With more possible variations than there are atoms in the universe, mastering the game of Go has often been considered the “Holy Grail” of artificial intelligence (AI).
A game of unrivaled complexity, even the world’s elite players suggest that the game requires as much instinct as it does intellect. Which is why the recent 4-1 victory by Google’s artificial intelligence program, AlphaGo, over professional player Lee Sedol, was not only unexpected, but groundbreaking. It was an impressive display of both experienced and imaginative maneuvers by a machine that left the world’s most renowned player speechless, frustrated, and captivated.
While the intricacies of the matchup are worthy of their own review, the key takeaway is not the ability for AI to conquer Go, but rather its ability to conquer anything else less complicated than Go – which amounts to a lot. It is overwhelmingly likely that AI will displace human labor to at least some extent. As a result, the debate on the ethics of artificial intelligence and how societies will adjust to it, is important.
While investment and development in robotics and AI has reached an all-time high, equal attention must now be placed around creating guidelines to steer technology’s future role in everyday society in addition to considering alternative income programs to support those subject to rising job displacement. In the near term however, AlphaGo’s victory should be applauded rather than feared, as it accomplished a feat many believed was still a decade out of reach.