Cue the conspiracy theories and AI fears. AI-powered bots, this time from AI research organization OpenAI, has just proven their skill at a human-made game. This time, however, it isn’t for a peaceful and almost mechanical game of Go. OpenAI’s bots bested five of the world’s best human players of Dota 2, a.k.a. Defense of the Ancients, a game that requires some rather strategic and out of the box thinking in order to demolish the enemy’s base. Which, of course, some could interpret as something that Skynet will eventually learn as well.
Games are often used by AI researchers to test theories and techniques in machine learning and real-time strategy games like StarCraft and Dota 2 are particularly favored. The latter is, for example, famous and notorious at the same time for its complex gameplay mechanic,s involving a hundred unique quarters, each its own deep skill trees, hundreds of items, and numerous variables, not excluding human randomness. It is, for OpenAI, a perfect setting for its reinforcement learning technique.
Unlike other machine learning models, reinforcement learning drops an AI agent into a game with absolutely no knowledge about it. It then learns the ropes through trial and error, reward systems, and other incentives. After 10 months in that learning process, co-founder and CTO Greg Brockman says its AI has played 45,000 years’ worth of Dota 2 games and it isn’t even bored yet.
That definitely came in hand in a best of three matches between OpenAI Five bots and five Dota 2 pros from team OG. The AI won the first match after 30 minutes, surprising the humans with tactics that are usually reserved for later in the game, like immediately resurrecting a fallen. Whether that had any effect on the morale of team OG champs is unknown but OpenAI took the second game quite easily with what was described by pros as very aggressive strategies.
While this victory marks the end of OpenAI’s public demonstrations, the company will soon let anyone on the Internet play with the bots, either with or against them, in Dota 2 matches. That said, the collaboration mode may not be ready for the public soon, if at all. Hopefully, it will, though, because where’s the fun in always playing AI as the enemy that will always beat you.