IBM's latest AI can hold its own when debating humans

By Shawn Knight · 13 replies
Jun 19, 2018
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  1. IBM at a media gathering on Monday held the first public demonstration of Project Debater, an artificial intelligence designed to generate persuasive arguments on any given topic – regardless of if it has been trained on the subject or not.

    Project Debater went head-to-head against two of the world’s top debaters: Israeli debate champion Noa Ovadia and Dan Zafrir. Each participant was given four minutes to make an opening statement, followed by a four-minute rebuttal and a two-minute closing argument.

    Neither the computer nor the human debater was made aware of the topics in advance.

    According to USA Today and several other reports, the AI held its own against the human competition. The humans won both matches although the AI won big in the category of “knowledge enrichment.” At least nine audience members changed their minds on the second topic at hand after hearing the AI’s point of view, the publication notes.

    IBM Research Director Arvind Krishna said the AI has made great strides in the lab over the past couple of years. Two years ago, it was only able to make one or two solid statements alongside five to 10 useless points but by the end of last year, Krishna added, it began to hold its own.

    One category the human competitors still hold an advantage in is delivery.

    “Just like in real debates, humor has to also play a role, not just a well-crafted logical argument,” Krishna says. The AI “will never do so well as when the human debater can bring in a personal anecdote or personal experience. It doesn’t know how to react to that today.”

    Image courtesy of Eric Risberg, AP Photo

    Permalink to story.

  2. captaincranky

    captaincranky TechSpot Addict Posts: 13,788   +3,204

    "IBM Research Director Arvind Krishna said the AI has made great strides in the lab over the past couple of years. Two years ago, it was only able to make one or two solid statements alongside five to 10 useless points but by the end of last year, Krishna added, it began to hold its own".

    Hey, I don't do much better than that myself. But at least I admit it.

    Admission still absolves guilt, doesn't it? Or isn't the "Church of Latter Day Technology", as forgiving as some of the others? :D:confused:
  3. Vulcanproject

    Vulcanproject TS Guru Posts: 428   +466

    IBM famously beat a grand master. Now they even have a machine that can master debates without the risk my mother told me about going blind.
    mbrowne5061 likes this.
  4. tipstir

    tipstir TS Ambassador Posts: 2,709   +170

    As a developer sure you could have AI that would understand the concept and be smart to hold a conversation with you. That's what they want to give us. Your home AI would be there for you. I know a few people rather have that system than a real person in the house. They can come home the AI in your house can say ' how was work today', boy you look beautiful etc.. This what IBM as shown us has promise but again we're all into the PC here otherwise there wouldn't be this site. For me I like talking computers since my first computer I was able to write code to have the computer interact with me.

    Look today..

    My Android OS 8.x Oreo I can say Okay Google then say anything I want call GF give me direction to Disney World from my current location. I can do this with out pressing a button or hit the mic icon. I with Cortana suppose to be able to do the same thing if I enable it. She can get carried away. So I say out loud
    Hey Contana bla bla..
  5. VitalyT

    VitalyT Russ-Puss Posts: 3,996   +2,386

    What kind of crap is this? Talking and talking about the 2-minute debate, and ending up not showing the debate? That in itself tells us it is a BS.
    psycros likes this.
  6. psycros

    psycros TS Evangelist Posts: 2,181   +1,714

    Like all tech companies IBM sells you a unicorn which later turns out to be a three-legged goat.
    davislane1, Clamyboy74 and VitalyT like this.
  7. mailpup

    mailpup TS Special Forces Posts: 7,240   +535

    Only the closing argument was two minutes each. According to the article the whole debate, including both sides, should have taken 20 minutes plus whatever pauses between each segment there might have been.

    As an aside, if the humans used were not "professional" debaters, I'm sure the arguments would have devolved into a bunch of name calling and innuendo. That would have baffled the AI into submission. :)
    mosu likes this.
  8. captaincranky

    captaincranky TechSpot Addict Posts: 13,788   +3,204

    It sounds like you're describing a microcosm of the Techspot forums....:eek: :D
    mosu likes this.
  9. mailpup

    mailpup TS Special Forces Posts: 7,240   +535

    Who me? ;)
  10. ET3D

    ET3D TechSpot Paladin Posts: 1,504   +236

    I'd love a personal AI debater. It would be a great sounding board for ideas, a devil's advocate which has access to a lot of information and can really make you think things through.
  11. Evernessince

    Evernessince TS Evangelist Posts: 2,916   +2,074

    So is this system designed to debate like most politicians or will it have genuine impact?

    If all you are doing is designing a system to win a talking contest against fair opponents, they clearly aren't looking at modern politics.
  12. captaincranky

    captaincranky TechSpot Addict Posts: 13,788   +3,204

    I've never actually heard a.politician directly answer a question they've been asked.

    The answers are typically "well uh," and then tail off into a campaign platform talking point drone, either skirting or completely ignoring the question.
    Evernessince likes this.
  13. Uncle Al

    Uncle Al TS Evangelist Posts: 4,164   +2,637

    I listened to the debate and it was interesting but if you want to be impressed with their success just dig into the information behind WATSON and it's applications to the Medical industry .... it's' starting to indicate that the need for actual flesh and blood doctors is becoming past history .....
  14. Abraka

    Abraka TS Booster Posts: 151   +44

    I said many times before that doctors will be the easiest to replace by robots. Why? Because nowadays doctors are just selling drugs for the pharmaceutical corporations. They are basically drug dealers. They don't know much, they lack basic logic, they don't see body as a whole, they are horrible engineers and horrible at diagnostics. They don't learn from their mistakes, their information exchange is ridiculous, their databases are non-existent or primitive. All they do is deal drugs.

    OTOH, machines can learn faster than doctors. Machines can have a much bigger database of symptoms and illnesses. And they naturally exchange information in a matter of seconds or milliseconds. So if someone sneezes in India, and gets diagnosed, someone in Argentina can use that information a minute later.

    Unfortunately........ pharmaceuticals won't allow machines to bring order to the chaos. They'll corrupt the software and databases to turn machines into digital drug dealers. And we're back to square one.

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