Hiromichi Shinohara Congratulations on defending your title.
Yoshiharu Habu Thank you.
Shinohara Computers relate quite closely to the world of shogi, having improved their shogi skills tremendously. As a shogi player, what do you think about this?
There are a few reasons why shogi AI developed rapidly. First, the results of development have been opened up to others. Developers engage in AI development simply because they like doing it. They do not do it for commercial purposes; they want many people to use their programs. Thus, open source programs become available one after another, promoting rapid improvement.
Second, people who had no previous relationship to shogi are now developing shogi AI. From chemistry to law, highly skilled people from various fields now participate in shogi AI development. This has led to unprecedented collaboration; we are in an interesting time.
Shinohara How have improvements in shogi programs changed the game for human players? My personal view is that matches between a human player and an AI give the human player an opportunity to discover new moves.
Yes, our view towards shogi software is changing gradually. At the same time, no matter how advanced AI becomes, it is theoretically impossible to figure out how shogi works completely. Therefore, we are not too worried about AI.
What I have found quite interesting lately is that shogi software is presenting more and more cases that remind us of the word "onkochishin" (from the Analects: to study past knowledge to gain new insights) instead of producing completely new strategies.
More specifically, strategies that were frequently used 100 or 150 years ago but that were considered absolutely useless recently are now increasingly being re-evaluated and explored to develop their potential.
Shinohara So, do these re-evaluations of strategies lead you in new directions? For example, do the strategies being re-evaluated and the original strategies suggest different plays five or ten moves later?
I would say they are slightly different; they differ a bit from the original. When we try the re-evaluated versions, they tend to make sense. This suggests that the advancement of shogi programming may result in a reevaluation of the past 400 years of shogi plays.
Of course, shogi software sometimes makes unprecedented, innovative moves as well as moves that contradict the theory of shogi, but we usually reject these moves based on our human aesthetic sensibility.
Shinohara Am I correct that by aesthetic sensibility you mean the sensibility of shogi players to dismiss certain moves because they are unartistic and to dislike certain ways of arriving at checkmate? I do not think such unconventional moves will disappear no matter how advanced AI becomes in the future. What is your opinion?
I agree. However, exposure to shogi software may impact our aesthetic sensibility.
Aesthetic sensibility never stays the same; it continues to change over time. Therefore, it changes gradually. In fact, some piece placements that were previously considered "ugly" or "bad" actually work quite well at times.
Shinohara What is your relationship with shogi software?
Yoshiharu Habu I hardly use it. To be honest, I still have no idea how to use it or how much I should use it.
Shinohara I see. Do good moves come to your mind more frequently as shogi software becomes better?
Better shogi software definitely broadens our range of ideas. Computers show us moves that we would never even think of-- sometimes they make moves we would never hit upon even after thinking for 100 years.
The issue here is that it is difficult to decide how good or bad a certain match state is. It is of course difficult for us humans to decide, but the same applies to AI. Sometimes a certain match state looks advantageous to a computer but I perceive it very differently.
Shinohara This is not about the aesthetic issue from earlier, right?
No, it is not. The moves indicated by computers are not necessarily "the" answer. A problem called the horizon effect describes how AI's evaluation accuracy drops once it reaches a certain point. So, we do not know how much we should trust the evaluation results output by AI.
Since the values output as evaluations of match states are not absolute, I feel that current shogi players must determine an acceptable range of variation for such evaluation results.
I have played shogi for 30 years, but I never dreamt that we would live in a time in which we would need to think about such variation (laughs). A long time ago, we had no databases or the Internet; we studied shogi by copying match records and moving pieces accordingly.
We live in demanding times (laughs).
AI lays out many possibilities, but it is us, the humans, who make choices. You just mentioned that AI will change human aesthetic sensibility gradually, but this does not mean that each of us will arrive at an identical aesthetic sensibility. Each individual will still be unique.
That's right. After all, AI is producing statistically better results but not absolutely correct results. This is an extremely important point.
When AI becomes part of our daily lives, we will likely mistakenly believe that answers produced by AI are correct. Even things that would be criticized as incorrect if suggested by humans may be considered correct if they come from AI. It will be challenging to figure out how to introduce AI to society while ensuring such misconceptions do not occur.
When we think about the process of evolution, standardization aimed at deciding that a certain thing is correct is clearly the wrong path. How to ensure diversity is a quite important matter.
When people make decisions, their decisions are often influenced by their emotions or ego, which are human characteristics that do not present issues of right or wrong.
As you recommended, technology should help multi-faceted people act in multi-faceted ways by promoting human uniqueness while making the most of AI.
As shogi software becomes better, it is starting to show like a mirror how our minds work. Comparing ourselves with computers gives us insight into aspects in which people are better than computers as well as where our blind spots are.
AI development is modeled based on the human brain as seen through neural networks. So, if technology continues to advance, will a day come when our difficult-to-verbalize ability to find inspiration is explained? Or, will it remain somewhat mysterious, as we now believe?
Shinohara At present, AI does not produce answers based on a true understanding or interpretation of a given subject. To me, AI's limit is that it always produces an answer, while people can say "I am not sure" or "I do not know" when they do not have an answer.
Yoshiharu Habu In other words, AI can think correctly based on flawed data and produce incorrect answers.
Shinohara That's right. For this reason, I think AI is far from achieving semantic understanding.
I often think that the concept of time differs completely between humans and AI. Humans sleep more or less one-third of the day, but AI can keep learning without breaks. AI can even learn at super high speeds. Given this, AI may make the impossible possible if provided with the right framework.
On the other hand, using the example of shogi to think about the characteristics of human minds, becoming better shogi players means reducing the number of moves we consider.
Even though there are a hundred possible moves, shogi players become able to pick from among two or three of them instantaneously. Skipping unnecessary steps is part of getting better.
I agree. Some parts of the brain think logically, while others take leaps. When people engage in activities, as you said, not everything proceeds logically. We make decisions that are rather far-fetched. This is humanity's advantage and I think it will remain so for quite awhile.
Now, please allow me to show you some of our research activities.