AI system ‘Project Debater’ makes compelling speeches on debatable topics

Photo: IBM

IBM showcased an AI application at CES 2019 capable of making compelling speeches supporting and contesting debatable topics.

The application, called Project Debater — Speech by Crowd, was made using the core AI behind IBM’s Project Debater artificial intelligence project.

IBM describes Project Debater – Speech by Crowd  as “a new and experimental cloud-based AI platform for crowdsourcing decision support”.  The application collects free-text arguments from audiences on debatable topics and creates persuasive viewpoints both in favor and in opposition.

IBM invited people attending CES and online to write a short statement on their stance on various different topics.

The statement “We should ban the sale of violent video games to minors”, for example, received opinions from people at the event booth and online.

The AI system then took the arguments from people who submitted them for analysis and created two speeches – one in favor of the statement and another in opposition of it.

The system began its speech supporting the statement with:

“Hello and welcome to all. The following speech is a summary of arguments made by CES visitors and by online contributors from around the world, supporting the motion We should ban the sale of violent video games to minors.

“There are three issues I would like to address. They explain why we should ban the sale of violent video games to minors. I will demonstrate how violent video games can increase aggressive behavior among children. Then I will show that violent video games reinforce violence. And lastly I will talk about how violent video games have been linked with decreased empathy.”

The system provided three reasons in favor of the statement in one speech and provided three reasons against the statement in its contesting speech.

Dr. Talia Gershon, IBM Research, told TNW:

“When we hosted our live debate in June, it was amazing to see how people reacted when they saw what Project Debater could do for the first time. But, this was only a group of 50. At CES, we had hundreds of people in the booth engaging with the system, inputting points of view on the topics we posed, and then hearing the system assemble these into persuasive narratives.

“I was astonished by the persuasiveness of a speech constructed entirely from snippets of ideas collected from people all over the world, and based on discussions at the booth I know I was not the only one.”

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