von Neumann's Dream

author: Michael Bowling, Department of Computing Science, University of Alberta
published: Aug. 22, 2017,   recorded: January 2015,   views: 1062

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Chess has long served as the measure of progress for artificial intelligence. However, at the very beginning of computing and artificial intelligence, John von Neumann dreamt of a different game: "Real life is not like [chess]. Real life consists of bluffing, of little tactics of deception, of asking yourself what is the other man going to think I mean to do. And that is what games are about in my theory." The game von Neumann hinted at is poker, and it played a foundational role in his formalization of game theory. Shortly after launching the field of game theory, he practically abandoned his new discipline to focus on the budding field of computing. He saw computers as the way to make his mathematics workable. Now, over 70 years later with both significant advances in computing and game theoretic algorithms, von Neumann's dream is now a reality. Heads-up limit Texas hold'em poker, the smallest variant of poker played by humans, is essentially solved. In this talk, I will discuss how we accomplished this landmark result, along with the substantial scientific advances in our failed attempts along the way.

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