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AlphaGo chronicles a journey from the backstreets of Bordeaux, past the coding terminals of Google DeepMind, to Seoul, where a legendary Go master faces an unproven AI challenger. As the drama unfolds, questions emerge: What can artificial intelligence reveal about a 3000-year-old game? What will it teach us about humanity?
Filmmaker Q&A - Greg Kohs
● What inspired this story?
Experts predicted that a Go program that could compete with a top professional was at least a decade away. If DeepMind's AlphaGo was able to beat a player of Lee Sedol's stature, it would be a historical achievement with drama and intrigue.
● Describe some of the challenges faced while making this film.
Early in my career I worked at NFL Films. That experience, of being able to see the drama on the field while having access to the people and stories unfolding off the field, has always been a fascinating intersection for me. In my recent film, The Great Alone, I was able to explore the epic scale of the Iditarod through the comeback story of a single competitor. In AlphaGo, the competition between man and machine provided a similar backdrop, albeit with far larger consequences.
● How do you approach storytelling?
The complexity of the game of Go, combined with the technical depth of an emerging technology like artificial intelligence seemed like it might create an insurmountable barrier for a film like this. The fact that I was so innocently unaware of Go and AlphaGo actually proved to be beneficial. It allowed me to approach the action and interviews with pure curiosity, the kind that helps make any subject matter emotionally accessible.
● What impact do you hope this film will have?
Unlike the film’s human characters – who turn their curious quest for knowledge into an epic spectacle with great existential implications, who dare to risk their reputation and pride to contest that curiosity – AI might not yet possess the ability to empathize. But it can teach us profound things about our humanness – the way we play board games, the way we think and feel and grow. It’s a deep, vast premise, but my hope is, by sharing it, we can discover something within ourselves we never saw before.
● What next?
I'm currently in production on multiple projects with subjects who are doggedly pursuing their passions in the vein of AlphaGo, The Great Alone, and Song Sung Blue.