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A 21st Century “John Henry” story

AlphaGo – The Movie is available to watch free on YouTube. It’s the story of the development of the AI AlphaGo culminating in a 5 game Go match with Lee Sedol, the Korean Go champ who dominated the game for a decade.

Unlike in the African-American folk tale, Lee Sedol was not battling a steam drill, but rather an AI, a computer program using machine learning and neuro-networks.

I watched this series of games when they were being played, and still the film caught the tremendous drama. When Lee Sedol came up with the winning move in game 4 – the only game he was to win, it was hailed by Chinese player Gu Li as the “God Move”. As far as I know, that game was the only game in which a top Go professional defeated any of the versions of AlphaGo.

Since this match, more top Go bots have been created – Leela, KataGo, Handol and more, AIs that are 2 stones stronger than top human pros, even 3 stones stronger than some pros.

AlphaGo – The Movie is both informative and entertaining. It was not lost on me that while it was a machine dominating Lee Sedol over the Go board, behind that machine was a large team of humans, and as it is stated in the film, the AI is very much a human endeavor.

What are the implications of neuro-networks and machine learning for our future? For instance, can AIs be used to help develop vaccines or treatments for the pandemic we’re currently facing? I don’t have a sense where AI research is post-AlphaGo. It’s a fascinating field, and AlphaGo – The Movie is well worth your time watching.


  1. vox kadavergehorsamkeit

    It really was a fine movie. i found it interesting that the makers saw no need to put in subtitles for the parts in which Korean was spoken, even some parts that went on for a minute or more. But it was a fine decision in that without understanding the language, it was not too difficult to imagine what was being said. Nor did Mr. Lee’s smile at the conclusion of the 4th game require any translation.

    Though not part of the film, it is interesting that in future iterations of Alpha Go, the computer was not fed data on previous games played, just given the rules and then set loose to play itself. It took it all of 6 hours to beat the version that took 4 of 5 from Lee.

    AI has been put to use on defeating the coronavirus. Apparently it came up with 72 compounds that it thought had potential to defeat the virus. i am rather certain those are being investigated by researchers. Will any pay off? Who knows. But very exciting that these neural nets can be put to use trying to solve such significant issues.

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