Man v machine: Google AlphaGo beats Korean champion

Man v machine: Google AlphaGo beats Korean champion

Wednesday, March 9, 2016 9:27 am

Google AlphaGo versus Korean champion

Google AlphaGo versus Korean champion

#AlphaGo has beaten South Korean champion Lee Sedol in first Man vs. Machine Go match in Seoul, Wednesday. Game lasted 3.5 hours. reports the historic match that should get man worried:

The jocks of the world thought the End of Days would come with explosions, bravado and full-camouflage utility belts. But the rise of the machines is currently playing out in the Four Seasons Hotel in Seoul, and it’s being led by possibly two of the nerdiest groups known to man.

It’s Match 1 of the Google DeepMind Challenge: AI versus human, a slow-paced, four-hour battle of strategy, complex algorithms and black and white tiles. We know what you’re thinking: Time to clear your schedule and start heating the snacks.

If you haven’t heard of Go, you’re not alone. Largely played in China, Korea and Japan, the ancient board game requires two players taking alternate turns to place black and white tiles on a grid, jockeying to occupy more of the board than their opponent.

Think of it like chess over a bigger monochromatic battlefield. Of course, the Go players don’t think of it like that, as this is the game for people who think chess is too easy (and probably too newfangled).

Designed by Google DeepMind, the artificial intelligence arm of everyone’s favourite (don’t be) evil overlords, AlphaGo has been programmed to clear one of the longest-standing hurdles in AI — winning at board games. Go’s 19×19 grid offers nearly uncountable variations of moves and branching outcomes, ruling out typical AI brute-force logic.

AlphaGo last played in October, beating pro player Fan Hui. The machine has had 5 months to improve its algorithms and, in turn, its strategy, by playing game after game of Go to add to its database of moves. (Don’t machines get to have all the fun?)

But now, in a headliner the likes of which hasn’t been seen since Kasparov vs. Deep Blue, AlphaGo is playing against Lee Sedol. Hui was a 2-dan Go player (because these things are measured in dans), but Sedol has 9 of 9 possible dans to his name, and is currently the second-highest ranked Go player in the world.

But undoubtedly the best part of the action are our two fearless commentators, managing editor of the American Go E-Journal Chris Garlock, and professional Go player or ‘Go Pro’ Michael Redmond. The hot takes have been coming thick and fast in a room that Garlock described as “fairly electric” while watching “the Roger Federer of the Go world” take on a brilliant computer.

On the atmosphere

Garlock: I can guarantee there won’t be a wasted moment. History is really being made here. Can we guarantee that?

Redmond: I think so.

On the start of proceedings

Redmond: It’s very exciting. Just one move so far.

On the battle between man and machine

Garlock: The machine is not going to get tired, he’s not going to get intimidated.

Redmond: Pretty much everyone gets intimidated when they go up against Lee Sedol.

On strategy at the start of a Go game

Redmond: He said he had a weak opening…

Garlock. I wish I had his weak opening!

The atmosphere after three hours…

Garlock: I think it’s really lived up to its billing as a tremendously historic and exciting game!

At the end of all this, there’s $1 million in prize money up for grabs, which Google says it will donate to charity if AlphaGo wins. But as Garlock says, “the real prize is the bragging rights, whether for man or machine.”

Update 11:35 p.m. PT:

That’s it. The world is over and the machines have won. In the final thrilling moments (yes, we watched all the way to the end) AlphaGo won the game when Lee Sedol resigned.

“AlphaGo won. You saw it here,” said Garlock. “Right off the bat — the first game, and AlphaGo takes down Lee Sedol.”

It’s safe to say we’ll be tuning into the next game!

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