Structured debate

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Author's note: Despite multiple refinements, this is still rather wordy. Feel free to ask me questions on Mastodon, and that will help me improve this explanation.


Structured debate is a way of cutting through disinformation and misunderstanding around complex topics. The key observation behind it is that policy decisions often depend on chains of logic that have gotten tangled or lost, and people forget or don't notice that key premises are basically wrong.

The mapper keeps track of the logical structure and shows what happens to the conclusion when a premise is found to be in error.


A lot of political debate involves people reaching conclusions that involve fairly complex chains of reasoning -- they believe A because of B and C, and C because of D and E... and a lot of propaganda revolves around planting misinformation at those lower levels -- E is actually false, though everyone believes it, but the debate mostly revolves around A because nobody thinks to question C because that would require questioning D and E people reach the wrong conclusion. Some of them may intuitively feel it's wrong, but they can't figure out why. There's a premise they're not checking.

So being "reasonable" ends up meaning you have to go along with a conclusion that's both factually and intuitively wrong.

Structured debate, and the debate mapper software, are designed to keep track of these complex relationships in order to reduce such errors from "inevitable" to "rare".


  • /rules: structural design / "business" logic


Ecosystem Features

  • Linking: In order to negate the need to replay existing debates within new contexts, any given point in a debate can be made dynamically dependent on the outcome of another debate.
  • Categorization: any given point within a debate may touch on one or more topics of general interest, and should be findable by anyone exploring that topic. A system for managing crowdsourced topic-tagging is under development.
  • Relationships: It may be useful to be able to quantify the nature of a link's relationship with more granularity. One possible relationship:
    • A is a generalization of B (= B is a special case of A)
    • A may be inferred from B (= B is a premise upon which A is based)
    • Types of support-point (this will definitely be needed):
      • A is necessary in order for B to be true
      • A is sufficient in order for B to be true

Usability Features

Additional features not essential to the basic concept but which makes it more usable:

  • Text search: search within a branch for specific text or patterns
  • Notifications: users should be able to set a preference indicating that they do (or do not) want to be notified (by any of various methods) when any of the following occurs for any given debate point:
    • the point's status changes (from true to false or vice-versa)
    • anyone edits the point's text
    • the status of any subpoint changes
    • anyone adds a new support or counter point

There may be other usability features we will want to include.


  • /counterpoint spam: Dishonest participants may repeatedly raise spurious objections solely for the purpose of keeping the correct conclusion in a state of presumed falsehood.



  • Note Sakari's comments here.