Humans and computers have been warily circling each other ever since IBM’s Deep Blue began thrashing the world’s greatest chess grandmasters, beginning with Garry Kasparov in the late 1990s.
While computers have made inroads against human ingenuity when it comes to chess and ancient strategy games like Go, there’s one arena that could prove successful in resisting the coming robot hegemony — poker.
Next week, Carnegie Mellon University is sponsoring a battle between Libratus, its poker-playing computer, and four humans who have mastered the game. The competition called “Brains vs. Artificial Intelligence: Upping the Ante” will be held at Rivers Casino.
The contest will pit the players against the computer eight hours daily for 20 consecutive days. This will amount to some 120,000 hands. The poker players and computer will be engaged in battle for the $200,000 pot and ultimate bragging rights.
Libratus’ technological handlers are eager to see if the decade-long software project created by Tuomas Sandholm has resulted in a computer that can think its way through the complexity of the game well enough to beat the most skilled players.
Meanwhile, the players want to maintain human supremacy as long as possible. They beat previous incarnations of the computer program and want to keep that streak going.
The outcome of the contest will have implications for cybersecurity and other advanced applications. While it is natural to want the end result of so much research at CMU to bear fruit, there’s more than a little human dignity on the line, too. We’re rooting for the researchers at CMU — even while rooting for the boys trying to get a straight against Libratus for humanity’s sake.