Great public debates have sparked our imagination since the days of ancient Greece. This intellectual tradition will take on new life at the IBM Think conference in San Francisco, when IBM Research and Intelligence Squared U.S. host a live public debate on Monday, February 11 between a human and an AI. At the center is IBM Project Debater, the first AI system that can debate humans on complex topics. To do this effectively, the system must gather relevant facts and opinions, form them into structured arguments, and then use precise language in a clear and persuasive way. Project Debater's first live public debate took place in June before a small audience.
It was man 1, machine 1 in the first live, public debate between an artificial intelligence system developed by IBM and two human debaters. The AI, called Project Debater, appeared on stage in a packed conference room at IBM's San Francisco office embodied in a 6ft tall black panel with a blue, animated "mouth". It was a looming presence alongside the human debaters Noa Ovadia and Dan Zafrir, who stood behind a podium nearby. Although the machine stumbled at many points, the unprecedented event offered a glimpse into how computers are learning to grapple with the messy, unstructured world of human decision-making. For each of the two short debates, participants had to prepare a four-minute opening statement, followed by a four-minute rebuttal and a two-minute summary.
At a small event in San Francisco last night, IBM hosted two debate club-style discussions between two humans and an AI called "Project Debater." The goal was for the AI to engage in a series of reasoned arguments according to some pretty standard rules of debate: no awareness of the debate topic ahead of time, no pre-canned responses. Each side gave a four-minute introductory speech, a four-minute rebuttal to the other's arguments, and a two-minute closing statement. Project Debater held its own. It looks like a huge leap beyond that other splashy demonstration we all remember from IBM, when Watson mopped the floor with its competition at Jeopardy.
GENEVA – The Office of the U.N. High Commissioner for Human Rights has expressed regret over Japan's executions of Aum Shinrikyo founder Shoko Asahara and six other former members of the cult, calling for a national debate on the death penalty. "We regret that seven people were today executed in Japan," Ravina Shamdasani, spokeswoman for the U.N. human rights agency, said in a written statement, while extending its sympathy to the victims of crimes committed by Aum, including the 1995 sarin gas attack on the Tokyo subway system. "Undeniably, it is crucial to deliver justice to the victims of these heinous crimes. But the death penalty only compounds injustice and is no greater deterrent than other forms of punishment," Shamdasani said. A fervent advocate of the full abolition of the death penalty, the Geneva-based human rights promotion agency has repeatedly asked the government to establish a moratorium as a first step toward the final abrogation of the punishment.
San Francisco (CNN Business)People are great at arguing. But a project from IBM shows that computers are getting quite good at it, too. On Monday, Harish Natarajan, a grand finalist in 2016's World Debating Championships, faced off against IBM's Project Debater -- a computer touted by the company as the first artificial-intelligence system built to meaningfully debate humans. Natarajan won, but the computer demonstrated the increasingly complex arguments that AI is starting to make. Project Debater, which has been in the works since 2012, is designed to come up with coherent, convincing speeches of its own, while taking in the arguments of a human opponent and creating its own rebuttal.