Rarely, if ever, do the worlds of algorithms and board games evoke images of two fighters in the ring, but it was billed as the ultimate challenge. Seven days, five matches, a nerve-wracking four to five hours per game – and a $1 million prize at stake.
On one side of the table, AlphaGo, a computer program developed by artificial intelligence researchers at Google DeepMind in London, England. On the other side, Lee Se-dol of South Korea, considered the world’s top-ranked (human) Go player.
“Computer strategies can be very different from human strategies,” said Chris Maddison, a Massey College fellow and PhD student in the department of computer science. “To measure the strength of a computer program you can see how often it wins against other programs, but it’s hard to know whether those metrics are even accurate – until you match a computer against a human.”
Maddison is among the research contributors to AlphaGo – a group that includes U of T alumni Timothy Lillicrap (cognitive science) and Ilya Sutskever (computer science). He attended the Google DeepMind Challenge Match March 8 to 15 at the Four Seasons Hotel in South Korea, where AlphaGo dared its second human player, having previously beat European Go champion, Fan Hui, 5-0.
“Fan Hui is a professional, and a great player,” said Maddison. “But our next goal was to challenge Lee Se-dol, the strongest player of the last decade and an iconic figure in the Go world.”
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