One of South Korea’s most celebrated professional Go players, master Lee Se-dol, has retired, citing the futility of raging against the machines as a motivating factor.
Speaking to reporters from the Yonhap News Agency in Seoul earlier this week, Se-dol said:
With the debut of AI in Go games, I’ve realized that I’m not at the top even if I become the number one through frantic efforts. Even if I become the number one, there is an entity that cannot be defeated.
Se-dol’s 24-year career includes wins over dozens of the world’s top players, including a stint as world champion. He faced DeepMind’s AlphaGo in five matches during March of 2016 where he managed to come away with just a single win. Prior to the bouts, Se-dol predicted he’d win by “a landslide,” and by all reports he was flat-out stunned when the AI repeatedly beat him.
Still, Se-dol remains the only player to date to have beaten AlphaGo in straight-up official tournament play. This makes his retirement all the more worrisome — he’s one of the only humans on the planet capable of going toe-to-toe with the machine.
It’s worth pointing out that Yonhap News Agency further reports Se-dol’s retirement was also related to an ongoing legal dispute:
Lee didn’t deny that his retirement decision was also influenced by a conflict with the KBA over the use of membership fees. He actually quit the KBA in May 2016 and is now suing the association for the return of his membership fee.
When we think about AI disrupting industry and displacing workers we usually consider factories and farmers. But here, we see evidence that the rise of AI has a potentially curbing effect on human competitiveness at the elite, world-class level. That’s certainly some cause for concern.
H/t: The Verge