Re: Debate Failure (was: SOC: Opposition to Transhumanism)

From: Robert Bradbury (
Date: Thu Jan 06 2000 - 13:47:29 MST

On Thu, 6 Jan 2000, Menno Rubingh wrote:

> Joseph Sterlynne quoted on Wed, 5 Jan 2000:
> > Hal Finney
> > I believe we have seen mostly failures in our own debates here.
> Simply by being there as an open forum for exchange of ideas connected with
> Transhumanism/Extropianism, I think that this mailing list already *has* a lot
> of the effects and results you say are lacking from the debates on this list.
> Perhaps the link between discussions and tangible results is less direct and
> immediate than you want, but then again maybe the effects of these discussions
> are mostly occurring in a more indirect, not centrally organized and/or
> policed, i.e. in a 'Spontaneous Order' :-) kind of way.

This thread is important. What is involved are some very subtle details
of how the human mind works. Debate, as discussed and detailed in some
previous notes (esp. Joseph's) involves many points. The problem is that
debate is a very linear process. However, movement from "discussion" into
"action" may require a very "parallel" process. If you look at W. Calvin's
analysis of the workings of our minds, the question becomes when the debate
produces sufficient (internal) "parallel" agreement that the debate effector
(i.e. the mind/body) moves into action. Given Calvin's perspective, it would
be highly difficult to track the influences our debates have on the minds
subscribing to the discussions.

What is clear (for me) is that we are lacking an integrated forum for
summary, condensation and presentation of the parallelism inherent
to "debates". It isn't until you hash through the arguments, then
present them in a condensed (parallel) format that the relative
benefits/risks/tradeoffs become clear. I want to stress strongly,
that I think this medium (email distribution) has a limited capacity
to solve this problem. You have to have "editors" willing to do
the presentation re-work and collection of commentary that would
be required to turn debate into conclusions and potentially action.
I cannot stress strongly enough the requirement for a "white-board"
analysis of the debates as crucial to generating the parallel
perceptions that are required to make the debates really useful.

Fundamentally, it requires individuals stepping up to the plate saying
"I am willing to be responsible for (or the expert on) discussion in
this area" and summarizing the various viewpoints.


(As a footnote, I would tend to disagree with any tentative conclusions
that debate in this forum is "fruitless". I know personally in a
number of areas it has forced me to refine my thinking. Given the
"tough sell" I am likely to be, that serves as testimony to those
contributing to the debate.)

This archive was generated by hypermail 2b29 : Thu Jul 27 2000 - 14:02:06 MDT