March 17, 2016 13:37
Google approached baduk or go champion Lee Se-dol late last year to play a match with prize money of US$1 million, but did not tell him who exactly his opponent would be.
Google also rented the hotel venue through an event agency and did not mention the purpose.
Google's new motto is "Do the right thing," but the company does like to keep its business ventures under tight wraps. Secrecy was the hallmark of planning of the match with Google DeepMind's proto-artificial intelligence program AlphaGo as well.
Google DeepMind CEO Demis Hassabis gave a lecture at the Korea Advanced Institute of Science and Technology advocating artificial intelligence, and Google co-founder Sergey Brin paid a surprise visit to Korea when Lee scored a win in the fourth match. But the aim was clearly to keep the element of surprise at every turn to maximize publicity.
Google's corporate value rose more than W58 trillion over the past week alone (US$1=W1,195). International media published thousands of articles on the historic match and photos of Google's logo decorated the front pages of newspapers around the world.
Google has emerged as the No. 1 player in the artificial intelligence industry, beating rivals Apple and IBM. And industry watchers say it gained much more than appears on the surface.
Google began to develop AlphaGo to bolster the ability of search engines to forecast the intentions of Internet users. When AlphaGo lost the fourth round of the best-of-five match, the company apparently welcomed the defeat, saying this would help fix the bugs in the program. Google's Internet search will probably evolve in unexpected ways.
Looking back at the match, it appears that Lee was the one who jumped through all the hoops, while Google was laughing all the way to the bank. The Internet was filled with comments following the match that Lee merely netted W187 million but generated trillions of won worth of work for Google. Lee was perceived as something of a pawn in Google's attempt to test its artificial intelligence.
But who can blame it? If Google had not chosen Lee, Koreans would not have become so mesmerized by artificial intelligence. And had it not been for the match, nobody would imagine such a nail-biting race between human and machine. The thing to worry about is the sweeping changes the technology could bring when it matures.
By Chosun Ilbo columnist Kim Tae-geun
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