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Volume 591 Issue 7850, 18 March 2021

The silicon soapbox

Argument and debate are fundamental capabilities of human intelligence. In this week’s issue, Noam Slonim and his colleagues describe results from Project Debater, an artificial intelligence system that can engage in competitive debates with humans. The system can scan through an archive of 400 million newspaper articles to form opening statements and counter-arguments. The researchers tested their system over a range of topics, comparing it to various baselines as well as to human expert debaters. Although human experts still have the edge, Project Debater received high marks in its debates from a virtual audience of people, and the team says the results show that AI has the potential to participate in complex human activities.

Cover image: Yijia Xie.

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