Google’s DeepMind team has already advanced its AlphaGo AI to dominate Go without human input, but now the system is clever enough to master other board games without intervention. Researchers have developed a more generalized system for AlphaGo Zero that can train itself to achieve “superhuman” skill in chess, Shogi (a Japanese classic) and other game types knowing only the rules, all within less than a day. It doesn’t need example games or other references.
This doesn’t mean that DeepMind has developed a truly general purpose, independent AI… yet. Chess and Shogi were relatively easy tests, as they’re simpler than Go. It’ll be another thing entirely to tackle complex video games like StarCraft II, let alone fuzzier concepts like walking or abstract thought. There’s also the question of speed: less than 24 hours works for board games, but that’s too slow for situations where AI needs to adapt on the spot.
Even so, this is a major step toward AI that can accomplish any task with only minimal instructions. Robots and self-driving cars in particular may need to learn how to navigate unfamiliar environments without the luxury of pre-supplied training material. If nothing else, chess champions have one more reason to be nervous.