A Go master famed as the only human to defeat Google’s AI player has retired from competition, saying there is no point any more as even the best contestants pale in comparison to the machine.
Lee Se-Dol, 36, won 50 international and domestic Go titles over a legendary career in the Chinese boardgame, which involves two players alternately placing black-and-white stones across a checkerboard-like grid.
The South Korean retired from professional competition last week three years after a famous match against Alpha Go, an AI player developed by Google’s DeepMind Technologies. The computer won four times in five rounds but Mr Lee’s sole win in one bout remains the only time a human has beaten the AI player.
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On Monday Mr Lee said he had retired after realising humans can no longer compete with technology.
“With the debut of AI in Go games, I’ve realised that I’m not at the top even if I become the number one through frantic efforts,” he told the Yonhap News Agency in Seoul.
“Even if I become the number one, there is an entity that cannot be defeated.”
Mr Lee did not deny that his retirement decision was also influenced by a conflict with the Korean association for Go professionals over the use of membership fees.
He had resigned from the Korea Baduk Association (KBA) in May 2016 and is now suing the association for the return of his money.
Mr Lee now plans to face off against another AI Go player next month to commemorate his retirement.
His new competitor will be HanDol, a program developed by South Korea’s NHN Entertainment Corp that has already defeated South Korea’s top five Go players.
Some media commentators in South Korea have speculated that Lee may enter politics after quitting his Go career, noting he made a public speech in support of President Moon Jae-in during his election campaign in May 2017.
When asked if he has political ambitions, however, Lee denied it flatly, saying he is not suitable for politics.
"Membership of the National Assembly is not one of high status but a post that serves the people,” he said.
“I’m not suitable for the post. I’m also too young to do the job and have something else to do," he said, asserting his only dream for now is to rest and spend time with his family.