IBM’s Project Debater loses its first ever debate to Harish Natarajan

Artificial Intelligence is surely taking over the world as rapidly as it could. There are robots made to reduce human effort and a huge amount of human effort has been channeled into making these robots able to work for us. The concept of Artificial Intelligence is fascinating when you hear it. However, it is as frightening when you witness it with your own eyes. There is a robot talking to you without a brain. Technically it has a brain and understands the surrounding but the most important things are, it is not aware of itself.

AI will win the world over when it will become aware of itself. The moment of singularity is where the AI will conquer the world and that might be the turning point in the history of humans. AI will have a decision to make when it becomes aware of itself, to preach humans or to care for itself, judging by the creator of AI, we all know what the AI will choose. Currently, we are many more years away from this happening. The world and major companies are building robots to help us with our daily needs.

IBM introduced one such robot which is named as Project Debater. Project Debater was made to debate and only debate. It has around 10 billion sentences in its inventory and is has six years of data in it. This Project Debater was made to debate against the best debater in the word; Harish Natarajan. The Oxford and Harvard alumni hold the record for most victories in the world of debate and were summoned to debate against a robot. It was literally a man versus a robot; the first of many? We will see.

The robot Project Debater and the human Harish Natarajan were asked to debate on the topic of subsidizing schools. Project Debater was on the side of subsidizing schools and Harish Natarajan was against it. The duo was given 15 minutes to prepare for the same and was asked to debate. It sounds pretty absurd that how can a human debate against a machine but to break the suspense, Harish Nataraj won the debate by a mile.

The debate was judged by the audience and their views. Their views were taken before the debate started and the huge audience voted who were present at the venue voted for and against it. 72% of people were for subsidizing schools and 12% of people were against it before the debate started. After the debate, 62% of people were for subsidizing schools and 30% of people were against it. Harish, who was speaking against subsidizing schools managed to influence more people in the audience and hence was judged as the winner of the debate.

However, this event was not about winning or losing, it was about something even bigger. It was about testing the limits of an AI and it stood up to the task. The Project Debater is just six years old right now and it lost a debate but a few years down the line it will be seen roasting the humans on stage. It is just about time and we will see an AI which will be able to talk, walk, think and work like a complete human.

-Unmesh Phule

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