There was anepic (史诗般的)battle that took place last night at the IBM offices in San Francisco. A computer formally debated a person in what some experts arebillingas (把...宣传为)a breakthrough in artificial intelligence. NPR's Laura Sydell was there, and she's with us. Hi, Laura.

LAURA SYDELL, BYLINE: Hello. Good morning.

GREENE: So this sounds like something out of asci-fi movie (科幻电影). Was it as cool as it sounds?

SYDELL: Well, you know, it was just this person standing next to thisobelisk-shaped (方尖碑)computer thing so it didn't look very interesting.

GREENE: (Laughter) OK.

SYDELL: You know, truthfully.

GREENE: Well, then why did IBM want to do this? What was this about?

SYDELL: Well, it was to show off some actually pretty cool new computer skills. You know, IBM hasmade news (做出易成为新闻的事情)in the past for, you know, a computer that beat a world champion in chess, and it also beat champions at the game "Jeopardy!" This is a little different because in a debate, there aren't clear rules. There isn't anumerical (数字的)score. So they built this computer. It's called Project Debater, and they put it up against two experienced debaters.

GREENE: OK. So the computer was actually talking to two people? I mean going back and forth debating something.

SYDELL: That is right.


SYDELL: It actually spoke, you know, for four minutes and then for two minutes. It went through a formal debating process.

GREENE: Can we say who won? Did the computer beat the humans?

SYDELL: Well, you know, actually I'd say it was adraw (平局)in the sense that there were two debates and theypolled (调查)the audience, which was largely journalists, ahead of time to see how they felt about a particular topic, and then they polled them after. And in one case, the computer actually did in fact beat the human. And the computer argued that telemedicine - that was the topic of the debate - was a good thing. And there was kind of a funny moment where the human debaters said that they didn't think that telemedicine was good - this is when doctors treat people from a distance - because you didn't have the physical hand of the doctor or the nurse, and the computer responded with some humor. It said, I am a true believer in the power of technology, as I should be.

GREENE: As I should be. (Laughter) Wow. The computer making a joke, that's amazing.

SYDELL: It's pretty good. I did speak with one of the debaters, Noa Ovadia, and she was relatively impressed with the computer.

NOA OVADIA: I think the machine has reached an incredible degree of fluency, both in terms of sentence construction and in terms of argument construction. And I think it's at the level where it's comparable to some average debaters. Maybe not the best in the world, but definitelywell-informed (见多识广的)reasoning and logical construction.





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