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China Develops Fast-learning AI for Playing Card Game

Chinese scientists have developed an Artificial Intelligence (AI) programme that is quick-minded and on par with professional human players in a popular card game. The AI programme called AlphaHoldem equalled four sophisticated human players in a 10,000-hand two-player competition, after three days of self-training.

In this popular card game, players often deceive and bluff. It is more similar to real-world problems than go and chess since decisions are made with imperfect information. The researchers from the Institute of Automation under the Chinese Academy of Sciences (CAS) reported that the AI programme, a fast learner, used only about three to four milliseconds for each movement, about 1,000 times quicker than that of first-generation AI.

The two previous AI players, based on an algorithm called counterfactual regret minimisation, spent respectively three and four seconds for each movement, consuming a large amount of computing power. The new AI programme which employs a new framework by incorporating deep-learning into a new self-play algorithm used only eight GPUs during its training, which is ultra-lightweight compared with previous AI’s 13,000 GPUs, according to the CAS’s recent news release. The researchers said looking forward, they will apply the underlying technology to other games like mahjong and bridge, fostering smarter AI.

AI learned a game by playing trillions of hands against itself and then examining each decision to see whether other moves may have been more successful. Typically, part of the success formula for AI when playing strategic games against an opponent is to process through decision trees until the end of the game before making a move. However, in a multi-player game, this process wasn’t feasible because there was too much-hidden information and the possibilities to process are much greater.

The AI teaches itself through reinforcement learning, continually looking back at plays and evaluating the success based on the circumstances. If it determines the outcome would have been better with a different move, it learns to apply that to future play.

Now that artificial intelligence can beat multiple players in such a complicated game, it’s the gateway to solve some of the world’s most vexing issues such as automated negotiations, drug development, security and cyber-security, self-driving cars and better fraud detection.

The true potential of AI lies in the ability to bring new opportunities for social development. China is now at a critical juncture of building a relatively well-off society in an all-around way while it is facing severe challenges like ageing population and resource and environment restraint. AI boasts broad applications in education, medical care, provision for the aged, environmental protection, urban operation and judicial service, which will markedly improve targeted public service and people’s livelihood.

AI technology can accurately perceive, predict and offer an early warning for major circumstances in infrastructure and social security, timely seize group cognition and psychological changes so that proactive measures are taken to improve social management capacity, which plays an irreplaceable role in stabilising the society.

As reported by OpenGov Asia, China has announced its ambition to become the world leader in Artificial Intelligence (AI) by 2030. China appears to be making rapid progress, and central and local government spending on AI in China is estimated to be in the tens of billions of dollars.

Recently, Artificial intelligence (AI) technology has been extensively applied in a national park in northwest China to track snow leopards inhabiting the region. The AI-aided digital toolbox can automatically distinguish the species in the Qilian Mountains National Park, Gansu Province, from other wildlife, using images captured by infrared cameras. The technology can thus improve data processing efficiency.

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