[Humanist] 29.808 AI and Go
Humanist Discussion Group
willard.mccarty at mccarty.org.uk
Thu Mar 24 07:34:50 CET 2016
Humanist Discussion Group, Vol. 29, No. 808.
Department of Digital Humanities, King's College London
Submit to: humanist at lists.digitalhumanities.org
Date: Wed, 23 Mar 2016 11:06:10 +0000
From: Gabriel Egan <mail at gabrielegan.com>
Subject: Re: [Humanist] 29.802 AI and Go
In-Reply-To: <20160323063959.6F5B36704 at digitalhumanities.org>
Ken Friedman's contribution to the debate about AlphaGo helpfully
mentions the folk song about the competition between a human spike
driver on the railroad and a steam-driven machine. This seems apposite
to me because that physical activity isn't surrounded by the aura of
consciousness that easily obscures what happens when machines compete
with humans. The force of the analogy seems to me to work in the
opposite direction to Friedman's claim about it. That is, although the
machine lost on that occasion, I don't think anyone would claim that
humans are better at driving spikes than machines are. We conceded that
point long ago. And the man died, of course.
Two anecdotal analogies also seem apposite to me:
1) In the mid-1980s I was witness to a heated debate at work between the
middle-aged owner of a Porsche motor car and a young man who was keen on
running. The matter of dispute was which of them, man or car, would be
faster over a 100 meter run from a standing start. (Actually, it was
what we used to call in England 'the hundred yard dash', but that's
almost the same as 100 meters.) They decided to settle it by a race in
the car park. It was a close thing, but the young man won by a whisker.
But everyone present reflected that after 100 meters the young man was
at the end of his endurance and about to flop, while the motor car was
still in second gear and could have accelerated steadily over the next
500 meters if there were more room in the car park.
2) In 1993 two graduate students (myself and Peter White, who went on to
manage EEBO for ProQuest) had a dispute about the speed and accuracy of
a hand-made concordance to Shakespeare's works versus a brute-force
search (on an Intel 80286-driven PC) of a collection of Shakespeare
e-texts. Under the supervision of an impartial referee we ran a race
over 10 quotations chosen at random, and White with his copy of
Bartlett's concordance won every time. But as White himself reflected,
the manual method wasn't ever going to get any faster, while with my
next grant cheque I was planning to buy an Intel 80386-driven PC that
would improve the machine's chances and so inevitably it would be the
Ultimately, no-one should care how the machine out-performs the human.
Google Translate does not do translation the way a person would: it uses
statistical inferences drawn from a vast body of existing translations
(eg from the United Nations' large corpus of 6-language translations of
its official documents). Human translators of languages should not draw
much comfort from the fact that they are doing the job in a different way.
Centre for Textual Studies
On 3/23/2016 6:39 AM, Humanist Discussion Group wrote:
> 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 Smithersâs comments and the responses. Timâs 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 Kawabataâs
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 â 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:
> âNow 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
> âJohn 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.â
> 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
> Ken Friedman, PhD, DSc (hc), FDRS | Editor-in-Chief | è®¾è®¡ She Ji.
The Journal of Design, Economics, and Innovation | Published by Tongji
University in Cooperation with Elsevier | URL:
> 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
Professor Gabriel Egan, De Montfort University. www.gabrielegan.com
Director of the Centre for Textual Studies http://cts.dmu.ac.uk
National Teaching Fellow 2014-17 http://www.heacademy.ac.uk/ntfs
New book: Shakespeare and Ecocritical Theory:
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