Want to Debate? AI can Help You!


In my adolescence, I used to argue with almost everyone who didn’t adhere to my views and actions. I was an average teenager, short-tempered and angry at anything that went against my expectations.

Often, I used to end up furious and annoyed over many things. For instance, I used to hate people questioning my actions, even though I was wrong and they were right. As I grew, I learned how to be accommodating and respect other people’s feelings and their opinions. I became more open-minded and started thinking twice before saying something; after all, words once said cannot be taken back.

Human beings generally argue; in fact, arguing and debating is one of the features that differentiates us from other forms of living beings. Animals never argue; rather they fight and kill each other to determine who the true leader is. Since ancient times, debating was one of the key aspects of civilized societies. Ancient civilizations, in fact, had frequent debates between intellectuals and experts to help the King or the ruling class to arrive at decisions. While most of the Kings where autocratic in their governance style, they were highly democratic in their thinking and decision-making process.

The point being, to argue and to debate is one of the salient features of human rationality. Debates shaped our past, they are shaping our present and they will dictate our future as well. Now, we are granting the same debating power to machines. With the advent of Artificial Intelligence and machine learning, there has been a lot of progress in adding a human personality to machines. With the launch of Project Debater, IBM is taking another step towards making the machines, more ‘human’. Will this be another fascinating machine technology or is it the beginning of ‘an era of machines?

What’s in News?

Project Debater is the brainchild of IBM, which was announced in 2011 and released earlier this year, following the success of IBM initiatives like Deep Blue and Watson. The Project Debater was thus a pilot project to understand whether it is viable to teach the machines the art of debating. The first debate between the machine and human beings proved to be a success. The AI technology debated with two human debaters, Noa Ovadia, who was the 2016 Israeli debate champion and Dan Zafrir. The two debated on the topics “We should subsidize space exploration” and “Should we increase the use of telemedicine?”

Project Debater: How Will It Change the Way We Live?

Though no one really wants to spend billions of research money into the development of a machine that can debate with individuals, the future of the ‘debating’ technology is far more promising than what we think. In the case of Project Debater, it wasn’t pre-loaded with either the topics for the debate nor the arguments that it could draw during the debate.

It used the information available in the raw format and used the same for producing real-time arguments. Once Artificial Intelligence is capable of producing arguments, it could be further used for the development of an ecosystem, which could be used for assisting human individuals in the decision-making process. An area of application, for example, would be that of conflict management and resolution creation. When there are disputes between individuals or a group of individuals, the decision-making process itself gets delayed, costing the stakeholders in monetary terms as well as in terms of opportunity. Another potential area of application would be legal jurisprudence. Though the judges try their level best to stay unbiased and give a verdict based on law, sometimes, human decision making can be erroneous.

Imagine a legal system where the human judges are being replaced by an AI-powered computer that makes unbiased decisions after listening to both parties.

Project Debater is, in fact, a part of the broader AI initiative of IBM to expand the boundaries of AI beyond its current limitations. Gone will be the days when people used to give mechanic commands like “Okay Google!” or “Hey Alexa!”. We might even see people hiring machines for problem resolution and crisis management. In fact, the world would be a place where we may see machines becoming human beings and human beings becoming machines.

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