AlphaGo’s win over Lee Sedol in Game 3 is a landmark for Human Kind. Artificial Intelligence has conquered the human mind.
Even top researchers in Artificial Intelligence never predicted that this could happen a week ago. But it has happened. Computers have now beaten humans at the most complicated and creative game that man ever devised. It is a landmark in human evolution in the sense that we have now created a tool that is better then our minds. Not only better then the minds of today but all the lessons of Go that humans have learned over thousands of years the game has been in existence.
When Roger Bannister ran the four-minute mile in 1954 he accomplished something that nobody thought was possible. He had reached beyond what humans thought were possible for the human body. A feat that many though could not be accomplished. It was a real achievement for the human body but more for the human spirit. However, it was an achievement not just for Roger but for humankind. Because once a human had run the four minute mile others knew it was possible and before long there were many athletes running a four minute mile. Something that was impossible before had now become ordinary. Because they saw Roger Bannister do it they knew it was possible and were able to achieve the same impossible task. This is what this creates for people in Computer Science. They now know that when they are trying to solve problems that they do not need to aim low but can aim for a goal that is even beyond what a human mind can accomplish. Most of Artificial Intelligence up to this point has been about being as smart humans or mimicking what humans do. But AlphaGo showed that Artificial Intelligence can be more than humans minds can accomplish in thousands of years means Computer Scientists can target higher then what human minds can accomplish in their computer programs. Thus opening up greater possibilities. Just like Roger Bannister did. Imagine a world where the best architecture designer in the world, Best Engineer and Best Physics Research in the world are all computers. That is the kind of possibilities this opens up. Scary yes, a different world yes, but AlphaGo is an extension of all the work that the team put into AlphaGo and is an achievement of the human spirit. It is a culmination of a lot of work over many years of many people. It is a human achievement.
This is also a landmark in another very important way. The techniques the team that developed AlphaGo used are techniques that any graduate of Computer Science can learn and understand. Though the techniques are new. Even someone who immerses themselves in the topic of Computer Science can learn enough to know how to construct the kind of structures needed to produce this type of intelligence. Given a well defined goal and a set of measurement conditions for success a Artificial Intelligence like AlphaGo can be created for any problem that far surpasses even the greatest human intelligence.
I think that AlphaGo’s achievement is the most important thing that has happened in technology in the last 50 years. Because of the world of possibilities it opens up for humans in the future.
Yes the last game wasn’t very close. But it opens up all kinds of possibility for the human spirit.
Chad Jones is CEO of Push Interactions and a Computer Science Instructor at the University of Saskatchewan.