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Meet the robot whos mastered the art of human debate

When it comes to gauging employees’ feelings, surveys remain the go-to method for gathering feedback. Questions are presented in a clear and direct manner, with answers provided in a multiple-choice format.

But what happens when HR leaders are faced with workforce issues that are much more intricate – even open to discussion? Those that cannot be answered with a simple “yes” or “no” and necessitate thoughtful analysis.

This is where IBM is introducing a new cloud-based platform called Project Debater – Speech by Crowd, which incorporates artificial intelligence into the art of debate.

IBM introduced the Speech by Crowd platform at CES 2019 to showcase the capabilities of AI in gathering and analyzing free-text arguments from the audience.

Christopher Sciacca, the communications manager for IBM Research, explained how they developed a website where people could submit their arguments in 36 words or less, regardless of whether they were in favor or against. Once submitted, an AI system would then analyze the arguments for their polarity.

The AI efficiently analyzes the raw data, which is expressed in natural human language and remains anonymous. It then organizes the answers into different categories to identify the side that has garnered popular support.

The arguments assist the AI in developing a comprehensive stance. However, the AI is designed to engage in discussions with opponents by utilizing ideas gathered from a crowd. Nevertheless, the primary purpose of the AI is to serve as a tool for supporting decision-making.

“HR departments can utilize this tool to implement new policies, such as health insurance, privacy, or retirement policies,” Sciacca explained to HR Tech News.

Instead of relying on individual votes, Speech by Crowd allows for a collective gathering of arguments to assess the potential benefits or drawbacks of a new company policy.

“We actually did this within IBM,” Sciacca mentioned. “We utilized Speech by Crowd among our staff members to gather their opinions on privacy and social media, as well as the impact of social media on society.”