Human, Harish Natarajan wins over AI debating system

Harish Natarajan

To access the competition, the audience was asked to vote for one side or the other at the start of the debate, and again at the end of it. Recent AI beats champions on the Starcraft field. It was the artificial intelligence technology's first live debate in public. About 30 percent of the audience voted against the subsidising of pre-schools.

While the debating system, Miss Debater argued that subsidizing preschools isn't just a matter of finance, but a moral and political duty to protect some of society's most vulnerable children, Natarajan countered that, too often, subsidies function as politically motivated giveaways to the middle class.

"Its rhetorical skills still were not at the level of Harish", Slonim said during an interview following the debate.

"It needs to pinpoint these little pieces of text that are relevant to the topic, that are argumentative in nature, that hopefully support our side of the debate, and then somehow glue them together into a meaningful argument, which is very hard for a machine to do".

Debater also went on to say cite a 2013 study "by the Melbourne Institute of Applied Economic and Social Research", which it said "shows that attendance at preschool has a significant positive impact on later NAPLAN outcomes, particularly in the domains of numeracy, reading and spelling". Project Debater, which isn't connected to the internet, comes up with statements using data from the 10 billion sentences stored in its database, which are taken from newspapers, magazine articles, and academic journals.

Debater also managed to make the audience laugh.

The debate with Harish Natarajan was not Project Debater's first test against humans. "Welcome to the future". He added that the AI's arguments were "nicely phrased and contextualized", and that it could be "quite powerful" when used by humans.

"There is hope behind the technology". In 2011 two Jeopardy! Pushing its AI technology to debate a human became the next problem the company sought to solve, which it started working on in 2012.

"If you think about grand challenges in the past around AI, these were often cases where there was a factual question and a clear victor [and right and wrong answer]", she said. "It's about weighing different options, which is what we face everyday in the real world". For example, personal assistants can help us find directions, play our music or call our contacts.

Project Debater argued we should subsidise preschools because they benefit impoverished populations, create better students, and contribute to lowering crime rates. In 1996, chess grand master Garry Kasparov was defeated in the game of chess.

"Debate is out of the comfort zone of AI", said Slonim in an interview before the event.

Monday's debate, which was organized by nonprofit debate-hosting company Intelligence Squared US, was held in front of an audience in San Francisco's Yerba Buena Center for the Arts.

The demonstration came the same day that President Trump signed an executive order aimed at expanding the development of AI in the United States, although the order was short on details.

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