Scott Santens in the Boston Globe:
On Dec. 2, 1942, a team of scientists led by Enrico Fermi came back from lunch and watched as humanity created the first self-sustaining nuclear reaction inside a pile of bricks and wood underneath a football field at the University of Chicago. Known to history as Chicago Pile-1, it was celebrated in silence with a single bottle of Chianti, for those who were there understood exactly what it meant for humankind, without any need for words.
Now, something new has occurred that, again, quietly changed the world forever. Like a whispered word in a foreign language, you may have heard it but couldn’t fully understand.
The language is something called deep learning. And the whispered word was a computer’s use of it to defeat one of the world’s top players in a game called Go. Go is a board game so complex that it can be likened to playing 10 chess matches simultaneously on the same table.
This may sound like a small accomplishment, another feather in the cap of machines as they continue to prove themselves superior in parlor games that humans invented to fill their idle hours. But this feat is about far more than bragging rights. This was considered a “holy grail” level of achievement, and it’s a clear signal that advances in technology are now so exponential that milestones we once thought far away will start arriving rapidly.