The great debate : MAN vs. AI

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AI is yet to defeat humans in debate as Harish Natarajan defeated the IBM’s Project Debater

This Monday, the world saw a grand finalist of 2016’s World Debate Championships face off against IBM’s Project Debater – a computer considered to be the world’s first artificial intelligence system built to debate humans. The event was organized by a non-profit debate-hosting company with the topic “whether preschool should be subsidized. Natarajan spoke in favor whereas the Project Debater spoke against it. Even though Natarajan won, the computer provided mind blowing statements and arguments.

Project Debater

Project Debater has been in development since 2012. It is designed to come up with coherent, convincing speeches of its own, while taking in the arguments of a human opponent and creating its own response. To produce its responses the system takes out information from articles in newspapers and magazines and not the websites or blogs and thus authenticity of the arguments increases.

A poll taken before the debate produced that 79 percent of the audience agreed that preschool should be subsidized and 13 percent disagreed. But by the end of the debate, 62 percent of the crowd agreed and 30 percent disagreed. Since this style of debate is scored by which side gains the most percentage points, Natarajan took the win.

With the recent development in the fields of AI, Project Debater just shows how AI systems have become increasingly flexible. The AI we generally use to like digital assistants built into smart speakers. Which can only be of usage in very narrow ways, such as answering specific questions.

This system shows how the technology may also be useful to explore problems that don’t necessarily have a single answer. But might rather depend on how the human mind or judges the situation. This might help people find new ways to work with computers, and to use AI to help us come up with more solutions to problems.

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