Shockwaves were sent reverberating through the technology community March, 12, when a moment that most artificial intelligence experts believed was still a decade away abruptly came to pass. In Seoul, South Korea, Google’s advanced artificial intelligence program, known as AlphaGo, achieved a resounding 3-0 victory over the world’s preeminent Go grandmaster, Lee Sedol.
With this landmark victory, machines have officially conquered the final frontier of strategic games. Since the first primitive game playing computers were invented over 25 years ago, these potent programs have been knocking off humans one at a time. The finest humanity has to offer were defeat from the game of checker, Othello, Scrabble, and even chess. Go has long remained the final frontier of human dominance.
Go is a complex strategy game that originated in China over 2,500 years ago. It pits two players against each other, one commanding white pieces and one commanding black. The objective of the game is to surround more “territory,” or board space than your opponent.
Go is vastly more complex than any other game in the world, featuring an exponentially larger number of possible moves than a game like chess. Imaging moves represented as grains of sand. The possibilities in chess would fill would fill a bucket while the possibilities in Go would fill an Olympic swimming pool.
How did Google’s AlphaGo accomplish this astonishing result? Essentially, AlphaGo, a computer developed by DeepMind, a London-based research lab acquired by Google, is a machine capable of learning and teaching itself. It used this capability to master the game of Go.
This technology was not developed simply with the goal of playing games in mind. In fact, this artificial intelligence, built upon a vast network of software and hardware designed to mimic the web of neurons in the human brain is already well on its way to affecting our daily lives – through the Google search bar.
In early February, Amit Singhal, the individual who oversaw the development of Google’s search engine resigned. Shortly after, John Giannandrea was announced as Singhal’s replacement. Before this nomination, Giannandrea headed Google’s artificial intelligence program.
Google’s artificial intelligence deep neural networks have already been working hard behind the scenes of many technologies we are familiar with – A.I. assists in recognized verbal commands spoken into a smartphone and with the identification of photographs. Like AlphaGo, these A.I. programs are capable of learning and developing all on their own. And they are now beginning incorporated into Google’s ubiquitous search engine.
The incorporation began happening early in 2015 when Google debuted the deep learning program named RankBrain. Near the end of the year, RankBrain official played a role in “a very large fraction” of search results. While Singhal approved the rollout of RankBrain in 2015, it is expected that Giannandrea will push the program forward to new heights.
Reports state that RankBrain currently assists with 15 percent of daily search queries. Its primary use is as a sort of “word association” program, looking at search queries and identifying other words and phrases which may be closely linked. It plays a particularly important role when the search engine is confronted with entirely new queries which it has never seen before.
Google seems to be acting cautiously in terms of giving RankBrain a more prominent role in determining search engine results, but the hiring of their former head of Artificial Intelligence as the new lead of the search engine program seems to be a clear statement of the direction they are heading.
The impact of RankBrain could potentially be huge for business who are reliant on internet traffic. But how can businesses ensure they are the beneficiaries of this coming paradigm shift?
First off, RankBrain’s ability to deliver quality results will likely increase how satisfied searcher feel with the first 1–3 search results. This means that it is going to be less important to place on the first page, and MORE important to place in the top three of search results. The importance of proper SOE is going to be even more vital than before.
Second, RankBrain is capable of learning from its mistakes. Companies that do not adhere to best practices or those who employ blackhat practices will not be able to trick it. Or at least not for long. And once RankBrain identifies offending sites, they can anticipate a lengthy banishment to The Pages Where No One Clicks (like, page 2 and beyond).
Third, RankBrain learns from itself. It’s perception of what a quality website is, will be based on many factors we already understand. But what are these factors?
But really, we don’t know exactly what impact RankBrain will have. It is a new technology. Something the world has never seen before. And yet, it will have a real impact on the success of individuals and business across the world.
If you want to keep up, you need to partner with the best. You need a team of digital experts who not only know how to best excel in the contemporary online world but who can sense shifting trends before anyone else, who can anticipate what the future brings, and rise to meet it.