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One small move for a computer; one giant leap for computerkind.

Google announced yesterday that artificial intelligences (AI) software it created, hosted on a network of computers, has done what no software ever could: It has beaten a top player at Go. So what, you may wonder? Computers have already roundly defeated the world’s best players at chess, checkers, Othello, Scrabble, and–most entertainingly–Jeopardy! What’s the big deal about a computer beating a human at yet another board game?

It’s a very big deal. In chess, for instance, IBM’s Deep Blue beat Garry Kasparov through “brute force”–by rapidly considering every possible outcome of every possible move on the board and calculating which gave it the best odds of success.

But brute force calculation does not work with Go because the number of calculations required is too large even for the fastest computers. This 2,500-year-old game has rules that are infinitely simpler than those in chess–each move consists of placing one stone at any open intersection on a 19 x 19 grid, with the object of surrounding and thus capturing your opponent’s stones while avoiding the capture of your own. But those rules lead to an exponentially more complex game. While chess presents players with an average 35 possible moves at any given time, Go presents players with an average 250. Each of which leads to another 250, and so on.

Read the full article at Inc Magazine