IBM is pitting a computer against two human debaters in the first public demonstration of artificial intelligence technology it's been working on for more than five years

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SAN FRANCISCO (AP) — IBM is testing a computer against two human debaters in the first public demonstration of artificial intelligence technology it’s been working on for more than five years.

The company unveiled its Project Debater in San Francisco on Monday. The argumentative computer system is embodied in a 5-foot-tall (1.5 meter) machine shaped like a monolith.

Asked to debate in favor of government-subsidized space exploration — a topic it hadn’t studied — the computer quickly delivered an opening argument, pulling in evidence collected from its repository of newspaper articles and journals. It then listened to a human’s counter-argument and gave a 4-minute rebuttal.

An IBM research team based in Israel began working on the project not long after IBM’s Watson computer beat two human quizmasters on a “Jeopardy” challenge in 2011.