Just over a month ago, a Google computer program named AlphaGo competed against 19-year-old Chinese prodigy Ke Jie, the top-ranked player of what is believed to be the world’s most sophisticated board game, Go. (According to Wikipedia, the number of possible moves in Go–a number estimated to be greater than the total count of atoms in the visible universe–vastly outweighs those in chess.)
Soon after losing the decisive second match in a series of three, Ke blamed his loss on the very element that separated him from his foe:
“I was very excited. I could feel my heart bumping,” Ke told The New York Times in an interview. “Maybe because I was too excited I made some stupid moves…. Maybe that’s the weakest part of human beings.”
But this was just the beginning.
One Month Later: An Extraordinary Response
Fast forward one month later.
With some time to reflect, Ke Jie said the following in an interview (which was shared on Twitter by Demis Hassabis, founder and CEO of DeepMind, the company that developed AlphaGo):
“After my match against AlphaGo, I fundamentally reconsidered the game, and now I can see that this reflection has helped me greatly. I hope all Go players can contemplate AlphaGo’s understanding of the game and style of thinking, all of which is deeply meaningful. Although I lost, I discovered that the possibilities of Go are immense and that the game has continued to progress. I hope that I too can continue to progress, that my golden era will persevere for a few more years, and that I will keep growing stronger.”
In a few short sentences, Ke demonstrated that what he felt was a weakness–the impact of emotion–was actually his greatest strength.
It’s the hurt from losing that caused Ke to engage in self-reflection, caused him to find meaning in his loss. It’s emotion that inspired him to pursue growth and progress.