Artificial intelligence: A rival to man?

When the Deep Blue computer beat chess master Gary Kasparov in 1997 in a giant advance for artificial intelligence (AI) , it did so with what computer geeks call “brute force”. Using huge computer power it crunched through every possible move, looking further ahead than could any human, let alone Kasparov. Now, Nature magazine reports, DeepMind, a Google subsidiary, has taken another mind-boggling leap that testifies to the almost infinite potential of new “self-teaching” techniques in AI, with a system called AlphaGo. The latter has beaten a master of the oriental board game Go that, like chess, is a test of pure skill, but with a degree of complexity that far, far outstrips it. There are more possible positions on a Go board than atoms in the universe, or 10170…

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