The Ghost in the Go Machine
In my previous post, I talked about the consequences for AI development following the remarkable match between human and supercomputer during which the computer bested the gifted gamer in a very complex ancient game of Go. I came to see that as that match unfolded between AlphaGo and the player Ke Jie, deep learning was dethroning humankind’s best Go player. I realized that the same technology that defeated a world-class player would be coming soon to take jobs at factories and offices.
But in that same match, I also saw a reason for hope. Two hours and fifty-one minutes into the match, Ke Jie had hit a wall. He’d given all that he could to this game, but he knew it wasn’t going to be enough. Hunched low over the board, his eyebrow began to twitch as he pursed his lips. Realizing he couldn’t hold his emotions in any longer, he removed his glasses and used the back of his hand to wipe tears from both of his eyes. It happened in a flash, but the emotion behind it was visible for all to see.
Those tears triggered an outpouring of sympathy and support for Ke. Over the course of these three matches, Ke had gone on a roller-coaster of human emotion: confidence, anxiety, fear, hope, and heartbreak. It had showcased his competitive spirit, but I saw in those games an act of genuine love: a willingness to tangle with an unbeatable opponent out of pure love for the game, its history, and the people who play it.
Those people who watched Ke’s frustration responded in kind. AlphaGo may have been the winner, but Ke became the people’s champion. In that connection—human beings giving and receiving love—I caught a glimpse of how humans will find work and meaning in the age of artificial intelligence.
I believe that the skillful application of AI will be China’s greatest opportunity to catch up with—and possibly surpass—the United States. But more importantly, this shift will create an opportunity for all people to rediscover what it is that makes us human.
To understand why, we must first grasp the basics of the technology and how it is set to transform our world.
In my next few posts, I will explore in more depth the history of deep learning. In the meantime, I welcome your thoughts. You may not have seen the game of Go that I've been writing about in these recent posts, bit perhaps you recall the television game of Jeopardy! A few years ago, IBM's Watson defeated two of the game's reigning champions. It was an impressive achievement. The computer Watson displayed different skills than AlphaGo did in the Go match, but roved to be nevertheless a real step forward in AI. What did you feel on seeing or hearing about this win? Did you regard it as a sign that humanity was losing to Artificial Intelligence? Or did you admire the determination of the champions to keep going, despite their being outmaneuvered by the computer? Thank you for sharing.