Google AlphaGo Artificial Intelligence Defeats Go World Champion Lee Sedol

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Chalk one up for artificial intelligence! Google’s AlphaGo computer, which hails from Google’s DeepMind division, scored a decisive victory over one of the most decorated Go players in the world. Alpha Go played in “such a perfect manner,” says Lee Sedol, who was defeated in roughly three and a half hours.

Go is an ancient Chinese board game, which has been deemed more difficult to play and master than chess. So it’s quite remarkable that AlphaGo was able to defeat one of the world’s most Go players in the first computer versus human matchup. Like Deep Blue’s (IBM) win over chess great Garry Kasparov two decades ago, this marks an incredible leap forward for the advancement of artificial intelligence.

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So how did AlphaGo beat Sedol? Well, Google’s DeepMind team spent years perfecting AlphaGo’s algorithms using both machine learning and tree search methods. It studied both human and computer players to hone its skills, and maintains a database of over 30 million moves from previously recorded games.

The first match took place yesterday at the Four Seasons Hotel in Seoul, South Korea. Four additional matches will take place with the second taking place today and the third, fourth and fifth matches commencing on March 12th, 13th and 15th respectively.

"I am in shock, I admit that, but what's done is done,” said Sedol after the match in an interview with reporters. “I enjoyed this game and look forward to the next. I think I failed on the opening layout so if I do a better job on the opening aspect, I think I will be able to increase my probability of winning."

“They were neck-and-neck for its entirety, in a game filled with complex fighting,” wrote Google DeepMind Founder and CEO Demis Hassabis. “Lee Sedol made very aggressive moves but AlphaGo did not back down from the fights. AlphaGo took almost all of its time compared to Lee Sedol who had almost 30 minutes left on the clock.”

The overall winner take home a $1 million prize, which Sedol [previously] thought would be a relatively easy undertaking. However, after yesterday’s match, that $1 million prize might seem further away from reach. On the other hand, if AlphaGo runs the tables or wins after five matches, the prize money will be donated to UNICEF, STEM and Go societies.

If you want to follow the next four matches you can watch live footage below: