Let me take you back in time: while in high school I was a nerdy, chubby, non-sporty girl who really loved reading and chess - in case you were wondering I’m still all of that. As an extra bonus I was close to my math teacher, Prof. Rhett Butler, quite a guy: 3 B.S. degrees and 2 M.S., taught math his whole life and was so passionate about it, it was really hard to keep up to what he was saying during class because he would be writing equations on the board while telling you a whole bunch of real life examples on how to use them, though to us they sounded like something from a sci-fi movie. He obviously knew I was struggling with my extracurricular activities and he invited me to join the Go Club.
I’m not an expert, I wouldn’t even consider myself a player at all, but I learnt a thing or two about Go while studying with someone who I still consider a great mind.
- No game is the same. No matter if you play with the same person all your life, each game has a different balance and rhythm, it feels different. Placing the first stone will have a consequence 100 moves later.
- Elementary Strategy exists. But then again, it’s really basic, you will not fully understand the game nor master it if you learn the strategy, there are too many variables to consider. *BTW this basic strategy is contained in several introductory books.
- Strategy = Character. Ever heard of Scholar's mate or Fool's Mate? Such things do not exist in Go. Your personality will define your game, learning Go from a master will mark your life, but still you will not play like your teacher. Eventually your mind will develop a path of its own. You must build from an empty board with a resource efficient strategy in order to surround and gain territory, there’s no fixed target to attack, resembling Sun Tzu’s Art of War approach.
- In terms of math: “For combinatorial game theory terms, Go is a zero-sum, perfect-information, partisan, deterministic strategy game, putting it in the same class as chess, checkers (draughts) and Reversi (Othello); however it differs from these in its game play. Although the rules are simple, the practical strategy is extremely complex… numerical estimates show that the number of possible games of Go far exceeds the number of atoms in the observable universe.” - Wikipedia.
Ok now, back to 2016… I really can’t believe what I just read. Though it is remarkable that ever since 1997 we have computers that can play chess and beat human champions, it’s just remarkable; chess is quite predictable and though it is one of the most complex strategy games ever created it is on a very different level. What chess lacks is exactly what Lee Se-dol mentioned:
THERE IS A BEAUTY TO THE GAME OF GO AND I DON’T THINK MACHINES UNDERSTAND THAT BEAUTY.
What Google DeepMind just accomplished falls into a whole different category, it is extraordinaire and almost unbelievable. As I mentioned before, strategy is defined by character, this means that if the algorithms these guys created learn for themselves to a level they can beat a 9-dan Go master… the algorithms are then able to predict human being conduct. Forget about Siri, Galaxy or Cortana, they just tailor information; for many experts in the field, AI capable of playing this game needs to mimic human thought and AlphaGo just beat the world’s champion 3-1 (March 15, 2016 - final set is pending).
Go is the ultimate strategy game and experts believed we were at least 10 years away from achieving this.
Is this really happening?
Seriously, future is here. We are THAT generation, the one that can click a button to do almost everything, we are those who would look out of this world to the 1400’s human beings. This is not the next step... this is the step! The one we have both feared and expected for so long. For me, a mundane regular person, this is the leap from which we can’t go back and I believe a lot of ethical, social and political matters must start evolving now; we have economical, religious and political systems that have helped us survive through all of this time, but this is radical, it’s revolutionary and therefore we must be up to what’s next. I guess as when playing Go, our character will define our strategy and the next stone we must place in the board.