The Invisible Opponent

This is just an excerpt. Read the full article over at The Atlantic.


On March 19, 2016, the strongest Go player in the world, Lee Sedol, sits down for a game against Google DeepMind’s artificial-intelligence program, AlphaGo. They’re at the Four Seasons Hotel in Seoul’s Gwanghwamun district, and it’s a big deal: Most every major South Korean television network is carrying the game. In China, 60 million people are tuning in. For the English-speaking world, the American Go Association and DeepMind are running an English-language livestream on YouTube, and 100,000 people are watching. A few hundred members of the press are in adjacent rooms, watching the game alongside expert commentators.The game room itself is spare: a table, two black leather chairs, some cameras. Three officials presiding over the match sit in the back. Across from Lee sits Aja Huang, one of AlphaGo’s lead programmers; and beside him is a computer monitor that displays AlphaGo’s move choices. Huang’s job is to physically place AlphaGo’s pieces on the board. AlphaGo itself is not any one machine—it’s a piece of distributed software supported by a team of more than 100 scientists.

Tonight, Lee Sedol is supported by one 33-year-old human brain and approximately 12 ounces of coffee.

Most people are betting on Lee to win.

[Continue at The Atlantic.]