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Alphabet’s artificial intelligence (AI) subsidiary, DeepMind, has announced a five-day festival in China that will pair some of China’s top Go players with DeepMind’s AI-powered program, AlphaGo.

The ancient strategy board game, developed in China more than 2,000 years ago, received worldwide attention last year when AlphaGo beat a professional South Korean Go player. Earlier this year, it was confirmed that AlphaGo had since beaten some top players online too.

Running May 23-27 in Wuzhen, a town in China’s northern Zhejiang Province, the Future of Go Summit is a collaboration between the Chinese Government, the China Go Association, AI experts from Google and China, and top Go players. The event will feature a “variety of game formats” involving professional players and AlphaGo. It is “specifically designed to explore the mysteries of the game together,” said DeepMind CEO and cofounder Demis Hassabis, in a blog post.

Google snapped up U.K.-based DeepMind back in 2014 in a deal thought to be worth around $600 million. In the years since, AI has been catapulted from the peripheries of science into mainstream consciousness, with headline after headline proclaiming that millions of jobs could be lost to robots and automation in the coming years as part of the “fourth industrial revolution.” Indeed, a World Economic Forum report from January noted that although AI and automation will also create new roles, the net job loss over the next few years is expected to be around five million positions.


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So what does the “rise of the machines” mean for the leisure industry? Does AlphaGo mean that the ancient game of Go is now redundant because the robots have won? Not according to Hassabis. “Instead of diminishing the game, as some feared, artificial intelligence has actually made human players stronger and more creative,” he said. “It’s humbling to see how pros and amateurs alike, who have pored over every detail of AlphaGo’s innovative game play, have actually learned new knowledge and strategies about perhaps the most studied and contemplated game in history.”

Naturally, any company that’s building technology that could ultimately dominate humans at nearly everything will focus on the positives. Hassabis reckons that AlphaGo is making humans think in new ways, and there may indeed be an element of truth to that. Unconfined by regimented styles, all a machine wants is to arrive at a single outcome — in this case, to surround more territory than its opponent in an ancient board game.

Among the game formats being touted for the upcoming summit is “Pair Go,” which will see a professional player paired with an AlphaGo partner. The pair will then alternate their moves against another team, also consisting of a professional and an AlphaGo player. There will also be “Team Go,” which will pit AlphaGo’s wits against a five-strong team of Chinese professional players who will work together to beat the machine. There will also be a one-on-one match between AlphaGo and the best Go player in the world — Ke Jie.

“We’re excited to see what insights this next round of games and discussion will bring, and the challenges this will help us solve together — both on and off the Go board,” added Hassabis.

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