Elon Musk's OpenAI Bot Defeats Top 'Dota 2' Player at The International

True, it was a test with a limited scope, but the results were still shockingly lopsided.

Aug 12 2017, 4:09pm

photo courtesy of Valve

The list of tasks in which humans outperform artificial intelligence has shrunk by one. Last night, at Dota 2's premiere event, The International, OpenAI—a non-profit AI research company co-founded by Elon Musk—debuted a bot capable of beating the best players in the world.

This isn't the first esports bot—someone built a frame-perfect bot for Super Smash Bros. Melee last year—but it is the first one trained completely on a neural network through reinforcement learning, which closely resembles how humans learn.

"Our bot starts off completely random with no knowledge of the world and simply plays against a copy of itself which means it always has an evenly matched opponent," OpenAI CTO Greg Brockman explains in a video that preceded the match. "It climbs this ladder until it's ready to play against the best professional players in the world."

In that same video, many top players express disbelief that any bot could ever be better than a human player. Dota 2 is just too complex, too creative, too demanding for a bot to win… of course, that's exactly what Gary Kasparov said about chess right before IBM's Deep Blue pummeled him at a game he thought he'd mastered.

Hubris never changes, I guess. Alas, OpenAI's Shadow Fiend utterly laid waste to poor Danylo "Dendi" Ishutin, one of the finest mid lane players Dota 2 has ever seen. Within a minute, it was obvious that Dendi was utterly outclassed by the machine. OpenAI nails virtually every last hit and deny, fakes Dendi out with animation canceling, bullies him out of lane, never misses a Raze, and knows exactly when it can dive for a kill. It's gross.

Still, all of this should be taken with a hefty grain of salt. A pared-down 1v1 mid matchup with several modifications (e.g. no runes) is very, very far from a "real" game of 5v5 Dota 2. But the victory is proof of concept that AI can excel in complex environments with indeterminacy and information asymmetry. As Brockman concludes, "this is a step to building more general systems that can learn really complicated, messy, important real world tasks, like surgery."

A few minutes after its victory, OpenAI founder Elon Musk took to Twitter to congratulate the team: "Open AI first ever to defeat the world's best players in competitive eSports. Vastly more complex than traditional board games like chess & Go."

OpenAI says that its next task will be scaling up from one bot to five in hopes of running an entirely bot-based team, an enormously complex task. But, reportedly, OpenAI's Dota 2 bot trained only for two weeks to get where it is, so a fully automated team doesn't seem outside the realm of possibility. Maybe at The International 8, we'll get a full-on 5v5 show match. And if that's something you'd want to be a part of, well, they're hiring for exactly that.