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IBM's Watson supercomputer can help settle your debates

Jon Fingas, @jonfingas
May 5, 2014
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IBM's Watson supercomputer is already good at finding answers to tough questions, but it's going one step further: it can now argue an issue when there's no clear answer. A new Debater feature lets the machine take a given topic, scan for relevant articles, and automatically deduce the pros and cons based on the context and language of any claims. In a demo, Watson took 45 seconds to scour millions of Wikipedia articles and make cases both for and against limiting access to violent video games. It's likely that many people would take much longer, even if they're well-informed on the subject.

The Debater technology isn't so sophisticated that Watson will make a judgment call -- much to the relief of some, that's still up to humans. However, it should be useful for organizations that want to make decisions based on impartial reasoning. IBM noted in its demo (at the 45:25 mark in the video below) that doctors could use the artificial intelligence to shape policies on sensitive topics, for example. While it's doubtful that we'll see many institutions using a computer as their sole guide, the breakthrough could avoid quite a few unnecessary shouting matches.

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