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Home / NewTech / IBM's AI is losing to a human debater but is still compelling technology

IBM's AI is losing to a human debater but is still compelling technology



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Champion debater Harish Natarajan argues against IBM Debater, represented by a screen with a blue oval, in a competition at the IBM Think Conference.


Stephen Shankland / CNET

The subject of the debate was whether the government should subsidize preschools. The real question, however, was whether a machine called IBM Debater could dispute a high-level human debater.

On Monday night, the answer was No

Harish Natarajan, the grand finalist at the 2016 World Debating Championships, swayed more among a crowd of hundreds to his point of view than IBM Debater to his point of view. People, at least those with university degrees at Oxford and Cambridge universities, can still assert themselves when it comes to the intricacies of knowledge, persuasion, and reasoning.

It Was Not a Major Victory Like We Seen It on IBM's Deep Blue Computers Defeat the best human chess player in 1997 or defeat the world's best human players of the ancient game Go in 2017. But IBM has still shown that AI can be useful in situations where there are ambiguities and debates, won a game.

"What really impressed me is the potential value of IBM Debater, as [combined] with a human being," Natarajan said after the debate. IBM's AI is able to dig through the mountains of information and provide useful information for that knowledge.

It was the second time that IBM Debater attacked people in public, despite having led dozens of debates behind the walls of Big Blue. In the first IBM Debater competition, the AI ​​defeated a human debater, losing a narrower competition to another. This time around, however, the human adversary was tougher – in fact, IBM researchers involved in the year-long project had expected their AI to be lost.

Computer Conviction

IBM Debater lost, but there is no question that she won: When you hear it, you rate what it says, not just that it's a computer that says it. He presented his argument, broke it down into several points and based it on data from various studies. It was not perfect, but it was right.

And oddly enough for an AI, it told us how Homo sapiens should behave.

"To give less fortunate opportunities should be a moral obligation for every human being," said IBM Debater.

  IBM Debater Looks Like The 2001 Alien Monolith: A Space Odyssey, With Only Animated Blue Circles Showing Activity. Behind the scenes, Debater uses a group of powerful machines in IBM's cloud computing infrastructure.

IBM Debater is similar to the 2001 Alien Monolith: a space odyssey, with only animated blue circles indicating activity. Behind the scenes, Debater uses a group of powerful machines in IBM's cloud computing infrastructure.


Stephen Shankland / CNET

Each page had 15 minutes to prepare in the debate – though only IBM Debater has the advantage of being able to rely on 10 billion news items and scientific research publications. Each side took turns taking their arguments and rejecting the other and making a conclusive argument.

At a time when Apple's Siri, Amazon's Alexa and the Google Assistant listen to our questions and answer in human-sounding voices, it's easy to forget how remarkable it is that we can talk to computers. IBM Debater goes one step further and speaks for minutes.

"She was surprisingly charming and humane," said John Donvan, presenter of the Intelligence Squared Debates debate moderator, who conducts debates and sends them on a radio broadcast.

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Do not expect to do something like Project Debater on your laptop soon. It mainly ran on a powerful server with 28 processor cores and a whopping 768 GB of RAM – about 50 times that of a high-end laptop. It was supported by a server quartet, each with 64 GB of memory and two terabytes of hard disk with text.

Preschool Contributions

IBM Debater argued that we should subsidize preschools, and Natarajan argued against it.

According to Debater, preschools have "benefits for society as a whole and it is our duty to support them." Good nursery schools mean that children – especially poor children – lead a better life.

Natarajan argued that subsidies to preschool children are "little more than a politically motivated gift to middle class … and not to the people who are the most." He has also put holes in Debater's assumptions, for example, that a subsidy will significantly improve education for the poor.

Debater showed improvements over his debate in 2018. A new trick up his sleeve was the possibility of one Another argument was that it could be beneficial to promote health care, and in this case, improved refutability, as Natarajan argued that some children, ages 3 and 4, may not benefit from immersion in the potentially competitive pre-school world , IBM said, "My adversary argued that preschools are harmful," he said.

"We've been working hard to improve the system since June," said Noam Slonim, Project Principal Investigator Debater at IBM Research Source material by Debater – Scientific Ver PUBLICATIONS and news articles – has also been expanded to include data from one year to the end of the 2018th

  People discussed IBM's AI debating technology in a competition that addressed the technology. From left to right: Noam Slonim, Principal Investigator of Project Debater at IBM Research; Project Debater screen from IBM; Ranit Aharonov, IBM's Project Debater Manager; and Harish Natarajan, the grand finalist at the 2016 World Debating Championships.

People debated IBM's AI debating technology at a competition promoting the technology. From left to right: Noam Slonim, Principal Investigator of Project Debater at IBM Research; Project Debater screen from IBM; Ranit Aharonov, IBM's Project Debater Manager; and Harish Natarajan, the big finalist at the 2016 World Debating Championships.


Stephen Shankland / CNET

Most Difficult Competition So far

The competition has been the most challenging for AI by IBM so far.

Natarajan "is on a different level than the previous debaters," said IBM project manager Ranit Aharonov Debater "He is the most-coveted debater in the history of the debate competitions in the university, the world record in the number of victories."

The event at the IBM Think Conference in San Francisco is the last big debate from IBM Debater. "Debater is beautiful and it's good to showcase, but we should focus on how to use this technology and do something that is commercially feasible," said Aharonov.

"We are at the point where we complete the first use case, we continue to work," said Aharonov. For example, this could help a business understand the views of its employees or customers, or help news media or governments persuade people to engage in controversial topics, she said.

That's because Project Debater is all about disorder and the nuance of the real world we humans live in is not the black-and-white realm of games.

"We're leaving the comfort zone of the AI ​​in a gray area," said Slonim.

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