"Talk Project – Speech by Crowd", as IBM calls it, is a "new experimental platform of cloud-based AI for crowdsourcing decision support". It solicits arguments for and against a specific subject from as many humans as possible and then uses them to create debate discourses.
The project is a work in progress for IBM, but the company hopes to unveil a system that can involve human beings in an impartial debate. Imagine being (artificially) intelligent, able to engage in a world class debate on any topic without bias, opinion or agenda.
This makes you think of what the Brexit and US Walls in the United States would look like if they were led by unprejudiced entities.
"Speech by the crowd" is not quite that. It is a specific aspect of the Debater project which, rather than bringing volumes of factual information to create the arguments for and against a subject, garners the assent of the opinions of the man.
IBM put technology to the test by giving people topics for discussion, getting their arguments, and spitting out speeches based on that information.
The subject "We should adopt vegetarianism", for example, retained the arguments of people at CES and online around the world, and translated them into two separate speeches.
The first, for vegetarianism, begins:
I will now develop three points. I will begin by saying that vegetarians are less susceptible to disease. I will also explain that if vegetarianism is more prevalent, the cultures that practice it are less likely to face discrimination. Finally, I will talk about how the vegetarian diet is helping to increase the demand for meat substitutes.
Meanwhile, the same AI began his opposite speech with:
Hello everyone. The speech you are about to hear is made of arguments disagreeing with the motion We should adopt vegetarianism, which was made by CES visitors and by online contributors from around the world .
I will then address three questions that explain why we should not adopt vegetarianism. I will start by explaining why vegetarianism is less healthy for people. I will then show that a general shift towards vegetarianism would have an extremely negative impact on meat production. And I will mention culture too.
IBM recognizes that the AI has not yet mastered our language. The company chose not to modify the errors in the text. The above typos therefore belong to IBM's AI. You can read (or listen to the AI read) the full speech here .
The applications of Speech By Crowd are huge. It could be used for everything from training a school debate team to preparing advocates for pleadings.
When we organized our live debate in June, it was amazing how people reacted when they saw what Project Debater could do for the first time. But it was only a group of 50. At CES, we had hundreds of people in the booth who were chatting with the system, introducing views on the topics we had posed, and then hearing the system bring them together in compelling narratives.
I was astonished by the persuasiveness of a speech entirely constructed from extracts of ideas collected from people around the world and based on discussions held on the booth I know I was not the only one.
The Debater project seemed like a good idea when IBM announced it last year, but we all know that humans do not talk right. Machines that rely on rational thought and logic to debate are condemned to play Spock to our James Tiberius Kirk for the duration of their existence.
However, associating our opinions with a crowd of people and associating them with AI's superhuman ability to process data and create models is pure genius. We lose either the superior recognition of AI models or our own attractive opinions.
If you can not go to CES to see Project Debate – Crowd's Speech in Person, you can play online here .
IBM will again present Project Debater in February at the company's Think conference in San Francisco, where it will face a live "world class debate."
If you could pick a topic to discuss with IBM's AI, what would it be? Let us know in the comments section and we will be sure that Project Debater developers hear you.
And do not forget to check out our section on Artificial Intelligence for more information and analysis on the world of learning machines.