As the British Go Association explains: “At the opening move in chess there are 20 possible moves. In Go, the first player has 361 possible moves.
“This wide latitude of choice continues throughout the game,” it adds.
“At each move the opposing player is more likely than not to be surprised at his opponent’s move, and hence he must rethink his own plan of attack. Self-discipline is a major factor in success at this game”.
The number of permutations in a game of Go is greater than the number of atoms in the universe, according to the Nature science journal, “so it can’t be solved by algorithms that search exhaustively for the best move”.
For this reason, it’s not just a matter of the cold calculus of a computer working out permutations – or so Lee Se-dol hopes.
But he doesn’t seem sure: “I’ve been telling people that I was certain that I would be the winner of all five matches. But Google – which developed the programme – seems to be quite confident, too”.
He is spooked by the idea that the computer can adapt its game as it learns its opponent’s style – his mechanical opponent will adapt its style as it studies his.
This idea that a computer can learn how to ultimately beat a human has frightening possibilities if it were ever eventually translated into weapons, for example.