Spoiler: If you haven’t seen the documentary and want to avoid any spoilers don’t read the post. At the same time you should watch it - it’s an incredible film.

I watched the AlphaGo documentary and it left a powerful impression on me.

The accomplishment by the AlphaGo team is incredible. At the same time I felt incredibly sad watching it and became slightly depressed. It felt very much like a man vs machine battle yet the machine was a huge team of engineers with nearly unlimited resources. You know that it’s inevitable that the machine wins and yet the way the documentary was done made it seem less of a highlight of the great work by the team and instead a defeat of a single person.

The highlight was Lee Sedol’s win in Game 4 due to a move that AlphaGo attributed a tiny probability to and wasn’t able to react. At the same time, that underscores how outmatched Lee was - on one hand it was human genius and intuition that made the move on the other hand it felt like a flash in the pan based on AlphaGo’s dominance in the other games.

I thought back to when I was a kid where we were able to have dreams at being the “best in the world at X”, where X could be any intellectual game. These days if you’re a kid the best you could hope for is to be “the best human at X” and that’s disappointing. Expected but disappointing.

Maybe I’m a romantic but I can’t help but think that something gets lost every time there’s another AI or ML victory. I’m an optimist and know technology will change society and yet there is a cost to this progress. It may be a small price to pay but it’s also a point of no return.


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