IBM Think 2019, Project Debater.

Today (February 11, 2019) at IBM Think in San Francisco, the evening led off with IBM’s Project Debater, an AI powered debating solution facing off with Harish Natarajan. Not just any carbon-based human, Mr. Natarajan is the World Debating Championship Grand Finalist (2016) and European Debate Champion (2012). [IBM Blog on the technology | Video of the debate ].

This was a demonstration in the value of developing technologies to find and organize information to drive informed real-time human decision making.

The topic chosen for the debate: Should we subsidize preschools? Project Debater had the supporting position, and both Project Debater and Mr. Natarajan had 15 minutes to prepare.

That Project Debater, using a female voice, made, perhaps a few tactical debate errors as the debate ensured, but not errors of fact. In fact, she was quite exceptional at the relevant data, even injecting humor and a tad of humility.

If the goal was to demonstrate relevant information retrieval without specific training, it was accomplished. And let’s put this into perspective: It was a computer debating a well-seasoned human, and this would have been science fiction a decade ago.

Read more about the event at the close of the week at

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