The Korea Herald


How far has AI come?

Humans, AI battle it out on SBS’ upcoming reality show

By Lim Jang-won

Published : Jan. 29, 2021 - 14:37

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Musical actress Ock Joo-hyun sings with an AI system that can generate the voice of the late singer Kim Kwang-seok (SBS) Musical actress Ock Joo-hyun sings with an AI system that can generate the voice of the late singer Kim Kwang-seok (SBS)

Terrestrial broadcaster SBS’ newest entertainment show “Battle of the Century: AI vs Human” will have experts in six different fields pitched against the latest artificial intelligence programs in a competition, starting with the first episode at 10 p.m., Friday.

The producers were inspired by the famous competition between Korean Go master Lee Se-dol and Google’s artificial intelligence program AlphaGo in 2016.

“I enjoyed watching AlphaGo vs. Lee Se-dol in 2016. At the same time, people also feared that AI could surpass humans. I think that comes from not knowing much about AI,” said producer Nam Sang-moon in an online press conference on Thursday. “The program was organized to see how far AI has come and to think of ways for humans and AI to coexist.”

One of the difficulties they faced was finding experts who were willing to compete with AI as well as finding areas where the outcome would be unclear.

In the first episode, popular musical actress Ock Joo-hyun will face off with an AI program that can sing songs in the voice and style of the late folk singer Kim Kwang-seok. Together, they will sing “Letter” by singer Kim Kwang-jin that has been rearranged by Kim Hyun-chul, a close acquaintance of Kim Kwang-seok.

“The AI Kim Kwang-seok singing ‘Letter’ in 2021 will console and touch the hearts of many people who miss and want to remember the late Kim Kwang-seok,” said producers Nam Sang-moon and Kim Min-ji.

In the following episodes, experts in fields such as stock investing, golf, and artists who can draw just based on voices, will be pitted against their AI counterparts. For golf, legendary golfer Pak Se-ri will go head to head with an AI program.

One of the concerns facing the entertainment show, apart from worries about the possibility of instilling a fear of AI, is that two of the celebrities on the show have been embroiled in separate controversies.

History lecturer Seol Min-seok was cast as one of the panel commentators while singer Hong Jin-young was set to appear as a guest on an episode to sing songs written by an AI program and a composer.

Seol admitted to plagiarizing his master’s degree thesis in December and stepped down from all the TV programs he was on, while Hong’s master’s and Ph.D. degrees were also revoked after claims emerged in November that she had plagiarized her dissertation.

“In the case of Seol Min-suk, although removing him was difficult because he did a lot of talking on the show, we decided to edit him out completely because it was difficult for him to be viewed by the public as an instructor,” Nam said. “While Hong’s actions deserve criticism from society and there is a need to take her out (of the show), that will also lead the developers’ efforts to go to waste. We are still contemplating on the issue.”

By Lim Jang-won (