IBM has successfully demoed its experimental AI system named Project Debater that could effectively argue with humans in a debate. In a recent event held at IBM’s Silicon Valley premises, Project Debater engaged in its first ever live public debate with humans. The new artificial intelligence system also defeated two world champions of debate in its debut show.
The debate began by preparing arguments for and against the statement: “We should subsidize space exploration.” Project Debater supported the statement with facts and expressed points such as the benefits of space exploration to human kind, how it can contribute to advance scientific discoveries, and how it inspires young people to innovate. Project Debater’s arguments in favor of subsidizing space exploration was opposed by Noa Ovadia, the popular debate champion from Israel, who asserted that there are many scientific research applications more eligible for government subsidies, here on Earth. Post Noa’s argument, Project Debater delivered a rebuttal speech, which underlined that the benefits gained from space exploration outweigh other government spending.
A snap poll was held after the closing summaries from both sides, in which majority of the audience felt that Project Debater has enriched their knowledge more than its human counterpart. An interesting fact to note here is that, for the initial demonstration, the subject was selected from a curated list of topics to ensure a meaningful debate. Project Debater was neither trained on the topic, nor supplied any script, prior to the debate. The AI system responded to its opponent’s arguments convincingly, with its own reasoning ability and persuaded many to consider its stand on a controversial subject.
Project Debater also beat the Israeli debate expert Dan Zafrir in a second debate on another statement “We should increase the use of telemedicine”, where Debater argued in favor of telemedicine. The AI system did make a few mistakes and some wild assertions such as space exploration was “more important than good roads, or improved schools, or better health care”, but its ability to quote a range of sources and ferret favorable facts are worth appreciation.
According to IBM, Project Debater is a significant milestone in their mission to develop broad AI that learns across different disciplines to augment human intelligence. It is a big step closer to their greatest AI pursuit- mastering human language. Project Debater is powered by IBM Watson, which is being used by many organizations today, to mine massive data for new business insights. It uses Watson’s Speech to Text API and is expected to contribute to enhancing Watson’s advanced language and dialogue features.
Unlike humans, Project Debater has the ability to come up with fact-based arguments that are not biased. This will definitely make it a transformative technology.