IBM's AI Loses To a Human Debater

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. CNET: Harish Natarajan, the grand finalist at the 2016 World Debating Championships, swayed more among an audience of hundreds toward his point of view than the AI-powered 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 Google’s AlphaGo vanquish the world’s best human players of the ancient game of Go in 2017. But IBM still showed that artificial intelligence can be useful in situations where there’s ambiguity and debate, not just a simple 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.

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