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AlphaGo's Domination Has South Korea Freaking Out About Artificial Intelligence

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For many fans of artificial intelligence, the stellar performance of Google’s AlphaGo machine over human world champion Lee Sedol was a historic milestone. For some in South Korea, however—where the game, known as Baduk, has deep roots—the victories are a little more unsettling.

The New Scientist reports that AlphaGo’s 4-1 domination of Sedol has produced fears about the future of artificial intelligence, and some have been left wondering what’s in store for humans after the machines inevitably take over.


“Last night was very gloomy,” Jeong Ahram, lead Go reporter for Joongang Ilbo, a large daily newspaper in South Korea, told New Scientist following the machine’s first victory. “Many people drank alcohol.”

The tournament left many people around the globe on edge—fear of intelligent robots (TERMINATOR!) is a common human trait, after all. But in South Korea, where the game is incredibly popular, Lee Sedol’s defeat was particularly painful.


From the story:

Headlines stacked up in the South Korean press too: “The ‘Horrifying Evolution’ of Artificial Intelligence,” and “AlphaGo’s Victory… Spreading Artificial Intelligence ‘Phobia.’”

What has people particularly concerned is AlphaGo’s intuition and creativity: It’s one thing for a machine to make moves automatically and, well, like a machine. But AlphaGo’s moves displayed a certain element of sophistication and beauty—in an odd way that humans weren’t expecting—which doesn’t seem to bode well for us humans.

Suspicion hasn’t been the only response, however. The Korea Herald reports that interest in Go has exploded since the tournament, and adults and kids alike are flocking to academies and teachers to learn how to play.


The mild existential crisis hasn’t gone so far as to deter interest in the study of artificial intelligence, however. A recent editorial in the Korea Herald encouraged the country to pursue the field, arguing that “the day will come soon when artificial intelligence is applied to important real-world problems.” That’s right, no sense in fighting the inevitable. We’ll all be reporting to them one day anyway.

[New Scientist]