AlphaGo: man, machine and everything in-between.

The documentary AlphaGo, unpacks not only the history and future of our human relationships with games like Go, but also picks apart the triumphs of technology and the confusing interactions we have with emerging powers of AI technology. The sheer mathematical, engineering and digital design feat that is creating a program like alphaGo was enough to amaze me in the initial introduction of this documentary. The team at Deepmind and Google achieve a masterpiece of technology, as it explains the painstaking learning and building blocks that go into the creation and editing of this kind of software. Shi Yue, a top Go player from China describes the programs strategy as “They’re how I imagine games from far in the future,” this incredible program has quickly defeated the masters of the game around the world, showcasing its dominance. However, how miraculous and impressive this computer program is, the aspects of the documentary that properly held my attention and intrigued me further were the human interactions and histories that were tied into the game Go, and how the upheaval of this through technological input brought a lot of these shadowed characteristics to light. 

A longtime lover of family and strategy games, mainly backgammon and Othello, which is greatly similar to Go, though vastly simplified, the personal connection to the game that many of the players had really impacted me. The first european master of the game that the film interviews as he plays against the computer seems baffled and hurt that an AI could be prominent at a game that is renowned for its connection to the individual’s thought process and personality that shines through when playing. When he lost, a piece of his identity seemed to vanish as well; showing how deeply engrained the game was in his life. The game obviously was more than a strategy game or an activity, verging on a spiritual ritual and a cornerstone that builds onto a global community of Go fans. As a historical and worldwide phenomenon, Go acted as an ode to the human condition and achievement, glorifying the ability to think and comprehend as well as providing a cohesive link to our histories and cultures. When this link was severed by the emergence of technology not only mimicking but surpassing in these abilities, it disturbed the master and creation balance many people view in their relation to technologies. 

This triggered a childhood fear of technologies stemming in fictional works like the film “The Matrix’, where evil robot overlords pray on the poor human population that they had long ago overthrown. This trope is common in science fiction movies, where technology, especially AI softwares are portrayed as an evil creation, that we as humans pushed too far until they overpowered us. When viewing AlphaGo, I was struck by these similar narratives. Are we fulfilling a prophecy of evil robot takeover? Or is technology and its eventual superiority to man just a step in humanities bettering and evolution? AlphaGo argues for both sides through a board-game.

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