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Project Debater

June 19, 2018.

Project Debater and a human.

Project Debater and a human. © IBM.

In San Francisco, in front of a small assembly of reporters, IBM Research displayed a new AI machine dedicated to the art of debate and argument. Two humans took on the machine to debate various issues, while the audience graded the human and machine debaters. At one point, the computer pleaded eloquently in favour of government subsidies for space exploration, arguing that it will “expand our collective sense of humanity’s sense of place in the universe.” While the AI draws on a massive database of millions of articles from newspapers and scientific journals, it isn’t able to ascertain the quality and veracity of its sources, meaning that input must be curated to obtain quality output. During the debating session, Project Debater consistently got high marks for thoughtful arguments backed up with facts and quotes. It structured its points clearly and understood its opponents’ arguments accurately enough to rebut them point by point. We are already looking forward to this technology coming to a personal assistant near us: “Hey, Alexa, let’s debate central bank monetary policy.”

The Verge, “What it’s like to watch an IBM AI successfully debate humans.”

Axios, “IBM’s AI can beat humans in an argument.”