Episode 50: To Persuade is Human?

In 2019, IBM introduced the world to Project Debater: an AI system that could go up against humans to debate anything. In this episode, we trace Project Debater’s growth from just an idea to a fully fledged piece of technology and the public debates it’s engaged in. And it raises a bigger question: is persuasion a fundamentally human ability or is it really something that machines are capable of?

We hear from IBM engineer and project leaders Noam Slonim, expert debaters Harish Natarajan, Dan Zafrir, and Noa Ovadia, communication neuroscientist Elisa Baek, and best-selling author Daniel Pink.

To learn more about Project Debater, visit IBM’s Project Debater website and watch this great mini documentary about the system. 

Correction: In the original version of this episode, I mistakenly reported that “AlphaGo” was another one of IBM’s grand challenges. It was in fact a project by DeepMind, which was acquired by Google in 2014. The episode has been corrected.

Clips from IBM events were made available by IBM and are licensed creative commons.


Download a PDF version of this episodes transcript.



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