Universal Debating Project
Basic Proposal by Robert Searle
The Universal Debating Project (or UDP) is an extremely ambitious proposal for an ongoing programme in which "all", or most arguments for, or against any topic of human knowledge could be presented in the clearest, and shortest possible form. It would also include an online "encyclopedia"(like Wikipedia) for the pros, and cons of any debate which could be continually updated in Real-Time on the internet. It would naturally adopt the Networking P2P approach, and hence, be an Open Source of structured data emanating from laymen, experts, NGOs, scholarly papers, popular articles, documentaries, web feeds, aggregators (ie.feed readers, or news readers), et al.
Ofcourse, articles such as those on Wikipedia do try to present arguments for, and against particular subjects. But how "complete," and how unbiased are they? Moreover, they deal probably with mainly major arguments, and to a lesser extent "minor" arguments. In effect, what is needed is the most objective presentation of "all" possible pros, and cons on most, if not "all" kinds of human knowledge.
Ideally, the Universal Debating Project should be publicly seen as being the most reliable, and the most credible central global source of such structured data in the world. Its aim is to achieve improved constructive reasoning, and greater holistic objectivity. It should become of great practical value for educators, citizens, governments, NGOs, businesses, et al.
The Problem of Complexity
As the world becomes increasingly complex it becomes more, and more vital to....
a) ...reduce most, if not "all" introductory information on a topic into clear, and manageable levels of data (ie. Text Simplification)...ideally using the least number of words..(similiar to notes, or "good" powerpoint presentations, and as short comprehensive summaries consisting of one, or more paragraph)
b) ...reduce "all" major, and "minor" resulting arguments for, and against of topic in the most lucid manner possible....again ideally using the least number of words...
c) ....a whole series of links to various sources could ofcourse be included at the click of a button. Ofcourse, the relevant sentences in many cases could be cached, or highlighted.
Special editors could do the above work notably in connection with a), and b). This would mean that any pro, and con arguments which are repeated could be "quickly" reduced into the least numbers of words, and be free of emotional language. These could be emailed to those in a debate to see if the participants opinions are presented accurately.
Apart from Wikipedia mentioned earlier there are ofcourse on the internet any number of forums, and discussion groups. These are fine as far as they go. But as said before how complete are their arguments for, and against a certain topic? Naturally enough, such arguments are continually repeated again, and again. This is where the UDP becomes all-important.
A vital aspect of all this is that it should be possible for people to become "instant experts." In other words, they should be able to become reasonably "expert" in the shortest space of time in say some aspect of economics, biology, or physics, or whatever. Thus, there is an element here of Anti-Credentialism in which essentially good arguments rely on good "objective" thinking rather than relying on the credibility of experts all the time.
Ofcourse, those who have formal qualifications, and training still play a vital role, but they must be prepared to submit their ideas, and discoveries onto the UDP. Thus, they could be "fully" scrutinised by other experts, and by the public without relevant credentials. This could all lead in certain instances to "quality" online global "brainstorming", or more precisely "brainwriting" sessions leading to "new" ideas that may have value in society, and the world. Hence, Collective Intelligence at work.
It should be added here too that technical subjects such as physics, and the processes involved in mathematics could be presented verbally, and clearly. In the latter instance, a individual may have little, or no training. But with "simple" verbal step by step presentations he, or she could reach levels of "mathematical understanding."
The Importance of "Rationality"
The structured data of the UDP should be like the Pros, and Cons, a Debaters Handbook edited by Trevor Sather which went through a number of editions since 1896. Here, two columns are presented, one of which is for pro arguments, and the other for con arguments. This along with a brief lucid presentation of an issue, or topic should ofcourse become ultimately universally standardized for the entire world, and act as a truly comprehensive compliment to any number of "decentralized" sources of information.
An intriguing aspect of the Universal Debating Project is that we could have what is termed a "Rationality Count"(RC). This would be the electronic tracking of peoples decision-making processes for, and against a specific topic. This could give us valuable insight as to the degrees of rationality people may have. For instance, 2,000 people may select pro argument a for topic C via the internet. Then, a con argument b could be presented online for the same topic C, and 1,500 decide to agree with it, and ofcourse, press the right button on their computers to transmit their decision...and so on. We may well find interesting patterns if RCs are used. In other words, a "mapping out" of the "thinking processes" of participants in the UDP.
If the "Global Brain", or Universal Debating Project were ever set up, its initial concern would probably be with major issues notably social matters, economics, politics, and climate change/global warming. A site could be set up, and it could even have a motto such as "Fair Thinking, Fair World".
Also, it should be added that it is as yet unclear how such a proposal could be funded. It could use the Wikipedia model, or maybe not.
The following list of links may have direct, and indirect relevance to the above p2pfoundation entry. Yet, they are worthy of inclusion here. They also give us an idea of the immensity of the subject of debating, rationality, and thinking......
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Straight_and_Crooked_Thinking A book by the parapsychologist Robert Thouless,(pronounced Tooliss) and one in which he gave a "simplistic" presentation of the different forms of argument.
There are naturally enough a number of debating "organizations" on the internet. However, the scale, and indeed, scope of the UDP is far greater, and "infinitely" comprehensive.
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Global_brain The UDP could play a "central" role in the Global Brain proposal
A key problem with policy making is that unforeseen consequences can often happen. Hence, the need for good thought through planning to reduce future problems. Such policy making could be aided with the structured data approach of the UDP http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Policy
http://p2pfoundation.net/Category:Facilitation This has a list of links of great interest
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/E-democracy (The UDP could play a critical role in this)
The link below deals with games that have serious educational value, and could in certain situations even affect socio-economic change. Ofcourse, a pro, and con project such as the above could be presented in an attractive, and stimulating manner.
Mind Maps are another way of presenting issues other than the pro, and con approach. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mind_map
Semantics can have relevance. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Semantic_technology
There are variety of ways for developing greater creativity. One such approach is lateral Thinking.
The following deals with Upstream Engagement in which people can have informed dialogue about subjects (notably in connection with "controversial" scientific innovation)
Another area of likely relevance is media bias. If undertaken correctly, the Universal Debating Project should be able to present the most "objective" presentation in the world of various topics notably on emotive issues such as genetically modified food, and global warming.
A link of links http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Complexity_theory
Big Data could play a big role in the all this. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Big_data
The following link is concerned with the idea(!) of Ideonomy which would probably be of great relevance to UDP.
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Nootropic (ie.Smart Drugs)
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Occam%27s_razor (This could be seen as a complete contradiction to the UDP)
http://flynn.debating.net/amazon.htm (an interesting list of book references on debating, etc)
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Propaganda (a classic example of the "misuse" of data)
An important area of enquiry is how accurate, and authentic statistics are. With the aid of the UDP a set of them could be scrutinized rigorously. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Statistics
There is an important radio programme which questions statistics...http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/More_or_Less_(radio_programme)
Some interesting info can be found on the discussion section of this page/subject entry.
Finally, a blog has been set up. http://universaldebatingproject.blogspot.co.uk/ Other "relevant" subject matters not included as links in the above may also exist on the blog itself, and maybe included at the P2P Foundation site.