Yang Hai doesn’t want to be just a Go Player1 any more. Well actually he never wanted to be “just” a Go player; he’s always wanted to be one of “the” Go players. He has talent and he has always wanted to use it to push himself further, which is why he’s been able to stay with the Chinese institute for as long as he has. But now his dream has changed, he doesn’t want to be just a “Go Player”, if he had to describe it, he would choose the words Go Creator. A god; surveying his universe upon the Go board.
He wants to create a software program capable of beating professionals at their own game. Computers have so much potential. They improve so quickly; Moore’s law declared that the number of transistors for integrated circuits would double every two years2; and it’s true, even if they have decided to now change the law so that it now reflects data density. Just imagine if that potential could be turned to a game filled with so many beautiful possibilities.3.
It's for this aim that he practices and teaches himself programming, that he volunteers time towards an open source web server that can play Go against opponents waiting for their "real" rivals to log in.
Yang Hai wants to be there. He wants to be there when they make a better Go player and can compute the hand of Go. It amuses him, to think that while he will never be the best Go player in the world – he could be responsible for creating one.
And if computers can play a good game of Go – then no one will ever have to sit alone waiting for someone else to log in just so that they can play a good game. Everyone will have the opportunity to reach further, to find their own ultimate rival – as opposed to hoping that they will be the one lucky enough to take advantage of particular events and points in time.
That’s not what says though, when he’s applying for research jobs. Over and over again; he needs to get a foothold as soon as possible, before he has to settle old. When it comes to things like dreams, he knows that if you slack off early, then you're finished.
So he instead explains in detail about the theoretical difficulties that Go presents4, how there are too many possibilities for a computer to understand what humans can intuitively do. He talks about artificial intelligence and decision making. He talks about the downsides of brute-force computing with hundreds of thousands of calculations in comparison to more intelligent algorithms, a program that can pick out the right directions to begin with.
He talks about a focus on improving software not hardware and making technology smarter - not more powerful. He talks extensively on anti-computer tactics, how computers can be easily fooled by sub-optimal moves and traps that humans can avoid5, by giving example after example.
He formulates his arguments to his audience; he compares and contrasts IBM's chess software, with the possibilities for more challenging computer bosses. He talks to an expanding private company about how military opportunities with remote soldiers that are capable of decision making and prioritizing their activities.
He name drops every the examples he can think of, such as NASA’s plans on making a program that can pick out the rocks they are likely to be interested in and specifically take pictures of such – saving the researches time and maximising the potential to learn new things. 6 He talks and he talks and he talks until even his own eyes begin glaze over – he hasn’t got long before he needs to get a job and settle down. He hasn’t got long to find what he really wants to do, before he'll need to settle for something else.
He started studying other languages because it would help him understand opponent’s mindsets and broaden his experience (plus it is discomforting to listen to people you do not understand) – now he studies because it will broaden his chances to be accepted, since he will be able to present his own and other's ideas to a wider audience.
Now it’s finally paid off, a company in Japan has offered him a three month graduate position in their research department. There's the strong possibility of it being extended if he does well and it hits him, that this is it, he can move ahead – but at the same time away from everyone else.
This is exactly what he wants, but is he ready to move away into Japan? He has only has one real friend in Japan, Isumi as well as a few Go acquaintances – who tend to be formal and traditional and older. There will be no family, no cousins to check up on him and vice versa, no dorm mates, no classmates, no people that he can brainstorm with aside from work and the internet. Which his family back home still doesn’t have much access to, so there will be a continuation of expensive phone calls.
There will be no more gambling for computer parts, no more late night tutoring sessions – and oh no, he’s just realized that he’s actually going to miss Le Ping’s crazy antics popping in and out of his room. He must have brain damage to miss that brat.
He knows having doubts now is stupid, but he still can’t get himself to start writing his acceptance letter and begin doing all the things he needs to do to in order to live in Japan.
A short break he thinks - and goes to log into his MMO game to take his mind off things. He just needs to calm down and approach it logically.
He logs in, and almost immediately his PM box receives a flurry of messages
Whisper from Zelda: Hey Atomu!
Whisper from Zelda: Haven’t seen u in ages!
Whisper from Zelda: How u doing?
Whisper from Zelda: How did ur application for graduate positions go?
He throws back his head and laughs; the mage has just reminded him that there are more than just traditionalists in Japan – and that he can always create new friendships. Feeling a lot more confident about the future, he types back.
Whisper to Zelda: Pretty good on both accounts – I’m coming to Japan for at least a little while!
Whisper to Zelda: Want to meet up?