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Category: Google | Mar 3, 2016
The recent Zika virus outbreak has caused concern around the world. We’ve seen more than a 3,000 percent increase in global search interest since November, and last month, the World Health Organization (WHO) declared a Public Health Emergency. The possible correlation with Zika, microcephaly and other birth defects is particularly alarming.
But unlike many other global pandemics, the spread of Zika has been harder to identify, map and contain. It’s believed that 4 in 5 people with the virus don’t show any symptoms, and the primary transmitter for the disease, the Aedes mosquito species, is both widespread and challenging to eliminate. That means that fighting Zika requires raising awareness on how people can protect themselves, as well as supporting organizations who can help drive the development of rapid diagnostics and vaccines. We also have to find better ways to visualize the threat so that public health officials and NGO’s can support communities at risk.
As a company whose mission is helping people find information, with a lot of experience in analyzing large sets of data, we’re in a good position to help—at scale and at speed. So today we have Google engineers working with UNICEF to analyze data to determine how to map and anticipate the virus. We’ve also made some updates to our products to make Zika information more accessible, and we’re providing UNICEF with a $1 million grant to help their efforts on the ground.
Mapping information to help with prevention
A volunteer team of Google engineers, designers, and data scientists is helping UNICEF build a platform to process data from different sources (i.e., weather and travel patterns) in order to visualize potential outbreaks. Ultimately, the goal of this open source platform is to identify the risk of Zika transmission for different regions and help UNICEF, governments and NGO’s decide how and where to focus their time and resources. This set of tools is being prototyped for the Zika response, but will also be applicable to future emergencies.
Google software engineers John Li and Zora Tung with UNICEF research scientist Manuel Garcia Herranz and UX designer Tanya Bhandari working on the open source data platform.
Supporting UNICEF’s efforts to combat Zika
Our $1 million grant will be used by UNICEF to raise widespread awareness, reduce mosquito populations, support the development of diagnostics and vaccines, and work with communities and governments to prevent Zika transmission. The organization expects to reach 200 million affected or vulnerable people in Brazil and throughout Latin America with these efforts.
© UNICEF/Ueslei Marcelino2016. A mother holds her 4-month old baby born with microcephaly in Recife, Brazil. “When I left the hospital, they already had another 7 children with the same situation,” she shared with UNICEF.
We’ve also launched a matching campaign for Google employees, aimed at providing an additional $500,000 to UNICEF and the Pan American Health Organization (PAHO) to support their work on the ground.
Making Zika virus information accessible
We already include robust information for 900+ health conditions directly on Search for people in the U.S. We’ve now also added extensive information about Zika globally in 16 languages, with an overview of the virus, symptom information, and Public Health Alerts from that can be updated with new information as it becomes available.
We’re also working with popular YouTube creators across Latin America, including Sesame Street and Brazilian physician Drauzio Varella, to raise awareness about Zika prevention via their channels.
We hope these efforts are helpful in fighting this new public health emergency, and we will continue to do our part to help combat this outbreak.
And if you’re curious about what that 3,000 percent search increase looks like, take a look:
Posted by Jacquelline Fuller, Director, Google.org IMAGE URL AUTHOR NAME AUTHOR TITLE AUTHOR TEAM
Category: Google | Feb 26, 2016
I started working with Dr. Carl Mack when I took an engineering internship in my hometown of Seattle. But it wasn’t long before my internship took me in a completely different direction. The city was on high alert in the wake of racial discrimination and violence, and Dr. Mack was the VP of the city’s NAACP chapter. At his side, I was soon participating in protests and closed door meetings with city leaders—opening my eyes to non-technical solutions, and setting me off on a path that would eventually lead me to Google.org, where today I lead giving projects focused on the Bay Area and on racial justice.
More recently, incidences of racial violence have again dominated our headlines, with the killing of young men like Tamir Rice and Jordan Davis, the deaths of Michael Brown and Sandra Bland, and countless other acts of injustice. And it isn’t just heartbreaking individual stories. The data is troubling: African Americans are incarcerated at nearly six times the rate of whites. An estimated 40 percent of all students expelled from U.S. schools are black, and 30 percent are Latino. Of course, Google and our own industry need to do more to promote equality and opportunities for all.
Social innovators can help us move closer to our ideals of equality and justice. That’s why last year, Google.org launched a new, dedicated effort to support leaders who are doing critical work to end mass incarceration and combat endemic educational inequality for black and brown students. We announced $2.35 million in grants to support leaders like #BlackLivesMatter co-founder Patrisse Cullors; Chris Chatmon, who leads Oakland’s African American Male Achievement Initiative; and Raj Jayadev, who founded the criminal justice reform organization Silicon Valley De-Bug.
Patrisse Cullors, Co-Founder of #BlackLivesMatter, at the Google.org screening of 3 ½ Minutes and 10 bullets, Castro Theatre in San Francisco, Calif. on November 3, 2015.
Today, I’m excited to continue that momentum with the addition of four more organizations in this space, totalling $3 million in new grants. To help eliminate racial bias within our educational systems, we’re supporting San Francisco’s My Brother and Sister’s Keeper (MBSK) program, Oakland’s Roses in Concrete Community School, and the tech-enabled college success startup, Beyond12. We’re also supporting Bryan Stevenson and the national Equal Justice Initiative (EJI), which is focused on countering deep-seated bias against people of color in our communities and institutions. In addition to the grant, we’re committed to working with EJI to bring its public education work online so that millions more can experience it.
From left to right: David Drummond, Senior Vice President, Corporate Development, Alphabet; Bryan Stevenson, Founder and CEO, Equal Justice Initiative; Dr. Jeff Duncan-Andrade, Founder, Roses in Concrete Community School, Oakland; Landon Dickey, Special Assistant for African American Achievement & Leadership, San Francisco Unified School District; Alexandra Bernadotte, Founder and CEO, Beyond 12; Richard Carranza, Superintendent, San Francisco Unified School District; and Justin Steele, Principal, Google.org. Photo credit: 510Media.
Each of these organizations and their leaders have shown a deep, fundamental understanding of racial injustice and are actively finding ways to rid our systems of social, educational and economic exclusion. We as a company are proud to support them.
Posted by Justin Steele, Principal, Google.org IMAGE URL AUTHOR NAME AUTHOR TITLE AUTHOR TEAM
Category: Google | Feb 25, 2016
The web is an increasingly critical tool for news organizations, allowing them to communicate faster, research more easily, and disseminate their work to a global audience. Often it’s the primary distribution channel for critical, investigative work that shines a light into the darkest corners of society and the economy—the kind of reporting that exposes wrongdoing, causes upset and brings about change.
Unfortunately there are some out there who want to prevent this kind of reporting—to silence journalism when it’s needed most. A simple, inexpensive distributed denial of service (DDoS) attack can be carried out by almost anyone with access to a computer—and take a site completely offline before its owners even know they’ve been attacked.
These attacks threaten free expression and access to information—two of Google’s core values. So a few years ago we created Project Shield, an effort that uses Google’s security infrastructure to detect and filter attacks on news and human rights websites. Now we’re expanding Project Shield beyond our trusted testers, and opening it up to all the world’s news sites to protect them from DDoS attacks and eliminate DDoS as a form of censorship.
We learned a lot from our early group of Project Shield testers. Not only have we kept websites online during attacks that otherwise would have taken them offline, we learned crucial information about how these types of attacks happen, and how we can improve our services to defend against them.
With this expansion, tens of thousands of news sites will have access to Project Shield. And because Project Shield is free, even the smallest independent news organizations will be able to continue their important work without the fear of being shut down.
Finally, Project Shield is not just about protecting journalism. It’s about improving the health of the Internet by mitigating against a significant threat for publishers and people who want to publish content that some might find inconvenient. A free and open Internet depends on protecting the free flow of information—starting with the news.
Visit our website to learn how Project Shield works and, if you work in journalism, discover how you can join the fight to protect the world’s news.
Posted by Jared Cohen, President, Jigsaw, and Advisor to Executive Chairman, Alphabet Inc. IMAGE URL AUTHOR NAME AUTHOR TITLE AUTHOR TEAM
Category: Google | Feb 24, 2016
Posted by Yolanda Mangolini, Director, Global Diversity & Inclusion
On February 1 we kicked off Black History Month with a Doodle recognizing the remarkable life of Frederick Douglass and a new collection of Black history archives on the Cultural Institute. Googlers around the world have joined in the celebrations, hosting film screenings, spoken word performances, speaker series, and participating in community service. These efforts have been driven by the Black Googler Network (BGN), one of Google’s largest employee resource groups with 12 branches worldwide.
BGN focuses on empowering the Black community at Google and beyond. BGN Googlers work on many different teams, participating in BGN as volunteers or in their 20 percent time. They run service trips to communities in need, provide professional development and mentorship programs, convene dialogues on topics affecting the Black community, and help Googlers connect with each other and develop a sense of community. They’ve also driven social justice movements across the company, including solidarity for #BlackLivesMatter and $2.35 million in funding from Google.org for racial justice innovators.
As Black History Month comes to a close, we asked some of these Googlers to share what they’re working on both in their day jobs and within BGN.
Brandon says: In addition to my job working on sales for Google’s large customers, I pursue my passion for diversity, inclusion, and giving back through my role as the BGN Global co-Chair. Giving back is core to BGN’s work: our Annual Outreach Trip convenes members from around the world for several days of service. In 2015 we went to Charleston, SC, where we conducted coding workshops for around 100 students and parents to expose them to computer science and how creative, collaborative, and fun it can be. The year prior, we held a Social Media 101 training for 100+ small business owners in Atlanta. Everyone deserves equal access to opportunity, whether it’s computer science education or the economic benefits of the Internet. I’m proud to have Google’s support while doing work that affirms #BlackLivesMatter.
Robin says: I work as a Data Center Facilities Specialist in Atlanta, supporting and coordinating data center functionality for 350 onsite personnel. BGN has always been an important part of my Google experience: I supported the revival of our Atlanta chapter, served for three years on our service-oriented Outreach Leadership Team, and integrated our smaller data center chapters into a stronger, more supportive unit—BGN@datacenters.
I also work on projects to expand access to technology in my local community. I serve as a CS First program evangelist, helping engage diverse students in computer science learning, and I’m a Diversity Ambassador advancing our diversity work in the data centers. One of my proudest moments was when I helped secure a Google grant for a robotics program at a local school—helping them scale the project from 10 students to 150!
Victor says: In my role on the Diversity team, I work to ensure that all Googlers play a role in fostering a fair and inclusive culture. My work with BGN is focused around the multifacetedness of the Black experience. Through community partnerships and collaborations between BGN and Gayglers, I try to showcase the rich particularities to the personal and professional lives of Black people on the LGBTQIA spectrum. I’m celebrating Black History Month by renewing my commitment to unapologetically bringing my whole self to work each and every day.
Maasha says: Our Black History Month theme within Google this year is “Lift Every Voice: Ignite Inclusion.” This theme of inclusion is powerful for me: when I first came to Google, I felt a bit isolated. I was not only a Black woman in Tech, but also working in the corporate social responsibility space, where there aren’t many Black folks. Joining BGN was critical in helping me feel like I could truly be myself at Google, with all my triumphs, tribulations, and differences included.
These days, I’m passionate about making Google a place where everyone is comfortable being themselves. In my role on the GooglersGive team, a program which gets Googlers involved in charitable giving and community service, I’ve coordinated opportunities for Googlers to use their spare time giving back in places ranging from Oakland and Harlem to Ghana and South Africa. Projects include teaching students computer science skills, conducting outreach to at-risk youth, and working with communities struggling with homelessness and abuse.
Jessica says: I first encountered Google’s commitment to making the company and the technology industry more diverse and inclusive as a BOLD intern on the Diversity team. Later, I returned to Google full-time on the People Operations team, and I plugged into the Black Googler Network. I’ve been able to serve in leadership roles for Black History Month, develop relationships with BGN members across the world, and interact with senior executives. BGN has provided me with opportunities that have helped me gain confidence and feel like I belong at Google—while allowing me to contribute to a cause much larger than myself.
IMAGE URL Yolanda Mangolini Director Global Diversity & Inclusion
Category: Google | Feb 24, 2016
Access to information is at the heart of Google’s mission. Unfortunately, today, the mobile web isn’t living up to the expectations people have for getting the information they need, particularly when it comes to speed. In fact, data shows that people abandon websites after just three seconds if the content doesn’t load quickly—which is bad not just for people trying to get what they want online, but for the publishers who want those readers to enjoy the content they’ve created for them. That’s why, last October, we joined others across the industry on the Accelerated Mobile Pages Project (AMP for short), an open source initiative to make the mobile web as fast as possible.
In just over four months, AMP has come a long way, with hundreds of publishers, scores of technology companies and ad-tech businesses all taking part in this joint mission to improve the mobile web for everyone. And starting today, we’ll make it easy to find AMP webpages in relevant mobile search results, giving you a lightning-fast reading experience for top stories.
Now when you search for a story or topic on Google from a mobile device, webpages created using AMP will appear when relevant in the Top Stories section of the search results page. Any story you choose to read will load blazingly fast—and it’s easy to scroll through the article without it taking forever to load or jumping all around as you read. It’s also easy to quickly flip through the search results just by swiping from one full-page AMP story to the next.
AMP is great for browsing the web on mobile devices, because webpages built with AMP load an average of four times faster and use 10 times less data than equivalent non-AMP pages. In many cases, they’ll load instantly. It’s how reading on the mobile web should be—fast, responsive and fun.
While helping people find fast AMP content through Google Search is a significant step, there’s still a lot of work ahead for the open source AMP Project. Still, it’s been thrilling to see how the industry has come together to work on this common goal of making the mobile web great for everyone. And given the potential AMP holds for other types of content, we’re excited about what the future holds.
Posted by David Besbris, VP Engineering, Search IMAGE URL AUTHOR NAME AUTHOR TITLE AUTHOR TEAM
Category: Google | Feb 23, 2016
The 2016 Google Science Fair opens for submissions today. Together with LEGO Education, National Geographic, Scientific American and Virgin Galactic, we’re inviting all young explorers and innovators to make something better through science and engineering. To learn more about the competition, how to enter, prize details and more, visit the site, and follow along on Google+ and Twitter.
In this post, 2015 Grand Prize winner, Olivia Hallisey, joins us to reflect back on her own experience with Google Science Fair. -Ed.
I remember the day I first heard about the Google Science Fair last year. I was sitting in my 10th grade science class when my teacher asked us: “What will you try?” I loved the invitation—and the challenge—that the Google Science Fair offered. It was a chance to use science to do something that could really make a difference in the world.
I had always been curious and interested in science, and knew I wanted to submit a project, but didn’t really know exactly where to begin. I asked my teacher for his advice on selecting a research topic. He encouraged me to choose something that I felt passionate about, or something that outraged me, and told me to look at the world around me for inspiration. So I did. At that time, the Ebola crisis was all over the news. It was a devastating situation and I wanted to help be a part of the solution. I had found my project.
With the outbreak spreading so quickly, I decided that I wanted to find a way to diagnose the virus earlier so that treatment could be delivered as quickly as possible to those who were affected. I read online about silk’s amazing storage and stabilizing properties, and wondered if I could use silk to transport antibodies that could test for the virus. After many failed attempts (and cutting up lots of cocoons) I finally succeeded in creating a temperature-independent, portable, and inexpensive diagnostic test that could detect the Ebola virus in under 30 minutes. I was really excited that my research could help contribute to saving lives, and I was proud to be selected as the Grand Prize winner a few months later.
As the 2016 Google Science Fair launches today, I wanted to share a few tips from my own experience: First, as my teacher once guided me to do, look at the world around you for ideas. If you’re stuck, try the Make Better Generator to find something that excites or inspires you. Second, find a mentor who’s interested in the same things as you. There are a lot of helpful ideas on the GSF site to get you started. And finally, don’t get discouraged—often what first appears like failure can teach you so much more.
I urge other teenagers like me to take this opportunity to find a way to make the world around them better. Every one of us, no matter our age or background, can make a difference—and as young people, we’re not always so afraid to try things that adults think will fail. But change doesn’t happen overnight, and it often starts with a question. So look at the world around you and challenge yourself to make something better.
Science isn’t just a subject—it’s a way to make things better. So I hope you’ll join the conversation and enter the Google Science Fair this year. Our world is waiting to see what you come up with!
Posted by Olivia Hallisey, 2015 Grand Prize winner, Google Science Fair IMAGE URL AUTHOR NAME AUTHOR TITLE AUTHOR TEAM
Category: Google | Feb 9, 2016
Today is Safer Internet Day, a moment for technology companies, nonprofit organizations, security firms, and people around the world to focus on online safety, together. To mark the occasion, we’re rolling out new tools, and some useful reminders, to help protect you from online dangers of all stripes—phishing, malware, and other threats to your personal information.
1. Keeping security settings simple
The Security Checkup is a quick way to control the security settings for your Google Account. You can add a recovery phone number so we can help if you’re ever locked out of your account, strengthen your password settings, see which devices are connected to your account, and more. If you complete the Security Checkup by February 11, you’ll also get 2GB of extra Google Drive storage, which can be used across Google Drive, Gmail, and Photos.
Safer Internet Day is a great time to do it, but you can—and should!—take a Security Checkup on a regular basis. Start your Security Checkup by visiting My Account.
2. Informing Gmail users about potentially unsafe messages
If you and your Grandpa both use Gmail to exchange messages, your connections are encrypted and authenticated. That means no peering eyes can read those emails as they zoom across the web, and you can be confident that the message from your Grandpa in size 48 font (with no punctuation and a few misspellings) is really from him!
However, as our Safer Email Transparency Report explains, these things are not always true when Gmail interacts with other mail services. Today, we’re introducing changes in Gmail on the web to let people know when a received message was not encrypted, if you’re composing a message to a recipient whose email service doesn’t support TLS encryption, or when the sender’s domain couldn’t be authenticated.
Here’s the notice you’ll see in Gmail before you send a message to a service that doesn’t support TLS encryption. You’ll also see the broken lock icon if you receive a message that was sent without TLS encryption.
If you receive a message that can’t be authenticated, you’ll see a question mark where you might otherwise see a profile photo or logo:
3. Protecting you from bad apps
Dangerous apps that phish and steal your personal information, or hold your phone hostage and make you pay to unlock it, have no place on your smartphone—or any device, for that matter.
Google Play helps protect your Android device by rejecting bad apps that don’t comply with our Play policies. It also conducts more than 200 million daily security scans of devices, in tandem with our Safe Browsing system, for any signs of trouble. Last year, bad apps were installed on fewer than 0.13% of Android devices that install apps only from Google Play.
Learn more about these, and other Android security features — like app sandboxing, monthly security updates for Nexus and other devices, and our Security Rewards Program—in new research we’ve made public on our Android blog.
4. Busting bad advertising practices
Malicious advertising “botnets” try to send phony visitors to websites to make money from online ads. Botnets threaten the businesses of honest advertisers and publishers, and because they’re often made up of devices infected with malware, they put users in harm’s way too.
We’ve worked to keep botnets out of our ads systems, cutting them out of advertising revenue, and making it harder to make money from distributing malware and Unwanted Software. Now, as part of our effort to fight bad ads online, we’re reinforcing our existing botnet defenses by automatically filtering traffic from three of the top ad fraud botnets, comprising more than 500,000 infected user machines. Learn more about this update on the Doubleclick blog.
5. Moving the security conversation forward
Recent events—Edward Snowden’s disclosures, the Sony Hack, the current conversation around encryption, and more—have made online safety a truly mainstream issue. This is reflected both in news headlines, and popular culture: “Mr. Robot,” a TV series about hacking and cybersecurity, just won a Golden Globe for Best Drama, and @SwiftOnSecurity, a popular security commentator, is named after Taylor Swift.
But despite this shift, security remains a complex topic that lends itself to lively debates between experts…that are often unintelligible to just about everyone else. We need to simplify the way we talk about online security to enable everyone to understand its importance and participate in this conversation.
To that end, we’re teaming up with Medium to host a virtual roundtable about online security, present and future. Moderated by journalist and security researcher Kevin Poulsen, this project aims to present fresh perspectives about online security in a time when our attention is increasingly ruled by the devices we carry with us constantly. We hope you’ll tune in and check it out.
Online security and safety are being discussed more often, and with more urgency, than ever before. We hope you’ll take a few minutes today to learn how Google protects your data and how we can work toward a safer web, for everyone.
Posted by Gerhard Eschelbeck, VP, Security and Privacy IMAGE URL AUTHOR NAME AUTHOR TITLE AUTHOR TEAM
Category: Google | Feb 5, 2016
Last October, we kicked off our annual Doodle 4 Google art competition, asking students to create a doodle to tell the world “What makes me…me.” This time around, we added a little twist: for the first time in eight years of Doodle 4 Google, there were no restrictions on the medium or materials kids could use to create a doodle. Kids took us up on the challenge. A quarter of all finalists used some non-traditional media—from clay and wood to origami, photographs and sheets of music—in their submission.
Today, Googlers are hosting surprise assemblies at schools from Waterville, Maine to Waipahu, Hawaii to celebrate the winners of each state and thank the teachers and parents who have encouraged them along the way. And for the first time ever, we’re announcing winners for Washington, D.C., Guam and Puerto Rico. See all 53 State and Territory Winners on our website.
Now, our finalists need your votes for a shot at having their doodle make it onto the Google homepage. Starting today through Feb 22, head to the Doodle 4 Google site to vote for your favorite artwork for each grade group. On March 21, we’ll announce the winner and four runners-up—and you’ll see the winning doodle on google.com.
Check out this year’s talented set of finalists and vote for your favorite!
Posted by Ryan Germick, Doodler and non-traditional media enthusiast https://1.bp.blogspot.com/-n1T7wJ8BU3s/VrQuNJBNVeI/AAAAAAAAR0k/uecYY5zg3LQ/s1600/D4G.gif” Ryan Germick Doodler AUTHOR TEAM
Category: Google | Feb 1, 2016
Growing up, my parents were daily reminders of the sacrifices made by earlier generations of Black Americans to give people like me the opportunities they were denied. To this day, their stories propel me to continue the fight for justice. I am far from alone—reflecting on a shared history inspires millions around the world to work toward equality. But without some record, those stories and the passion they ignite could get lost.
Artworks, artifacts and archives have the power not only to give a story life, but to encourage action and incite change. That’s why the Google Cultural Institute is excited to add records from institutions like the Smithsonian National Museum of African American History and Culture, the Studio Museum and Amistad Research Center and many more—bringing together important archives from Black history for anyone to access not only during Black History Month, but throughout the year.
From the New Orleans Jazz Orchestra to the historical records of Frederick Douglass and Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., this collection includes 26 new institutions (50 overall) contributing 5,000+ items and more than 80 curated exhibits. It includes new Street View imagery and three Google Expeditions, including an exploration of the resurgence of Jazz in New Orleans with Irvin Mayfield and Soledad O’Brien.
In The Baltimore Museum of Art’s exhibition “Questioning the Canon,” you can see Mickalene Thomas’s Le déjeuner sur l’herbe: Les Trois Femmes Noires and compare it side-by-side with the Manet original to see the ways Thomas has subverted the subject-matter of this canonical white European work.
You can trace along the paths of history by reading Frederick Douglass’ letter to his former master, and read the original manuscripts of Dr. King’s ”I Have a Dream” and “I’ve Been to the Mountaintop” speeches. Absorb Dr. King’s personal letter to wife Coretta Scott King at the beginning of his four-month prison term for non-violent protest, then cut to photographs documenting his momentous first handshake at the White House with President Lyndon B. Johnson.
Collecting these works into one place provides unprecedented access to a vital part of history that is too often forgotten. By comparing works of art and texts of speeches to find commonalities and distinctions, we can also build on the past to inspire ourselves and others. And while today is the first day of Black History Month, the work of remembering our history is necessary year round—which is why these records will be there on the Cultural Institute for generations to come.
Posted by Valeisha Butterfield Jones, Head of Black Community Engagement http://1.bp.blogspot.com/-GQmKUucIo2M/Vq7wbvb29_I/AAAAAAAAR0I/tC4JD65XndA/s1600/Screenshot%2B2016-01-29%2Bat%2B4.02.49%2BPM.png Valeisha Butterfield Jones Head of Black Community Engagement AUTHOR TEAM
Category: Google | Jan 27, 2016
The game of Go originated in China more than 2,500 years ago. Confucius wrote about the game, and it is considered one of the four essential arts required of any true Chinese scholar. Played by more than 40 million people worldwide, the rules of the game are simple: Players take turns to place black or white stones on a board, trying to capture the opponent’s stones or surround empty space to make points of territory. The game is played primarily through intuition and feel, and because of its beauty, subtlety and intellectual depth it has captured the human imagination for centuries.
But as simple as the rules are, Go is a game of profound complexity. There are 1,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000 possible positions—that’s more than the number of atoms in the universe, and more than a googol times larger than chess.
This complexity is what makes Go hard for computers to play, and therefore an irresistible challenge to artificial intelligence (AI) researchers, who use games as a testing ground to invent smart, flexible algorithms that can tackle problems, sometimes in ways similar to humans. The first game mastered by a computer was noughts and crosses (also known as tic-tac-toe) in 1952. Then fell checkers in 1994. In 1997 Deep Blue famously beat Garry Kasparov at chess. It’s not limited to board games either—IBM’s Watson [PDF] bested two champions at Jeopardy in 2011, and in 2014 our own algorithms learned to play dozens of Atari games just from the raw pixel inputs. But to date, Go has thwarted AI researchers; computers still only play Go as well as amateurs.
Traditional AI methods—which construct a search tree over all possible positions—don’t have a chance in Go. So when we set out to crack Go, we took a different approach. We built a system, AlphaGo, that combines an advanced tree search with deep neural networks. These neural networks take a description of the Go board as an input and process it through 12 different network layers containing millions of neuron-like connections. One neural network, the “policy network,” selects the next move to play. The other neural network, the “value network,” predicts the winner of the game.
We trained the neural networks on 30 million moves from games played by human experts, until it could predict the human move 57 percent of the time (the previous record before AlphaGo was 44 percent). But our goal is to beat the best human players, not just mimic them. To do this, AlphaGo learned to discover new strategies for itself, by playing thousands of games between its neural networks, and adjusting the connections using a trial-and-error process known as reinforcement learning. Of course, all of this requires a huge amount of computing power, so we made extensive use of Google Cloud Platform.
After all that training it was time to put AlphaGo to the test. First, we held a tournament between AlphaGo and the other top programs at the forefront of computer Go. AlphaGo won all but one of its 500 games against these programs. So the next step was to invite the reigning three-time European Go champion Fan Hui—an elite professional player who has devoted his life to Go since the age of 12—to our London office for a challenge match. In a closed-doors match last October, AlphaGo won by 5 games to 0. It was the first time a computer program has ever beaten a professional Go player. You can find out more in our paper, which was published in Nature today.
What’s next? In March, AlphaGo will face its ultimate challenge: a five-game challenge match in Seoul against the legendary Lee Sedol—the top Go player in the world over the past decade.
We are thrilled to have mastered Go and thus achieved one of the grand challenges of AI. However, the most significant aspect of all this for us is that AlphaGo isn’t just an “expert” system built with hand-crafted rules; instead it uses general machine learning techniques to figure out for itself how to win at Go. While games are the perfect platform for developing and testing AI algorithms quickly and efficiently, ultimately we want to apply these techniques to important real-world problems. Because the methods we’ve used are general-purpose, our hope is that one day they could be extended to help us address some of society’s toughest and most pressing problems, from climate modelling to complex disease analysis. We’re excited to see what we can use this technology to tackle next!
Posted by Demis Hassabis, Google DeepMind http://3.bp.blogspot.com/-UM6zXm-cXW4/VqkFrP32nlI/AAAAAAAARzw/HmxeOsYvvqk/s1600/Go-game_hero.jpg Demis HassabisGoogle DeepMind