Weiqi 围棋, the ancient Chinese strategy board game, also known as “igo” or “go” in Japan and “baduk” in Korea, was invented about 4000 years ago, and is probably the oldest board game still played today. It is making news today because on Wednesday, March 9th, 2016, in a Weiqi competition organized by AlphaGo, a Google Alphabet company, a computer using AI (Artificial Intelligence) outwitted and beat the current human champion, Lee Se dol of South Korea.
Weiqi actually looks deceptively simple and it is as binary as the computer is, with two players using black and white stones to oust each other. Its rules are simple too but it is a game of profound complexity, the most complex game ever created. According to Google’s official blog site for AlphaGo, there are 1,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000 possible positions—that’s more than the number of atoms in the universe, and more than a googol times larger than chess.
Therefore, it requires a powerful algorithm to run the Artificial Intelligence in order to defeat a Weiqi human champion. On Wednesday, it did and created a hullabaloo with a mixture of excitement and confusion in the scientific and game community which hitherto was not able to prove that a computer is able to beat a Weiqi master. In 1997, a computer developed by IBM defeated the chess master Garry Kasparov and that was nearly 20 year ago.
Well, well, a computer with AI is very intelligent and powerful but wait, the game for Lee Sedol and AlphaGo is not over yet as the last match will be on the March 15, 2016. Let’s wait for him to finish his competition first.
Regardless of the outcome though, however powerful it may be, the computer program is not infallible and it is not that the human cannot beat the computer but there are other issues which makes it a “matter of time” the computer wins. Besides the intelligence factor, there are other issues which the human experience but not the computer, such as stress, fatigue or tiredness, etc., and sure he needs good luck too, so let’s wish Lee Sedol the best of luck!
Links to the google AlphaGo project: