AlphaGo’s easy wins raise concerns about AI

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AlphaGo’s easy wins raise concerns about AI

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Demis Hassabis, Google DeepMind CEO and founder, delivers a lecture on artificial intelligence and the future at the Korea Advanced Institute for Science and Technology in Daejeon on Friday. He is visiting Korea for the five-game match between Go champion Lee Se-dol and AlphaGo. [NEWSIS]

Could rapid advances in the development of artificial intelligence (AI) threaten the human race?

The two stinging victories of AlphaGo, a Go-playing artificial intelligence algorithm, over Korean Go champion Lee Se-dol have shocked and worried many.

People who were marginally curious about the historic man-versus-machine match suddenly became aware that advances in artificial intelligence are quickening - and wondering what that might mean.

Experts in the field lay out diverse opinions as to how humans should consider an issue they can probably no longer avoid or dismiss.

“I can’t believe the computer actually beat a human,” said 28-year-old Seoul resident Jo Eun-nam, a printing business operator. “I didn’t think this day would come so soon.”

“I was frightened,” said another viewer of the game, a 44-year-old television writer. “With the way things are going, computers might really rule over humans.”

Many confessed misgivings after Lee, a 9-dan-level Go champion, was pitilessly beaten by AlphaGo, which was created by Google DeepMind. The main fear is that computers might actually outperform humans not only in board games but in every way including physical activities.

The first two matches in the five-match Google DeepMind Challenge Match were broadcast live on Google-owned YouTube, and Thursday’s game attracted a live audience of 100,000. Korea’s top portal site Naver reported 500,000 viewers on Thursday.

Experts and purveyors of science fiction have been warning of threats technology might pose to the human race for a very long time.

Stephen Hawking, the English theoretical physicist, was quoted as saying “development of full artificial intelligence could spell the end of the human race” by the Huffington Post in 2014.

“It would take off on its own and redesign itself at an ever-increasing rate,” Hawking said earlier. “Humans, who are limited by slow biological evolution, couldn’t compete and would be superseded.”

Tesla founder and space pioneer Elon Musk, along with Hawking and many other artificial intelligence experts, signed an open letter in January 2015 calling for research into the societal ramifications of this fast-growing technology. In a tweet after AlphaGo won the first game against Lee, Musk wrote, “Experts in the field thought AI was 10 years away from achieving this.”

Demis Hassabis, CEO and founder of Google’s DeepMind affiliate, is far less apocalyptic. He said the technology will not control humans but assist them in a speech at the Korea Advanced Institute for Science and Technology on Friday. The lecture attracted over 500 students and professors.

The British chess champion-turned-entrepreneur expressed his hope that artificial intelligence will play a crucial role in tackling humanity’s unresolved challenges.

“We plan to upgrade AlphaGo to a higher level through the match,” he said, adding that artificial intelligence will become more understanding of human nature and figure out ways to solve various problems related to diseases, weather, energy and data.

AlphaGo’s strategies in its second Seoul match on Thursday “shocked” the public and Go professionals because its skills were so obviously greater than five months ago when it played Fan Hui, a 2-dan-level player who lost the series five to zero.

“I had zero moments that made me think I was ahead of AlphaGo,” Lee said after the second match on Thursday. “[It] played a perfect game.”

Kim Jin-hyung, head of the Software Policy & Research Institute, echoed Hassabis’s opinion.

“We should think of ways to positively make use [of artificial intelligence],” he said. “Taking this match as an opportunity, Korea should increase investment in artificial intelligence.”

BY KIM JEE-HEE [kim.jeehee@joongang.co.kr]

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