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I’ve long promoted the notion of “disputation arenas” or ritualized combat for ideas, as one major way the Web could finally pay off in vital, grand scale ways, doing for the real world what markets do for products and services and science does for truth. In fact, for a rather intense look at how "truth" is determined in science, democracy, courts and markets, see my article from the American Bar Association's Journal on Dispute Resolution http://www.davidbrin.com/disputation.htmThis was a core concept in my “Eon Proposal” for several dozen ways to improve our problem solving skills in times of crisis. Now it appears that Google is taking a step toward bringing disputation to life “Versus…will give you the chance to question people who are close to the decisions being made on topical issues, on both sides of the debate. Real-time voting on the channel will also let the speakers know how their arguments are resonating with viewers.The first debate will focus on the topic of the War on Drugs and will feature the opinions of a wide variety of celebrities, politicians and tycoons...” http://www.davidbrin.com/eon.html
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Paul Wakfer's profile photoTuril Cronburg's profile photoDavid Brin's profile photoGregory Esau's profile photo
22 comments
 
I very much agree this is a necessary next step in social evolution. Dispute mechanisms like this, if properly cultured, could go a long ways towards a more mature society.
 
Sounds like a fascinating debate. Thank you for sharing the link.

Edited to add: Also the ritualized debate idea reminds me of the brilliant Fred Friendly constitutional debate series from PBS.

Their slogan was:"Our job is not to make up anybody's mind, but to open minds and make the agony of decision-making so intense, you can escape only by thinking."
 
Consider that creativity comes from combining different things, rather than keeping them separate and in opposition...

(Which leads to the idea that rather than antagonistic debates, we'd all be better off just being able to view diverse perspectives in the same space.)
 
+Turil Cronburg Sorry, could you unpack that for me? I don't immediately see the distinction. "Diverse perspectives" are, by definition, diverse only to the extent to which they say different things (i.e., disagree)... and the whole point of debate is for the intended audience to compare the two (or more) competing viewpoints cognitively, which is to say, necessarily in the same space, that of their own minds.

By "antagonistic" do you instead mean "uncivil"? I don't think any responsible person believes incivility is preferable to the alternative; gentlemen, as the saying goes, can disagree agreeably. (And gentlewomen too, of course.)
 
Love Google+.........thx
 
Sure, Dave... Diverse perspectives aren't necessarily in disagreement, but they are different. In the same way that when you look at an engineering plan from the top view you get a different picture, very different sometimes, of the side view, but both views are equally necessary for seeing what the actual truth is. If a contractor decided to only ever look at the top view of a building plan, they would not be able to create a fully 3D building, or at least not as complex a building as we tend to want. :-). The same is true with social problem solving, for creativity to happen, we need to see all the views of what people want as being equally important for building a world where everyone is healthy and able to get what they need as much as possible.

Of course, this means that we need to help people be more effective in communicating what they want. Many people have been so indoctrinated to believe that "only one side is right", and to defend that side against anyone saying anything different (which we call antagonism/debate/argument, with varying levels of civility, but always defensive rather than creative). Most people had their ability to understand other viewpoints aggressively repressed. So most people can only, at best, "agree to disagree" which leads nowhere. Real progress, creativity, comes from integrating what everyone wants into one resilient and adaptive system.

I'll also add that a huge roadblock to creativity and understanding and integrating diverse views into one big picture is low level mental health problems, which nearly everyone has in this modern world. A brain under stress, from nutritional deficiencies, toxins in foods, water, air, etc, worry about being able to meet one's needs for shelter (rent/mortgages/landlords/taxes/laws/etc.), lack of sunlight, and a major attack on people's freedom of expression from government/employers/family/peers/media/etc., means a very low level of novelty seeking can go on. The prefrontal cortex, where complex problem solving occurs, simply doesn't function during stress. So for social problem solving to work, we have to somehow solve the problem of most people being mentally compromised, whether they realize it or not. And that means dropping pretty much everything we've been doing, and using what little brain power we do still have to focus on taking excellent care of people's brains, physically, providing everyone, guaranteed, unconditionally, with enough real whole food, clean water, fresh air, warmth (including shelter), sunlight, and the freedom to express their body's excess matter and energy in a way that it at least neutral, and at best useful, so that our brains can actually be functional enough to solve the much more complex problems!
 
Let's just hope it doesn't get too ritualized - "Two men enter, one man leaves" is probably not the best idea.
 
I don't think that one man is enough to bring all aspects of an idea in a combat.
 
This is a step in the right direction, but the ideal solution to issues is not decidable by a small number of "popular" individuals debating. And even more so not decided by any kind of reader/auditor voting for the "winner". Instead there are almost always alternative solutions created by other people which none of these "popular" contenders even think of. The ultimate decision can only be voluntarily decided by the mechanism of public Social Preferencing - http://selfsip.org/solutions/Social_Preferencing.html
 
+David Brin Please try to refrain from using violence related words (eg "ritualized combat") when describing events that contain no element of the use of physical force or threat of it. The continual use of such metaphors confuses the subconscious and perpetuates the conflation of actions involving information with those involving physical force and its potentially resulting physiological harm.
 
Information can be used in violent ways. One example is the forceable and undesired "outing" of a person's otherwise undisclosed status (traditionally in the US, this has mostly been sexual orientation, but other examples exist.)
 
+Paul Wakfer sorry I deeply disagree. People simply do not have to be that PC sensitive. They can choose not to be. Ritualized combat described modern sports for example, with utter perfection. The ability to use ritualized adversarial competitive processes to achieve all the benefits of competition, without most of the drawbacks (death, pain, unfairness, cheating) that used to be the norm inhuman affairs... this is the most splendid achievement of the Western Enlightenment.... our markets, science, democracy and adversarial justice courts.

In contrast, we've seen sanctimonious preachers for 6000 years preach "cooperation" as a meme and that - by itself - never achieved a spittoon's worth of improvement in human life.

I am not putting down cooperation! But only with the arrival of ritualized competitive systems (which oligarchs and aristocrats are trying to demolish) did truly freedom and justice and yes major cooperation become more possible.
 
+David Brin , the need for competition comes in competing with oneself for being better at solving a problem than one's past self was. The cooperation is what allows us to do everything we've ever accomplished technologically as a species. Creativity always comes from two diverse ideas being combined.

I know many people have been trained to think that competition against other people is important, but the science shows us that it's the opposite. Take a look at the group problem solving (group intelligence) work being done at MIT, especially by Sandy Pentland with his "honest signals" (there's a TED talk, if you want the short version), if you are interested in how humans really work at their peak problem solving ability. (Hint, cooperation is the key.)
 
+James Klock Your comment "Information can be used in violent ways" is a clear example of the confusion and conflation which I addressed. Information can be a reason why people perpetrate violence, but it is not an effective cause (http://selfsip.org/solutions/NSC.html#effective_cause), in as much as information cannot in itself and by itself cause violence or even compel another person to act in any manner. There is nothing forceable about an "outing". Such transmittal of information may be undesired and even unpermitted by the person being "outed" but the use of any word related to force for that action merely increases the conflation that is the problem. The whole point of the importance of clear separation here is because the responsibility for any violence must be placed only on the shoulders of the one(s) who are the direct violators. The unpermited "outing" may certainly be a mean and undesirable act, but it is not violence and should only be subject to negative social preferencing (withdrawal of association).
 
+Paul Wakfer the point is that any time you are using your communication to harm someone else, in any way, directly or indirectly, you're being violent. I call this intellectual violence. As you probably know, it's the intent which defines whether an act is violent, not the outcome. Debate, where the intent is to make someone else's ideas/opinions less important, is harmful, and violent, and contrary to creative, productive, problem solving. It is, at best, used for emergency situations, where someone who has experienced a seriously dangerous and immediate (impending doom!) situation before or something similar enough, that they are highly confident that their ideas are absolutely more valuable than everyone else's, and they, like Sherlock in the new BBC/PBS series, will use aggressive/violent communication to get less-successful-thinkers to shut up and let him think. :-) But for any long term, social problem violence is very harmful, and leads to regression, and a huge waste of everyone's resources.

For an example, take a look at Wikipedia. When there is conflict, and one person tries to delete (censorship is a violent act) another person's honest information on a topic, we all lose, because that information is important to the big picture of how a topic is seen by diverse individuals, giving us a way to triangulate the core truths in a topic more easily. Certainly healthy criticism (feedback) is good, because it is offering new information, but only as long as the review offered is based on explaining what one person is looking for and how well the offering meets those needs. (And then the person making the original offer can decide if the critique is relevant to their own goals of what they want to offer, because what I want to offer and what you want to receive is often not the same thing, but when it is, then criticism is crucial for me to do my best work.)

So yeah, for truly high quality problem solving and understanding of the big picture, we really do need to value all different opinions on what people need, how well what they are being offered is meeting those needs, and what ideas they have to better meet their needs. Debate doesn't collect that data, and instead hides much of it...
 
+Turil Cronburg It appears we are far apart on fundamental philosophy. Although I agree that current English usage does admit of the adjective "violent" being used to describe non-physical force related actions, my whole point is that this conflation is a major disaster for the thinking of people in society. With respect to "it's the intent which defines whether an act is violent, not the outcome" I could not disagree more. The physical harm suffered by a person (the reduction of Lifetime Happiness) will rationally be the same whether or not the harm causing action was intentional, irresponsible negligence or a mere happenstance accident. This is important because with a human as the effective cause it is virtually impossible to distinguish which of those is the case - so it is a simple and effective solution that it really does not matter from the POV of assigning responsibility for restitution (restoring as much as possible the Lifetime Happiness of the physically harmed person, to what it would have been if the harming event had not occurred).

Any information transmittal is only harmful to the extent that and because the receiver of the information acts on that information to cause hirself harm in some manner either physical (as in suicide), wasting time, making a wrong investment decision or simply incurring psychological hurt feelings. None of this is forced by the information transmitter and therefore none of it is violent in the original meaning of the word and the meaning that it is important to keep separate so that true responsibility can be assigned.

"censorship is a violent act" only when done by government as threatened or actual use of force to cause it to happen.
 
+Turil Cronburg I have some sympathy for your notion of "competing with oneself for being better at solving a problem than one's past self was", however, I still think that it is aimed at the wrong objective and therefore ends up confusing rational thought. Surely the purpose of bettering oneself or simply doing better than before at anything is to increase one's lifetime happiness (and concurrently and necessarily that of all others at the same time) by increasing the available beneficial actions of everyone. One important way of aiding this to occur is by increasing the understanding of reality. I do not see where the idea of competition (generally for a piece of a limited pie) is or should be involved in this at all. Cooperation, yes, but essentially zero sum competition with winners and losers, no. The essence of cooperation is voluntary exchange of value to mutual advantage. The essence of competition is one person wins and another loses.
 
+David Brin "People simply do not have to be that PC sensitive. They can choose not to be." First off, I don't see that my objection to using violence related words for anything but physical violence has any bearing on being PC. But more importantly, I do not agree that people can fully consciously alter and negate the confusing and conflating subconscious effects of ambiguous and inconsistent word usages. The constant use of "we" instead of "I" or "they", when the writer nows nothing of the views of hir audience, is another nefarious example.

While I agree that combative type sports events may well have greatly helped reduce the amount of violent conflict between individuals in society and somewhat even between nation states, it seems to me that it is high time for human society to mature beyond the need for that utter waste of time and resources relative to really worthwhile productive activities.

Much of the problem with preachers of cooperation in the past has been that the motive that they preached for such cooperation was altruism, which perforce is totally contrary to any reasonable purpose of human life. Rather the only reasonable purpose of the life of any self-aware entity is to maximally increase its total summed lifetime happiness. However as a rational being. upon any deep analysis, it is soon seen that such personal maximization can only be achieved by equally ensuring that this is happening concurrently to all other humans at the same time. That is why my motto for the Self-Sovereign Individual Project is "All for one and one for all!".
 
Humans are genetically (and otherwise biologically) structured to find "relevant/useful information acquisition, recombination, and expression" to be the highest, most rewarding goal in life. Physically we (pro)create "acquired, recombined, and expressed" information through making human babies. Memetically we (pro)create "acquired, recombined, and expressed" information through making new ideas. Creating new, more useful, more interesting information is what makes us happiest. Debate, if it's goal is not to acquire, recombine, and express new ideas, will not only make us not happy, but it will get in the way of solving the problems, because our information will end up artificially limited. Constructive, creative processes which allow unique information to be collected, combined with other information (existing and new), and then shared is the most joyful, and effective approach to life and solving the problems presented by our conflicts between our current needs and what our environment is offering us.

In other words, procreating memetically is the only way to evolve and have fun while doing it!
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