Over the past few years we’ve seen a number of AI-developed bots test their mettle against human counterparts at various forms of games, with the former routinely claiming crushing victories.
Now it’s time to chalk up a W in the human column, as champion debater Harish Natarajan (2012 European Champion) recently competed against an AI debating platform developed by IBM.
The debate took place at the company’s Think conference earlier this week, which is currently underway in San Francisco.
In what looked like a scene out of Space Odyssey, Natarajan exchanged retorts with the monolithic looking Miss Debater from IBM, with the subject matter of the debate focusing on pre-school subsidies. The debate lasted 25 minutes, with the attending crowd voting Natarajan the winner.
According to IBM’s blog post on the debate, each side had 15 minutes to prepare, with four minute slots allotted for opening remarks and rebuttals.
While Natarajan’s feat is impressive, given that Miss Debater has a database of 10 billion sentences (taken from newspapers and online articles) it can pull from, unlike previous robot versus human contests, the criteria for winning a debate are a bit more subjective.
This as crowd opinion factored into who was named the winner.
As such it shows that debating is one area where AI has some room to improve.
In a LinkedIn post, the victorious Natarajan explains why debates will prove a tougher test for AI to outwit a human, as a successful debate consists of three main components.
“First, a debater needs to process large amounts of information and construct relevant arguments. Second, debating involves [explaining] complicated arguments in a clear and structured way. Third, you need to make those arguments matter to the audience. This requires the careful use of language, emotions, rhetoric, and examples. While a machine should excel in the first, the latter two may be challenging,” says Natarajan.
The champion debater also acknowledged the fact that there will one day be a time where AI will be able to beat a human in debate.
And that’s when the robots will overthrow us!