Is the AlphaGo AI the best in the world? We’re about to find out.

South Korean professional Go player Lee Sedol reviews the match after winning against Google’s artificial intelligence program, AlphaGo.

Image: Lee Jin-man/AP/REX/Shutterstock

You may have been under the impression that Google’s AlphaGo had already publicly beaten the best human Go player in the world. You would be like me, and you would also be wrong.

AlphaGo, an artificial intelligence product of Google-owned AI firm DeepMind, has been making quick work of some of the world’s best Go players, but it hasn’t publicly taken on the man considered the best. Now it’s about to get its chance.

Go, a strategy game played by millions across the globe, had been considered something of an artificial intelligence holy grail. The game pits two players against each other—one with black tiles and the other with white—and the two battle to take each others’ tiles. Seems simple enough, but the game involves “more configurations of the board than there are atoms in the universe,” according to DeepMind CEO Demis Hassabis. That kind of volume makes it difficult for AlphaGo or any other AI program to simply calculate all the possibilities and plan accordingly. It has to find a way to win that involves something other than pure computational power. 

And it has, recently beating some of the best players in the world. That includes the current world number one, a 19-year-old Chinese man named Ke Jie who recently played the AI three times in secret battles on a couple of online gameplay platforms. Ke went 0-3, but insists he still has something left to try. 

We’ll find out if that’s true in late May, when they face each other in public for a three-match bout at the Future of Go Summit in China.

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