Jan 4, 2018
Today’s movie is: “AlphaGo” (2017), a documentary about AlphaGo, the artificial intelligence program written by Google Deep Mind, and AlphaGo’s historic defeat of Lee Sedol in March 2016 in Seoul, South Korea. I used to play Go regularly at a local club and find the game fascinating, so combining the love of that game with an interest in artificial intelligence is right up my alley.
The documentary begins with quick overviews of both artificial intelligence and Go, giving you enough information to understand the basic moves, while avoiding any deep dives into thousands of years of strategy and philosophy surrounding the game. It does highlight key points using intuitive animations to explain why this attempted feat is so important, explaining Go’s hidden complexity and the current bounds of artificial intelligence.
The main portion of the documentary surrounds two games. First, an initial series of matches in October 2015 with Fan Hui, the Chinese-born French Go player, in which AlphaGo wins five games to zero. Fan Hui would join the team, helping to further develop the program’s overall Go strategy. The Go community doubted the strength of AlphaGo, and a second series of matches was set up with Lee Sedol.
Lee Sedol faces off against AlphaGo in a series of five matches, acting as a larger battle between human and machine. At first confident in his ability, Lee Sedol is forced to resign the first three matches, as AlphaGo continues to not only learn, but innovate on the game using its programming. Lee Sedol goes from confident to almost destroyed.
However, they play the remaining two matches, and in game four, Lee Sedol plays a bold move that throws off AlphaGo, claiming one victory. You can’t help but want to shout “TAKE THAT, SKYNET!” Of course, that doesn’t prevent AlphaGo from winning the final match. Lee Sedol is humbled, but also learns new strategy that he has taken back into the human Go world.
Assuming we don’t kill ourselves a species, there is a real possibility that we’ll see a future with artificial intelligence capabilities beyond the meager uses we have right now. AlphaGo’s victory will be seen as one of the more important milestones in that development, and reciprocally, AlphaGo will also teach us new things about the game of Go in the process.
Greg Kohs delivers straight-ahead, chronological storytelling surrounding the match with just enough tangential explanations to make it exciting and informative.
One Movie Punch: 7.2/10
You can watch “AlphaGo” right now on Netflix.