The Technium

Another One for the Machine

[Translations: Japanese]

Computers have mastered chess and checkers, beating the best human players. Nowadays cheap computerized or even online players can beat most ordinary humans. The ancient game of Go, however, has long resisted the efforts by engineers to construct a Go-computer than can beat a human Go master. Some Go fans believed computers would never be able to beat a Go master. The vast combinatorial sums of possible moves are much greater in Go than chess, and there is there more of an emphasis on pattern recognition in Go rather than the brute force exhaustive search used in chess. Winning Go seemed a uniquely human achievement.

Wrong! Last week on Thursday August 7, 2008, MoGo, a software program running on borrowed supercomputers (stuffed with 800 4.7 ghrz processors with 15 Teraflops of storage), beat a US Go professional. According to the American Go Association MoGo beat Myungwan Kim who is an 8-dan master. While the game was played on a professional 19 x 19 board (most previous wins by computers were done on smaller amateur level 9 x 9 boards), Kim is not the highest ranking pro (a 9-dan) and he gave the computer a nine-stone handicap. He beat the machine in two other games. Afterwards he estimated MoGo as a 2 to 3-dan player.

2008 08 07 Computergo

Still Go has been Turing’d. Driving a car has been Turing’d. The list of human cognitive activities that normal humans believe computers can’t do is very short;

Make art. Create a novel, symphony, movie.

Have a conversation.

Laugh at a joke.

Are there other things people popularly believe computers can’t do?


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