Friday 15 May 2020

Go counter Go

During my very expensive education in England, I learnt an absurd variety of games. - bezique; billiards; boxing; canasta; chequers; chess; contract bridge; cribbage; cricket (of course); croquet; fencing; field hockey; water-polo; rowing; rugger; soccer; squash; tennis; whist. With hindsight, I can only surmise that the plan was to help build a gentleman who could lose gracefully; because I was pretty much crap at all of them. Unless you are Lionel Messi, the only reliable way to be good at anything is to put in hours and hours of deliberate practice. Butterfly me was too lazy and easily distracted to put in 10,000 minutes of anything, let alone 10K hours [which theory is nonsense]. If this inventory sounds like Thomas Beecham's quip In this life try everything once, except morris-dancing and incest it may be the way I tell it. And there's a gazillion things I haven't tried and one of them is the ancient strategy game of Go [How to Go in 4 mins].

I was thinking of this when I watched AlphaGo - The Movie:  a documentary about the 2016 match between a computer called DeepMind and its coders vs 이세돌 Lee Sedol a Korean who is the reigning World champ at the game. The film is 90 minutes long. No bonking, no car-chases, no fist-fights but really exciting nevertheless. You can keep your "Exciting? Bob you really should get out more" until after you've seen it. I enjoyed it so much that I e-mailed an old acquaintance of mine from TCD, who happens to be Korean "I'm guessing; willing or not, good or not, and unlike me, you played Go when you were a nipper.  You'll get more than most out of it because about 20% of the dialogue is in Korean w/o subtitles." Which, on the face of it, is really quite racist. I'd be bemused or annoyed if one of my American pals wrote "I saw this great movie about road-bowling in rural Waterford, you live in Ireland, you'll love it". Er, nope!

But my pal Ken O'Korea, was delighted to hear from me, not least because, by coincidence, he'd just finished watching the same documentary with his family. He remembered the hoopla of the [Korean] man vs machine match back in 2016; at the time everyone he knew back home was wearing the green jersey or its Korean equivalent whether they could play Go or No. I replied I don't think it's such a coincidence. It looks like the Masters of the Go Universe had paid Google to have AlphaGo the Movie bubble to the top of everyone's recommended views. I think the lesson that "AI is teaching the Go world new Ways of Seeing" can be given a wider application. Science is a very conventional world where funding is directed at the edges of the known and we all lock-step to follow the money down quite rigid channels. Something, AI or whatever, could with advantage shift us out of the rut to do something really novel. We have had quite enough papers about TLR4! Let's see what minority interest TLR5 does for us (maybe a cure for next pandemic?).
Lee Sedol World Champ retired from Go this year ostensibly because there was no point in competing in a sport which he could never win again. Which should put pretty much all female athletes off their game because they can never be better than the best man . . . because testosterone. But it doesn't . . . because bottle.

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