A game at “God’s level”

Oct 7, 2019 | News, On Campus, Uncategorized


ntroduced by eighth-grade Nueva parent Brian Koo, South Korean Go professional Kweon Kap-yong visited the Upper School on Sept. 20 to speak to the student body about the human quality of Go. 

Kweon presented in an assembly in the morning with Koo as his translator, then brought Go boards to the WRC at lunch so that he and his pupils could teach and play against upper school students. Kweon taught South Korea’s top Go player, Lee Sedol, who represented humans against Google’s AlphaGo program in 2016 in an astounding five games that, according to Kweon, shook the entire Go community’s perception of artificial intelligence.

Go, believed to be one of the world’s oldest board games, is a two-person game in which black and white stones are cast on a board. The objective of the game is to surround as many of the opponent’s tokens as possible. Go is incredibly popular in China, Japan, and South Korea, where, according to Kweon and Koo, it is used to teach lessons of philosophy, discipline, and intellect. 

Koo, who was Kweon’s student for four years starting in second grade, said he invited Kweon to Nueva because he wanted to share the game of Go and Kweon’s personal experience with AI. 

Before Lee’s match against AlphaGo, the entire Go community believed that

“As we see [more] AI, we get to think about what is human in this world. That could be a very interesting tool to bring here…because of AlphaGo, winning doesn’t matter anymore because we know we can’t beat machine. It’s more about finding other meaningful things.”

Kweon Kap-yong

Go Master

humans would win against the machine, as they believed that Go masters played almost at “God’s level,” Kweon said. Go professionals would run through every possible winning or losing scenario before tournaments since they knew their opponents so well, and they could envision 200-300 steps ahead within seconds. 

Kweon admitted that before Lee’s matches against AlphaGo, he made the mistake of claiming that his student would win 5-0, even though his former students who had gone to work in the technology industry told him the opposite and that Lee’s inevitable loss would make the Go industry “collapse.” 

Though ultimately Lee lost four out of five games to AlphaGo, Google was impressed that he had won a game at all.

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