Google-owned artificial-intelligence company DeepMind has announced a big achievement in competitive computer programming.
After simulating 10 contests, with more than 5,000 participants, AI system AlphaCode has ranked in the top 54% of competitors.
There was still work to do to bring it up to the same level as top performing humans, DeepMind said.
And its abilities could not immediately be applied to other forms of coding.
The problems in the competitions are not seen by the AI during training, so solving them requires a combination of critical thinking, logic, algorithms, coding and natural language understanding.
Typical problems include finding ways to place roads and buildings within certain constraints, or creating strategies to win board games.
DeepMind principal research scientist Oriol Vinyals said: “I have been fascinated by programming competitions my whole life.”
Being part of the team that built AlphaCode was “a dream come true” but he had never expected it to achieve “human average amongst competitors”.
Mike Mirzayanov, the founder of the platform Codeforces, which ran the competitions, called AlphaCode a “promising new competitor”.
“I can safely say that the results of AlphaCode exceeded my expectations,” he said.
“I was sceptical because even in simple competitive problems it is often required not only to implement the algorithm but also – and this is the most difficult part – to invent it.”
Google software engineer and competitive programmer Petr Mitrichev said: “Solving competitive programming problems is a really hard thing to do, requiring both good coding skills and problem-solving creativity.”