18 June 2018: Dr. Noam Slonim, principal investigator with the IBM Project Debater for a debate between the computer and two human debaters in San Francisco (AP)
(Copyright 2018 The Associated Press. All rights reserved.)
The rise of the machines, continued – IBM has unveiled a computer that uses artificial intelligence to take on humans in a debate.
The “Project Debater,” system is a 5-metre-tall machine in the form of a monolith with TV screens on the sides and a feminine voice. The computer, which is the result of a five-year project, processes speech and is equipped with human thinking and rationality.
In his first public demonstration on Monday, IBM pitted the system against two professional Israeli debaters: Noa Ovadia and Then Zafrir. Discussion topics at the San Francisco demo recorded in space exploration, and telemedicine.
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In the first debate, an argument for and against subsidised space exploration, Project Debater took Ovadia, in 2016, the Israeli national debate.
The computer, made and delivered to the opening argument by pulling in information from its huge internal database of a large number of sources, such as newspapers, magazines and other sources. Then listened to his human opponent’s counterargument, and spent four minutes rebutting.
“The funding of space exploration is like investing in really good bands,” says the computer. “Such research would be an enrichment of the human spirit, inspiring young people and a very good investment,” he said, making it more important even than good roads, schools or health care.
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After the conclusion of the arguments of both sides, a snap poll showed that a majority of the members of the audience thought that Project Debater enriched with their knowledge is more than his human counterpart, according to Arvind Krishna, Director of IBM Research.
In a second debate, this time against Zafrir, the computer, the debate on the future of ehealth.
“IBM researchers are exploring the boundaries of AI by teaching computers to create engaging and better-informed views. The goal is to build a system that helps people make evidence-based decisions when the answers are not black and white,” says IBM.
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“It is important to note that the discussion topic is not known in advance, and Project Debater is not pre-trained on a specific subject,” it explained.
A machine can debate a man? 6 years ago we embarked on a mission to find out. Today, we share the first glimpse of #ProjectDebater. https://t.co/mvjTtdqCUD pic.twitter.com/kT0Wwuw51u
— IBM (@IBM) June 19, 2018
The idea for creating a “Project Debater” came after IBM’s supercomputer Watson beat two human quizmasters on a “Danger” challenge in 2011.
IBM is of the opinion that the advent of the “Project Debater” is a ground-breaking due to its ability to handle a deeper level of the human thinking and analysis, a performance that still need to be addressed in the area of artificial intelligence.
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“If you think that the rules of the debate, they are much more open than the rules of a board game,” said Ranit Aharonov, who manages the debater project.
A number of the benefits of the “Project Debater’ also has the ability to collect data and create detailed supporting documents at a faster pace than the man. In addition, an expert in the identification of the most important details of an argument. On the other hand, the lack of skill in verbal expression. Some of her expressions just sound awkward and unnatural.
“People tend to be more effective in the use of more expressive language, the original language,” says Dario Gil, IBM, vice-president of AI research. “They bring in their own personal experience as a way to illustrate the point. The machine is not in the real world or live a life that it can tap into.”
As of now there are no immediate plans to turn Project Debater in a commercial product, but Gil said it could be useful in the help of lawyers or other human employees to take informed decisions.
The Associated Press contributed to this article.