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Google’s AlphaGo AI will face its biggest challenge yet next month

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Ke Jie (far right) explains the beauty of AlphaGo's moves to Google CEO Sundar Pichai

It’s just over a year since Google’s DeepMind unit stunned the world when its AlphaGo AI beat Go legend Lee Se-dol 4-1 in a five-game match; the result demonstrated mastery of a feat that had eluded computer scientists for decades and sparked a flood of new interest in the field of artificial intelligence. But there was one possible “gotcha” that Go devotees could hold onto: Lee Se-dol was once, but is no longer, quite considered the greatest player on the planet.

That distinction is now considered to belong to Ke Jie, a 19-year-old Chinese player ranked number 1 worldwide. A professional since the age of 10, Ke has beaten Lee several times in high-profile matches in recent years, including three finals victories in the three months leading up to Lee’s AlphaGo match. And next month, Ke will get his own showdown with DeepMind's AI.

At the Future of Go Summit in Wuzhen, China, Ke will face off against AlphaGo in a three-game match. Another game will see five of China’s top pros attempt to team up to take down AlphaGo, while another will see a pro-vs.-pro match where each player alternates turns with an AlphaGo teammate.

After its comprehensive victory over Lee, AlphaGo will be the favorite for the match with Ke, who recently lost a few unofficial online games against the AI. But whatever happens, the wider variety of game formats this time will give some fascinating insights into how the AI performs in different situations. How will it react to taking on multiple play styles at once, or having every other move made by a human incapable of plotting the same strategy? And what will humans be able to learn about their own capabilities?

“Instead of diminishing the game, as some feared, artificial intelligence has actually made human players stronger and more creative,” DeepMind CEO and co-founder Demis Hassabis says. “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. Clearly, there remains much more to learn from this partnership between Go’s best human players and its most creative A.I. competitor.“

The Future of Go Summit is a collaboration between Google, the China Go Association, and the Chinese government, and will also include a forum on the future of artificial intelligence that we can likely expect Google to use as an opportunity to check in on the technology’s progress. It’ll take place between May 23rd and May 27th.