Everett Wilkinson | Google’s Sublime Marketing: AlphaGo Beats Smartest Human. What It Means For You?

Everett Wilkinson — I thought I knew. Now, I am not so sure.

I always thought I will always celebrate an Artificial Intelligence victory as a triumph of the human mind. I felt that way when Deep Blue won against Gary Kasporov in 1997. I was young and earnest.

Recently, I watched the contest between the smartest player on planet earth, Lee Sedol, for the ancient game of “Go” and a computer algorithm from the stable of Google, AlphaGo. AlphaGo won the game 4–1. My left, logical brain rationalizes man vs. machine contest as a human victory irrespective of outcome. My right brain is not so sure.

When the machine won the first three games straight, the world at large (read news articles) started whispering the big I word (no, it is not an Apple product) that the computer has made forays into — Intuition.

Intuition is our (human) hack and we have not figured out how it works. We just know it works inside us. Newspapers have a way of hijacking us with their headlines. Has intuition been mastered by a machine? Or is it just hot air in the media? Here is my narrative in a story format. (I always dreamt of converting a complex topic that means something to humanity and humanize it into a simple, engaging story.)

The setting

Two players are seated across each other with the board game, “Go” staring in the middle. Lee Sedol has the Korean flag in front of him. The other player makes the moves that AlphaGo recommends. The flag in front is United Kingdom’s Union Jack. AlphaGo is Deepmind’s baby, a UK company acquired by the Google family.

This setting repeats itself for all the five games. The roller coaster of emotions and how it panned out is in the diagram below, inspired by Kurt Vonnegut’s story narrative.

What did the computer actually do? My goal — not even one jargon word.

A story about a student comes to mind. I heard this when I was young. This student always wanted to study at Wharton and get an MBA. So, he made a trip to Philadelphia, took a picture in front of Wharton and kept it in front of his computer from his high school days. When I first read about this story, what stuck me was his clear goal in his mind that was reinforced by a visual in front of him! He did know how exactly, but he did it — he graduated from Wharton with an MBA.

This is exactly what this AlphaGo did — at least in my opinion. It was trained by games of the past and was primed like a horse with blinkers. This is something we have come to expect machine learning to do — image search in Google being a great example. Read More