He may not be a person of tech, but saw what is certain about the future of computing: AI is gaining fast and 'cannot be defeated'.
Lee Se-dol is a South Korean master of the ancient strategy game Go, or also called 'baduk' in Korea. He announced his retirement from professional competition due to the rise of what he says is an unbeatable entity.
It was back in 2016, when the 'AlphaGo versus Lee Se-dol', also known as the 'Google DeepMind Challenge Match' event, was held in Seoul.
At that time, the event was a five-game Go match between 18-time world champion Lee Se-dol and AlphaGo, an AI-powered Go program developed by Google DeepMind. At the event, AlphaGo won all but the fourth game; with all of the games were won by resignation.
After the match, the Korea Baduk Association (KBA) awarded AlphaGo the highest Go grandmaster rank – an "honorary 9 dan". It was given in recognition of AlphaGo's "sincere efforts" to master Go.
The match has been compared with the historic chess match between IBM's Deep Blue and Garry Kasparov in 1997.
After the match, Lee Se-dol knew that during the five games, AlphaGo was only once defeated and that one time was only by him. But because he ultimately lost the match as one of his reasons, the master gave up his throne and bowed.
Having retired from professional Go competition after gaining worldwide fame in 2016 as the only human to defeat the AlphaGo AI, Lee Se-dol said that his retirement was primarily motivated by the invincibility of AI Go programs.
With AlphaGo isn't going anywhere but improving and more advancing, Lee Se-dol said that:
"With the debut of AI in Go games, I've realized that I'm not at the top, even if I become the number one through frantic efforts. Even if I become the number one, there is an entity that cannot be defeated."
He continued by saying that:
"I rarely read comments on internet news about me. But I got curious about how badly people were speaking of me after my three straight losses to AlphaGo. Unexpectedly, few people criticized me."
"Frankly, I had sensed kind of a defeat even before the start of the matches against AlphaGo. People from Google's DeepMind Technologies looked very confident from the beginning."
Go originated in China, and has been around for more than 2,500 years. It involves two players alternately placing black and white stones on a checkerboard-like grid of 19 lines by 19 lines.
Lee Se-dol who had 32 victories under his belt, submitted his letter of retirement to the Korea Baduk Association, terminating his legendary 24-year career.
AI-powered software has become increasingly common. And in Lee Se-dol's case, he had been given the chances to play with DeepMind's AI, to prove how far and fast AI has improved. With AlphaGo becoming more adept at classic board games, human champions like Lee Se-dol who played and endured the process of mastering the game for years, can be defeated merely by computers that have been trained by for a tiny fraction of the time.
"I, Lee Se-dol, lost, but mankind did not," once said Lee Se-dol after his defeat against AlphaGo. "I failed. I feel sorry that the match is over and it ended like this. I wanted it to end well."
He then confessed that "as a professional Go player, I never want to play this kind of match again. I endured the match because I accepted it."