Ke vs. Lee or, China and South Korea Vie to Beat AlphaGo

So it’s only a game as they say, but the geopolitical implications seem obvious.  This board game is called Go and I have seen it played in parks around Hanoi, but please don’t ask me to explain it.  But I will quote from a article by a Hong Kong reporter that might help shed some light.  “Go, in which two players vie for control of a board using black and white pieces called stones, is considered complex because of the sheer number of possible moves.  Even supercomputers cannot simply calculate all the possible moves, presenting a big challenge for AlphaGo creators.”  But AlphaGo developers did accept the challenge and created the software that makes this game available online.

So far, AlphaGo seems to be the undisputed “artificial intelligence” champion, only being beaten once by South Korea”s Mr. Lee.  China’s Mr. Ke seems more resigned to only playing against human opponents.  He noted that he would focus more on playing with people saying that the gap between humans was becoming too great.  He would treat the software as more of a teacher, he said, to get inspiration and new ideas about moves.  Or maybe he should say that he has finally met his match, but when his “match” is basically artficial intelligence, it just may be too hard to admit defeat by a software program?  Somehow this all sounds vaguely familiar, like Dr. Frankenstein being outsmarted by his own “monstrous” creation.

AlphaGo is also demonstrating an ability to learn from its gaming experiences.  It is not just calculating moves, but learning from its own experiences.  That is something that we can all benefit from, so that we can remain smarter than our machines, I hope.

Ray Myers 

P.S.  Happy Memorial Day weekend.  Be back on the 31st.

French Connection

Yesterday was a very interesting day here in Hanoi. I had the opportunity to practice my French and recall some history lessons that take me back to infancy when my father was drafted to serve in Germany, and later, when an uncle also served in the German occupation.  When I was born my father was a foot soldier in the Army, part of the American forces that landed at Normandy during the D-Day invasion in World War II. The presentation I attended here in Vietnam was by a representative of the Ecole de Management de Normandie.   Basically it was a presentation on the use of SMART school management software to Vietnamese staff working at the national Ministry of Education and Training.

I was able to join the discussion and engage in conversation with the presenter, using my limited French conversational abilities.  Most of the staff here were quite surprised. The presentation was translated into Vietnamese for the general audience. As a college history major, and someone who is just that old, it was a vivid reminder that the U.S. presence in this part of the world is still primarily remembered as a military one.   Even before Vietnam, we lead the allies in wars with Japan, the Philippines and Korea.  

The French army left Indochina (Vietnam) in 1954.   So now Flench tech entrepreneurs sell software to the citizens of one of their former colonies/enemies.  C’est bon, n’est pas?

Ray Myers