The Center for Argument Technology (ARG-tech) located at the University of Dundee now provides tools based on in-house artificial intelligence designed for arguments. While that may sound completely useless given humans do extremely well at arguing each other, this AI is meant to make those arguments more productive, so everyone involved can reach an agreement.
According to ARG-tech director Chris Reed, his group first turned to the BBC’s Moral Maze 10 years ago. They created large “maps” based on every debate that took place on the show, and turned those maps into infographics using an algorithm to “determine the most central themes.” From that data, the team pulled important issues, where participants stood, the highest points in conflict, and more.
The first public look into ARG-tech’s argument technology appeared on a special edition of Moral Maze on BBC Radio 4 in October. It was followed by the team’s BBC-backed Argument Analytics page that digs into that specific episode along with a similar topic that aired five years ago. This page shows a timeline starting on October 11, the participants in the debate, a detailed map of all arguments made, a timestamped timeline of all recorded arguments, and a conflict hotspot timeline.
But you can also participate in virtual arguments to sharpen your skills. The Test Your Argument page on the BBC’s website pits you against virtual participants in a specific argument, and allows you to make three attempts to plead your case and convince others of your personal view. The current debate will last until around April and focuses on anti-abortion in the United Kingdom. You must argue in defense of this specific topic: “The unborn fetus should have human status in its own right.”
Another argument-based tool is called Debater, which is hosted by ARG-tech. Here, you sit in the middle of a virtual Moral Maze debate inhabited by virtual panelists and witnesses. The two available subjects also deal with abortion in the United Kingdom: this should be a decision made only by women, and a collection of cells create a human. After selecting the topic, you choose witnesses and/or panelists to virtually join the discussion.
“Ultimately, the goal is not to build a machine that can beat us at an argument. Much more exciting is the potential to have A.I. software contribute to human discussion — recognizing types of arguments, critiquing them, offering alternative views and probing reasons are all things that are now within the reach of A.I.,” Reed said.
He views teams of humans and machines working together to intelligently combat complex issues, a move that could change the way humans interact with artificial intelligence. Relying on machines for points of view could be extremely helpful: Their analysis is based on data that is not intertwined with emotions. But that sterile input could also raise additional arguments, especially when topics involve morals and health.