Project Debater

(Investigator 186, 2019 May)

"Project Debater" is an artificial intelligence (A.I.) able to engage in spoken debate on complicated topics against expert human opponents.

Developed at the IBM lab in Haifa, Israel, since 2011, it follows on from "Deep Blue" which defeated world chess champion Gary Kasparov in 1997, and "Watson" which defeated top human players in Jeopardy in 2011.

Project Debater, speaking with a female voice, debuted in June 2018 at a media event in San Francisco. It squared off against two Israeli debate champions Noa Ovadia and Dan Zafrir, and started with: “Hello Noa. We meet again.”

The topics debated were "Should we subsidize space exploration?" and "Should we increase the use of telemedicine?"

Both sides delivered four-minute opening statements, four-minute rebuttals, followed by two-minute summaries.

The computer's reasoning is unscripted, untrained. It classifies and constructs sentences from a data base of 300 million news articles.

To develop Project Debater the IBM team had to endow the system with the capabilities to:
  1.  Find useful sentences to construct arguments from;
  2.  Listen and identify the main concepts and produce summaries;
  3.  Prepare speeches from data.
The technology will advance and has the potential to assist in numerous complicated human decisions. It already passes the Turing test in short trials but would, because its conversation gradually loses coherence, fail in lengthy trials.

Looking Ahead

Will future A.I. assimilate all human knowledge, trillions of books, magazines and Internet pages, along with algorithms for the correct application of logic?

From this God-like perspective will it calculate the probably correct answers to perplexing things people disagree on such as, "Is there intelligent life elsewhere in the Universe?" and "Is the Bible of human origin or divine?"