Harish Natarajan has won over IBM's six-year-old artificial intelligence (AI) debating system, affectionately dubbed "Miss Debater". First debuted in a small closed-door event in June 2018, Project Debater will now face its toughest opponent yet in front of its largest-ever audience, with our own John Donvan in the moderator's seat.
The rebuttal segment of the debate was where some of the big differences between human and computer (beyond looks and vocal capabilities) were laid bare.
So, let's have an argument over AI. Natarajan defeated IBM Project Debater, which is touted as the "first AI system built to debate".
"What struck me was the potential value for Debater because of the amount of knowledge it can grasp", he said during the onstage interview afterward. After hearing both sides present, 62 percent agreed that preschools should be subsidized, while 30 percent disagreed-clinching Natarajan's win. He saw a 17 percent uplift in measures taken pre- and post-debate.
Despite the setback, IBM should consider this a win: More than half of participants said that Project Debater better enriched their knowledge about the topic, compared to only 20 percent for Natarajan. The AI uses voice-recognition to listen to the topic at hand. It saved its best counter arguments for its closing statement. Project Debater, which isn't connected to the internet, comes up with statements using data from the 10 billion sentences stored in its database, which are taken from newspapers, magazine articles, and academic journals.
"Another part of the system uses a unique production of more principled arguments that are relevant to the topic". Since then, IBM has been working on to improve Project Debater's rebutting skills.
"If you think about grand challenges in the past around AI, these were often cases where there was a factual question and a clear victor [and right and wrong answer]", she said.
Washington D.C, Feb 12: Think you are great at debating?
Aharonov believed that would make the technology underpinning Project Debater attractive to enterprises.
That's IBM's hope for the future of the technology.
IBM says that "the goal is to build a system that helps people make evidence-based decisions when the answers aren't black-and-white".
The full debate is available online to replay.
Natarajan is only the latest human to go head-to-computer against Project Debater. He said Debater was "going to a territory that's extremely human".
In its arguments, Project Debater cited studies showing positive outcomes because of preschool education from the vast amounts of material it ingested beforehand.
Gil noted prior to the debate kicking off that the machine was never going to be flawless.