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Human wins debate against IBM computer (according to humans)

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IBM computers have beaten humans at Jeopardy! and chess. But the company’s artificial intelligence system was unable to beat a champion debater – at least according to a human audience.

The AI system, called Project Debater, faced off against 2012 European Debate Champion Harish Natarajan in California on Monday. Both were given the debate topic with just 15 minutes to prepare.

Project Debater, a tall black box with a female voice, scanned a database of hundreds of millions of newspaper and magazine articles and wrote a four-minute argument based on what she found.

She was asked to argue in favour of the statement “We should subsidize preschools.” Natarajan argued against.

Project Debater’s argument included a torrent of research and statistics purporting to show that preschool graduates have better outcomes when it comes to things like education, health and crime.

Natarajan, meanwhile, argued that subsidizing preschool is a “politically-motivated giveaway to members of the middle class” and that there are better ways to spend the money.

Project Debater said in her rebuttal. “For starters, I sometimes listen to opponents and wonder, what do they want? Would they prefer poor people on their doorsteps begging for money?”

“The state budget is a big one,” she went on. “The idea that there are more important things to spend on are irrelevant.”

Natarajan pounced on that part of her argument. “She notes that maybe the state has the budget to do all the good things,” he said. “I would love to live in that world but I don’t think that is the world that we live in.”

Before the two squared off, 79 per cent of audience members agreed with the statement “we should subsidize preschools,” while 13 per cent disagreed and eight per cent were undecided. Afterwards, the proportion in agreeance dropped to 62 per cent, while 30 per cent disagreed and eight per cent were undecided. On that result, Natarajan was declared the winner.

However, Project Debater was given the edge when the audience was asked to vote on the question: “Which one of the two debaters better enriched your knowledge?”

IBM computer scientist Dan Lahav told CTV News Channel just ahead of the debate that he believes Project Debater shows how computers can complement human decision making.

“Project Debater is quite good at scanning and finding relevant arguments, matching them with evidence in order to ground them and make them much stronger, being able to construct a speech which is coherent and relevant based on that,” he said.

“Obviously humans have a lot advantages such as understanding the relevance, seeing the audience … humour etc.,” he added.

IBM has said that “the goal is to build a system that helps people make evidence-based decisions when the answers aren’t black-and-white.”

 

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More groups join in support of women in STEM program at Carleton

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OTTAWA — Major companies and government partners are lending their support to Carleton University’s newly established Women in Engineering and Information Technology Program.

The list of supporters includes Mississauga-based construction company EllisDon.

The latest to announce their support for the program also include BlackBerry QNX, CIRA (Canadian Internet Registration Authority), Ericsson, Nokia, Solace, Trend Micro, the Canadian Nuclear Safety Commission, CGI, Gastops, Leonardo DRS, Lockheed Martin Canada, Amdocs and Ross.

The program is officially set to launch this September.

It is being led by Carleton’s Faculty of Engineering and Design with the goal of establishing meaningful partnerships in support of women in STEM.  

The program will host events for women students to build relationships with industry and government partners, create mentorship opportunities, as well as establish a special fund to support allies at Carleton in meeting equity, diversity and inclusion goals.

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VR tech to revolutionize commercial driver training

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Serious Labs seems to have found a way from tragedy to triumph? The Edmonton-based firm designs and manufactures virtual reality simulators to standardize training programs for operators of heavy equipment such as aerial lifts, cranes, forklifts, and commercial trucks. These simulators enable operators to acquire and practice operational skills for the job safety and efficiency in a risk-free virtual environment so they can work more safely and efficiently.

The 2018 Humboldt bus catastrophe sent shock waves across the industry. The tragedy highlighted the need for standardized commercial driver training and testing. It also contributed to the acceleration of the federal government implementing a Mandatory Entry-Level Training (MELT) program for Class 1 & 2 drivers currently being adopted across Canada. MELT is a much more rigorous standard that promotes safety and in-depth practice for new drivers.

Enter Serious Labs. By proposing to harness the power of virtual reality (VR), Serious Labs has earned considerable funding to develop a VR commercial truck driving simulator.

The Government of Alberta has awarded $1 million, and Emissions Reduction Alberta (ERA) is contributing an additional $2 million for the simulator development. Commercial deployment is estimated to begin in 2024, with the simulator to be made available across Canada and the United States, and with the Alberta Motor Transport Association (AMTA) helping to provide simulator tests to certify that driver trainees have attained the appropriate standard. West Tech Report recently took the opportunity to chat with Serious Labs CEO, Jim Colvin, about the environmental and labour benefits of VR Driver Training, as well as the unique way that Colvin went from angel investor to CEO of the company.

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Next-Gen Tech Company Pops on New Cover Detection Test

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While the world comes out of the initial stages of the pandemic, COVID-19 will be continue to be a threat for some time to come. Companies, such as Zen Graphene, are working on ways to detect the virus and its variants and are on the forefronts of technology.

Nanotechnology firm ZEN Graphene Solutions Ltd. (TSX-Venture:ZEN) (OTCPK:ZENYF), is working to develop technology to help detect the COVID-19 virus and its variants. The firm signed an exclusive agreement with McMaster University to be the global commercializing partner for a newly developed aptamer-based, SARS-CoV-2 rapid detection technology.

This patent-pending technology uses clinical samples from patients and was funded by the Canadian Institutes of Health Research. The test is considered extremely accurate, scalable, saliva-based, affordable, and provides results in under 10 minutes.

Shares were trading up over 5% to $3.07 in early afternoon trade.

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