The day has finally come when an artificially intelligent entity engaged in a live public debate with a human. Earlier this week, at an event held at IBM’s Watson West site in San Francisco, a champion debater and IBM’s AI system, Project Debater, began by preparing arguments for and against the statement, “We should subsidise space exploration.”
Since 2012, a global IBM Research team led by Haifa, Israel lab endowed Project Debater with three capabilities, each breaking new ground in AI:
- Data-driven speech writing and delivery
- Listening comprehension that can identify key claims hidden within long continuous spoken language
- Modelling human dilemmas in a unique knowledge graph to enable principled arguments
Arvind Krishna, director at IBM Research wrote in a blog post, “Just think about that for a moment. An AI system engaged with an expert human debater listened to her argument, and responded convincingly with its own, unscripted reasoning to persuade an audience to consider its position on a controversial topic!”
Krishna added in a statement that for the initial demonstrations of this new technology, IBM had selected from a curated list of topics to ensure a meaningful debate. But Project Debater was never trained for those topics.
This new development has showcased IBM Research’s mission to develop a broad AI that learns across different disciplines to augment human intelligence. In this case, Project Debater explores new territory — it absorbs massive and diverse information and perspectives to help people build persuasive arguments and make well-informed decisions.
This AI-based Project Debater is not going to be deployed commercially yet. In fact, reports have suggested that IBM’s record on bringing AI to the real world is mixed. The company entered its Watson AI technology in the quiz show Jeopardy! in the year 2011. The machine won, but IBM still hasn’t disclosed how much revenue Watson has been generating since.