First Published October 2007 < http://www.spectrum.ieee.org/oct07/5552 >
Brute-force computation has eclipsed humans in chess, and it could soon do the same in this ancient Asian game
In 1957, Herbert A. Simon, a pioneer in artificial intelligence and later a Nobel Laureate in economics, predicted that in 10 years a computer would surpass humans in what was then regarded as the premier battleground of wits: the game of chess. Though the project took four times as long as he expected, in 1997 my colleagues and I at IBM fielded a computer called Deep Blue that defeated Garry Kasparov, the highest-rated chess player ever.
You might have thought that we had finally put the question to rest—but no. Many people argued that we had tailored our methods to solve just this one, narrowly defined problem, and that it could never handle the manifold tasks that serve as better touchstones for human intelligence. These critics pointed to weiqi, an ancient Chinese board game, better known in the West by the Japanese name of Go, whose combinatorial complexity was many orders of magnitude greater than that of chess. Noting that the best Go programs could not even handle the typical novice, they predicted that none would ever trouble the very best players.
Ten years later, the best Go programs still can't beat good human players. Nevertheless, I believe that a world-champion-level Go machine can be built within 10 years, based on the same method of intensive analysis—brute force, basically—that Deep Blue employed for chess. I've got more than a small personal stake in this quest. At my lab at Microsoft Research Asia, in Beijing, I am organizing a graduate student project to design the hardware and software elements that will test the ideas outlined here. If they prove out, then the way will be clear for a full-scale project to dethrone the best human players... (full story at the above website)