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Computers That Can Argue Will Be Satnav For the Moral Maze

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Rock 'em Sock 'em Robots.

Computers that can formulate arguments could form the basis of research engines that could inform decision-making in a broad range of fields.

Credit: Mattel

Computers that formulate arguments could lead to "research engines" to inform decision-making across a wide range of fields.

Researchers at the IBM Haifa Research Lab in Israel are working on a project to see if IBM's Watson supercomputer can be upgraded from a fact-checking machine to an argument generator.

A team led by IBM Haifa's Noam Slonim first sought to classify an argument's logical definition, training Watson to distinguish between claims and generic statements by sifting through Wikipedia. Slonim says they have started identifying key features to establish such distinctions, while later tasks include flagging evidence supporting claims and teaching the computer to differentiate between--and assign weight to--anecdotal evidence and expert testimony.

Another challenge is to train the computer to master the ability to shape arguments by appealing emotionally "to facilitate and encourage good quality argumentation and debate," says researcher Chris Reed of Britain's University of Dundee. His team is focused on seeking out solid arguments, and then deconstructing and repurposing them to train artificial intelligence (AI) to argue like a human.

Reed says they are dissecting ethical debates on a BBC radio program to classify arguments and their interrelationships to produce this AI-training tool. In collaboration with IBM, the Dundee team is building Watson's familiarity with webs of human reasoning.

From New Scientist
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