The game of Go has very simple rules, but an enormous depth of possible strategy. Unlike Chess, the huge size of the 19x19 playing board makes brute-force search by computers to be not an effective strategy for playing the game at an advanced level. As of 2003, any reasonable human amateur can defeat the world's best Go programs, and human Go experts can just toy with the programs. For more background about Go, check the links on the Kiseido Go Server.
Update (Spring 2010): the best Go programs are now competing in the middle of the professional ranks. The breakthrough insight seems to have been to use Monte Carlo methods for training the learning systems.
On December 23, 2003, a lifetime man-vs-machine Go bet was entered into by Howard Scott Roy (on the side of the machines), vs. Will Harvey, Don Geddis, and Narinder Singh (on the side of the humans).
Every six months, for the rest of their lives, the four will gather in order to play a Go match between Scott's program (the machine) and Will (the human). The stake for each match is $30, at even odds.
For a summary of results, please check the main Go Bets page.
Scott, Will, Don, and Narinder all met in computer science graduate school at Stanford University. Scott became known for making arrogant intellectual claims, which he occasionally could not back up. (The rest of us interpreted this as a money-making opportunity.)
For example, on January 14, 1994, Scott made a bet with Ronny Kohavi that he could write a machine learning (automatic classification) program that surpassed the well-known state-of-the-art at the time (a program called C4.5). Don was one of the judges. Scott lost, essentially by default, although his program did just manage to start running.
Later, Scott spent a number of years proclaiming that he had an insight in how to write a Go-playing program, which he believed would make it the best such program in the world. After listening to this endless drivel, some pointed questions eventually revealed that he hadn't bothered to implement his program completely. And that, in fact, his insight was for only one phase of the game, whereas a real candidate program would of course need to play a full game of Go.
After suitable mocking, on December 2, 2002, Scott offered a bet: in six months, he would write a Go program that would defeat a human novice. Don Geddis, who had never played a game of Go, and didn't even know the full rules, was selected to represent the humans. Which could learn to play Go better over the same amount of time: a human, or Scott's program?
On Sunday, June 8, 2003, at 11:30am, the grand challenge took place at the Stanford Coffee House. The full results are available. Suffice it to say that Scott's program lost to Don. By a lot.
Undeterred and unrepentant, Scott offered to re-up for another six months. Don was exhausted from his (needless) preparing for the contest, but Will Harvey (a much better player than Don) offered to take his place to defend the humans. Scott was less excited, but changed his tune after Don and Will each offered him 100:1 odds on $10.
On Sunday, December 7, 2003, Will, Don, and Narinder all met for lunch at the Stanford Coffee House. Scott Roy did not appear. (He would claim to being in Chicago at that time.) Scott later admitted that he had only worked on his program for about three hours in the previous six months, and given that Don (a much weaker novice) had crushed the program then, it was a mere formality that Will would win. Scott conceded the $10 each to Don and Will without even playing the game.
Following this was much discussion about future bets. Scott was happy to keep renewing on the same terms. Will, Don, and Narinder were annoyed that Scott didn't show up, and also that he didn't work on the program. (The goal, of course, is for Scott to spend enormous energy on improving his program ... only to lose miserably anyway.) Scott was not willing to raise the stakes substantially, which the rest of us thought might increase his pain sufficiently to force him to actually work on the program.
We finally settled on the perpetual (lifetime) bet described on this web page.
The official match time is 12noon, on the third Sunday of May and the second Sunday of November in every year.
The official location is the Stanford Coffee House on the campus of Stanford University. (If the Coffee House no longer exists, the primary restaurant at the main student union will be the official location.)
Update 12/15/2011: the last few matches have been generously hosted by Will Harvey at his house in Palo Alto. Matches may be scheduled for non-Coffee House locations in the future.
The place, time, and date for any given match can be changed by mutual consent of the parties. However, if there is no mutual agreement, then the party that shows up (or is willing to show up) at the official location and time will be designated the winner of that particular match. The match must occur within the month of May or November.
At least one week's notice is required for a request to change the date or location of a given match. All parties agree to make a good faith effort to arrange a mutually convenient time and location.
It is permissible for one (or all) of the parties to attend and/or participate in a given match remotely, assuming they can arrange the necessary connectivity. Some of the matches might take place entirely over a computer network. However, all parties are expected to make an effort to appear in person.
Scott Roy's program
Scott's Go program must be written manually, entirely by Scott. No use of automatic program generation is permitted. The source code to Scott's program must have been manually entered by Scott.
Scott may run the program on any computer hardware that he wishes. It is expected that over time Scott will be able to take advantage of Moore's Law, and in future matches will have access to exponentially faster hardware. However, he is not permitted to rely on more functional hardware. (For example, if someone were to create a "play Go on a chip" piece of hardware, Scott is not permitted to use that functionality in his solution.)
The entire infrastructure that Scott's source code relies on (including hardware, operating system(s), programming languages, etc.) can be no more complex and functional than that provided by standard high-level programming languages of 2003 (e.g. Java, C++, Common Lisp, Prolog). The code is not permitted to include or rely on any third-party functionality.
Scott need not come up with all the ideas himself; he is allowed to read the literature and learn of ideas invented by others. However, he is not allowed to use any of their code directly, and must re-implement anything he decides that he needs.
Will can practice or be trained as much as he wishes outside of an actual match game. During one of the games of this bet, however, he must rely entirely upon the abilities of his own human brain. No assistance is permitted from experts, friends, computers, notes, books, etc. during the playing of a match game.
The official match format is a single Go game, on a standard 19x19 board, with standard (even) handicaps.
By mutual consent of the parties, the format for any given match can be changed.
Scott may choose the playing and scoring rules, from among one of the major internationally used sets (e.g. Japanese or Chinese rules).
If, in a given match, Will Harvey defeats Scott's program, then Scott immediately owes $10 to each of Will Harvey, Don Geddis, and Narinder Singh (for a total of $30).
If, in a given match, Scott's program defeats Will Harvey, then each of Will Harvey, Don Geddis, and Narinder Singh immediately owes $10 to Scott Roy (for a total of $30).
If Will is temporarily incapacitated or unavailable during one of the six month matches, but there is reasonable hope of his recovery or re-availability in the future, then the human side can either forfeit (and owe the wager), or optionally nominate either Don or Narinder to be the human Go champion for that particular match.
If Scott is temporarily incapacitated or unavailable during one of the six month matches, but there is reasonable hope of his recovery or re-availability in the future, then Scott forfeits that particular match (and the wager is owed). However, since it is Scott's program that must play, if Scott can arrange for his program to participate, the absense of his person doesn't necessarily mean that he must forfeit.
If all four (Will, Scott, Don, Narinder) are unavailable for a given match, but the overall bet is still in force, then that particular match is a wash and no money is owed.
Amendment 11/21/2005 & 5/23/2006:
If one of the non-participating observers (generally, either Don or Narinder) does not appear for a particular match, then they will not participate in the upside of the wager if their side wins. However, if their side loses, they still owe their portion of the bet despite not being present.
Effective Date and Termination
This lifetime biannual wager begins on December 23, 2003, and continues every six months as long as Will and Scott live. The first match will take place in June of 2004.
If Will Harvey or Scott Roy dies or is permanently incapacitated to the point where they can no longer participate in this contest, then the bet is terminated.
If Don Geddis or Narinder Singh dies or are permanently incapacitated, then their portion of the bet is eliminated, but the rest of the bet continues. (For example, if Don dies, then this becomes a bet for $20 between Scott on one side, and Will and Narinder on the other.)
If Will Harvey, as a person, is enhanced so that he can no longer compete using only the abilities of a 2003-era fully-organic human being, then this bet is temporarily halted until such a time as he is able to revert to a standard human.
- If the state of the world changes such that it is not possible to hold these Go matches, for example due to lack of sufficiently impoverished hardware or perhaps catastrophic world economic or political collapse, then the matches are temporarily halted until such a time as they might be feasible again.
Wager agreed to on December 23, 2003 by
Howard Scott Roy
Note: The sections below are for amusement only, and not part of the official Go Bet.
For those interested in taking this a step too far, try to compute the expected (present) value of this bet. What would be a fair price for one of the bettors to buy their way out?
You'll need to figure out the expected lifespan of each person, and the chance that Scott will ever write a program that defeats Will. Also, don't forget to discount the value of money in the far future. This is significant, because it is likely that Scott will pay out for a (long?) time in the near future, but then may switch to receiving payment indefinitely (if at some point he does manage to write a program than can defeat Will).
Also don't neglect the idea that, if Will ever loses, he might choose to train and improve his own skills, thus raising the bar required by Scott's program.
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