Debate champion wins against IBM's AI: 5 notes

An IBM computer that the company calls the first artificial-intelligence system built to debate humans was outsmarted by a human during a recent public event, CNN reports.

Five things to know:

1. IBM's Project Debater is designed to be able to argue coherently with a human opponent. It reviews a database of newspaper and magazine articles to extract relevant facts about a topic and considers the nuances of the human opponent's argument to formulate its own convincing stances, according to the company.

2. Project Debater was recently pitted against Harish Natarajan, a grand finalist in 2016's World Debating Championships, for a debate on whether or not preschool should be subsidized. Both Project Debater and Mr. Natarajan weren't informed of the topic until 15 minutes before the debate began.

3. The event followed a traditional debate style in which each side — in this case, Project Debater and Mr. Natarajan — gave a four-minute opening speech, followed by a four-minute rebuttal and a two-minute closing statement. Members of a live audience in San Francisco voted for the winner.

4. In the end, Mr. Natarajan was victorious. However, he noted that it was interesting that Project Debater could contextualize information and pull details from research, CNN reports.

5. IBM's system shows that AI can be used to solve problems that may have more than one answer.

"It's really pushing the boundaries [of the] kinds of AI systems that are more interactive with us and can understand us better," IBM Research Director Dario Gil, PhD, told CNN.

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