Lee Sedol

Defeated again

Kim Min-Hee-Pool/Getty Images

Is AlphaGo unstoppable? It felt like it today, as Google’s artificial intelligence crushed the best that humanity has to offer in Go. It wasn’t even close.

After yesterday’s historic round one loss, it may have been a restless night for legendary player Lee Sedol. Lee arrived in the arena noticeably worn, his eyes blinking.

He seemed to eke out an early advantage in game two, but AlphaGo seized control of the board as the game wore on, making a series of incisive yet unorthodox moves.

The software flashed its cold, calculating nature towards the end of the game when it seemed to make a mistake, allowing Lee to capture several stones. Lee blinked in disbelief as he recounted the board. But it was false hope: AlphaGo didn’t care about the gap – it makes whichever move will maximise its chances of winning, regardless of the margin.

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Hard, cold intelligence

Commentators were stunned as the reality set in. “Goodness gracious,” said Andrew Jackson of the American Go Association, in a livestream from the match site. “How could this happen?” sighed his broadcast partner, Go professional Myungwan Kim. “I can’t believe this.”

Lee’s second loss is made more crushing because, aside from one slightly questionable move midgame, nobody could point to a crucial mistake from the human. “He might have a tough time even winning one game now,” said Kim.

Watch the best human player take on the mighty AlphaGo AI at Go

In the minutes after today’s match ended, Jackson said AlphaGo’s flawless play left him in shock. “Things that looked questionable in hindsight turned out to be correct. That’s its hallmark.”

At yesterday’s post-game press conference, Lee looked shell-shocked. Today he seemed resigned. One reporter asked what AlphaGo’s weaknesses are? Lee laughed: “Well, I guess I lost the game because I wasn’t able to find out.”

As Lee filed out of the press conference, his thin frame lit up by flashing cameras, a lone Korean reporter cried out, “Lee Sedol, fighting!”

No one responded.

Read more: Does a machine beating a Go master mean human-like AI is close?

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