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(EDITORIAL from Korea Herald on March 14)

All Headlines 06:55 March 14, 2016

Lee Se-dol evolves via AI
Smartphone-makers should be smart to survive

Champion Lee Se-dol finally beat AlphaGo in the fourth Go match on Sunday after losing ground to Google's artificial intelligence program in the previous three matches last week.

His win broke market expectations that few ninth-dan players, apart from Lee, would be able to outperform AlphaGo. Lee showed the possibility that human beings can evolve by studying AI-based machine's tactics, and vice versa.

Despite the first victory, the human defeat three times earlier led to despondency and fear among many ordinary Koreans as well as players and fans of Go -- also called "baduk."

There is no need to be so frustrated. A robot goalkeeper blocked two of three penalty shoot-outs by Lionel Messi, and a robot exceeded Usain Bolt in instantaneous speed. Such comparisons are different from Go matches.

The ways to perfectly prevail over AlphaGo is up to the local information technology powerhouses that have made a significant impact in global markets.

On a positive note, Samsung Group heir Lee Jae-yong and local scientists might have received great motivation from the showdown between Lee and AlphaGo. Samsung competed with Motorola in the initial stages of mobile phone development and later struggled to catch up with Apple in smartphones.

Samsung is pouring huge investments into the virtual reality field as an upgraded device of smartphones. However, the human vs. AlphaGo showdown raises the question of whether an evolved phone, backed by VR software, can be a real futuristic substitute for smartphone gadgets.

Swedish telecom network provider Ericsson said in a report that AI is expected to replace smartphones in a future IT platform for worldwide consumers. It is expected that the number of smartphone users is likely to halve by 2020.

Further, it predicted that individuals will eventually find no need to carry devices like smartphones as lots of AI functions may ultimately dominate living environments.

The next contender for Samsung Electronics is Google, which is outpacing global IT firms.

While the VR sector could provide consumers with hologram performances or sexual experiences via 3D glasses, this could mainly take the form of entertainment-driven devices, although it is hard to predict how VR software technology will develop.

VR and AI might just be for the sake of convenience. The challenge seems to be whether there can be a substitute that can take the role of communicating with human beings. The Ericsson report called this a "virtual personal assistant."

Lee's AI-based assistant -- developed by his country's firm -- may consult with him before its inter-machine showdown against AlphaGo or some others.

By this time, AI-based machines may be reporting live matches or news articles and editorials on the baduk revenge match, not on TVs or through virtual screens, but around the streets.

It is scary. But at the same time, there is little time for Korean enterprises to take care of concerns over robots' dominance over human life and their jobs.

Britain's national flag was seen on AlphaGo's side as the U.S. firm Google had taken over the U.K.-based Go program developer. This heralds AI duels among nations.
(END)

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