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Go Grandmaster Loses Tournament Against Google’s AlphaGo

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Google’s AlphaGo is on a roll. In January, the artificially intelligent Go-playing robot became the first computer to beat a professional player at the Chinese board game Go. Now, WIRED reports that AlphaGo has made its most decisive victory, beating Go Grandmaster Lee Sedol four to one in a five-game Go tournament.

While computers have vanquished professional chess players, bested humans at Jeopardy, and even solved Connect Four, this is the first time a computer has competed professionally in and won a Go tournament against a player at Sedol’s level. Go, which is played on a 19-by-19 grid, has more possible opening moves than perhaps any other board game. For instance, while Connect Four has seven possible opening moves, and chess has 20 possible openings, Go has 361. The sheer number of possible moves in a Go game has historically made developing a Go-playing computer hugely challenging.

AlphaGo, however, is a triumph in AI technology. The computer system used a neural network to not only learn Go moves from professional players, but to develop its own strategies and skills by playing against itself, CNET reports.

AlphaGo, the "player" at left, was aided by a human assistant who moved the pieces on the Go board. At right, Grandmaster Lee Sedol. Image credit: Getty

The tournament put the differences between humans and computers into sharp relief. On the one hand, AlphaGo played an idiosyncratic game, according to WIRED, making moves throughout the tournament that no human would choose. (As you can see in the photo above, AlphaGo got a physical assist from a human helper who moved the pieces on the Go board.) It also made mistakes that seemed amateurish to human observers. Sedol, on the other hand, made at least one uniquely human choice: After beating AlphaGo while playing with white pieces in the fourth Go match—his only victory—he chose black pieces for the fifth and final game, a decision he knew would put him at a disadvantage.

Throughout his first four games, Sedol had noticed AlphaGo struggling more when it played with black pieces, and so, rather than play it safe in the fifth game, he decided to see if he could beat the computer at its strongest. “I really do hope I can win with black,” he told WIRED before the final game, “because winning with black is much more valuable.”

Though Sedol ultimately lost, the game against AlphaGo was nevertheless a win for human innovation.

"The game showed that AlphaGo is far from infallible," explains WIRED. "There are holes in its education. But, able to draw on months of play with itself—on a corpus of moves that no human has even seen—it also has the ability to climb out of such a deep hole, even against one of the world’s best players."

[h/t WIRED]

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Big Questions
Why Do Baseball Managers Wear Uniforms?
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Basketball and hockey coaches wear business suits on the sidelines. Football coaches wear team-branded shirts and jackets and often ill-fitting pleated khakis. Why are baseball managers the only guys who wear the same outfit as their players?

According to John Thorn, the official historian of Major League Baseball since 2011, it goes back to the earliest days of the game. Back then, the person known as the manager was the business manager: the guy who kept the books in order and the road trips on schedule. Meanwhile, the guy we call the manager today, the one who arranges the roster and decides when to pull a pitcher, was known as the captain. In addition to managing the team on the field, he was usually also on the team as a player. For many years, the “manager” wore a player’s uniform simply because he was a player. There were also a few captains who didn’t play for the team and stuck to making decisions in the dugout, and they usually wore suits.

With the passing of time, it became less common for the captain to play, and on most teams they took on strictly managerial roles. Instead of suits proliferating throughout America’s dugouts, though, non-playing captains largely hung on to the tradition of wearing a player's uniform. By the early to mid 20th century, wearing the uniform was the norm for managers, with a few notable exceptions. The Philadelphia Athletics’s Connie Mack and the Brooklyn Dodgers’s Burt Shotton continued to wear suits and ties to games long after it fell out of favor (though Shotton sometimes liked to layer a team jacket on top of his street clothes). Once those two retired, it’s been uniforms as far as the eye can see.

The adherence to the uniform among managers in the second half of the 20th century leads some people to think that MLB mandates it, but a look through the official major league rules [PDF] doesn’t turn up much on a manager’s dress. Rule 1.11(a) (1) says that “All players on a team shall wear uniforms identical in color, trim and style, and all players’ uniforms shall include minimal six-inch numbers on their backs" and rule 2.00 states that a coach is a "team member in uniform appointed by the manager to perform such duties as the manager may designate, such as but not limited to acting as base coach."

While Rule 2.00 gives a rundown of the manager’s role and some rules that apply to them, it doesn’t specify that they’re uniformed. Further down, Rule 3.15 says that "No person shall be allowed on the playing field during a game except players and coaches in uniform, managers, news photographers authorized by the home team, umpires, officers of the law in uniform and watchmen or other employees of the home club." Again, nothing about the managers being uniformed.

All that said, Rule 2.00 defines the bench or dugout as “the seating facilities reserved for players, substitutes and other team members in uniform when they are not actively engaged on the playing field," and makes no exceptions for managers or anyone else. While the managers’ duds are never addressed anywhere else, this definition does seem to necessitate, in a roundabout way, that managers wear a uniform—at least if they want to have access to the dugout. And, really, where else would they sit?

Have you got a Big Question you'd like us to answer? If so, let us know by emailing us at bigquestions@mentalfloss.com.

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This Just In
Mattel Unveils New Uno Edition for Colorblind Players
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Mattel

On the heels of International Colorblind Awareness Day, Mattel, which owns Uno, announced it would be unveiling a colorblind-friendly edition of the 46-year-old card game.

The updated deck is a collaboration with ColorADD, a global organization for colorblind accessibility and education. In place of its original color-dependent design, this new Uno will feature a small symbol next to each card's number that corresponds with its intended primary color.

As The Verge points out, Mattel is not actually the first to invent a card game for those with colorblindness. But this inclusive move is still pivotal: According to Fast Co. Design, Uno is currently the most popular noncollectible card game in the world. And with access being extended to the 350 million people globally and 13 million Americans who are colorblind, the game's popularity is sure to grow.

Mattel unveils color-friendly Uno deck
Mattel

[h/t: The Verge

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