Sunday Meetup - Rational Debating

Buffalo-area Less Wrong meetups on the first Sunday and Third Thursday of every month, in 31 Capen Hall at the University at Buffalo - North Campus.

We had a good time with the RATIONAL DEBATE last time we did it, so I thought it might be fun to do it again.

Help me come up with some topics we can debate:

1. Rationality and Relationships: Do some relationship styles (polyamory, monogamy, etc) have advantages over others? Do we choose monogamy over other relationship styles too often due to the status quo bias?

2. The Singularity: Will the intelligence explosion happen? Do you believe it will happen in our lifetimes? Is there reason to be concerned about it?

3. Cryonics: Should you do it? Is it worth the risk? Why or why not?

If anyone has some good ideas on debate topics, Post it in the comments and "like" the ones you want to discuss. I'll pick three of them a week or so before the meetup and put them up here.

 

It'll go something like this:

  • In a conventional debate, you win by sounding more plausible than the other person. In a rational debate, you win if and only if you end up believing the truth. This makes it a cooperative game - it's possible for everyone to win or for everyone to lose. (Incidentally it also means you don't actually know whether you've won or not).

  • Initially, each person answers the question separately, choosing how they wish to frame their answer. If people come up with very different ways of framing the question, we will take each one in turn and try to approach the question from that direction. (The point of this is to avoid fighting over the framing of the discussion and instead address the issues directly).

  • I'll keep track of structural stuff - different ways of framing the question, agreed subtopics of discussion, and binary chopping to find points of disagreement (which involves lists of statements and verbally how plausible we each think they are).

    • If you didn't attend the meetup on combat reflexes, I'd strongly recommend reading what we covered that day.

  • When arguing against something, construct a steel man first - rephrase the opposing argument in your own words, making it as strong and plausible as you can, before you try and defeat it.

  • Be bold and specific - make sure you're saying something substantial, even if you're not completely sure it's true.

  • The social aspect: make sure we're providing status and rewards for the right things. Changing your mind should be rewarded rather than discouraged. Likewise, being good at admitting fault is a strength, not a weakness.

  • Leave a line of retreat. What would I do if I was wrong about this?

  • Try to notice when you're replying to somebody's cached thought with a cached thought of your own. I'll try and do the same.

  • Try to find something to change your mind about, even if it's something small.

  • Separate out disagreement about facts from disagreement about values (and disagreement about strategy, which combines both). Separate out semantic confusion.

  • If possible, identify which of these techniques you're trying to put into practice. I'll do the same. (By drawing attention to this we'll help keep things purposeful, and also hopefully learn which techniques seem particularly useful).

Resources on rational debate: 

http://lesswrong.com/lw/3k/how_to_not_lose_an_argument/

http://lesswrong.com/lw/85h/better_disagreement/

http://lesswrong.com/lw/o4/leave_a_line_of_retreat/

http://lesswrong.com/lw/gm9/philosophical_landmines/

Hope to see you all at UB on Sunday! Let me know if you can come.

Join or login to comment.

  • A former member
    A former member

    Wanted to post this meetup to lesswrong.com, but I need 20 karma points before i'm allowed to post stuff there.

    June 28, 2013

    • Bojidar K.

      Did you try the "add a new meetup" button? I know posting articles on LW requires karma, but I don't think posting meetups requires any Karma.

      June 29, 2013

  • Bojidar K.

    Possible Topic - Rationality and Relationships: Do some relationship styles (polyamory, monogamy, etc) have advantages over others? Do we choose monogamy over other relationship styles too often due to the status quo bias?

    June 27, 2013

  • Bojidar K.

    Possible Topic - The Singularity: Will the intelligence explosion happen? Do you believe it will happen in our lifetimes? Is there reason to be concerned about it?

    June 27, 2013

  • Bojidar K.

    Possible Topic - Cryonics: Should you do it? Is it worth the risk? Why or why not?

    2 · June 27, 2013

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