Dr. David Silver receives the Mensa Foundation Prize 2017

Mensa is proud to present the inaugural Mensa Foundation Prize to Dr. David Silver, lead developer of the first computer program to defeat the world’s best Go players.

Silver was the main programmer on the AlphaGo team at Google DeepMind. AlphaGo, comprising a complex algorithm and artificial intelligence software, became the first program to defeat a human professional Go player in 2015. The results were published the following year in Nature. In subsequent tournaments, AlphaGo won 4-1 against Lee Sedol in March 2016 and 3-0 against Ke Jie in May 2017. Both are 9th dan professional players and considered to be two of the strongest players in the world.

Go has long been considered a grand challenge for artificial intelligence due to the enormous complexity of the game. AlphaGo successfully tackled this complexity with an innovative algorithm that consists of a Monte Carlo tree search that uses two artificial neural networks as assistants, one to guide its search procedure by predicting the most likely moves, and one to evaluate the resulting positions. Furthermore, AlphaGo is potentially more general-purpose than a Go playing program and contributed to the understanding of intelligence.

The Mensa Foundation Prize, which comes with a $10,000 prize this year, recognizes both applied and fundamental discoveries in areas such as brain-related research, creation of tools and mechanisms for advancing such research, or any significant research that leads to an improved understanding of human intelligence, including artificial intelligence. Discoveries must be documented in a major peer-reviewed scientific journal to earn consideration.
The biennial award is endowed by the estate of Kenneth Douglas Thomson (1934-2013), a longtime Mensa member from California. A Mensan for nearly 50 years, Thomson valued the organization as much as he valued intelligence and learning.