For the first several hours after I read that alphago zero paper I felt a kind of visceral dread. It was the first time I think I've felt like maybe AI might be moving too fast. This is not the kind of attitude I normally bring to this topic, but this paper was really quite a shock - it was years too soon. Everything about alphago has been 'years too soon' but this was really, really crazy too soon.
When we invented nuclear weapons one of the saving graces was that making one was not something that was doable by some pissed off asshole with a PhD, a basement, and a grudge. What would the world be like if you could make a nuke from stuff that anybody could get their hands on? Think about that for a minute.
I still believe that AI is unlikely to become the kind of technology that is the "superempowerment of the angry young man". But stuff like that alphago zero paper makes me wonder if maybe some critical breakthrough might actually be close at hand, that it might make these systems suddenly a million times more effective, and that such a thing would turn the world into something none of us recognize.
Returning to the topic of neural networks:
It's been a month since AlphaGo Zero. Time for DeepMind to revolutionize AI again:
Entire human chess knowledge learned and surpassed by DeepMind's AlphaZero in four hours
Google's AlphaZero Destroys Stockfish In 100-Game Match - Chess.com
And if you want to read the paper it's here: https://arxiv.org/pdf/1712.01815.pdf
I read it and it blew my mind. Again. AlphaZero, which is not even a go program really, beat AlphaGo Zero with half the training (under 36 hours). And AlphaGo Zero had beaten AlphaGo Master with 20x less training and no human assistance. AlphaGo Master was the program that beat the 60 best Go players in the world back-to-back after training for about a month. And AlphaZero - this new program - is a general purpose algorithm that can learn any board game without tuning or examples or any kind of human intervention. In quick succession it bested the 3 hardest games in the world, each time taking just a few hours to learn the game starting with nothing but the rules.
Spacing of DeepMind's world-shaking papers: 12 months, then 9 months, then 6 months, then 3 months and now this one comes after only one month. Can't wait to see what January brings. Or will it be just 2 weeks this time?
One of the frequently made observations about the limits of AI is that it's narrow. Sebastian Thrun was fond of saying about AlphaGo that, even as amazing an achievement as it was, it was so narrow that it still couldn't play chess. Well now it can. It can play chess and if you give it a couple of hours it will master any other board game to a superhuman level.
I used to think (in ancient times - about 3 months ago) that RL (reinforcement learning) was a silly thing to use for training a self driving car. It would take way too long, you wouldn't get a good result, and nobody would understand what it was doing. If things keep going at this rate everything other than RL is going to be obsolete pretty soon.