Tuesday, May 28, 2024

A world Go champion’s reflections on AlphaGo

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Editor’s note: Lee Sae Dol is a professional Go player who played a now-famous public match against AlphaGo, Google DeepMind’s AI system, back in 2016.

As a world Go champion, I’d only ever played the game against other humans. That changed in 2016 when I played a five-match game of Go against AlphaGo, Google’s AI system. I admit, I underestimated just how powerful AI could be and ended up only winning one out of our five games together.

When I first got the invitation from Google to play against AlphaGo, I didn’t quite grasp how serious of a matter it was. I thought it would be an easy victory, and that this was a casual experiment. But once this game became public, I realized how big of a deal it was.

And I still remember how amazed I was at how brilliantly AlphaGo played, the moves it came up with. Go is a deeply complex strategic game — famously far more complicated than chess, with 1,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000 possible board configurations. That means AlphaGo has to be creative, not just calculative.

Later, I learned that scientists had predicted AI wouldn’t reach that kind of capability for another decade. And this year marks the eight-year anniversary of the game I played against AlphaGo. In those eight years, AI has developed at an incredible speed. Go players around the world have now used AlphaGo to try to uncover new moves, new strategies and new ideas in this ancient game.

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