Computer versus human, who won the debate? | #101090

Ruben Fields
February 15, 2019

"What really struck me is the potential value for Project Debater when synthesised with a human being, and the amount of knowledge that it is able to grasp", said Mr Natarajan.

Harish Natarajan has won over IBM's six-year-old artificial intelligence (AI) debating system, affectionately dubbed "Miss Debater". Project Debater drew information from a repository of 300 million articles during the debate, citing studies which showed a positive outcome as a result of preschool subsidization.

"It needs to pinpoint these little pieces of text that are relevant to the topic, that are argumentative in nature, that hopefully support our side of the debate, and then somehow glue them together into a meaningful argument, which is very hard for a machine to do".

Under the hoodThe AI system works by pinpointing relevant evidence from a massive memory of 10 billion sentences and can pinpoint text that is relevant to topic argumentative in nature and support the debate and glue them together in a relevant narrative.

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. The guy was a finalist of the world Championship debates among universities and European competition debate. Aya Soffer, the vice president of A.I. technology for IBM, noted that while this may seem unfair it should be taken into account that the human that the debating "has learned all his life".

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Monday's debate, which was organized by nonprofit debate-hosting company Intelligence Squared US, was held in front of an audience in San Francisco's Yerba Buena Center for the Arts.

"The system uses a unique collection of arguments relevant to the topic, touching on core issues of what to say, when to say them, and what is justified, using listening and comprehension tools".

"It's not a question of whether AI is going to be better than humans", she said, but to help people filter and find key bits of information in large quantities of text. Speaking in a female voice, the bot impressed many observers with her suggestion that social welfare is a moral duty, an expression of "basic human decency".

Debater began the event by making the audience laugh, acknowledging that Natarajan was a formidable debater but adding: "I suspect you've never debated a machine". It was interesting to see that from the 79 percent audience that voted for subsidisation of pre-schools before the debate started, 17 percent of them changed their opinion after the contest was over.

At the end, the machine could not out-argue Natarajan but it drove home many points. Combining its skills with those of a human, he said, "could be incredibly powerful". But IBM's system shows how the technology may also be used to explore problems that don't necessarily have a single answer.

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