Artificial intelligence researchers at Elon Musk’s OpenAI project recently made a big advance by winning a video game. Unlike recent AI victories over top human players in the games of Go and poker, this AI breakthrough involved a game that many people haven’t heard of, Dota 2. But to the hundreds of millions of fans of this type of online multiplayer battle game, a computer that can beat a professional player is a big deal.
It’s also significant to AI researchers, especially those in companies such as Google, Facebook, Microsoft and IBM, which are investing millions of dollars in creating superhuman AI players for digital games. As AI becomes ever more important in our society, it could have wider implications for all of us because of what it demonstrates about computers’ ability to “think” strategically.
What was particularly remarkable about the Dota 2 victory, achieved by a bot created by the billion-dollar non-profit research company OpenAI, was that its developers didn’t program it with a deep understanding of game strategies. Instead, they used an approach known as deep reinforcement learning, where the computer starts with only rudimentary knowledge of game strategy.