AlphaGo, Lee Sedol, and the Reassuring Future of Humans and Machines

On Tuesday, Lee Sedol, a top-ranked Go player, lost the last of five games to AlphaGo, a computer program. Credit Lee Jin-man / AP Midway through the first of five recent matches between Lee Sedol, a top-ranked professional Go player, and AlphaGo, a computer program conceived by Google DeepMind, an odd thing happened: Lee’s jaw dropped, hanging open for a nigh-cartoonish twenty seconds, and then he laughed. AlphaGo had just mounted an aggressive, and evidently unexpected, attack. The moment was reminiscent of a famous episode in Go history, when Honinbo Shusaku, a future legend of the game, squared off against Inoue Genan Inseki, an older and more experienced player, in 1846. The story goes that a spectator—a local doctor who knew little of Go—correctly guessed that the seventeen-year-old Shusaku was beating…


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