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My colleague Richard Waters in San Francisco has some reassuring words for you: No, your computer is not about to take your job.
His latest column tallies up recent achievements of artificial intelligence in the realm of gaming that have captured the world’s attention. This week, Google’s DeepMind taught itself from scratch to become a champion at three different games in a matter of hours, out-doing the best purpose-built artificial intelligence systems.
At first blush, this makes it sound like the great gulf between machine and human intelligence may soon be crossed. The creation of a generalised intelligence, as adept as the human mind at addressing whatever problem is thrown at it, has been the dream of AI since its inception. Headlines in recent years chronicling AI’s victories on the game board have created a sense of inexorable improvement.
But AI still faces some big limitations that must be addressed if the technology is going to live up to the hype. An adaptable algorithm that can teach itself to become a top chess or Go player is certainly an achievement. But that does not mean it is ready to break out of the artificial world of games, where the rules are unbending and players always have perfect knowledge of the situation (if not of their opponent’s mind). Teaching a machine when it doesn’t know something is just the beginning.
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