The recent failure of IBM’s Project Debater in its contest against global debate champion Harish Natarajan offers the latest in a series of lessons learned about the deployment of natural language processing (NLP) technology in the real world. Project Debater is one of numerous attempts in a decades-old quest to use machines to automate the analysis of language to gather insights and make decisions.
“Hey Siri,” I said. “Call Nancy. Mobile.” Siri replied, “Calling Lindsay. Mobile.” It began to ring. I hadn’t worked with Lindsay in six years. I lunged for my phone and touched the red button just in time to avoid what would no doubt have been an awkward, out-of-the-blue conversation with her. Then, I contemplated the complexities of NLP development.