World go champion Lee Se-dol was confident about beating Google's artificial intelligence (AI) AlphaGo in a five-game match that starts today, but cautioned that it won't be a sweeping victory.
Lee took a step back from his previous prediction of a 5-0 landslide victory, citing AlphaGo's capability to mimic human intuition.
"The final score may not be five to zero," Lee said during a press conference in Seoul, Tuesday. "Considering the algorithm that may mimic human intuition to some extent, I may lose a game if I make a human mistake."
Lee pointed out playing against a machine is quite different from a human opponent because machines do not show physical responses that he can consider when making a move.
"I will remain alert and play a beautiful game," he said.
Lee, who has been the world champion of go or "baduk" for the last decade with a nine-dan rank, admitted that machines will beat humans in the long run.
"We cannot go against the trend. I think machines will beat humans someday. Humans will be defeated in the long run," he said. "If I get defeated it might be negative for go and this is inevitable in this modern life. However, it will not destroy the value of go itself."
Demis Hassabis, chief executive officer of AlphaGo's developer DeepMind, introduced the AI's advanced algorithm that uses two neural networks that streamline the number of possible positions, helping the machine make more efficient moves.
Hassabis said go is one of the most complex games that has ever been developed by humans and requires a high level of intuition and calculation and thus is very difficult for machines to determine which side is winning.
Hassabis said the company has devised the AI to not only mimic human experts but also do better than them by learning from data accumulated from numerous simulations. Last year, AlphaGo defeated European go champion Fan Hui 5-0.
Winner is humanity
Hassabis said, AlphaGo will never get tired and will not be intimidated, unlike a human opponent.
But at the same time, he underlined that machines still have a long way to go before exhibiting real human intelligence.
"We are many decades away from a real human intelligence," he said.
The CEO said the company's mission is to ultimately use the AI technology for complicated real world problems.
"What we hope to do includes healthcare, robotics and smart assistance software on your smartphones," he said.
At Tuesday's event, Eric Schmidt, executive chairman of Google's parent company Alphabet, said humanity will be the ultimate beneficiary of the historic match.
"The winner here, no matter who wins, is humanity," Schmidt said. "This is a great day for humanity, humans will be smarter and the world will become a much better place."
Played on a board with a 19x19 grid of black lines, go is such a complex game that until recently AI was only able to defeat amateurs.
The Google team had to use a new approach and came up with the upgraded AI that involves two neural networks, software that mimics the structure of the human brain.