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by Jason Snell & Dan Moren

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Linked by Jason Snell

The sadness and beauty of a computer that plays Go

Pretty great piece in Wired from Cade Metz about a Google-owned AI beating grandmaster Lee Sedol at Go:

In essence, the machine was abandoning a group of stones on the lower half of the board to make a play in a different area. AlphaGo placed its black stone just beneath a single white stone played earlier by Lee Sedol, and though the move may have made sense in another situation, it was completely unexpected in that particular place at that particular time—a surprise all the more remarkable when you consider that people have been playing Go for more than 2,500 years. The commentators couldn’t even begin to evaluate the merits of the move….

“It’s not a human move. I’ve never seen a human play this move,” [European champion Fan Hui] says. “So beautiful.” It’s a word he keeps repeating. Beautiful. Beautiful. Beautiful.

This, to me, is the most fascinating aspect of this story. That Go is such a complex and subtle game that when a computer plays it, it may find ways to win that humans would never, ever attempt. That after thousands of years, we have something to learn about this game—and a computer is the one that will teach us. As it beats the pants off of us.

The computer won the match, 3-0.