The South Korean Go champion Lee Se-dol has retired from professional play, telling Yonhap news agency that his decision was motivated by the ascendancy of AI.

“With the debut of AI in Go games, I’ve realized that I’m not at the top even if I become the number one through frantic efforts,” Lee told Yonhap. “Even if I become the number one, there is an entity that cannot be defeated.”

For years, Go was considered beyond the reach of even the most sophisticated computer programs. The ancient board game is famously complex, with more possible configurations for pieces than atoms in the observable universe.

This reputation took a knock in 2016 when the Google-owned artificial intelligence company DeepMind shocked the world by defeating Se-dol four matches to one with its AlphaGo AI system. The games had a global impact, alerting the world to a new breed of machine learning programs that promised to be smarter and more creative than AI of old.

Lee, who was the world’s number one ranked Go player in the late 2000s, initially predicted that he would beat AlphaGo in a “landslide” and was shocked by his losses, going so far as to apologize to the South Korean public. Lee made his own impact with his “hand of God” play (move 78), which flummoxed the AI program and allowed Lee to win a single game. He remains the only human to ever defeat AlphaGo in tournament settings.

Since the tournament, though, DeepMind has only improved its AI Go systems. In 2017, it created AlphaGo Zero, a version of the program which surpassed even AlphaGo. DeepMind said at the time that AlphaGo Zero was likely the strongest Go player in history. It’s understandable the Lee Sedol retires, as AI will only continue to surpass human in specific areas like Go.

Source: The Verge

Related posts: