GO FOR IT – WITH CYBORGS

Google DeepMind’s AlphaGo program defeated the European Go champion among professional players. That happened last October, but was announced only yesterday: Google had been postponing the presentation of the sensation for a few months. Even with the precedent of the IBM super-computer Deep Blue beating Garry Kasparov at chess in 1997, the victory of AlphaGo is more impressive because it’s more difficult to program an artificial intelligence (AI) machine for the game that has many more possible positions (“ a googol times larger than chess”, says Google). So, it’s another step forward on the way to AI.

I browsed the Internet to find out more about the game Go. It originated in China more than 2,500 years ago. The game was considered one of the four essential arts in ancient China to be mastered by every intellectual –calligraphy, painting, playing the guqin (a seven-stringed musical instrument), and playing Go. Professionals play it on a board with 19x19grid of lines, each of the two players using 180 (white) or 181 (black) pieces, or stones. Frankly, the game didn’t capture my imagination, reminding me of the game of naughts and crosses, which also goes under the name of tic-tac-toe. However, it’s played by more than 40m people worldwide (mainly in the countries of the Far East). We also have our own Ukrainian Go champion of year 2015 from the regional center of Rivne who ranks as a 6-dan amateur (with Go, there are 1-7 dans for amateurs and 1-7 dans for professionals).

It was more interesting to read about the program AlphaGo, which is principally different from Deep Blue. AlphaGo combines an advanced tree search with deep neural works, and it LEARNS to discover new strategies for itself by using a trial-and-error process known as reinforcement learning. In future, the strategies and technique tested on AlphaGo may be used for climate control, or for diagnosing people’s diseases and their treatment.

Robot designers predict that at some point humans and machines will merge into cyborgs, trans-humans with physical and mental abilities far exceeding a human counterpart.

The word “cyborg” is widely known in Ukraine. You come to any person in the street and ask if they know who cyborgs are and the answer will be “yes.” The name was used for the soldiers who were defending the Donetsk airport against the separatists and the Russian troops. The defense lasted 242 days. The soldiers were exclusively volunteers. For 8 months they were being under artillery fire and rocket attacks, and each time, when the enemy thought there was no one left alive in the ruins of the airport and started moving towards them the cyborgs rose up again. Such is Ukraine’s fate: to have its own cyborgs before the world has them.

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