Project Debater argued both for and against the benefits of artificial intelligence.

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Artificial intelligence has debated for humans about the dangers of AI.

Narrowly convincing audience members that AI will do more good than harm.

Project Debater, a robot developed by IBM, debated on both sides of the argument, with two human teammates for each side helping it out. Speaking in a female American voice to a crowd at the University of Cambridge Union on Thursday evening, the AI gave each side’s opening statements, using arguments drawn from more than 1100 human submissions ahead of time.

On the proposition side, arguing that AI will bring more harm than good, Project Debater’s opening remarks were darkly ironic. “AI can cause a lot of harm,” it said. “AI will not be able to make a decision that is the morally correct one, because morality is unique to humans.”

The AI used an application known as “speech by the crowd” to generate its arguments, analyzing arguments people sent in online. Project Debater then sorted the submissions into key themes, as well as identifying redundancy – which submissions made the same point using different words.

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Project Debater summarised arguments put forward by humans – IBM

The AI was coherent in its arguments but had a few slip-ups.

Sometimes it repeated itself – while talking about the ability of AI to perform mundane and repetitive tasks, for example – and it didn’t provide detailed examples to support its claims.

While debating on the opposition side, which was advocating for the overall benefits of AI, Project Debater argued that AI would create new jobs in certain sectors and “bring a lot more efficiency to the workplace”.

But then it made a point that was counter to its argument: “AI capabilities caring for patients or robots teaching school children – there is no longer a demand for humans in those fields either.”

The opposition team narrowly won, winning 51.22 percent of the audience vote.

Project Debater argued with humans for the first time last year, and in February lost in a one-on-one against champion debater Harish Natarajan, who also spoke at Cambridge as the third speaker for the opposition team.

IBM has plans to use speech-by-crowd AI as a tool for collecting feedback from large numbers of people. For instance, it could be used by governments seeking opinions about policies from constituents, or by companies wanting input from employees, said IBM engineer Noam Slonim.

“This technology can help to establish an interesting and effective communication channel between the decision-maker and the people that are going to be impacted by the decision,” he said.

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This content was originally published here by New Scientist.