Oracle announces free Cloud tools

At OpenWorld 2019, Larry Ellison announced Oracle Cloud Free Tier, which provides unlimited, free usage of two Oracle Autonomous Databases and additional services including two Oracle Cloud Infrastructure Compute VMs; Block, Object, and Archive Storage; Load Balancer and data egress; Monitoring and Notifications. Along with these “Always Free” tools, there is a 30-day trial and $300 credit for other Oracle Cloud Services.

The official press release can be found here.

Besides the buzz an announcement like this creates, the real impact of this offering depends upon the level of Cloud-maturity of each potential customer. For instance, how this affects a traditional Oracle-installed client not yet fully adopting Cloud technologies will be different than how it affects a company that has fully embraced and invested in large-scale Cloud development initiatives. Still different is the profile of a smaller company not yet using a large packaged software at all, but evaluating the cost effectiveness of a Cloud-serviced product.

To get an early reading on how this offering might play in the marketplace, I polled a few clients for their feedback. These are informed IT Directors who are just the kind of customer Oracle is marketing Cloud services to. Below are some of their takeaways.

  1. Companies are beyond the security concerns which were a stumbling block to early Cloud adoption. A menu of Cloud-delivered products will be a part of most companies IT solutions moving forward. In some cases, Cloud products will fully replace incumbent platforms. More often - initially, at least - there will be a blend of Cloud, hosted and on-premise solutions. Nevertheless, Cloud is here to stay.

  2. Oracle is playing catchup in the Cloud space as Microsoft and Amazon with their industry leading Azure and Amazon Web Services (AWS) products have set the standard in enterprise-grade Cloud platforms.

  3. Oracle’s announcement will affect potential customers in different ways, depending upon each company’s current Cloud utilization and strategy.

    • For companies already committed to extensive AWS or Azure development, Ellison’s announcement may have little impact. Effectively, the train has left the station with such companies, and they likely are too invested in another platforms to move to Oracle as a result of this announcement.

    • For customers using packaged software, like Oracle’s ERP various systems (E-Business Suite, JD Edwards and PeopleSoft) or competitive enterprise tools like SAP which are considering Cloud adoption or expansion, Oracle’s Always Free offer probably causes them to stick a toe in the water and give Cloud a try.

    • Emerging companies considering their first enterprise tool should also find the Oracle offer worth evaluation giving an instant boost to Oracle Cloud marketing efforts.

  4. In each of these scenarios, integration to other Oracle tools should be a competitive advantage for Oracle. After all, no matter how robust the Could solution, there usually is additional functionality each business needs. As always, the question then becomes whether such business processes can best be addressed and maintained with packaged software, custom development and/or whether the company really needs them at all.

  5. Service levels for Cloud-based customers is an area most managers noted as a differentiator when evaluating Cloud providers. Simply put, many mid-size companies don’t feel they command enough attention from Microsoft and Amazon when support is required. This was cited as the principal reason that many industry-specific, boutique Cloud providers were able to carve out a piece of the market. It will be interesting to see how Oracle addresses this issue where “bigger isn’t always better”.

In related news, Oracle announced it is adding 2000 employees globally as part of their Cloud infrastructure team. This article further underscores Oracle’s financial investment in Cloud technology and the short and long term effects this may have on Oracle’s earnings.

Wilcox completes seven year contract assignment

Today, one of our consultants, Jack Wilcox, wrapped up his contract with Westrock.  Jack was the first contractor placed by Enspire Partners and has worked as a JD Edwards Consultant with this client since our first month in business, January 2012.  Over this period of time, Jack billed an amazing 17,428 hours. 


There were a number of factors making this long term engagement possible.

The right consultant – When cloning technology becomes viable for humans, we definitely will want some of Jack’s DNA as he has been a model consultant.  Jack fits the definition of “smart and gets things done”.  He has instant credibility, is highly productive and able to work around the politics part and parcel in such long engagements. 

One thing I have learned is, if a Consultant has a chink in the armor when working with me, this weakness will always resurface at some point on the client side. 

  • For instance, a consultant who needs to be constantly reminded to submit hours, always will prove to be poor in other areas of documentation as well. 

  • If a consultant has deep content skills in one area, but is unable (or unwilling) to take on new tasks when the client needs him to, it will be difficult to retain him once his initial SOW is fulfilled.

  • If he communicates poorly with our team or speaks negatively about the client, there will eventually be problems with personality fit.

  • We pay our consultants very well, but some people always have money problems, needing advances or wanting the client to increase their rate. Good money management certainly is important - regardless of how much money you earn, and is crucial to any long term relationship.

The truth is, Jack has been a flawless consultant – always delivering value, a good steward of the time he bills and very easy to work with. The length of this engagement alone is testimony to Jack’s skill set.

The right client – WestRock is one of the largest JDE installs in the country and Jack worked with them during a period when they experienced unprecedented growth.  They maintain a high availability, high volume throughput environment across their IT organization. WestRock completed a $10 billion merger while Jack was engaged and regularly acquires companies needing Jack’s expertise aligning these subsidiaries with WestRock’s corporate IT systems.

In addition to his contract rate, Westrock paid expenses for Jack to commute weekly to Atlanta from Ohio for the length of the assignment. Jack pointed out that having WestRock in the same time zone he lives in and their shuttle service from the airport made life a little easier for him.

The right firm – Enspire Partners has benefited significantly from this relationship, but we played our part as well.  We made a reasonable margin, but deliberately billed Jack – as good as he is – below the rate most competitors billed lesser consultants because we wanted to establish a long term footprint with this client.  During the term of the engagement, WestRock had extended payment terms and systemic changes in their procurement system we had to work through.  But, regardless of when Enspire Partners got paid, we made sure Jack always got his money and expenses every two weeks.

We’ve grown a lot as a company since 2012, and we appreciate the many ways Jack helped us get out of the gate.

There is a good chance “You don’t know Jack”, but we can all find ways as consultants to be a little more like him.  If you are a client looking for someone to deliver real value and uplift your team, please give Enspire Partners the opportunity to find your next great consultant.    

Join us at Collaborate 19 in San Antonio!!

Once again, Enspire Partners will be participating at Collaborate. Collaborate is the annual gathering of the Quest, IOUG and OAUG user groups.

Collab19 Booth.PNG

Enspire Partners is distinguished as the only ERP staffing firm consistently exhibiting at Collaborate for the last seven years. This event is a great opportunity to connect with our clients and consultants and to meet some new friends as well.

After several years in Las Vegas, Collaborate 19 will be held in San Antonio April 7-11.

Stop by Booth 440 to register for your chance to win a prize in our Questopoly drawing or just to say hello.

INFOCUS 2018 Keynote

Lyle Eckdahl and other Oracle executives opened INFOCUS 2018 with a keynote presentation on Continuous Innovation and trending topics on the JD Edwards ERP platform.

The presentation can be viewed here.  (After a short video, the presentation begins around 1:30.)

Oracle customers, consulting firms and consultants all are interested in where things are going with JD Edwards.  I would encourage you to watch the video for yourself, but here are some of my takeaways from this presentation.

  • Oracle has announced a “Continuous Innovation Model” for JD Edwards.  There are no announced future releases of JD Edwards EnterpriseOne after 9.2.  (Lyle pointed out that future releases - including "version X" - may be in planning, but not publicly announced.)  Instead, Oracle will continuously improve 9.2 through smaller updates, typically released every year or so.  Ideally, this will provide users with more functionality without the expense of taking on a major upgrade.
  • EnterpriseOne 9.2 will be supported by Oracle until at least 2030.  Does this mean Oracle will no longer support 9.2 at that point?  No, according to Lyle, this is just what is the announced support plan as of today.  Moreover, there surely will be other Partners in the JDE marketplace who will offer this service (as they currently do for earlier release levels) if Oracle opts out.  Does this mean the JDE line will end in 2030?  No, he suggested the retirement of a software like this takes much longer, and that is not the plan.
  • Clearly, Oracle is recommending your best ROI is in upgrading to E1 9.2 as the majority of R&D will be poured into this release. Two interesting slides were the mix of World and EnterpriseOne accounts and their various release levels - one year ago and today.  One year ago, almost half of all JDE customers were running E1 9.1.  Now, almost half are running 9.2  The idea that customers aren’t upgrading is false,  as soon more than half of all JD Edwards customers will be on the latest release.  


AI Demonstrates Superiority in "Imperfect Information" Gaming

This post forms a trilogy of sorts with previous articles written on advancements in machine intelligence.  In July 2017, I wrote an article entitled "Being More Human" which chronicled improvements in computer bots enabling machines to successfully pass the Turing Test.   Then, in December, "Rise of the Machine" talked about the remarkable achievements in machine learning which allowed the AlphaZero algorithm to defeat the best purpose-built computers in chess, shogi and Go after only a few hours of self-study.  (These posts can be found in this News thread by scrolling down.)

This article highlights another win for AI in the field of gaming and is based on info from the MIT Technology Review article here.  This time, computer algorithms were teamed together to beat experienced DOTA 2 players.  DOTA 2 is an online game developed by the makers of the Warcraft gaming system (DOTA 2, Wikipedia). 

Indeed, games like chess are difficult to master.  An argument currently among chess enthusiasts is not whether computers are better at chess than humans, but whether chess can be "solved" by a computer.  In this sense, "solving" the game means, with best play on both sides, you know the outcome of the game with certainty from the beginning.  An example of a solved game is Tic-Tac-Toe.  (You know the first player can only draw at best if the second player plays perfectly.)  People who argue chess can never be solved this way say we will never have the computing power definitively to solve chess because chess has as many legal variations in the first 20 moves as the grains of sand in...wait for it...the universe!  State of the art AI dominance in chess is achieved through neural networks, which don't do brute force calculation, but narrow to "best moves" closely mirroring the skill humans refer to as intuition. 

What's different in this latest chapter of the Man vs. Machine saga is that DOTA 2 features "imperfect information" in a game where a number of potentially successful strategies are dependent upon how other teammates (and the opposition) approach the game.  (An analogy is the tuning dial on your stereo system versus presets.  Depending on the fidelity of your sound system, there is nearly an infinite number of adjustments you can make.)  By adding teammates and their varying strategies and reactions to opponents, DOTA 2 presents an entirely different set of problems for machines working collaboratively than the machine will encounter in a turn based game like chess.

Of course, the most interesting aspect of all of this is the machines are able to learn optimal strategies through self-learning, not by someone writing purpose-built programs to automate them.  

With machine learning, we are getting to the point where if winning strategies exist - even if they are abstract,  they can be mastered by a machine (and much faster than we would have imagined even a few years ago).  It reminds me of the 1983 "Wargames" movie where the computer decides chess is a better game to play than global thermonuclear warfare because you can win at chess.  But what if computers in the next generation determine global thermonuclear warfare (or some other catastrophe to humans) is winning (for them, at least)?  

I will conclude my comments on AI, with some notable quotes about the potential and dangers of Artificial Intelligence:

  • Stephen Hawking:  “AI is likely to be either the best or worst thing to happen to humanity...The development of full artificial intelligence could spell the end of the human race.  It would take off on its own, and re-design itself at an ever increasing rate. Humans, who are limited by slow biological evolution, couldn't compete, and would be superseded.” 
  • Larry Page: "Artificial intelligence would be the ultimate version of Google. The ultimate search engine that would understand everything on the web. It would understand exactly what you wanted, and it would give you the right thing. We're nowhere near doing that now. However, we can get incrementally closer to that, and that is basically what we work on.”
  • Elon Musk: "The pace of progress in artificial intelligence (I’m not referring to narrow AI) is incredibly fast.  Unless you have direct exposure to groups like Deepmind, you have no idea how fast—it is growing at a pace close to exponential. The risk of something seriously dangerous happening is in the five-year time-frame. 10 years at most...We need to be super careful with AI. Potentially more dangerous than nukes.” 
  • Bill Gates: “A breakthrough in machine learning would be worth ten Microsofts...I am in the camp that is concerned about artificial intelligence.  First the machines will do a lot of jobs for us and not be super intelligent.  That should be positive if we manage it well.  A few decades after that though the intelligence is strong enough to be a concern.  I agree with Elon Musk and some others on this and don’t understand why some people are not concerned.” 

It is my sincere hope the machines will not hold this thread against me in the near future...





Collaborate18 was a tremendous event for us this year.  Besides the once-a-year opportunity it provides to meet with many of our clients and consultants, it feels like our branding as a staffing company providing consultant-level expertise in the JD Edwards marketplace is really resounding with our clients.

We came home with several new openings, a new strategic partnership with a large Oracle Business Partner and many, many leads to pursue this year.

As an aside, I was also able to visit SuiteWorld, the NetSuite conference, which was running concurrently with Collaborate the week we were in Vegas.  Compared to the Collaborate venue, I have to admit the energy and vibe in their exhibitor area was quite electric.  No doubt, there is a lot of buzz as vendors scramble to align with Oracle's Cloud strategy.

I think it is a great time for client's using ERP platforms, for consultants that run them and for companies like mine that focus in these technologies.  On the one hand, you have a loyal customer base that is relying on the established ERP platforms.  At the other end of the spectrum, there is disruption and innovation happening with the Cloud tools.  I suspect for the foreseeable future that a blend of both kinds of solutions will give the most functionality and leverage to the end-client.

We have a number of openings (contract and perm) which I have pasted below.  You can also review our openings here.  


  • JDE Development Manager – New York – This is a hands-on E1 Lead Developer role managing a small team in Queens, NY.
  • JDE E1 Development Lead, work remotely – Perm – Work with a leading Oracle Business Partner.
  • JDE E1 Developer, Georgia – Perm – We have two current openings with Atlanta based clients, one on the south side of Atlanta, and one on the north side.
  • JDE E1 Developer, Indiana – Perm – Staff Developer for heavy mfg. client.
  • JDE E1 Developer, Colorado – Perm – Client in the Denver area needs an experienced Developer.
  • JDE E1 Developer , Montana – Perm – E1 Developer needed for post go-live enhancements and maintenance.
  • World Developer, South Carolina – Contract – Must have strong Mfg. experience.  We have three consultants in a similar role with this client.  This is a long term contract assignment.
  • World Developer, Michigan – Perm and/or contract – We have two clients in Michigan undertaking World A9.4 upgrades.  They need Developers with strong MRP/Mfg. experience.  One client prefers to engage a contractor for their need.  The other client wants to hire a Developer outright. 
  • ReportsNow Developer, Georgia – Contract – We need two ReportsNow Developers for 4-6 month assignment.
  • Data Migration Lead, New Jersey – Perm – Lead efforts to move data from legacy ERP system to JDE 9.2
  • C++ Developer, work remotely – Contract or Perm – Oracle Business Partner needs someone with multiplatform (Windows, Unix, i-Series) integration experience.
  • AWS Developer, work remotely – Contract or Perm – Amazon Web Services (AWS) integration experience required.  This position can be remote to candidates based in the U.S.



  • JDE Finance Business Analyst, Nevada – Perm – Client has recently completed their E1 9.2 upgrade, needs experienced Finance Analyst.
  • JDE Implementation Support Analyst, Georgia – Perm – High volume Oracle installed client needs people with 2-5 years’ experience with JD Edwards to assist in rollout to global clients added through acquisition.
  • JDE User/Super-user level Finance candidates, work remotely – Our client, a large Oracle Business Partner, has engaged us to identify bright Accounting and Finance people with JD Edwards experience.  You will be trained/certified in JDE and NetSuite software as part of a support organization.  This is an excellent stepping-stone opportunity for Finance people who want to move into software consulting.


  • JDE Distribution Business Analyst, Minnesota – Perm – Client moved from World to E1 is looking for strong Distribution/Supply Chain Analyst.  
  • JDE Distribution Business Analyst, Indiana – Perm – Corporate location for multi-site client with E1 9.2 rollout. 
  • JDE Distribution Business Analyst, Pennsylvania  – Perm – Needs strong Sales Order Management exp. in a global environment.  
  • JDE Distribution Business Analyst, Colorado – Perm – Assist in global E1 application support.
  • JDE Order-to-Cash Lead, New Jersey – Perm – Our client is undertaking an E1 9.2 upgrade and is looking to hire a strong Order to Cash person.
  • JDE Distribution Analyst (with Capital Assets Management exp.), Nevada – Perm – Las Vegas based client is looking for a candidate with strong Distribution experience including CAM.  
  • JDE SWM Consultant, Atlanta, GA – Contract – Consultant experienced with JD Edwards Service Warranty Mgt. applications needed  for industrial mfg./distribution client.
  • (Proprietary) Supply Chain Consultant, Georgia, Perm – Our client has developed a modular supply chain solution applicable to ERP systems.  We help them find highly educated, early career candidates that they train on their software.


  • World Manufacturing Consultant, Michigan – Contract – We have two clients in Michigan undertaking World A9.4 upgrades seeking a Mfg. Consultant to lead in MRP best practices.  These assignments may go long-term if the client then decides to further upgrade to EnterpriseOne.
  • JDE Manufacturing Business Analyst, California – Perm – Aerospace industry client seeking an E1 Business Analyst to manage Mfg/Dist applications.


  • HCM Consultant, Georgia – Contract – Consultant needed to assist with cleanup of HR/P issues and Kronos integration.
  • HR Consultant, Pennsylvania – Contract – Construction-oriented client needs HCM consultant.  (Experience with Job Cost is a plus skill.)

Please note we have another ten openings for JDE applications consultants we are staffing along with another Business Partner.  By agreement, these are perm positions not posted here or on our website.  For more info, please contact us to see if we might have a good match for you.


  • JDE CNC Analyst, work remotely – Perm – Our client, a Managed Services provider is interested in hiring two experienced CNC Analysts.  Multi-platform experience (Windows, Unix/Linux, i-Series) is desirable.
  • VCP Solutions Architect, New Jersey – Perm – Client needs an Analyst experienced in Oracle’s Value Chain Planning tools (like Demantra) to lead this aspect of their upgrade.
  • Dynamics CRM Manager, Georgia – Perm – Seeking Analyst with strong Dynamics CRM experience to manage a small team.


  • JDE Applications Manager, Connecticut – Perm – Work in player/coach capacity leading a team of Business Analysts.
  • JDE Applications Manager, Maryland – Perm – Good compensation package for Manager overseeing an experienced JD Edwards team.
  • NetSuite Lead, work remotely – Perm – Work with an established Business Partner as a Solutions Architect building their NetSuite Practice.
  • SAP Director of Applications, Ohio – Perm – Manage a team of Analysts and Consultants with the goal of creating a SAP single-sign for all corporate ERP applications.
  • IT Director, Maryland – Perm – Client is seeking an experienced Technology Manager to lead a team of six with plans to implement JD Edwards later this year.

Why Enspire?

A loyal customer recently asked me for a summary of Enspire Partners' capabilities so she could tell some of her colleagues about us.  The bullet points below highlight the reasons many of our clients work with us.

We are the most experienced JD Edwards staffing firm in the United States.

Our leadership team has worked exclusively in this domain for the last 17+ years.  Our span of customers includes over 100 end-client firms running Oracle software, other Oracle Business Partners and Managed Services firms supporting EnterpriseOne and World clients.  We are the only JD Edwards staffing company that regularly exhibits and presents at Collaborate. 

Enspire Partners has been in business since 2011.  We are an Oracle Business Partner headquartered in Atlanta, Georgia.

We combine Business Partner experience with staffing firm pricing and flexibility.

We fit into a niche between Business Partners who sell project/integration services and traditional IT staffing firms.  Traditional Business Partners are expensive and want to “own” your project and change your processes.  Traditional staffing firms do not understand JD Edwards’ requirements and talent.  We do.

We offer turnkey services in the JD Edwards staffing arena – providing both experienced contractors and perm/direct employee candidates.

We are happy to staff your contract, perm or contract-to-hire needs.  You keep our contractors only as long as you need them.  Our perm candidates come with an unconditional 90-day guarantee.

No one owns all of the talent in the JDE marketplace, but we are very well-connected.

Most Business Partners win your business by presenting their best people, but they staff your project based on who is available from their bench.  We are talent focused (working with JDE Applications, Development, CNC and Leadership candidates), but we do not payroll a bench.  Our approach is to connect you with the best talent available in the marketplace when you need them.

We typically bill our clients $20-25 less per hour than other Oracle Business Partners, sometimes for the same resources.

Because of our lower overhead approach, we charge $20-25 less per hour than other Business Partners for similar services.  (Surprisingly, we also are able to pay our consultants more.)  We know this to be true because other Business Partners often engage our contractors and re-brand them to their customers with no additional value in their markup.

Working with us does not require exclusivity, and we appreciate competition.

Most of our clients blend our services along with a traditional Business Partner (or a Managed Services provider) to get the best coverage for their needs.  We want to give you options without wasting your time.  In the end, you should select the best resource for your opening.

We also can help in other areas.

JD Edwards is an area of specialty of ours, but our recruiting team also is experienced in related areas like infrastructure, support, custom development/testing and Business Intelligence.

Getting the 411 on COLLABORATE 18!

For our fifth consecutive year, Enspire Partners will be attending COLLABORATE April 22-28 at the Mandalay Resort in Las Vegas!

To get the real scoop on all things Collaborate, please stop by Booth 411 and say hello!  Josh, Brian and I will be meeting with clients and consultants throughout the conference. Quest attendees can also register to win a pair of Bose noise cancelling headphones we will be giving away in our Questopoly drawing.  


Enspire Partners is in Booth 411 of the Exhibitor Showcase

COLLABORATE 18 is the premier, user-led, technology and applications forum for the Oracle community. Produced by three independent user groups, IOUG, OAUG and Quest, COLLABORATE 18 is created by users for users. • 1,200+ sessions and panels packed with customers sharing their stories, case studies and practical “how-to” content • Community-sourced education led by experts – for everyone, at every stage of their technology journey • Breaking product news, roadmaps and insider information from Oracle executive management and developers • Education and training for functional, technical and hybrid users • Access to hundreds of other customers across industries to build your personal and professional network, including special interest group (SIG) meetings, geographic networking events and receptions • An Exhibitor Showcase packed with products and solutions providers who can help you solve your specific challenges • Unique events such as the Women in Technology Forum—connect with key women who are examples of success in a fast-changing environment

Ready to access a wealth of information to help you navigate your technology journey? COLLABORATE 18 takes place April 22-26, 2018, at Mandalay Bay Resort & Casino in Las Vegas, Nevada. Register by March 8 to save big! Select the user group most closely aligned with your interests at


JD Edwards Jobs Trends

We are seeing a steady stream of work for both contractors and perm candidates in the JD Edwards channel. 

  • Demand is higher now than we have seen in our previous seven years as a company. Better still, clients are acting more decisively when qualified candidates are brought forward versus the "hurry up and wait" approach many companies adopted in early/mid 2017. 
  • In addition to upgrade activities, we are working with a couple of domestic clients undertaking net-new installations of JD Edwards. This is encouraging to the entire ecosystem and drives both contract and perm requirements.
  • Contract opportunities are typically covered within 48 hours. Let us know when you will be available in advance to avoid downtime. We pay our consultants every two weeks – well in advance of when we are paid by the client.
  • Lately, there has been a notable increase in requirements for Distribution/Supply Chain skill sets. We interpret this to mean companies are selling/moving their products – and that’s a good thing!

The message to both clients and candidates is the economy seems solid and lining up the right people for your team and the right role for yourself is NOW.

I have highlighted some of our JDE openings below. You can see all our current openings HERE.   Click on the links below – or simply call us at 678-730-6966 – for more information.








Rise of the Machine!

In July, I wrote an article entitled:  “Being More Human”, which talked about some of the advancements in cognitive computing, and also, about how we – as humans – need to find new ways of contributing in our increasingly machine-driven society.

One example cited was the vast computing power demonstrated by computer mastery of games like chess, where the real champion of our planet is a machine, not a man.  The World Computer Chess Championship was held November 13-16, featuring the ten strongest chess programs (“engines”) in the world.  “Stockfish 8”, an open source, purpose-built chess engine won the November tournament, narrowly beating “Houdini” with a score of 3 wins, 2 losses and 15 draws.  Stockfish also won similar tournaments in 2016 and 2014.  More information on this tournament can be found here

As a chess enthusiast, I watched as a human grandmaster played “with odds” against Stockfish in an exhibition game while this tournament was underway.  The handicap given to Stockfish was that it had to play from the beginning of the game with only one knight.  In addition to human observers, other chess engines were scoring the game, and we all watched in amazement as Stockfish intrepidly overcame the deficit of a knight to the point where accepting a draw was the welcome response of the human GM (and playing on any longer may have resulted in a loss).

Grandmasters heralded this event as the apex of chess computing.  Chess was effectively “solved” as these engines, relying on massive “tablebases” addressed both the opening moves of the game and the endgame, while deep computational power allowed programs like Stockfish to score millions of positions per second in selecting moves in the middlegame.

Then, something altogether unexpected happened. 

On December 5, AlphaZero, an algorithm developed by Google’s DeepMind division defeated not only the top programs in chess, but also similar programs in shogi and Go.

  • After being given the rules of chess and nine hours to “teach itself” chess, AlphaZero demolished Stockfish by the astonishing score of 28 wins, 0 losses and 72 draws. 
  • In 100 shogi games, AlphaZero defeated elmo (the World Computer Shogi 2017 champion) winning 90 games, losing eight times with two draws.
  • AlphaZero had similar results in Go, except this time it was matched against an earlier version of AlphaZero, which was already the World Champion of Go.

The natural reaction is to assume AlphaZero won because it was able to search deeper or faster, but in reality, it taught itself to search better.  AlphaZero searches just 80,000 positions per second in chess, compared to the 70 million per second Stockfish can evaluate, but AlphaZero compensates by using deep neural network technology to focus on more optimal variations over Stockfish's brute force approach.

Most interestingly, AlphaZero won by playing more like a human (or maybe a superhuman) – using intuition when the event horizon for brute force calculation fails.  AlphaZero often sacrificed material against Stockfish to gain persistent, but less concrete positional advantages. Grandmaster Peter Heine Nielsen said:  “I always wondered how it would be if a superior species landed on earth and showed us how they played chess. Now I know.”

For more info on how AlphaZero plays chess, read this article.

If computers can beat chess after only a few hours of self-study, they may be able to do many things – good and bad – if given a little more time.  How long until they develop self-awareness?

Be kind to your computer, and (hopefully) it will be kind to you.