IBM Watson's Project Debater is an AI program that can beat you in an argument

Project Debater does beat you in an argument, but it doesn’t really know what it’s saying.

Here’s proof that artificial intelligence is progressing and could be taking over some human skills, such as debating.

During a live debate in San Francisco, an AI program called Project Debater by IBM made a convincing argument that space argument should be subsidised.

IBM Watsons Project Debater is an AI program that can beat you in an argument

Project Debater and Dan Zafrir have a rebuttal. Image: IBM Research

According to an MIT Technology Review report, the debate had several human participants and Project Debater. The program and one of the human participants took turns to debate on a specific topic and finally closed the argument.

In the debate that followed, the program argued for the increased use of telemedicine, while the human participant argued against it.

IBM held the debate on 19 June to promote the technology that they had been working on for several years. The AI software mines through text before constructing an argument on a given topic.

Project Debater, however, doesn’t really try to build an argument based on an understanding of the subject in question. It goes to Wikipedia, and puts together relevant information, and then simply constructs an argument by combining it with information, along with the relevant points of information from Wikipedia.

Ranit Aharonov and Noam Slonim are the IBM researchers behind the project and believe that the technology could have a range of practical uses. For example, by helping someone make a critical decision.

The report speculates that the software could be misused by powering bots spaces like social media. "There is still a long way to go in mastering language,” said Aharonov and Slomin discounted any risks by saying that, "There is always a risk, and I actually think it is more limited than with other technologies."

Kristian Hammond, a professor at Northwestern University has a different opinion though. He says that the software hardly demonstrates the utility of the system and is "a bit of a distraction.”