In 2016, Lee Sedol lost a best-of-five series against AI software created by Google firm DeepMind. The South Korean is an 18-time world champion and considered one of the greatest Go players of the modern age – but was beaten 4-1 by DeepMind’s AlphaGo software.
Sedol told the Yonhap news agency in South Korea that the appearance of AI capable of playing the game had left him feeling unable to truly regard himself as the best.
“With the debut of AI in Go games, I’ve realised that I’m not at the top even if I become the number one through frantic efforts,” he said.
“Even if I become the number one, there is an entity that cannot be defeated.”
AlphaGo’s 2016 was widely regarded as a landmark moment in the development of artificial intelligence software because of the complexity of the board game.
The Chinese, strategy-based board game is believed to be several thousand years old.
Go, known as Weiqi in China and Baduk in Korea, is considered challenging because of the near-infinite number of possible positions on the board.
Players take turns putting white or black stones on a rectangular grid with 361 intersections, trying to surround larger areas of the board while also capturing each other’s pieces.
Competitors play until both agree there are no more places to put stones or one quits.
Before beating a European champion in 2016 and Sedol in 2016, experts had expected it to be at least another decade before computers could beat the best humans due to Go’s complexity and reliance on intuition.