An AI Is Now the Best Player of Humanity’s Most Complicated Game 

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In Wuzhen, China, on Thursday, Google’s AlphaGo artificial intelligence beat the world’s best (human) Go player in their second consecutive match, making the computer program the current champion of humanity’s most complex game.

AlphaGo has now won two matches against 19-year-old Ke Jie, who has been ranked as the world’s number one Go player and won four international tournaments since 2014. The mini-tournament is a best of three and if Jie overcomes the AI in their final match, it would still be a 2:1 win in AlphaGo’s favor.

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Humanity could really use a win right now, and the latest test comes out of China, where a teenager …

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Created by DeepMind, Google’s AI division, AlphaGo isn’t officially ranked as a player, but the string of victories is a landmark moment for AI development. Go is an immensely complex game that requires shifting strategies, foresight in anticipating and responding to your opponent, and a certain degree of unpredictability so that you’re not outmatched. AlphaGo was able to both mimic human patterns and search through an astounding 10 to the power of 700 possible variations moves in the game to determine the best way to beat Jie.

This is an enormous achievement in the AI field, though it’s at least a little terrifying to think that computer programs can play even our hardest games better than we can.

[Mashable]

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The story of Silk Road: How to lie to yourself, build a billion dollar ‘startup’ and wind up in prison for life

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ross ulbricht

I just finished reading Nick Bilton’s "American Kingpin: The Epic Hunt for the Criminal Mastermind Behind the Silk Road" which documents the well-known saga of Ross Ulbricht, aka the Dread Pirate Roberts, and Silk Road, the black market website that sold illegal drugs and other dangerous items.

Back in May, 2015, the 31-year-old Ulbricht was sentenced to life in prison without parole after being convicted of seven felonies, including trafficking drugs on the internet, narcotics-trafficking conspiracy, running a continuing criminal enterprise, computer hacking, and money laundering.

Although he also allegedly tried to commission, and paid for, more than one murder (which the book details), those murders never actually took place. So murder is not among the list of crimes for which Ulbricht is serving a life sentence.

The book reads like a novel, and it describes how a young, smart, kind-hearted and well-educated Ulbricht became the Dread Pirate Roberts, the code name of the man who ran the website, and how multiple law enforcement agencies chased him down.

Other key players of Silk Road were also captured and jailed, including two law enforcement agents assigned to help capture Ulbricht.

Although Bilton didn’t interview Ulbricht for the book, he uses the enormous catalog of information on the case and interviews with other key players to get inside Ulbricht’s head.

He paints the picture of a young libertarian idealist who thoroughly convinced himself that he was actually helping society with his criminal startup and his slide into becoming an outlaw.

And there were parts of the book that made the actual work of running a criminal enterprise website sound eerily like bootstrapping a tech startup.

Ulbricht created a "mission driven" company and community

Ulbricht adopted the code name Dread Pirate Roberts, the book reports, and, under that name, wrote long motivational posts to his employees on the mission of Silk Road.

silk road"It’s not the government’s right to tell the people what they can and cannot put in their bodies," Ulbricht preached, according to documents admitted as evidence in the case.

Through posts on the site, Dread Pirate Roberts declared that the mission was to sell drugs so extensively that the government would somehow be forced into legalizing all drugs. 

He hired people who believed the same. As Silk Road began to traffic in things way outside of drugs, like guns, body parts and everything else, he continually insisted that he was doing good work.

"Let the market decide, not the government," he preached, the book documents.  

Not all of his employees fully bought into the goodness of the mission: "They were still, at the end of the day, drug dealers," one employee told him, the book notes. Ulbricht apparently vehemently disagreed. "We are out to transform human civilization," he wrote to employees, according to the book.

After his trial, when pleading for leniency in the sentencing via a letter, he stood by his beliefs but also admitted he regretted some of his actions. 

I was left with a feeling that I was reading the mind of someone who was so good at the game of justification and rationalization that he was downright lying to himself about his ideals and his role in the world.

He made early mistakes that ticked off his customers

Ross UlbrichtUlbricht taught himself to code, and, in the ignorance of a newbie, made big mistakes with security, the book documents. As the site grew in notoriety and financial success, it became the target of constant attack from hackers.

Ulbricht also spent much of his time dealing with customer service complaints or fights within members of the community, according to the book. A plan to grow revenue by changing the Silk Road price structure, for example, triggered a revolt among the site’s clientele.

That stuff sounds like the kind of problems any young company could have, if you ignore the fact that this wasn’t exactly a company, but a black market.

But he made choices most tech CEOs would never consider, paying the ransoms demanded by hackers as if they were a standard cost of doing business, the book describes.

"Friends in the real world would say things to him like, ‘Why don’t you try this business idea or work on this app?’ to which Ross would simply say, ‘Good idea, dude. I’ll think about it.’ But, as he told his employees on the site, he just wanted to scream at them, ‘Because I’m running a goddamn multi-million dollar criminal enterprise!!!!’"  the book documents.

And then he began to believe his own hype

Ross UlbrichtSilk Road flourished until it became an estimated $1.2 billion business, the book notes, and Ulbricht ‘s net worth was said to have skyrocketed to the tens of millions.

That’s when things started getting really ugly.

When the Dread Pirate Roberts believed that one of his employees had stolen from him, he allegedly paid $80,000 to have the person killed, the book documents. The murder was actually faked, as were other murders he allegedly ordered and paid for, according to the records of the case.

But he didn’t know it as the time.

"It was as if the act of taking another man’s life, or at least believing he had done so, had given DPR a taste of power and control that he had never felt before. The leader of the Silk Road had started to become more demanding," the book’s author, Bilton, wrote.

When Ross Ulbricht was sentenced to life without possibility of parole, there was some outcry that the sentence was too harsh, even though Silk Road was implicated in at least one overdose death of a teen. 

But after reading the book, the sentencing seemed less out-of-line to me. I was left with the impression that running a criminal enterprise website is in some ways strangely similar to running a successful Valley startup, but with a few  major differences. Chief among those: you could very well spend the rest of your life in jail.

SEE ALSO: Why tech companies hire ‘brilliant jerks’

SEE ALSO: How Salesforce CEO Marc Benioff uses artificial intelligence to end internal politics at meetings

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Chinese authorities banned the broadcast of a match between top Go player and AlphaGo AI

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Chinese authorities banned the broadcast of a match between top Go player and AlphaGo AI

Image: VCG via Getty Images

A Go match between the world’s top player, Ke Jie, and Google’s AlphaGo that took place this week was censored by authorities, reports Quartz.

The AI beat Ke Jie in yet another match today, securing a win in the three-part match.

Three journalists have reported receiving verbal directives barring their news organisations from broadcasting the match — as well as the Go and AI summit held in Wuzhen, east China. 

One journalist reported being barred from even mentioning Google’s name while reporting on the event, while another said that while they could mention Google, they were barred from writing about Google’s products.

This is what users in China see when attempting to watch a livestream of the match. "Livestream has been cut by a moderator," the error message said.

This is what users in China see when attempting to watch a livestream of the match. “Livestream has been cut by a moderator,” the error message said.

A leaked copy of a government directive was also posted on California-based China Digital Times, a website that monitors censorship in China. “No website, without exception, may carry a livestream,” the directive said. “If one has been announced in advance, please immediately withdraw it.”

The match was not allowed to be broadcast in any form — including liveblogging, live photos and video streams, or even on personal social media accounts, the directive added.

Staff who were already sent to Wuzhen were recalled, according to a video editor who spoke to Quartz about the ban.

Replays were reportedly available on streaming sites like bilibili.com and other websites. All three parts of the match were available live on YouTube, which cannot be accessed without a VPN.

Go fans were really not pleased on Weibo:

Image: Ng Yi Shu/Mashable

“I’m watching the replay. AlphaGo has certainly evolved… when it was matched against Lee Sedol, AlphaGo was probably not Ke Jie’s match. But the lack of a livestream really makes it hard for Go fans,” said a user.

Image: Ng yi Shu/Mashable

“I don’t understand why they won’t livestream this domestically. Was watching this on bilibili when they cut the stream. What won’t you show others? I had to go to YouTube, damn,” said another user.

Image: NG YI SHU/MASHABLE

“Why won’t you allow for a livestream of the AlphaGo and Ke Jie match? It isn’t coming at a sensitive time, no?” a third user asked.

Image: Ng Yi Shu/Mashable

“Does anyone with authority know why they won’t let us watch the livestream? Apparently relevant departments requested for the livestream to not be broadcast domestically, and the broadcast which was advertised in April on CCTV5 (China Central Television’s sports channel) was cut and replaced with a live broadcast of basketball.” said a fourth user. “You could watch it on YouTube, and many sites have pulled footage off there, but they’ve been cut in the middle of the game.”

The livestream’s ban is the latest development in a longstanding feud between China and Google, after a drastic fallout in 2010 when the company detected a series of cyberattacks on other U.S. companies. 

Google has refused to abide by Chinese censorship rules, but the company has made inroads beyond the Great Firewall — Google Translate was made available in the country in March this year. 

Government officials have also indicated a willingness to allow some Google services, like Google Scholar and other services that do not involve “sensitive” information, back into the country.

 

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Google DeepMind is edging towards a 3-0 victory against world Go champion Ke Jie (GOOG)

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David Silver

Google DeepMind has won its second game against world Go champion Ke Jie in China, winning the series and putting it one step closer to a 3-0 victory.

The company’s self-learning AlphaGo AI agent is playing 19-year-old Ke Jie at the "Future of Go Summit" near Shanghai this week in a three-game match.

The win against Ke Jie — who has been playing Go since the age of 5 — puts AlphaGo just one victory away from a 3-o win.

"#AlphaGo wins game 2," wrote Google DeepMind cofounder and CEO Demis Hassabis on Twitter. "What an amazing and complex game! Ke Jie pushed AlphaGo right to the limit."

AlphaGo won the first game by half a point on Tuesday, which is the closest margin possible in Go — a two-player board game that originated in China around 3,000 years ago. The game simple, yet complex game has been incredibly difficult for computers to crack due to the sheer number of moves possible.

Dave Silver, lead researcher for AlphaGo at DeepMind, explained how DeepMind had estimated Ke Jie’s impressive play. "We can always ask AlphaGo how well it thinks it’s doing during the game," he said in a statement. "And when we asked today, AlphaGo thought it was perfectly balanced. If anything, AlphaGo thought Ke Jie had come out better in the opening. It was only towards the end of the game that AlphaGo thought it would win."

Ke Jie DeepMind

The games are being streamed live on YouTube but the millions of Go fans in China are unable to watch them without a VPN [virtual private network] because the Google-owned service is banned in China. The Chinese government also issued a censorship notice to broadcasters and online publishers, warning them not to livestream the first game, according to China Digital Times.

The Financial Times reported on Monday that DeepMind’s trip to China is part of a wider Google "charm offensive" in the communist-run country.

DeepMind writes on its website that it hopes to uncover more secrets of the ancient game at the "Future of Go Summit," where it’ll also be playing different versions of Go. The company is also visiting a number of Chinese companies and research institutes to talk about AI research.

AlphaGo beat its first world champion last March, when it defeated South Korea’s Lee Sedol in a five-game tournament.

Demis Ke Jie and Eric Schmidt

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Bitcoin blows past $2,500, $2,600, and $2,700

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Bitcoin

The bitcoin rally just keeps going. Thursday’s action has run bitcoin above $2,500, $2,600, and $2,700 for the first time. Currently, the cryptocurrency trades up 11.2%, or $270, at $2,682 a coin. It has gained in 27 of the past 30 sessions and has tacked on more than 130% over that time. 

Bitcoin has climbed aout 20% since Tuesday’s close, propelled by news that the Digital Currency Group, representing 56 companies in 21 countries, reached a scaling agreement at the Consensus 2017 conference in New York. 

The announcement was the latest bit of good news for the cryptocurrency. In early April, Japan announced bitcoin had become a legal payment method in the country. Additionally, Ulmart, Russia’s largest online retailer, said it would begin accepting bitcoin even though Russia had said it wouldn’t explore the cryptocurrency until 2018.

The gains also seem to be boosted by speculation the US Securities and Exchange Commission could overturn its ruling on the Winklevoss twins’ bitcoin exchange-traded fund. The SEC was accepting public comment on its decision until May 15, but it hasn’t announced whether it will overturn its rejection of the ETF.

Bitcoin has gained more than 180% this year. 

SEE ALSO: The price of Bitcoin just hit an all new high — here’s how easy it is to buy your first one

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Chris Cornell’s Wife Vicky Writes Emotional Letter To Departed Singer

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It has been a week since the world lost legendary Soundgarden singer Chris Cornell. The frontman for Audioslave and Temple of the Dog committed suicide in room #1136 of the MGM Grand hotel in Detroit last Thursday. The iconic 52-year-old singer’s widow, Vicky, released an emotional open letter to her late husband.

To My Sweet Christopher,

You were the best father, husband and son-in-law. Your patience, empathy and love always showed through.

You had always said I saved you, that you wouldn’t be alive if it were not for me. My heart gleamed to see you happy, living and motivated. Excited for life. Doing everything you could to give back. We had the time of our lives in the last decade and I’m sorry, my sweet love, that I did not see what happened to you that night. I’m sorry you were alone, and I know that was not you, my sweet Christopher. Your children know that too, so you can rest in peace.

I’m broken, but I will stand up for you and I will take care of our beautiful babies. I will think of you every minute of every day and I will fight for you. You were right when you said we are soulmates. It has been said that paths that have crossed will cross again, and I know that you will come find me, and I will be here waiting.

I love you more than anyone has ever loved anyone in the history of loving and more than anyone ever will.

Always and forever,
Your Vicky

Chris Cornell’s body was flown from Detroit to Los Angeles on Sunday and was reportedly cremated Tuesday in Hollywood.

The private funeral for Chris Cornell will be held on Friday at Hollywood Forever Cemetery.

“After 3 p.m. local time, the public is welcome to visit the gravesite, after the private concludes,” Cornell’s attorney told Variety.

Pearl Jam, Megadeth, Corey Taylor, And Bush Pay Tribute To Legendary Singer Chris Cornell

[Billboard]

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