Today, the mass of available data, studies, and news is so vast that it’s becoming increasingly difficult to oversee, manage, and sort out. As early as 1970, American sociologist and futurologist Alvin Toffler coined the term “information overload” in his book Future Shock. Even then, he explained the consequences of the overwhelming flood of information for people. The growing amount of published information and available channels of communication trigger the feeling that one has done too little, no matter how hard it is.
Staying informed and making well-informed decisions is the ultimate challenge in the digital age for businesses and citizens alike. Artificial intelligence can provide valuable help to bring light into the dark tunnel of information. This has long been recognised by all major software companies. For example, IBM is paving the way for this with Project Debater.
Project Debate: A bittersweet defeat
For six years, scientists at IBM Research have been working on the next major milestone in the development of artificial intelligence (AI): Project Debate. A machine that argues like a human? Last week, the project had its biggest test so far. Would the AI succeed in beating the debating champion, Harish Natarajan?
The panel of judges consisted of hundreds of invited spectators. And although they made their voices clear that the man (still) won, Project Debate won in other ways. It’s the first intelligent machine that provided a compelling argument on a specific topic for which it was not directly programmed.
Project Debater had access to ten billion sentences in hundreds of millions of documents, while Mr Natarajan had no internet access, only his brain as a source of information. Added to this were human persuasiveness and higher social skills. Incidentally, the discussion topic was: “Should we subsidise preschool?”.
Each competitor had 15 minutes to prepare for the debate. The machine was pro-subsidising while Natarajan had to position himself against it.
According to IBM’s researchers, the AI scanned millions of documents, collected the relevant messages in support of their opinion, and presented numerous studies and empirical research to substantiate its arguments. Even more extraordinary, the machine was able to listen to Natarajan’s arguments and refute them.
AI as an extension of human competences
Now many are wondering if humankind will slowly but surely be replaced by such rapid developments. BM is aiming for something else: Support and enhancement of skills. The fact is that the machine has no feelings and lacks good social skills to connect with an audience. However, it can help to rationalise arguments that are supported by a large body of studies, documents, and empirical evidence. Natarajan is of the same opinion. He called the machine’s arguments “nicely phrased and contextualised… better than most human. […]. It has incredible power to complement the human”.
Project Debater will help people in the future to convince them with well-founded arguments. Because more information can minimise the influence of emotions and prejudices. Above all, the IBM project shows just how fast the Natural Language Processing (NLP) market has developed and what’s still to come.
AI as a content creator
Incidentally, AI is playing an increasingly important role in content production and content management activities. AI is also already used to generate content when it comes to inventories and Sports reports. Even short texts are delivered by smart tools to quickly generate a lot of traffic. But that doesn’t mean the end of editing, but rather their exoneration. When the AI manages day-to-day business, editors can write more profoundly and responsively.
In fact, there are some products like Frase.io that already use NLP software to help authors choose topics and SEO recommendations, automate publishing in a CMS, and enable automated summaries. That’s why it’s especially important for companies to keep their software in general and their CMS up to date.