Even if Lee wins…

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Even if Lee wins…

AlphaGo is not the robotic villain that Robot Taekwon V is fighting. Demis Hassabis, the Google vice president who created AlphaGo, does not loathe the world like Dr. Kaff, the evil scientist who created an army of robots to conquer the world. While Google is a company with the biggest market capitalization in the world, there is no reason to believe it desires world domination. Professional Go player Lee Se-dol (in the photo) is not Hun, who pilots Taekwon V to save the world. But earthlings will cheer for Lee as he battles AlphaGo in Seoul in March. Some Koreans will pray for Lee’s victory just as ardently as they did for World Cup matches.

Lee, a 9-dan-ranked player, is confident in winning, and Hassabis thinks AlphaGo has a 50 percent chance of winning. AlphaGo defeated Chinese-born European champion Fan Hui - a 2-dan player - in all five matches. For every stone, the Go player chooses one of 250 possible places on average, and in a game, each player plays about 150 moves. So there are 250 to 150th power possible moves.

AlphaGo makes each calculation in three seconds. In 495 matches with other computer Go programs, AlphaGo won all but one game. The winning rate is 99.8 percent, and Google hasn’t disclosed which program AlphaGo lost to. AlphaGo studies by playing actual games and reviewing past games, and its training is equivalent to what a human player can do in 1,000 years.

Even if Lee wins this time, there is no guarantee that humans can defeat artificial intelligence forever. Scientists predict that artificial intelligence will surpass human intelligence in five to 30 years. It is not so far away.

Fortunately, AlphaGo is under human control. It has no function other than playing Go, and it cannot move the stones by itself and requires human assistance. However, AlphaGo may be signaling the appearance of super artificial intelligence that can evolve on its own and can control robots, just like Skynet in “Terminator” or Ultron in “Avengers.” Visionaries like physicist Stephen Hawking and Tesla founder Elon Musk have already warned of the risk.

We can take comfort in the optimistic views of MIT Prof. Andrew McAfee, author of “The Second Machine Age.” He believes humans may lose to robots, but humans who can use computers will never be dominated by robots. We have seen in animations a half-human, half-robot boy defeating artificial robots. But it is doubtful if we can be so optimistic in reality.

The author is deputy national news editor for the JoongAng Ilbo. JoongAng Ilbo, Feb. 10, Page 27


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