Use artificial intelligence to help humans thrive: The Yomiuri Shimbun

Top Go player Lee Sedol reviews the match against Google's artificial intelligence program AlphaGo, on March 13, 2016.
Top Go player Lee Sedol reviews the match against Google's artificial intelligence program AlphaGo, on March 13, 2016.PHOTO: REUTERS

In its editorial on Mar 17, the newspaper urges the public and private sectors to work together to tap the advantages of the artificial intelligence technology.

The recent feat achieved by AlphaGo was a marvel of striking progress in artificial intelligence (AI) technology.

AlphaGo, an AI-based computer program developed by a British corporation under the umbrella of Google Inc. of the United States, has won against the world's top Go player, South Korea's Lee Se Dol, 4-1.

Previously, AI programs had defeated skilled human players in the fields of chess and shogi.

However, it was said that it would take 10 years to see an AI system win against human players in the world of Go.

It was cited as a high hurdle that the surface of a Go board is broad, and that there are an immeasurable number of choices for moves to be made in playing a match.

No wonder Japan's top master of Go, Yuta Iyama, described AlphaGo's victory as "shocking."

AlphaGo is able to learn on its own which are the best moves to make in playing a game.

The program has read about 30 million images depicting the stages of development in games played by professional and other players.

Then it has learned what kinds of patterns are preferred at which stages of development in a game, giving itself a better chance of winning.

This has made AlphaGo ever more highly skilled in playing a match.

That approach, called "deep learning," is one of the state-of-the-art AI theories.

To put its victory in a human context, AlphaGo has developed "taikyokukan" (broad-based perspective).

AI technology has already been put to practical use, such as in image searches.

It may be possible that the spread of more advanced AI technology could greatly change our day-to-day life.

There also are concerns that the technology could take over clerical work carried out by humans.

It is necessary to live with AI technology and make good use of it.

The self-driving car system is designed to prevent accidents by perceiving vehicles and pedestrians around an autonomous car and predicting how they would move.

The use of diagnostic imaging technology will increase the probability of detecting cancer cells.

It will also make it possible to predict how the condition of a cancer patient would develop, thereby enabling the patient to receive appropriate treatment.

Progress is being made in developing the technology to instantly distribute to smartphones information about which route should be taken in evacuating at the time of tsunami and other disasters.

We hope the public and private sectors will join hands in fully tapping into the advantages of AI technology.

In the United States, Google, IBM and others are fiercely competing with each other in applying AI technology to the analysis of big data, the development of pharmaceutical products and for other purposes.

It is disturbing to see that the presence of Japanese corporations is weak in this respect.

Because of budgetary constraints and other reasons, these companies have hardly been able to apply their research results to the commercialisation of products.

Research papers originating in Japan account for a slumping 2 per cent to 3 per cent of those submitted from around the world.

It is necessary to quickly nurture young researchers and engineers in this country.

The main pillar of the 5th Science and Technology Basic Plan, finalised by the government at a Cabinet meeting in January, is to realise "a supersmart society" through the use of AI technology.

If robotics technology, Japan's field of expertise, is combined with AI, a mix of these technologies could be expected to make up for labour shortages in a society whose population is decreasing.

* The Yomiuri Shimbun is a member of The Straits Times media partner Asia News Network, an alliance of 22 newspapers.