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Cross-posted from the DeepMind blog
With just three stones on the board, it was clear that this was going to be no ordinary game of Go.
Chinese Go Grandmaster and world number one Ke Jie departed from his typical style of play and opened with a “3:3 point” strategy—a highly unusual approach aimed at quickly claiming corner territory at the start of the game. The placement is rare amongst Go players, but it’s a favoured position of our program AlphaGo. Ke Jie was playing it at its own game.
Ke Jie’s thoughtful positioning of that single black stone was a fitting motif for the opening match of The Future of Go Summit in Wuzhen, China, an event dedicated to exploring the truth of this beautiful and ancient game. Over the last five days we have been honoured to witness games of the highest calibre.
We have always believed in the potential for AI to help society discover new knowledge and benefit from it, and AlphaGo has given us an early glimpse that this may indeed be possible. More than a competitor, AlphaGo has been a tool to inspire Go players to try new strategies and uncover new ideas in this 3,000 year-old game.
The creative moves it played against the legendary Lee Sedol in Seoul in 2016 brought completely new knowledge to the Go world, while the unofficial online games it played under the moniker Magister (Master) earlier this year have influenced many of Go’s leading professionals—including the genius Ke Jie himself. Events like this week’s Pair Go, in which two of the world’s top players partnered with AlphaGo, showed the great potential for people to use AI systems to generate new insights in complex fields.
This week’s series of thrilling games with the world’s best players, in the country where Go originated, has been the highest possible pinnacle for AlphaGo as a competitive program. For that reason, the Future of Go Summit is our final match event with AlphaGo.
The research team behind AlphaGo will now throw their energy into the next set of grand challenges, developing advanced general algorithms that could one day help scientists as they tackle some of our most complex problems, such as finding new cures for diseases, dramatically reducing energy consumption, or inventing revolutionary new materials. If AI systems prove they are able to unearth significant new knowledge and strategies in these domains too, the breakthroughs could be truly remarkable. We can’t wait to see what comes next.
While AlphaGo is stepping back from competitive play, it’s certainly not the end of our work with the Go community, to which we owe a huge debt of gratitude for their encouragement and motivation over the past few years. We plan to publish one final academic paper later this year that will detail the extensive set of improvements we made to the algorithms’ efficiency and potential to be generalised across a broader set of problems. Just like our first AlphaGo paper, we hope that other developers will pick up the baton, and use these new advances to build their own set of strong Go programs.
We’re also working on a teaching tool—one of the top requests we’ve received throughout this week. The tool will show AlphaGo’s analysis of Go positions, providing an insight into how the program thinks, and hopefully giving all players and fans the opportunity to see the game through the lens of AlphaGo. We’re particularly honoured that our first collaborator in this effort will be the great Ke Jie, who has agreed to work with us on a study of his match with AlphaGo. We’re excited to hear his insights into these amazing games, and to have the chance to share some of AlphaGo’s own analysis too.
Finally, to mark the end of the Future of Go Summit, we wanted to give a special gift to fans of Go around the world. Since our match with Lee Sedol, AlphaGo has become its own teacher, playing millions of high level training games against itself to continually improve. We’re now publishing a special set of 50 AlphaGo vs AlphaGo games, played at full length time controls, which we believe contain many new and interesting ideas and strategies.
We took the opportunity this week in Wuzhen to show some of these games to a handful of top professionals. Shi Yue, 9 Dan Professional and World Champion said the games were “Like nothing I’ve ever seen before—they’re how I imagine games from far in the future.” Gu Li, 9 Dan Professional and World Champion, said that “AlphaGo’s self play games are incredible—we can learn many things from them.” We hope that all Go players will now enjoy trying out some of the moves in the set. The first ten games are now available here, and we’ll publish another ten each day until all 50 have been released.
We have been humbled by the Go community’s reaction to AlphaGo, and the way professional and amateur players have embraced its insights about this ancient game. We plan to bring that same excitement and insight to a range of new fields, and try to address some of the most important and urgent scientific challenges of our time. We hope that the story of AlphaGo is just the beginning.
The tragic attack in Manchester was top of mind for many searchers this week. Here's a look at what people wanted to know, and four other trending topics from the week of May 21.
Attack in Manchester
This week, a terrorist attack in Manchester, England claimed the lives of 22 people attending an Ariana Grande concert. People turned to Google to make sense of the event, searching to find out what happened, where the bomb went off, and who was responsible. Top countries searching for “Manchester” since the attacks include Mauritius, Ireland and Uganda, while the top U.S. states are New Hampshire, Connecticut and Massachusetts.
Search interest in “hurricane season” spiked 160 percent when the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) announced that it predicts an “above average” Atlantic hurricane season this year. The organization expects five to nine hurricanes, which led people to search “Is NOAA ever right about the number of hurricanes?” and “How does NOAA predict hurricanes?” Here’s one thing we do know: The next hurricane will be named Bret.
Noses are red
On Thursday in the U.S., we celebrated
the return of “Love Actually” Red Nose Day, which raises money and awareness to end child poverty. To honor the cause, the cast of “Love Actually” got back together for a 12-minute sequel, and stars like Ben Affleck, Ed Sheeran, Ellen DeGeneres and Emma Watson donned their red noses. Despite the backing from A-list celebs, people still turned to search for more info, like “Where can I get a Red Nose?” and “Where did Red Nose Day originate?” Fun fact: Though Rudolph used to dominate the red nose game, the biggest spike in searches for “red nose” now occur in May for Red Nose Day.
On Saturday, Pandora World of Avatar will open at Disney’s Animal Kingdom in Orlando (what would Walt think if we called it Pandor-lando?). You don’t have to rely on your CGI-inspired imagination anymore, this park is REAL (and it’s not built from unobtainium). Search questions ranged from the logistical: “What day does Avatar land open?” to the more curious: “How much did it cost to build Pandora World?” to the niche: “What font is used for Disney’s Avatar land?”
It was 50 years ago today
Fixing A Hole in our hearts since 1967, this weekend marks the 50th anniversary of the release of “Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band.” Fans got a little help from a friend (that’s us!) when they searched for the origin of the Beatles’ name, where they’re from, and why they broke up. And who doesn’t love a good old-fashioned British pop rivalry? Search interest for “Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band” spiked 600 percent higher this week than when Harry Styles’ album was released earlier in the month, proving that the Beatles’ music is Only Getting Better.
For the next few weeks on the iconic High Line in New York, you can check out hundreds of images submitted by Pixel users from around the world. Together with Refinery29, we’ve created the Meadow, an immersive digital installation that celebrates the creativity of Pixel photographers. Shooting with one of the best smartphone cameras, they've captured the incredible images that are featured in the Meadow.
The Meadow is open to the public (for free!) from 11 a.m. until 8 p.m. from now until June 4. If you’re part of the Pixel community, tag your photos with #teampixel—you may have the opportunity to see them on the High Line!
The Beatles' eighth album, Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band, first hit the record stores in June 1967. The album was created at Abbey Road Studios and features classics like “Lucy In The Sky With Diamonds” and “With A Little Help From My Friends” in addition to the title track. Fifty years later, Sgt. Pepper remains a fan favorite, and is being re-issued with new mixes and tracks. Today on Google Earth’s storytelling platform, Voyager, we’re celebrating not only this beloved, influential album, but the whole of the Fab Four’s monumental contributions to rock ‘n’ roll.
The global Voyager tour highlights significant moments and places in The Beatles’ career. Their journey starts at Liverpool’s iconic Cavern Club, and ends at Strawberry Fields in New York’s Central Park, where a black-and-white tiled memorial honors the life of John Lennon. You can also fly to the Hamburg nightclub where the band performed almost nonstop for 48 days; the New York theater where they made their historic first live TV appearance in America; and India, where they experienced spiritual awakenings in the Maharishi’s ashram.
Join the Fab Four as they tour the globe with Google Earth’s Voyager.Header image courtesy of Local Guide Austin Ayodeji
Nguyen Thi Tham has worked as a farmer her entire life. She has always relied on her neighbors for information about the weather and market conditions, and she always thought she was too old to use the internet. But after a few lessons, she is now able to search for the weather forecast in Bac Giang province online, and knows exactly when to cover and protect her crops from the elements so she can harvest and sell more vegetables, even after heavy rains.
Nearly 50 percent of Vietnam’s population—or about 45 million people—are farmers just like Tham. They rely on farming for employment and their livelihoods. But, like many places around the world, income from agriculture is declining and productivity is low, with just 20 percent of the country’s GDP coming from the sector. This is a huge challenge for a country that depends so heavily on farming.
Technology combined with basic digital literacy can transform lives and give rise to new opportunities. That’s why, with a Google.org grant and technical expertise from Google volunteers, we’re helping the Vietnam Farmer’s Union (VNFU) deliver digital skills training to at least 30,000 farmers over the next three years.
Through online and offline training programs on how to find information on the internet, use basic productivity tools, or navigate agricultural apps, we hope more farmers across Vietnam will be able to boost productivity and their overall quality of life. We look forward to scaling the program through VNFU’s broad network (4 out of 5 households in Vietnam have someone who’s a member of the VNFU) and with their deep experience educating their beneficiaries.
Over the course of conducting research and several pilot trainings since the end of 2016, we’ve spoken to farmers who use the internet to improve efficiency in other ways. Some told us that they no longer needed to travel for miles to compare crop prices or the cost of farming equipment. And some were able to search for information to help them treat common ailments afflicting their animals, saving them a visit to a veterinarian several villages away.
During these pilot trainings, we also learned that many farmers already have internet access at home, or even their own smart devices, but they don’t necessarily know how to use them to their full potential. So we expanded the trainings to include the farmers’ children or grandchildren. Through this “buddy” system, pairing farmer and child, the farmers have someone at home to help them, and in this way, we hope the training program will have longer-lasting and more wide-ranging impact.
While we may not be able to reach every farmer across Vietnam, we hope that newfound digital literacy skills will lead to incremental improvements in the ways and lives of many farmers like Tham, and contribute to better outcomes for their communities.