“In Praise of Debate: An Internet Business Model,” by Dave Scotese. Bringing people together by exploring differences.

I met Dave Scotese a few years back through our mutual friend Ernest Dempsey. Dave created Litmocracy a place that nurtures writers and ideas.

In yet another innovative move, Dave proposes an internet business model to debate social and political ideas. His main idea is to bring people together by exploring differences.

But, let’s listen to Dave. He’s the one with the goods.


“In Praise of Debate: An Internet Business Model”
Bringing people together by exploring differences

by Dave Scotese.

Gary Johnson was excluded from the CNN Republican debate held on June 13th. I learned about this about a week before the debate from someone who felt that his exclusion was unfair.

My first reaction was that Governor Johnson should have the funds to set up a live webcam feed so that he can participate in the debates in real time. If he watched it through Tivo or some other technology that provided that feature, he could pause the debate to respond to any content he wants.


It gave me a business idea too: a website where pairs of people could create video interviews. The site would run interference between the two people, allowing each a minute or so to create a format such as response/prompt. Or, maybe they trust each other enough that the site imposes no time limit.

But it would also provide a kind of transparency. Once you’ve released your video response to the other person, it becomes the right of the site to provide it to the public. But it doesn’t have to be video. It could be audio, and between many people.

The debate might become even more popular if the participants were in each others’ physical presence, being filmed. The cost could be covered through a campaign at The Point which provides a tool for anyone who needs a large group to agree to something before moving ahead with it.

My next step was to ask several people, Janet included, how much it would cost to produce a debate. If enough money could be raised to cover that cost, then we’d go ahead with the debate.

Doesn’t it make sense that political candidates should be able to spend campaign contributions bidding for spots in such a debate? The money could be raised that way too.

Janet asked why I was interested in debate. I’ve always been interested in politics and social issues. My original foray into websites and Litmocracy especially was a result of my realization that the Internet is an awesome tool for communications, and it could really help promote the general welfare or advance human progress or How to Fix the World.

I strongly believe that the main obstacle within any group of autonomous interconnected elements is that the elements can’t communicate enough amongst themselves. That holds true for human bodies, human families, cities, clans, tribes, and companies.

Debate can polarize, but it can also have the positive effects to which I’ve alluded above. In praise of silver linings, I tend to encourage polarization, but less so than honesty, because they are very much at odds with each other.

Paradoxical? Yes, but honest introspection tends to bring people toward the middle, especially among those who are taught to “kill your ego”. By this, I mean do not be afraid of admitting that you didn’t have all the evidence, or that you hadn’t considered it all carefully enough. That is a sign of great intelligence, as well as integrity.

I tend to have a lot more faith in human intelligence than most people because I understand that we each have our own unique set of values. I can tell that everyone nearly always works very intelligently toward achieving the highest ones on their own list (however foolish those values are to me).

The problem stems from widespread failure to understand how vastly different those sets of value are. And the accompanying mistake (thanks, Plato!) that there are universal values toward which we can get everyone working if we just find and enforce the right set of rules. That second mistake is unfortunately repeated and encouraged by authorities, whether religious or political, because it tends to help them, as the authorities making those rules, hold power.

What I love to see is people who agree to disagree not on the grounds that the other side can go on being wrong, but on the grounds that the other side has different values.

It’s rare, but if you are philosophical enough, you can bring people to that place. Then they can see their own intelligence as well as yours, while at the same time disagreeing about how things “should be”.

Stephanie Meyers’ books (Twilight and The Host are the ones I’ve read) treat the subject of cooperation amidst different and often contradictory values very well. Even Bella and Edward sometimes agree to the same course of action, but for very different reasons. And they seem to find this perfectly acceptable. It’s beautiful.

In college, I read Atlas Shrugged by Ayn Rand. After graduation from Revelle College, UCSD with a BS in Cognitive Science, I met Alex Boese, the curator of the Museum of Hoaxes in a creative writing course. I tutored people in math and science and writing and then landed a computer job.

Like so many software engineers, I worked for several businesses that eventually ceased to exist. I co-founded www.StoragePoint.com, which crashed and burned like any good little dot-com company.

While I continued finding work with software companies, I got involved with Slashdot and a few other sites where an open membership was allowed to register individuals’ judgments of quality. I studied a rarely used but highly efficient method of finding consensus that has been named after the French philosopher the Marquis de Condorcet.

A fellow software engineer introduced me to Austrian Economics and dredged up themes from Atlas Shrugged. He used Austrian Economics and Atlas Shrugged together to convince me that public policy inevitably leads to disaster.

I now spend my time encouraging people to stop relying on political rulers for solutions, to consider the possibility that public policy is an avoidable evil, and to use the “Condorcet Method” to find consensus. This last item is the foundation on which I intend, with your help, to enrich the lives of everyone that gets involved with Litmocracy, 99 Burning, and other projects of which I am a part.

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