IBM’s Project Debater AI loses to human challenger

The subject under debate was whether the government should subsidize preschools. But the real question was whether a machine called IBM Debater could out-argue a top-ranked human debater.

The answer, on Monday night, was no.

Harish Natarajan, the grand finalist at the 2016 World Debating Championships, swayed more among an audience of hundreds toward his point of view than IBM Debater did toward its. Humans, at least those equipped with with degrees from Oxford and Cambridge universities, can still prevail when it comes to the subtleties of knowledge, persuasion and argument.

It wasn’t a momentous headline victory like we saw when IBM’s Deep Blue computers beat the best human chess player in 1997 or vanquish the world’s best human players of the ancient game of Go in 2017. But IBM still showed that AI can be useful handling in situations where there’s ambiguity and debate, not just an easy score to judge who won a game.

“What really struck me is the potential value of IBM Debater when [combined] with a human being,” Natarajan said after the debate. IBM’s AI was able to dig through mountains of information and offer useful context for that knowledge, he said.

It was the second time IBM Debater took on humans in public, though it’s held dozens of debates behind Big Blue’s walls. In the first IBM Debater competition, the AI defeated one human debater soundly while losing a closer competition with another. This time, though, the human opponent was tougher — indeed IBM researchers involved in the years-long project expected their AI would lose.

Computer persuasion

IBM Debater lost, but there’s no question it won in a way: listening to it, you evaluate what it’s saying, not just that it’s a computer saying it. It marshaled its argument, broke it down into a few points and backed them up with data from various studies. It wasn’t perfect, but it was on point.

And, weirdly for an AI, it told us how homo sapiens ought to behave.

“Giving opportunities to the less fortunate should be a moral obligation for any human being,” IBM Debater said.

In the debate, each side had 15 minutes to prepare — though only IBM Debater has the advantage of being able to draw upon 10 billion sentences worth of publications from news articles and academic research. Each side took turns making its case, rebutting the other then presenting a closing argument.

In an age where 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 converse with computers. IBM Debater goes a step beyond, speaking for minutes.

“She was surprisingly charming and human-sounding,” said John Donovan, host of the debate moderator of Intelligence Squared Debates, which runs debates and broadcasts them through a radio show.

Don’t expect to run something like Project Debater on your laptop any time soon. It ran mainly on a powerful server with 28 processing cores and a whopping 768GB memory — roughly 50 times that of a high-end …read more

Source:: Daily times


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