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Experts divided over human-AI Go battle

All Headlines 11:18 March 06, 2016

SEOUL, March 6 (Yonhap) -- With the battle between a top-notch baduk player from South Korea and Google's state-of-the-art program slated for this week, industry watchers on Sunday cast divided predictions of the game, which may write a new chapter in the development of artificial intelligence (AI).

The board game "baduk," also known globally as Go, originated in China more than 2,500 years ago. Although it is similar to chess in that two players take turns playing on a board with lines, baduk is considered to be more complicated for AI programs as it holds a greater number of possibilities.

The battle comes 20 years after a computer program defeated a world chess champion in 1997.

The game, which kicks off on Wednesday, will run five rounds through March 15. Eric Schmidt, who heads Google's parent firm Alphabet Inc., is expected to visit South Korea for the match.

Professor Kim Jin-ho from the Seoul School of Integrated Sciences & Technologies said the development of "deep learning," which refers to computers expanding their intelligence capacities by themselves, makes it complicated to predict the outcome.

AlphaGo, a program developed by Google, defeated European Go champion Fan Hui in October. Although the South Korean champion Lee Se-dol boasts far higher skills, some experts expect the program's capabilities to have also improved over the previous few months.

Industry watchers said AlphaGo can learn around a million game records in less than a month, which would take 1,000 years for a typical person. Google currently expects a 50:50 chance for either party to win.

Others expect that although AlphaGo has studied more than 30 million game records, it cannot defeat Lee in terms of judgment and intuition.

"While AlphaGo is excellent in making short-term strategies, it lacks skills in making decisions steps ahead," said Jeong Jae-seung, a professor of brain engineering at the Korea Advanced Institute of Science and Technology (KAIST). "Lee is likely to win as the game of baduk calls for looking far ahead."

Some experts, however, said that even if Lee wins, the supremacy of mankind will not last for long.

"The victory or loss of AlphaGo in this game does not have a significant meaning," said Kim Dae-shik, another professor at KAIST. "AlphaGo will become stronger through the match with Lee. Estimating the outcome of another game years later will be really difficult."

colin@yna.co.kr
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