Forget chess and Go - artificial intelligence can now beat humans in StarCraft II
There was quite a hullabaloo in 1996 and 1997 in regard to machine learning: This was when IBM’s famous Deep Blue supercomputer “challenged” world champion Garry Kasparov to a chess match. The 1996 event was won by Kasparov with a score of 4-2 and humans around the world fearful of a Terminator-like future breathed a sigh of relief. But in a 1997 rematch the computer was better prepared, and it defeated Kasparov 3½-2½, thus demonstrating that artificial intelligence was smarter than human intelligence and we should look out for Skynet-controlled machines knocking at our door at any moment.
Move forward over 20 years and fortunately tyrannical machines craving the demise of the human race have not yet taken over. But they have started beating us in games, with StarCraft II becoming the latest title to join the list. DeepMind’s AlphaStar AI, which managed to rack up the equivalent of 200 years of gamer experience during training, made mincemeat out of top StarCraft II players Dario Wunsch (TLO) and Grzegorz Komincz (MaNa). The final overall score was 10-1: AlphaStar actually lost one game during a live exhibition match.
It is important to point out a few things. AlphaStar’s achievement would class it as a StarCraft II pro, but it still needs to meet and beat the absolute top-ranked players (like Deep Blue managed against Kasparov) before it can claim to have conquered the game. Also, the AI only used a single map and single type of player. Although AlphaStar operated on a single GPU during play, it trained with the help of 16 TPUs (tensor processing units).
Still, even with the aforementioned game restrictions, it’s an impressive feat by the AI and it’s surely just a matter of time before it can take on StarCraft II’s top pros and beat them in genuine open play. The future may not involve killer robots hunting us to extinction, but we might end up cheering them on at esports tournaments.