South Korean professional Go player Lee Sedol, right, watches as Google DeepMind's lead programmer Aja Huang, left, puts the Google's artificial intelligence program, AlphaGo's first stone during the final match of the Google DeepMind Challenge Match in Seoul, South Korea, Tuesday, March 15, 2016. (AP Photo/Lee Jin-man)
Go champion says machine is not superior to man
March 24, 2016
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Game not over? Human Go champion Lee Sedol says Google's Go-playing program AlphaGo is not yet superior to humans. That is despite its victory in a match that ended March 15.
It was a week-long showdown. The contest was between the South Korean Go grandmaster and Google DeepMind's artificial intelligence program. The outcome showed the computer software has mastered a major challenge for artificial intelligence.
"I don't necessarily think AlphaGo is superior to me. I believe that there is still more a human being could do to play against artificial intelligence," Lee said. He spoke after the nearly five-hour-long final game.
AlphaGo had the upper hand in terms of its lack of vulnerability to emotion. And it never gets tired. Those are two crucial aspects in the intense brain game.
"When it comes to psychological factors and strong concentration power, humans cannot be a match," Lee said.
But he added, "I don't think my defeat this time is a loss for humanity. It clearly shows my weaknesses. But not the weakness of all humanity."
He expressed deep regret for the loss. And he thanked his fans for their support. He said he enjoyed all five matches. He was beaten in four.
Lee is 33 years old. He has made his living playing Go since he was 12. He is famous in South Korea. He is well known even among people who do not play the game. The entire country was rooting for him to win.
The series was intensely watched across Asia. The human-versus-machine battle hogged headlines.
The final game was too close to call until the very end. Experts said it was the best of the five games. Lee was in top form and AlphaGo made few mistakes. Lee resigned about five hours into the game.
The final match was broadcast live on three major TV networks in South Korea. It could be watched on big TV screens in downtown Seoul. It's the country's capital.
Google estimated that 60 million people in China watched the first match. Go is a popular pastime in China.
Before AlphaGo's victory, the ancient Chinese board game was seen as too complex for computers to master. Lee is one of the world's best players. Fans across Asia were shocked when he lost the first three matches.
Lee's win over AlphaGo in the fourth match showed the machine was not infallible. Afterward, Lee said AlphaGo's handling of surprise moves was weak. The program also played less well with a black stone. The black plays first and has to claim a larger territory than its opponent to win.
Lee chose not to exploit that weakness. He opted for a black stone in the last match.
Go players take turns placing the black and white stones on 361 grid intersections. The game is played on a nearly square board. Stones can be captured when they are surrounded by those of their opponent.
To take control of territory, players surround vacant areas with their stones. The game continues until both sides agree there are no more places to put stones. Or they play until one side decides to quit.
Google officials say the company wants to apply technologies used in AlphaGo in other areas. Ultimately, AlphaGo may help scientists solve real-world problems.
As for Go, other top players are bracing themselves.
Chinese world Go champion Ke Jie said it was just a matter of time before top Go players like himself would be overtaken by artificial intelligence.
"It is very hard for Go players at my level to improve even a little bit. Whereas AlphaGo has hundreds of computers to help it improve and can play hundreds of practice matches a day," Ke said.
"It does not seem like a good thing for we professional Go players. But the match played a very good role in promoting Go," Ke said.
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