Jie's defeat shows that it was just the beginning. But by most accounts the company continues to want to expand its presence in the world's most populous nation, including planning to reopen its Google Play app store there.

During the forum, Chinese developers also presented various AI applications. Like AlphaGo, Translate also uses DeepMind's artificial intelligence software. Chinese search engine giant Baidu Inc, launched an AI lab in March with China's state planner, the National Development and Reform Commission.

Go involves two players alternately laying black and white stones on a grid, seeking to seal off the most territory. Its origins date back thousands of years.

The robot was put up against Ke Jie, following the defeat of another world leading Go player -South Korean grandmaster Lee Se-dol - previous year.

Go, known as weiqi in China and baduk in Korea, is considered more challenging because the near-infinite number of possible positions requires intuition and flexibility.

  • Arturo Norris