DeepMind’s AlphaGo is hitting the road and heading to China

Ke Jie, right, talks with Google CEO Sundar Pichai, center, about an AlphaGo game.
Ke Jie, right, talks with Google CEO Sundar Pichai, center, about an AlphaGo game.
Image: DeepMind
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Google may be banned in China, but the intelligence of its relatives stretches everywhere. Seeking a more complete domination of the human race, the artificial intelligence algorithm developed by DeepMind—like Google, a unit of parent company Alphabet—will attend a five-day Go festival in China, beginning May 23.

The algorithm, AlphaGo, will be the headline attraction of the “Future of Go Summit,” where DeepMind’s lineup of activities has all the trimmings of a circus. AlphaGo wrapped up a historic victory in March 2016 by becoming the first computer program to ever beat a top-level Go player. Go is a strategy board game that originated in China 2,500 years ago that is still played by 40 million people worldwide.

By letting DeepMing flout its technology inside the country, China seems to be making a concession that it can learn from America’s Silicon Valley.

The strong man

To beat AlphaGo, DeepMind is putting forth China’s Ke Jie, who it calls the  ”world’s number one player.” He will face the algorithm in three games. AlphaGo in 2016 trounced South Korea’s Lee Sedol who was then labeled “the top Go player in the world over the past decade.”

The trapeze

Other matches will feature professional Go players teaming up with and against AlphaGo. In one game, two humans will play each other, but each has an AlphaGo teammate that takes over every other turn. DeepMind is heralding this as a melding between man and machine, saying it will “take the concept of ‘learning together’ quite literally.”

The clown car

A team of five professional players will also try to defeat AlphaGo.

It’s unclear why DeepMind is fixated on establishing itself as a leader in a game widely viewed as just one benchmark in wider artificial intelligence research. DeepMind is leaving no Go stone unturned: The team has secretly tried to topple the online Go standings, and has hired a leading voice in Go to analyze how the AI thinks about the game. Maybe DeepMind needs to be beaten, so it can move on. Or maybe it’s the key to acceptance of Google in China, a vast untapped market for the company.

Either way: Help us, Ke Jie. You’re our only hope.