Although they have always been a source of fantasy as well as nightmares, robots and artificial intelligence have taken the spotlight in the recent years, even in mainstream media. One recurring theme has always been about how these technologies will soon replace humans, mostly in the work place. Those fears were perhaps magnified when AlphaGo, from Google-owned DeepMind, defeated legendary Go player Lee Sedol. Google perhaps expected some level of outrage but it says it was surprised to instead see some contemplation as human players try to learn the never before seen moves that the AI made.
Go is a millennia old game. And while chess is perhaps more popular in certain countries like the US, Go has an equally big following all over the world, not to mention in East Asia. As with anything that old, you can expect some degree of apprehension when you try to introduce something so modern, like an artificially intelligent player. Reception, however, was surprisingly positive, according to Google’s DeepMind. Mostly because AlphaGo revealed something that piqued players’ curiosity. AlphaGo had moves they never thought possible.
Games like Go and chess are sometimes less about strategy and more about memorizing moves and countermoves. Over time, certain patterns have emerged that get used over and over again. Sometimes, player fail to see other moves or expect some moves to be illegal. Some of those moves have cost human champions their victory against AlphaGo. So instead of seeing AlphaGo as a cold, unfeeling rival, Go players are starting to see it has a new source of knowledge.
That’s why AlphaGo will be making an unusual appearance and taking an unusual role at a Go Summit in China on May 23-27. There, both Go expert and AI experts alike will come for a meeting of the minds and to, quite interestingly, try to figure out how AlphaGo won against the best human Go players in the world. And to make sure that the puny humans have learned their lessons, the summit will also host a one-on-one game between AlphaGo and the world’s number one player, Ke Jie. Perhaps Skynet will be born from this match.