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June 16, 2019 9:29 am

IBM Haifa Hosts Live Robot Debate in Worldwide First

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IBM Project Debater with Dan Zafrir. Photo: IBM Research/Flickr. – IBM in Israel hosted the first live event where, within an hour, a robot called “Project Debater,” which was invented at the company’s Haifa research lab, collected and analyzed arguments from the crowd, made arguments for or against, and broadcast them as speeches.

In a full hall at the Expo Tel Aviv exhibition on Thursday, audience members were provided a link to submit arguments for or against legalizing marijuana. Arguments had to be between eight and 36 English words.

The robot then combed through all 1,037 pro and con arguments submitted and processed them into the “for” or “against” category. Redundancies were removed.

It then identified the basic arguments and arranged them in a coherent way, followed by finally summarizing the crucial points made by the audience, for or against the question, by broadcasting them cogently in two for and against speeches.

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“Legalization of cannabis would create businesses that the government can tax,” said Project Debater, “a tall black pillar with three round, blue flashing lights facing the crowd,” reported The Times of Israel.

The crowd overwhelmingly supported the proposition, as the audience was told that 76 percent of respondents supporting cannabis legalization, while 24 percent objected.

Nonetheless, Project Debater experienced glitches, for example, placing a pro argument in the con category—the notion that weed legalization would kill its black market due to the robot processing the words “kill” and “black market.”

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