[Humanist] 29.802 AI and Go

Humanist Discussion Group willard.mccarty at mccarty.org.uk
Wed Mar 23 07:39:59 CET 2016

                 Humanist Discussion Group, Vol. 29, No. 802.
            Department of Digital Humanities, King's College London
                Submit to: humanist at lists.digitalhumanities.org

        Date: Tue, 22 Mar 2016 12:45:20 +0100
        From: Ken Friedman <ken.friedman.sheji at icloud.com>
        Subject: AI and Go


The thread on AI and Go has been rich and interesting. I appreciate Tim Smithers’s comments and the responses. Tim’s earlier comments on the difference between "playing go" and "doing go" are very much at the heart of how and why Lee Sedol plays go while AlphaGo does not. 

To understand the difference, I suggest reading Yasunari Kawabata’s 1951 novel, The Master of Go. This explains what it is to play go. 

Kawabata's novel is a semi-fictional retelling of an actual match between two champions. Kawabata, who won the Nobel Prize for literature in 1968, reported on this six-month-long game in 1938 for a Japanese newspaper. He re-used some of his own reporting in the novel. 

The book is still imprint for those who want to get an idea of why AlphaGo cannot do and be what it is that a master go player does and is. Of course, the thread raises issues that are locked in the nature of culture — what it is to play, the meaning of play in culture, and the cultural embedment of go. So far, no artificial intelligence system can embody these. Perhaps this will change.

The thread reminds me a bit of the folk song about the contest between John Henry, a spike driver for the railroad, and a steam drill. In this case, John Henry won the competition, laying fifteen feet of track against nine for the steam drill. He died as he did so:

“Now the man that invented the steam drill
He thought he was mighty fine
But John Henry strove fifteen feet
The steam drill only made nine

“John Henry hammered in the mountains
His hammer was striking fire
But he worked so hard, it broke his poor heart
And he laid down his hammerand he died.”

The ageing protagonist in The Master of Go died not long after losing his match to the young champion.  

AlphaGo certainly won match, but there is no evidence that it played a game.



Ken Friedman, PhD, DSc (hc), FDRS | Editor-in-Chief | 设计 She Ji. The Journal of Design, Economics, and Innovation | Published by Tongji University in Cooperation with Elsevier | URL: http://www.journals.elsevier.com/she-ji-the-journal-of-design-economics-and-innovation/

Chair Professor of Design Innovation Studies | College of Design and Innovation | Tongji University | Shanghai, China ||| University Distinguished Professor | Centre for Design Innovation | Swinburne University of Technology | Melbourne, Australia 



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