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IBM’s Artificial Intelligence (AI) Project Debater has debated with Harish Natarajan, who became European champion in the 2012 Debate and was finalist in the 2016 World Debating Championships. The debate was about subsidies for kindergartens. Project Debater was for the grant, Natarajan against, reports Venturebeat.

Project Debater is an artificial intelligence that can participate in debates. The project was launched in June last year and shown to the public in January. In various articles, the AI searches for phrases and reasoning that are relevant to the subject, also looking at arguments that match a point of view. The AI must therefore learn to understand exactly what a subject is about. In January, IBM asked the public for arguments on certain topics.

In this case, both Natarajan and Project Debater were notified of the subject 15 minutes before the debate. The two were each given 8 minutes for an opening argument and a rebuttal, and two minutes for the final argument. Debater argued in favour of the subsidy, among other things because it has advantages for poor people, it can train better students and it can reduce crime.

Natarajan argued that subsidies should be spent on something else to help people with fewer opportunities, and that such subsidies are mainly aimed at the middle class.


After the debate, the public was asked for opinions in a poll. More than 50 percent of the public indicated that their knowledge of the subject was far-reaching due to the arguments of Project Debater. Only 20 percent said the same about Natarajan’s arguments.

However, the two seemed to be in agreement when it came to changing the opinion of the public. 17 percent of the people against the proposition changed their minds because of the debate. However, this was also the case for 17% of people who are in favour of subsidies for kindergartens.

This news article was automatically translated from Dutch to give Techzine.eu a head start. All news articles after September 1, 2019 are written in native English and NOT translated. All our background stories are written in native English as well. For more information read our launch article.