A.I.: How Patterns Helped Artificial Intelligence Defeat World Champion Lee Sedol
by Darcy Pattison; illus. by Peter Willis
32 pages; ages 7-10
Mims House, 2021
Some folks meet at high noon in the middle of the street between the sheriff’s office and Miss Kitty’s. But for Lee Sedol, the world’s best GO player, the showdown happened in a hotel. The date was March 9, 2016. The weapons: computer keyboards. The stakes: a rivalry between man and machine.
This book, the latest in Darcy Pattison’s “Moments in Science” series, chronicles the events leading up to and surrounding this high-stakes competition. After introducing the game of GO (the oldest game in the world), Darcy introduces the opponents, Lee and AlphaGo, a computer program. Lee gained his GO cred by placing stones on a grid, game after game. AlphaGo had an entire team of programmers teaching it how to play. Should they teach rules? Or teach it to learn from patterns?
What I like about this book: I like the way Darcy integrates the tension of competition into the story. Game day. Will man or machine win? Nope, score goes to machine. Day two – score goes to machine. Day three – score goes to machine. By day 4 we are down to the nail-biting end, and Lee steps up to his laptop… we know how this story ends. But still.
I also like the back matter: a timeline of games pitting man against computers (everything from checkers to Texas Hold’em). There’s more info about the players, the programmers, and even a challenge to write your own rules to help an A.I. learn something. Want to watch AlphaGo in action?
I emailed Darcy a couple weeks ago and she had time to answer One Question
Me: In your book you distinguish between learning by "rules" and learning by "patterns". How would you characterize the way you learn new things?
Darcy: I tend to learn by patterns because it’s easier. As the scientists found out, if you try to write rules, there are too many exceptions. It's hard to be specific enough to cover everything. Instead, if you look at patterns, it’s easier to learn almost anything.
Darcy is a member of #STEAMTeam2021. You can find out more about her and the books she writes at her website. You can also read a review of an earlier book in the series here. Review copy provided by the publisher.