Artificial Intelligence Program Beats Go Champion

An artificial intelligence program called AlphaGo just beat Lee Sedol, the world’s best Go player, at his own game. Go is a popular board game in Asia, and has been for almost three millennia.

Developers at Google didn’t program AlphaGo specifically for the game of Go. They built what is called a neural network, which taught itself how to play the game. AlphaGo learned how to navigate and master Go very quickly; it studied a wide range of people that matched its skill level, then it played against itself over and over again, reportedly over a million times. As it evolved, it reprogrammed itself not to make the same mistakes, and improved upon its errors. The neural network is based on groundbreaking theories on how the human brain learns.

In an NPR article published on Wednesday, the folks at NPR Ed are wondering what artificial intelligence technology can do for human learning, and how human education should respond to the challenges artificial intelligence presents.

Pearson, the world’s leading education company, just published a pamphlet, Intelligence Unleashed: An Argument for Artificial Intelligence. In that pamphlet, Pearson states that “AIEd can produce an intelligent, personal tutor for every learner.” AIEd user interface technology can recognize each student through speech and gesture recognition, language processing, and other physiological identifiers. Pearson predicts that AIEd will be able to provide instantaneous feedback on students’ progress, how much they are learning, and even what mood they are in. As a result, testing will be eliminated.

Laurie Forcier, one of the authors on the pamphlet, suggested developing a “lifelong learning companion,” which would accompany students everywhere. The learning companion, like a droid unit from Star Wars, would foster an ongoing dialogue with the student, offering encouragement and study tips. It would even act as a therapist or life coach in some capacities, offering encouragement and advice, as well as talking its user through tough times. Accessible by smartphone or computer, the lifelong learning companion could accompany a student from primary school to college, and beyond. Maybe the program could even help its user get a job by writing a letter of recommendation and acting as a credential.

The World Economic Forum predicted that artificial intelligence and automation will eliminate at least five million jobs by 2020. This has posed the question of what to focus on during the course of education. While many agree that there is no point in focusing on teaching skills that will later be taken over by computers, the education industry still has much to focus on. With the elimination of menial tasks, the focus of education can now become honing interpersonal skills and building emotional and social competency.   




Sarah Samel

Sarah Samel

Sarah Samel is an Emerson College senior Writing, Literature and Publishing student focusing on young adult fiction. When she’s not browsing bookstores, she’s blogging or jotting down ideas for new poems and stories.