Tonight during Valve’s yearly Dota 2 tournament, a surprise segment introduced what could be the best new player in the world -- a bot from Elon Musk-backed startup OpenAI. Engineers from the nonprofit say the bot learned enough to beat Dota 2 pros in just two weeks of real-time learning, though in that training period they say it amassed “lifetimes” of experience, likely using a neural network judging by the company’s prior efforts. Musk is hailing the achievement as the first time artificial intelligence has been able to beat pros in competitive e-sports.
While the demonstration was highly limited to a few variables of gameplay, it was still remarkable to witness crowd-favorite Dota 2 pro Danylo “Dendi” Ishutin get crushed in a live 1-vs-1 match with the bot. Some of the bot’s maneuvers looked eerily human. After being defeated by the bot twice, Dendi forfeited future matches with it, and expressed surprise that a bot could outplay a human. He said the bot “feels a little like [a] human, but a little like something else.”
Dota 2 is an astoundingly complex game in which two teams of 5 players compete to siege and destroy the opposing team’s base. The game features 113 playable heroes who each possess unique abilities, as well as dozens of items that can enhance and extend each hero’s capabilities — meaning the full extent of the game’s possibilities are virtually incomprehensible, at least to a player with human limitations.
Elon Musk founded OpenAI as a nonprofit venture to prevent AI from destroying the world — something Musk has been beating the drum about for years. Just last month he told a group of US governors that AI represents a “fundamental risk to the existence of civilization.” Others, like Facebook’s Mark Zuckerberg, have been less than impressed by Musk’s killer robot doomsaying.
At least for now, killer AI seems limited to parlor tricks at e-sports tournaments. The OpenAI team’s bigger plan is to extend its Dota 2 bot’s capabilities into something that can compete across the full game in a 5-vs-5 match by next year’s tournament.