It is hard not to be impressed — and perhaps a little alarmed — by the progression. In 1997, IBM’s supercomputer Deep Blue beat the world’s greatest chess player, Garry Kasparov.
It was a hugely expensive piece of hardware, closely tended and coached by humans. Go is a far harder game for computers to master than chess.
Yet when the AlphaGo program emerged with muted fanfare in 2016, it comfortably outclassed the world’s best Go players after a few months of training. Then last week, the AI research firm DeepMind unveiled AlphaGo Zero. It is faster, uses less hardware, beat its predecessor AlphaGo by 100 games to none, and is entirely self-taught.
What is more, it achieved this performance after just 72 hours of practice. The bewildering progress of AlphaGo Zero has fed an already-febrile anxiety about a robot takeover causing mass unemployment.