Last Sunday, a particularly unusual DotA 2 tournament took place. DotA, a complicated, real-time strategy game, is among the most popular e-sports in the world. The five players of one team—Blitz, Cap, Fogged, Merlini, and MoonMeander—were ranked in the 99.95th percentile, inarguably among the best DotA 2 players in the world. However, their opponent still defeated them in two out three games, winning the tournament. An evenly matched game is supposed to take 45 minutes, but these two were over in 14 and 21 minutes, respectively.
Their opponent was a team of five neural networks developed by Elon Musk’s OpenAI, collectively referred to as OpenAI Five. Prior to Sunday’s tournament, the neural network played 180 years’ worth of DotA matches against itself every day, edging incrementally closer to mastery over the game. The reason why its creators chose DotA as OpenAI Five’s focus was to mimic the incredibly variable and complex nature of the real world; DotA is a complicated game, and if an A.I. is going to be able to process and interact with the world rather than, say, learn to plot a GPS course or play chess, open-ended video games are a good place to start.
While this is an impressive technical achievement on its own, Musk’s victory tweet highlighted that this was just a stepping stone toward the future of A.I.