Go Master Retires Citing AI Supremacy
Written by Sue Gee   
Sunday, 01 December 2019

South Korean Go master Lee Sedol, the only human ever to score a win against AlphaGo, Google Deep Mind's AI Go player, has retired from the game on the grounds that, however well he plays, there is no longer any prospect of beating AI.

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Artificial Intelligence is gaining ground in every sphere and on the whole it it all to the good. We have already welcomed the medical advances made with machine learning (ML) and look forward to many economic benefits and scientific breakthroughs over the coming years. On the other hand there is concern that AI could threaten our livelihoods as computer agents and robots take our traditional jobs like helping customers in banks and shops, planting, tending and picking crops and driving lorries and taxis.

Games have always been a fruitful area for AI research - checkers, backgammon and chess were already areas in which computers could beat humans before Deep Mind's AlphaGo came onto the scene and took the world by storm by the sheer rapidity with which it took on and defeated all comers.

Back in 2016 Mike James wrote:

We have a breakthrough moment in AI; one that most experts thought would take at least another ten years. An AI system has taught itself to play Go, one of the more subtle and human of games, and it has beaten the human world champion. 

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AlphaGo did win the match, but not before Lee Sedol, the human sitting at the board who had been the World No. 1 player for 5 years between 2006 and 2011, took the fourth of five games, at least reserving the hope that humans and AI might be equally matched. Moreover the contest had the effect of boosting the game of Go with increased interest in playing the game and new perspectives opened up by AlphaGo's unconventional playing style. 

It was in 2017 the AlphaGo proved to be unbeatable. At the very beginning of the year a mysterious unknown Go player, using the names "Master" and "Magister",  appeared on Chinese online platforms and beat the world's top ranked players one after another. It was then revealed by Demis Hassabis, founder and CEO of DeepMind revealed the player to be a new prototype version of AlphaGo, AlphaGo Zero. The updated version adopted a new architecture based on deep neural networks, learning the game almost entirely from playing against itself and relying less on data generated by humans.

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After its winning streak AlphaGo was ranked no 2 in the Go league table. Ke Jie had already challenged AlphaGo to a match, described in prospect by the Chinese press agency as the "ultimate man-machine war" and this took place in May 2017 as part of Future of Go Summit. This event was a collaboration between Google, the China Go Association, and the Chinese government designed to explore aspects of Go as played by humans and AI and to test the limits of both.

The outcome, as reported in AlphGo Defeats World's Top Ranking Go Player was that AI triumphed not only did AlphaGo beat Ke Jie in all three of the one-on-one games, it also prevailed when paired with human players in exhibition matches of Pair Go and in a Team Tournament, in which five players joined forces against it.

Commenting on the performance of the updated AlphaGo Zero compared to its previous level of play which he had hoped to outwit, Ke Jie, said:  

"AlphaGo is a completely different player, It is like a god of a Go player.”

This sentiment was echoed by Lee Sedol in an interview he gave announcing his resignation at the age of 36, after 30 years playing the game and almost 25 years as a Go professional. He stated that he would no longer play professionally, because AI is impossible to overcome saying:.

"Even if I become the number one, there is an entity that cannot be defeated," 

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More Information

Go master Lee Sedol retires, says AI 'cannot be defeated'

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Last Updated ( Sunday, 01 December 2019 )