move 37

In March 2016, AlphaGo, the neural network developed by Google’s Artificial Intelligence company Deepmind, challenges the world champion of Go, Lee Sedol. Go is the oldest board game in the world, invented in China about 3.000 years ago. Go is very simple and incredibly complex at the same time: the rules are much simpler than chess, but the number of possible legal positions in a Go game is larger than the estimated amount of atoms in the observable universe. Mere computational power is useless; intuition and creativity are much more important qualities for a Go player. Nobody expects the machine to beat the human in this game that has fascinated philosophers and mathematicians for millennia. But against expectations, AlphaGo beats Sedol 4 – 1 and hits the front page of Nature.


There is one specific move in the 5 –day game that has been subject to research and discussion to this day: AlphaGo’s 37th move in the second game. The live commentators fall silent after Move 37, not being able to judge whether it is a blunder or a good move. Moreover, it forces the always cool South Korean champion out of his chair – Sedol leaves the room. More than 70 million TV spectators watch an empty chair while Sedol’s time is ticking away. When their champion finally returns , he throws the towel in the ring. Sedol will later call it ‘a move of great beauty and genius.’ AlphaGo reveals how badly we master a game we’ve been playing for thousands of years with a move we never imagined.


Thomas Ryckewaert is a Belgian theatre director and actor with a background in biology and philosophy. In Move 37 his artistic and scientific interests will come together, as he will take the stage with, amongst others, cosmologist Thomas Hertog. This lecture performance is the first chapter of a larger multidisciplinary trajectory that will orbit Move 37 and the questions it raises. What are the alienating effects of A.I. and recent scientific insights in the laws and phenomena of our universe? What terrain can we still call exclusively ours? What awaits us in places we’ve considered as no-go zones? How does creativity relate to current technological evolutions? How does our quest for knowledge relate to our need for belonging and our capacity of wonder? What if our imagination becomes insufficient to imagine ‘alien’ realities such as A.I. or, say, a black hole? What are the poetics of the unimaginable?


In Move 37, Ryckewaert will seek the blurring lines between the alien and the human, the weird and the intimate, reality and fiction, lecture and performance. Towards the unexpected, into a realm beyond imagination, of which we are all part, but that we cannot control. A desperate attempt to imagine the unimaginable.