Go is considered the most challenging board game ever devised by man. Invented in China near 3000 years ago, it also remains one of the most popular. Although it may appear like a deceptively simple version of chess at first, the game demands an incredible intensity of concentration, smarts, strategy and intuition. The variations of game play are infinite. Its challenges represent much more than a game of play in many circles; some consider it a great art and a defining human endeavor. As one of the world's most intellectually demanding games, Go constitutes a major goalpost in the world of artificial intelligence as well. AlphaGo is a thrilling feature-length documentary which chronicles the first match-ups between a human champion of the game and an AI opponent.
The computer program known as AlphaGo was devised by Deep Mind Technologies. Their efforts to master the game through artificial intelligence is about much more than mere fun and games; they hope they can apply these same self-learning technologies to resolve more meaningful issues and challenges that mystify and trouble the human species. But first, in order to prove its competence, they must put their program through the ultimate test.
Enter Lee Sedol, a South Korean Go champion of unparalleled skill. Seen as "the ultimate human versus machine smackdown", the match generated a global media frenzy. Sedol is a creative player of great ingenuity and instinct. He entered the match with extreme confidence while the designers of the program expressed uncertainty of the outcome. The film depicts the journey to that outcome with all the nail-biting tension of a Rocky film.
In the lead-up to the championship bout, the film traces the origins of Go and its consistent prominence around the world today, and how it defines the lives and philosophies of its players. We also follow the efforts of programmers and designers in crafting a more efficient and competitive form of AI.
By the conclusion of this captivating documentary, AlphaGo raises even deeper issues about our relationships to these technologies, how they challenge us to make more of ourselves or question the limitations of our own species. What can we learn from them and vice versa?
Directed by: Greg Kohs