Man vs. Machine, and Machine Wins?


Linus Park, News Editor

In Seoul, a shocking development of an ongoing project of the Google DeepMind Team successfully showcased the amazing capabilities of their newly programed AI system through a game of Go. A traditional Chinese board game that dates back almost 2,500 years, the ancient game of Go, rather simple in appearance and rules, contains various subtleties and intuition required to meet both the objective and the beauty of the game. Two players given either the black or white stones, place one stone at a time, taking turns on a 19×19 board with the objective of capturing the most territory on the board. Nevertheless, the gameplay consists of intense sequences of strategic involvements in different sections of the board and demands hours of concentration. Furthermore, it is said that there are more possibilities and varying sequences of a Go match than the number of atoms present in the universe, which demonstrates the amazing capabilities that this program has achieved and learned to process.

Developed by the Google Deepmind Technologies, led by Demis Hassabis, the computer program called AlphaGo engaged in a 5 match series with the world’s top-rank 9 dan Professional Korean Go player, Lee Se-Dol. Professional Lee was offered the chance to acquire a grand prize of $1 Million dollars if he was successful in beating the computer program at least three times in the five different days scheduled for matches. However, overturning the expectations of most experts and analysts, AlphaGo defeated Lee Se-Dol four times and lost only once, silencing all the voices and predictions of those who did not believe technology could understand the intricacy of the game. In addition, AlphaGo played the European Go champion in an official tournament match and won 5-0. Therefore, the AlphaGo AI program is seen as a major breakthrough in the world of technology. These two matches show the capabilities of piece of technology to acquire skill sets of self-adaptation and recognition of pattern to unreal extents. Such technology is unprecedented even in comparison with the 1997 IBM’s DeepMind program with chess. Therefore, the crew of developers aspires to continue expanding AlphaGo’s abilities for future projects, looking into possible areas that the AI program could be useful for such as medical surgeries.

This news may come across as frightening to many people. As people have developed images of technology ruling over the human race by outsmarting us, AI programs such as this could be the cause of expanding concern across the globe. However, the progress and development of future technology seems to be inevitable and people must learn how to embrace the use of technology as it is constantly being produced and pushed out for the populace’s benefit. Yet, how do we sustain the current, “controlled” environment and keep technology from completely eradicating the need for humans to perform basic to medium level activities? Humans should not think of technology as a competitor, rather they should understand its initial purpose and utilize technology to solve the issues plaguing our society. In order to do so, some time away from technology for reflection may prove to be useful in developing creative and innovative ideas. Thus, distancing ourselves from the fixation on the endeavor to “outsmart” technology. So, instead of worrying about what may come in the future, we can look and reflect on the current problems by taking some time away from our phones and computers.