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Has artificial intelligence already surpassed the human brain?

Published Mar 10th, 2016 9:17AM EST
AlphaGo Beats Lee Sedol
Image: A24

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Welcome to The Terminator… but not really. During their second match which took place in the early hours of the morning in U.S. time on Thursday, Google’s AlphaGo computer beat 18-time world champion Lee Sedol in a game of Go. It was the second of two matches won by the machine created by Google’s DeepMind Technologies division, which focuses on artificial intelligence. Should the computer prevail over South Korea’s Lee a third time, it will have won the competition and the $1 million purse.

But even more interesting than the mere fact that Google’s AI computer is now up 2-0 is Lee’s response following the second match. Lee, who is one of the top Go masters in the world, said the game wasn’t even close.

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“I’m quite speechless,” Lee said during a press conference following his second straight loss to AlphaGo. “It was a clear loss on my part. From the beginning there was no moment I thought I was leading.”

Go, a 5,000-year-old game of strategy, was believed to pose a big challenge for the DeepMind program ahead of its competition with Lee. While the computer’s most recent victory over its human opponent took more than four hours to secure, it’s still obviously a remarkable feat for an artificial intelligence program that first entered development just two years ago.

Are we on the cusp of realizing the world depicted in The Terminator? Not quite.

As impressive as AlphaGo’s victories have been so far — and as decisive — we’re still in the very early days of AI, and the most impressive examples of AI thus far have been hyperfocused. DeepMind’s AlphaGo might be able to dominate one of the world’s foremost Go champions, but ask it to perform a task as simple as making a cup of coffee and it’s a different story entirely.

We have a long way to go before AI’s capabilities truly begin to approach the human brain, despite how dominant the technology can be when focusing on a single task. In the meantime, Lee’s confidence ahead of his next matchup against AlphaGo has completely dissipated.

“The third game is not going to be easy for me,” Lee said.

AlphaGo and Lee will play three more games between now and March 15th, and the pair will complete all three remaining games even if Lee loses the next game, and therefore the competition. Should AlphaGo take home the $1 million prize, Google said that it will be donated entirely to UNICEF.

All of the games between Lee and AlphaGo are being streamed live on YouTube. Their second match is embedded below in its entirety.

Zach Epstein
Zach Epstein Executive Editor

Zach Epstein has been the Executive Editor at BGR for more than 10 years. He manages BGR’s editorial team and ensures that best practices are adhered to. He also oversees the Ecommerce team and directs the daily flow of all content. Zach first joined BGR in 2007 as a Staff Writer covering business, technology, and entertainment.

His work has been quoted by countless top news organizations, and he was recently named one of the world's top 10 “power mobile influencers” by Forbes. Prior to BGR, Zach worked as an executive in marketing and business development with two private telcos.