Category Archive Debate Technical

ByJoris Graff

Should environmental activists support sabotage and destruction against major polluting companies?

This house believes that environmental activist organizations should start a campaign of sabotage and destruction against major polluting companies

Round 3 – Utrecht Online Open 2021

This motion was set in round three of Utrecht Online Open 2021 and was the most interesting debate I was allowed to judge this tournament. If a motion concerns the climate problem, then I am already interested. As far as I am concerned, the motion is also interesting because it offers the possibility for principled arguments (do environmentalists have a right, or even an obligation, to self-defense, even when it takes on violent forms?) and for the analysis of a large number of stakeholders (environmentalists themselves, large companies, the general public, the government). It is necessary for teams to go into detail about the motives of these different stakeholders and the way in which these motives are influenced by the motion. Below, I will briefly discuss some arguments for the proposition and opposition and the way in which these can be weighed against each other. Since in my debate hardly any attention was paid to principled arguments, I will omit them, which does not mean that these arguments cannot be effective.

One reason why I think that this motion is interesting is that perhaps the most intuitive argument for the proposition is also one of the least effective in my view. This argument is that large companies have a profit motive and when they have to spend more costs on security and repair for polluting activities, they are more likely to switch to sustainable production models. However, it is difficult to prove that these costs will be so high that they outweigh profound transformations in business operations. How realistic is it that radical environmentalists, who are likely to have relatively few resources, can deal such a significant blow to multinationals?

A more promising route for proponents is to focus on the implications of the thesis for political and public perceptions of environmentalism and issues. The team that was the second proposition in my debate did so most effectively on the basis of the (to me unknown) “radical flank theory”. This theory states that when a flank of an activist movement radicalizes, it has positive effects for the moderate majority of the movement. First, it makes it possible for moderate activists to present themselves as a reasonable alternative. Environmentalists are often seen as radical anyway, regardless of their actions. When they can point to a more radical flank, it helps improve their own image. Second, it leads to moderate activists becoming a more attractive collaborative partner for authorities. The government, naturally, wants to combat violence as much as possible and one of the ways to do this is to seek more cooperation with the moderate flank of the movement, thus removing the discontent that feeds radicalism and allowing the moderate movement to outstrip the radical activists. This makes it easier to obtain concessions from the government regarding ecological regulations.

The opposition, of course, tries to set up the opposite frame in which the perception of some of the environmentalists being seen as radical spills over to the entire movement, including the more moderate parts of it. When this is the case, negative consequences will, of course, follow. For example, the Opening Opposition in my debate tried to prove that this perception makes the government less inclined to cooperate with environmental movements, because they do not want to be open to the criticism of collaborating with radicals. The Closing Opposition tried to prove that individuals are less likely to make their consumption habits more ecologically sound, because they do not want to be associated with a movement that is seen as radical.

The crux of the clash over the social and political impacts of this motion thus boils down to how the general public will understand these actions and how this spills over to moderate activists. It is difficult for teams to win this clash because “the general public” is quite a diverse actor and different members are likely to react in different ways. That’s why nuance is important. Which parts of the public are most likely to be more positive or negative towards the environmental movement? Why are these parts of the public most important to ecological decision-making? Eventually, the Closing Government won the debate that I was judging because they provided two points of nuance that we felt were missing from the opposition (and the Opening Government): a) the way in which a group behaves has more influence on the majority of people’s perception of that group rather than the views of the group, meaning that moderate activists are likely to be judged more positively on their behavior than they are judged negatively on their ideological association with radicals and b) that people who tend to relate these actions to the entire environmental movement are in any case already likely to not think much of environmental activists and therefore the behavior of this group (and thus their influence on the government) probably changes little. The decision to let the Closing Government win, however, was not unanimous, indicating how much of a complicated discussion was required to win this central clash.

This motion is a good example of why it is important for teams to look beyond the obvious arguments (“Companies want to make money!” and “People don’t like violence!”) and delve deeper into the question of how motives of different (sub)groups play through in their behavior. As often happens in debates, this motion is not won by introducing the most intuitive points but by best linking the points to a convincing analysis of the psychology of the different stakeholders. This motion has strengthened my belief that much of debating is actually applied psychology.

ByRoel Becker

Arguments: People should receive their entire pension upon retirement

The following motion was the topic of the second-round debate of the Nijmegen Open 2020.

Infoslide: A lump-sum pension payment is when workers receive their whole pension at the start of their retirement. A staggered pension payment is when they are paid their pension monthly.

Motion: THW allow workers to make a choice between a lump sum pension payment and a staggered pension payment.

Round 2 – Nijmegen Open 2020

This motion review is partly based on the discussions and testing that was performed within the CA team of the Nijmegen Open: Fabian Beitsma, Gigi Gil, Hadar Goldberg, Lucy McManus, Parth Pandya, Marta Vasić & Roel Becker. I thank all co-CA’s for their hard work. Obviously, only I am responsible for any mistakes.

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ByRyoji Yoshisada

Arguments: Should we allow Income Share Agreements?

At the Amsterdam Open 2020, the following motion was discussed:

Infoslide: For the purposes of this debate, income share agreements are contracts where a person can agree to receive money from investors, in exchange for the investors making decisions over their career choices and reaping some of their income.

Motion: This House would allow people to sign income share agreements (ISA).

Amsterdam Open 2020 – Round 3

When we see this motion, there are two conclusions we need to think about.

  1. Is allowing ISAs beneficial or harmful?
  2. Is allowing ISAs legitimate or not?

This motion is a really good example to dig into both of the questions.

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ByFabian Beitsma

Debating Parenting

Bron cover image: Eckerd Connects

I am Fabian, 23, and almost graduated in clinical psychology. I started debating in the fourth grade of high school, and it immediately fascinated me. Debating involves a combination of a competitive element, plus the development of many skills such as analytical and critical thinking, processing speed and abstract thinking. Debating has brought me a lot more besides these intellectual skills: part-time work as a debate trainer for politicians, making many friends and acquaintances and an accepting environment for LGBT+ people and identity formation.

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ByFabian Beitsma

Tiger Parenting: good or bad?

Source cover image: New York Times

In this article, I have discussed different parenting styles. I will apply this knowledge to a motion that often comes up, namely:

This House supports Tiger Parenting.

This is a form of upbringing in which the parents set high standards for their child but also reward them for achieving a result.

The observant reader will have noticed that the simplest argument for the statement is that Tiger Parents are, in a sense, authoritative parents. They set high standards but are also committed and rewarded for good results. This ensures that the child has enough positive reinforcement but also develops positive cognitive schemes such as “I can achieve anything if I work hard”. They see the value of making an effort for something that will only give you long-term reward (such as studying for a degree), which is important for later skills such as financial responsibility.

An argument against the motion is that parents are, or want to be, insufficiently aware when their child cannot meet the high standards. Much milder forms of developmental disorders such as a non-verbal learning disability or Klinefelter syndrome are sometimes not noticed until late or even never. As a result, children are punished for not being able to plan enough or achieve high performance. By repeatedly being negative reinforcement without understanding where the problem comes from, children develop negative schemas like “I always fail.” These schemes are not only limited to learning but also determine how they deal with social relationships and other situations.

ByGigi Gil

Should we ban Artificial Intelligence in criminal proceedings?

This is the last part of our series on Artificial Intelligence in debating. Read part 1 and part 2 too!

In the previous two articles, you have read what is meant when we speak of artificial intelligence (AI). Mike has done the hard work. In this article, it is my honour to give an example of the application of this knowledge in debating, based on the following motion:

This House would ban the use of statistical risk assessments for determining penalties in criminal proceedings.

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ByMike Weltevrede

Artificial Intelligence in Debating (Part 2)

In the previous article, we discussed what artificial intelligence (AI) actually is. In short, AI is a method that uses input data to complete a certain task by imitating human thinking. In this article, I discuss applications of AI in the real world, such as deep fakes. Moreover, I will talk about black-box algorithms: why are they used and what are the developments around “explainable AI”?

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ByMike Weltevrede

Artificial Intelligence in Debating (Part 1)

One type of topic that is increasingly being set at many tournaments is artificial intelligence (AI). Due to AI being such a complex and novel topic (both in reality and in debating), lots of debaters don’t manage to go much beyond slippery slope arguments implying some type of malevolent impending doom and struggle to make nuanced arguments. Examples where AI is involved, include route-planning, Alexa/Siri, and spam filtering of your emails.

This article is meant to serve as the first of a two-part guide to debating AI, going through the basics of artificial intelligence, starting with machine learning (ML) and ending with deep learning (DL) this week. Next week, I will talk about examples of applications of AI, ML, and DL in the real world (and why they are used). Conclusively, Gigi Gil will put the knowledge to use in the context of debating by discussing a debate motion on artificial intelligence in the system of criminal law. Any additions or questions? Let me know what you think in the comments!

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