3 Reasons to Watch a Game You Might not Even Know Exists: AlphaGo vs Lee Sedol


Jana Eggers is the CEO of Nara Logics.

On Wednesday, March 9th, an epic battle will begin when AlphaGo, Google’s trained computer/Go master player, faces the world’s best Go master, Lee Sedol. You can view all five days of geeky glory on their DeepMind YouTube channel. Knowing we all are time crunched, why am I even suggesting that you watch a computer compete against a master gamer at a game you might not have even heard of? I have three different reasons why you should:

  1. This is a historic moment. On July 27, 1949, the world’s first jet airliner took its maiden flight. There were major flight milestones before that; there were flight major milestones after that. Yet, this milestone still makes the top lists of happenings in 1949, and even in the decade. Why? Because there are moments that give you the ability to see the future opportunity: that flight allowed us to imagine what it will be like for masses to travel in about 1/10th of the time required by cars. This is one of those moments and it is worth being noted with interest for the possibilities of AI – where will that take us?

  2. Cracks can be revealed. As any Ready Player One reader knows, if you know the weakness in the software, you can get the Copper Key. People have noted that AlphaGo plays conservatively and without “understanding”. It will be a fascinating learning for us to see if knowing these and likely other weaknesses will lead to victory for Lee. He believes he can win. Will we humans keep the Copper Key for now, or will one gate be unlocked by the machines?

  3. It is time to start learning about AI. I’ll be honest, unless you are a nerd, learning about AI can be boring or discouraging, because it is technically complex with lots of subtleties. That said, we need more people involved in AI. (I have a whole talk on that, please spend 19 minutes watching it!) And, we all love games. Go is an interesting and surprisingly simple game to learn with an equally surprising strategic side. This is a fun way to learn about AI and what it can do by watching and listening to the commentary. It’s kind of like having subtitles to a foreign film. And as we have all learned from The Big Bang Theory watching geeks in their geekiest moments is another form of entertainment.

So whether you want to spend the time imagining where this historic moment can take us; or understand just how good this machine is; or dip your toe in waters that are warmer than math class, this competition has it covered.

I said in my prior post on AlphaGo:

I’ll be watching to see if this giant ducks and weaves his way to victory, or merely stands tall on prior accomplishments and looks forward to his day. It will come.