American Go E-Journal

Your Move/Readers Write: AlphaGo is unbeatable; get over it

Sunday September 10, 2017

“Apparently, some people believe that someday a human will be able to defeat AlphaGo,” writes Joel Sanet. “It’s not gonna happen. The reason is biological, not technological. No human being is capable of thinking about the game the way AlphaGo does. AlphaGo’s way of thinking is better than the human way; ergo it is no longer possible for a human to beat AlphaGo. We human beings are not capable of considering a choice of moves by determining a concrete number for each called “the probability of winning” then choosing the one with the highest value, but this is what AlphaGo does.

“Thinking that it is possible for a human to win now is due to anthropomorphization, the application of human attributes to something that is not human, a process rampant in the go community. I have heard people say, ‘AlphaGo likes the early 3-3 invasion’ or ‘He (or she) likes thickness.’ AlphaGo can’t ‘like’ anything because it has no emotions. It plays the early 3-3 invasion because it maximizes its probability of winning in certain openings. Also, as far as I know, AlphaGo has no concept of thickness. It has nothing to do with how AlphaGo derives its moves. Furthermore, AlphaGo is not a ‘he’ or a ‘she’. AlphaGo is an ‘it’.

To attribute thinking to AlphaGo is also a mistake. I wrote that it chooses the option with the highest probability of winning. It doesn’t “choose” anything because it isn’t self-aware. AlphaGo receives input, does what it is programmed to do, and produces output. To me this is more akin to a human knee jerk than to true thought. A doctor’s percussion hammer causes sensory neurons to fire off a signal to the spinal cord where it is processed and returned to the knee via motor neurons without intercession of the brain. This is analogous to AlphaGo’s input-programming-output. AlphaGo’s programming is immutable. The day AlphaGo changes its own programming is the day I’ll say it thinks.

Nevertheless, humans can learn from AlphaGo. We have learned that the shoulder hit is a lot more useful than anyone thought. AlphaGo’s new 3-3 invasion joseki makes sense so we can benefit from that, but I advise you not to do the early invasions until you are able to read the rest of the game to the end.

Alphago’s supremacy over humans is no reason to feel that studying go is a dead end. Your study is de facto open-ended because you will never reach the end of it. People study go to improve, not to become the strongest player on the planet.”