Man v machine: can computers cook, write and paint better than us?

One video, for me, changed everything. It’s footage from the old Atari game Breakout, the one where you slide a paddle left and right along the bottom of the screen, trying to destroy bricks by bouncing a ball into them. You may have read about the player of the game: an algorithm developed by DeepMind, the British artificial intelligence company whose AlphaGo programme also beat one of the greatest ever Go players, Lee Sedol, earlier this year. Perhaps you expect a computer to be good at computer games? Once they know what to do, they certainly do it faster and more consistently than any human. DeepMind’s Breakout player knew nothing, however. It was not programmed with instructions on how the game works; it wasn’t even told how to use the…


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