Think you are great at debating? Would you still win if it is Computer versus human debate? A project from IBM, a computer hardware company, suggests that computers are getting quite good at arguing and debating.
Harish Natarajan, 2016’s World Debating Championships grand finalist, on Monday faced off against IBM’s Project Debater, which according to the Hardware Company, is the first artificial intelligence system built to meaningfully debate humans.
While Natarajan ended up winning the contest, the event successfully demonstrated that the computer was capable of making increasingly complex arguments, CNN reports.
The AI project has been in the pipeline since 2012. It is designed to come up with logical, consistent and convincing speeches, while taking into consideration the argument presented by its human opponent.
The Computer versus human debate project can even generate its own arguments and rebuttal, and closing argument by using newspaper and magazine articles from its own database and also taking in the arguments of its human opponent. Another interesting element of this project is that it cannot copy arguments from sites like Wikipedia.
The topic of the debate, whether or not preschool should be subsidized, was not disclosed to the computer or Natarajan until 15 minutes before the debate was scheduled to start. AI system debated in favor of subsidized preschool.
As the debate started, each side was given 4 minutes to present their opening statements followed by a 4-minute rebuttal to the other party. As the debate concluded, both the participants gave a 2-minute closing argument.
To access the competition, the audience was asked to vote for one side or the other at the start of the debate, and again at the end of it.
Before the debate, 79 percent of the audience voted for subsidized preschool while 13 percent disagreed. By the end of the event, 62 percent of the audience agreed and 30 percent disagreed. Since the result was decided by which side gains the most percentage points, Natarajan ended up winning the debate.
While the votes were being calculated, Natarajan stated that he found it interesting that the IBM’s Project Debater could contextualize information and pull details from research
He asserted that a combination of this technology and human skills “could be incredibly powerful.”
According to the IBM, this technology can help in exploring problems that don’t necessarily have a single answer.
Watch the highlights of IBM’s Project Debater vs Harish Natrajan debate video –
Know More About IBM’s Project Debater
IBM’s Project Debater was developed at IBM’s lab in Haifa, Israel. The project was proposed by Noam Slonim in 2011 as the IBM Research next Grand Challenge, following Deep Blue and the victory of Watson in Jeopardy! It was exposed for the first time in a closed media event at June 18, 2018, in San Francisco, under the leadership of Ranit Aharonov and Slonim, both from the IBM Research lab in Haifa, Israel.
To develop IBM’s Project Debater, the research team had to endow the system with three AI capabilities:
- Data-driven speech writing and delivery: Project Debater is the first demonstration of a computer that can digest massive corpora, and given a short description of a controversial topic, write a well-structured speech, and deliver it with clarity and purpose, while even incorporating humor where appropriate.
- Listening comprehension: the ability to identify the key concepts and claims hidden within long continuous spoken language.
- Modeling human dilemmas: modeling the world of human controversy and dilemmas in a unique knowledge representation, enabling the system to suggest principled arguments as needed.