The imminent conquest of the world by the forces of Artificial Intelligence has been postponed for a while, thanks to a debating champion.
Harish Natarajan, a finalist at the World Debating Championships in 2016, faced off against Project Debater, an AI system, and defeated it. The six-year-old system, built by IBM, responds to its opponents by assembling logical arguments.
In a live debate held in San Francisco on Monday, Natarajan and Project Debater were given 15 minutes to prepare their arguments about the merits of subsidising pre-schools. IBM’s debater argued for the subsidies while Natarajan argued against them.
It was framed in the traditional debate structure, with time allotted for opening and closing statements and a four-minute rebuttal. The winner was decided by the audience.
Even though Project Debater presented eloquent arguments, complete with a snarky opening statement (above), Natarajan ultimately won over the audience.
Here is the entire debate.