21 Jun 2018

IBM develops AI that can successfully debate with humans

IBM has developed an AI system called "Project Debater" than can rationally debate with humans.

In a recent event in San Francisco, IBM's AI participated in a live debate and engaged in logical arguments against humans.

The system has "several hundred million articles" which it mines through, analyzes and then decides how to construct an argument and what relevant answers to put forth.


Debates were on the topics of telemedicine and subsidizing space

Debates were on the topics of telemedicine and subsidizing space

While Project Debater admittedly did have a difficult time catching the exact debating nuances its human opponents were making, it commendably attempted to directly counter their points in nearly real-time.

It cited sources, indulged in arguments it knew the audience would have a soft spot for, and even made a couple of relevant jokes.

AI built arguments in minutes on topics without any preparation

Each side was given four minutes to make an introductory speech, four minutes to pose rebuttals to each others' arguments, and two minutes to give a closing statement. In accordance with standard debating rules, the participants didn't know about the topics ahead of time.

Love Tech news?

Stay updated with the latest happenings.

Yes, notify Me


Project Debater assigns a confidence score to opponents' arguments

Jeff Welser, VP and lab director for IBM research, said, "If the AI really believes it understands what the opponent was saying, it's going to try to make a very strong argument against him."

"If it's less confident, it'll do its best to make an argument that'll be convincing even if it doesn't exactly answer that point-which is what humans do too," he added.


Project Debater is still at research-level

Project Debater is still at research-level

According to IBM, the AI system can eventually be used in real, practical contexts.

The technology of parsing a lot of information for decision-making purposes can be used to analyze if a stock is worth investing in.

Notably, Project Debater does not completely rely on keyword search and is capable of developing a deeper perspective on any given subject.

By the way, the debates ended in a draw

Arvind Krishna, Director, IBM Research, said, "Just think about it for a moment. An AI-system engaged with an expert human debater, listened to her arguments, and responded convincingly with its own, unscripted reasoning to persuade an audience to consider its position on a controversial topic."

Share this timeline

Artificial Intelligence



Arvind Krishna

IBM Research

Jeff Welser

Project Debater

San Francisco


Share this timeline

Ask NewsBytes
User Image

Next Timeline