China catching up to US
China catching up to US

Artificial intelligence from a Chinese tech giant has defeated the country’s best player of the board game Go, despite giving the grandmaster an advantage — matching and perhaps surpassing Google’s efforts last year.

The artificial intelligence (AI) developed by Chinese company Tencent beat world number-two Go player Ke Jie last week with a two-stone handicap, the official People’s Daily newspaper reported.

Handicaps are used in Go to even out the difference in skill level between players.

Google’s AlphaGo AI beat Ke last year just months after defeating fellow grandmaster Lee Se-dol of South Korea — however AlphaGo has never competed against top-level players using a handicap.

AlphaGo has since been placed in retirement, with Google instead focusing its energies on its self-teaching AlphaGo Zero machine, which mastered the complex game in 40 days last year.

Tencent drew on research papers on AlphaGo Zero released publicly by Google to create its own champion, and its victory is a sign of just how seriously China is taking the race for AI supremacy.

AI development a national policy in China

“China has a declared ambition to equal the US in its AI capability by 2020 and to be number one in the world by 2030,” said Professor Toby Walsh, a leading AI expert from the University of New South Wales.

Tencent’s victory came shortly after fellow Chinese tech company Alibaba announced its team had developed an AI that it said, “[surpasses] humans in reading comprehension“.

Professor Walsh, who is also the author of the book ‘It’s Alive: Artificial Intelligence from the Logic Piano to Killer Robots’, said it was significant the first two breakthroughs in the field this year have come from Chinese companies.

The Chinese Government’s Next Generation Artificial Intelligence Development Plan, announced last year, aims to create a massive US$150 billion AI industry in China by 2030.

The country sees AI technology as crucial to its development agenda, and as a way of improving the lives of its people.

Relaxed attitudes to privacy in China and its enormous smartphone market — which generates a huge amount of data that can be used in AI research — also give the country a natural advantage in the sector.

China’s ambitious strategy is just one of several across the world. The US, UK, France, UAE, Canada, South Korea and Japan also have their own plans.

Australia however does not have one yet.

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Article Credit: ABC

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