A New AI Machine That’s Mastering the Human Art of Debate

A new IBM machine that runs on artificial intelligence is making a convincing case that it’s mastering the human art of persuasion.

“Project Debater” can analyze 300 million articles on a given topic and construct a persuasive speech about it. It would take a human—reading twenty-four hours a day—about 2,000 years to get through the same material. Project Debater does it in 10 minutes.

After speaking to IBM researchers and AI specialists, I can confidently tell you that the machine will not replace humans anytime soon. Yes, it has profound implications for how we make decisions to solve the complex challenges we might face. But while Project Debater can synthesize human arguments into a reasonably coherent speech; it does not have feelings one way or the other. It doesn’t have human emotion.

Neuroscientists like Antonio Damasio have discovered that, without emotions, humans would be incapable of making even the smallest decision. Without emotion, “we wouldn’t have music, art, religion, science, technology, economics, politics, justice, or moral philosophy,” says Damasio.

After Garry Kasparov lost a chess match to an IBM machine in 1997, he felt “unsettled.” But today he says that humans and machines can work together to advance the world and to make better decisions. In a TED Talk, Kasparov said, “Machines have calculations. We have understanding. Machines have instructions. We have purpose. Machines have objectivity. We have passion…There’s one thing only a human can do. That’s dream. So let us dream big.”

Kasparov’s observation echoes the comments of a prominent AI specialist who was recently featured on 60 Minutes. His name is Kai-Fu Lee and he’s the author of AI Super Powers. I spoke to Lee directly after the book was published last year.

“AI can handle a growing number of non-personal, non-creative, routine tasks,” Lee told me. But Lee says the skills that make us uniquely human are ones that no machine can replicate. The jobs of the future, says Lee, will require creative, compassionate, and empathetic leaders who know how to create trust, build teams, inspire service, and communicate effectively.

“People don’t want to interact with robots for communication-oriented jobs. They don’t want to listen to robots making speeches, leading the company, giving pep talks, or earning our trust.”

Lee gave me a piece of advice that I’d like to share with all of you. “Let machines be machines and let humans be humans.” Choose to do what humans do best—inspire, collaborate, communicate, and ignite the imagination.

Why the Best Ideas Fit on the Back of a Napkin, According to Richard Branson

After twenty years of studying persuasion, I’m convinced the best pitch should fit on the back of a napkin. Here’s why.

Americans lost a true maverick and innovator when Southwest Airlines founder, Herb Kelleher, passed away at the age of 87. While the business news was, understandably, focused on the brand’s financial success, I’ve always been intrigued by one extraordinary event at a St. Antonio bar in 1967—the day the idea for Southwest was first planted.

I devote an entire chapter to Kelleher in my book, The Storyteller’s Secret. The story goes like this. At the St. Anthony Club in San Antonio in 1966, two friends meet for drinks at the bar. Rollin King is a Texas businessman. Herb Kelleher is a gregarious, whiskey-swigging lawyer. They’ve been kicking around a business plan to get into the airline business. What happens next is brand-making history.

Rollins reaches for a cocktail napkin. At the top of the triangle, he writes “Dallas.” On the bottom left, he writes “San Antonio.” On the bottom right, he writes “Houston.” Their vision was simple—to create a small, local airline connecting three Texas cities. People would fly instead of drive between them.

“You’re crazy,” Kelleher responded. “Let’s do it.”

And with that, Southwest Airlines was born. It democratized air travel for millions of Americans who, previously, couldn’t afford to fly.

This week the hotel commemorated the meeting with a special edition cocktail napkin. They sent me a photo of the design which you can see below. If you’re near the hotel, stop in for a drink and feel the energy!

If a cocktail napkin isn’t handy, a beer coaster will do. Just ask Richard Branson—which I did. In this video interview with the billionaire entrepreneur and founder of Virgin, I ask Branson why he prefers pitches that can fit on a napkin, envelope or—in a real case—on a beer coaster.

Baseball Legend Reads Carmine’s Books to Raise His Public-Speaking Game

Alex Rodriguez chooses Carmine’s “Talk Like TED” as a must-read book.

Alex Rodriguez (A-Rod) had one of the most storied careers in baseball history. Today he’s learning about storytelling to become more persuasive and successful as an entrepreneur and investor.

I was thrilled to see that A-Rod included one of my books in his 2019 reading list. The book is “Talk Like TED” which is one of the most popular public-speaking books in the U.S. and in many parts of the world.

As the CEO of A-Rod Corp, Rodriguez has expanded beyond the baseball field to invest in real estate, sports, wellness and media. He’s also a guest shark on ABC’s Shark Tank. A-Rod’s portfolio of assets is worth close to half a billion dollars. With that kind of wealth, the price of a book is minimal, but I hope the lessons he learns will be invaluable.

Thanks, A-Rod!

-Carmine