The next battle between humanity and artificial intelligence (AI) is taking place in a somewhat unusual setting: over a Chinese board game that has transfixed people for thousands of years.
On Wednesday, Google's AI system AlphaGo defeated Lee Sedol, one of the world's best players of the ancient (and incredibly complex) Chinese game of Weiqi, which is better known as Go.
AlphaGo, a computer program developed by Google DeepMind, managed to outwit Sedol in South Korea in the first of a five-game challenge match from Mar. 9 - 15, starting at 1:00 p.m. local time. Each game is expected to take four to five hours, with the tournament live streamed on DeepMind's YouTube channel.
Google DeepMind is offering $1 million in prize money for the winner. If AlphaGo wins, Google will donate the prize money to UNICEF, STEM and Go charities.
But the stakes are higher than a cash prize.
Go is one of the most complex games played at a professional level: Google claims that a game could have more potential moves than there are atoms in the universe. So a strong showing by AlphaGo would be a landmark in the field of AI.
"The winner here, no matter what happens, is humanity," Eric Schmidt, executive chairman of Google's parent company Alphabet, told a press conference in Seoul at the opening of the tournament on Tuesday.
"Humanity wins because the advances in artificial intelligence and machine learning will make each, and every other, human being in the entire world smarter, more capable - just better human beings."