Lee Se-dol, a 33-year-old South Korean, resigned the first of five matches of the fiendishly complex strategy game against the AlphaGo program, which is built by the Google-owned British company DeepMind.
The game, which lasted a brief 3.5 hours, was officially declared as a win for AlphaGo in Seoul today. Commentators called it a “superb” game that would be studied for years to come.
The breakthrough is seen as a watershed moment for artificial intelligence, a milestone potentially more significant than IBM defeating the world champion Gary Kasparov at chess in 1997. Go takes a lifetime to master and unlike chess, a computer cannot play by simply assessing all possible moves but must rely on something akin to intuition.
The game involves two players putting black and white markers on a 19-by-19 grid. It is said to have more possible playing permutations than the number of atoms in the universe.
The Alpha Go program, which uses algorithms, has practised by analysing data from 100,000 professional human games and playing itself some 30 million times.