De Omni Scribili

Scribblings Of Ed Wiebe

AlphaGo versus Lee Sedol, Match 3

I thought the match 3 commentary on AlphaGo vs Lee Sedol (AI versus human Go match) was excellent. YouTube Video.

Chris Garlock (CG) and Michael Redmond (MR).

CG: Literally someone said to me the other day, "It's the end of Go", after the first loss, what do you think?

MR: I don't really get that because I don't see why ... I think computers and robots already do a lot of things better than humans do. And, the fact that you have cars that can drive quickly doesn't mean that we don't have a marathon for humans and I don't think it's going to change the fact that we have tournaments in which people play Go. Actually as far as the game itself is concerned I truly believe that if AlphaGo proceeds to improve, continues to improve, then we'll be seeing it play moves that are, sort of, new to human professionals and that people will be imitating it or emulating it in these new strategies and working from them to build something, maybe a new opening theory or some new opening practices, which would be really interesting and potentially a big step forward in opening theory for professionals."

CG: This has only really happened twice before that we know of right?

MR: Well there, yes. Well Go is so old, it's thousands of years old. We don't really know what happened with Go players thousands of years ago. There are some records that are very old but, yes. Only a few hundred years ago there was Honinbo Dosaku who was a great Go player and he invented, basically he invented his own joseki, I mean opening theory. It was actually putting a lot more value on the sides and the centre of the board than the players of that time were. The strongest players of that time were putting much more value in the corners and actually side territories too whereas Honinbo Dosaku was putting more value in the centre and he was playing a game that they'd never played before. And, he wiped everyone out. And so, because of that, the whole theory of the opening of the game changed a lot and his school... There was a time when, in the Edo era of Japan, when there were four Go schools, or four groups that were separately studying to be strong and they competed with each other. And so the Honinbo Go school became one of the strongest because of Dosaku, almost directly because of him. And then the strategies, or the opening theory just spread out into the entire Go community. So that was one kind of big revolution of the opening theory. And then the second kind of revolution in opening theory came with Go Seigen, a Chinese born Go player, he was a professional, actually he was playing in Japan as a professional, he was Chinese born, and his good friend Kitani who was a Japanese Go player, they got together and they invented what they called new fuseki, the new opening. And this was completely revolutionary because it was offering different moves for the very first moves of the game. They were playing on moves that were considered bad before like the star point was considered only played in handicap games before then. Very rarely was it played anywhere else. And people were playing the komuku which is this one, right next to the star point. And they made them work of course. Partly because they were such strong players. This sort of sparked a revolution in the opening in which, not only did other players imitate them but it sort of sparked all sorts of different tactics that came up that were also revolutionary. It sort of freed people to play moves that were different. When before that they thought they had to be conventional. So that actually changed the way people play Go drastically. So, if AlphaGo plays moves that make people imitate it I think that would blossom into all sorts of, they would put their own angle on that and change different things that maybe AlphaGo hasn't done yet. I think it would be maybe a third revolution of the way people play Go.

CG: That's pretty exciting.

MR: So, I have a favourable slant on how I think. I don't understand people who say it would be the end of Go.

I was reminded of Iain M. Banks' novel Use of Weapons (p. 277).

"Can't machines build these faster?" he asked the woman, looking around the starship shell.

"Why, of course!" she laughed.

"Then why do you do it?"

"It's fun. You see one of these big mothers sail out those doors for the first time, heading for deep space, three hundred people on board, everything working, the Mind quite happy, and you think; I helped build that. The fact a machine could have done it faster doesn't alter the fact that it was you who actually did it."

"Hmm," he said.

(Learn woodwork; metalwork; they will not make you a carpenter or a blacksmith any more than mastering writing will make you a clerk.)

"Well, you may 'hmm' as you wish," the woman said, approaching a translucent hologram of the half-completed ship, where a few other construction workers were standing, pointing inside the model and talking. "But have ever been gliding, or swum underwater?"

"Yes," he agreed.

The woman shrugged. "Yet birds fly better than we do, and fish swim better. Do we stop gliding or swimming because of this?"

He smiled. "I suppose not."

"You supposed correctly," the woman said. "And why?" she looked at him grinning. "Because it's fun."

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