No Go: AlphaGo vs. human Go master match censored in China

It looks like it will take more than a friendly game of Go.

With Google’s AlphaGo artificial-intelligence program back at it, making friends/enemies as it defeats humans in the ancient board game and playing the world’s best player, Ke Jie, of China, there was talk about Google wooing Beijing after a long hiatus from that country.

But China censored live-streaming of the game. It also reportedly banned any live coverage of the match, including text commentary. This happened despite Google’s announcement that the “Future of Go Summit” is a collaboration with the Chinese government.

In the first match on Tuesday, AlphaGo narrowly defeated Ke, who later compared the AI to a deity: “Last year, it was still quite humanlike when it played. But this year, it became like a god of Go.”

Google pulled its search engine from China seven years ago over a censorship dispute but has made compromises there. Its executives insist that Google continues to do business in China. But by most accounts the company continues to want to expand its presence in the world’s most populous nation, including planning to reopen its Google Play app store there.

Whatever Google’s relationship with China, AlphaGo is said to have inspired that nation to up its game on artificial intelligence. The Chinese government increased funding for AI research after AlphaGo defeated South Korean player Lee Sedol last year, according to the New York Times, which reports that it marked “a sort of Sputnik moment for” China.

There are two more Go matches between AlphaGo and Ke, set for Thursday and Sunday.


Photo: Ke Jie, China’s 19-year-old Go player, reacts during his first match against Google’s artificial intelligence program AlphaGo in Wuzhen, east China’s Zhejiang province on May 23, 2017. (AFP/Getty Images)


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