Thursday, June 11, 2015

Improving Idea Representation and Debate

Note: you can skip the prelude by scrolling past the screenshot.

No category of invention has ever been more influential than that of concept representation schemes, which claims such notable alumni as natural language and mathematics.

Concepts have deeply symbiotic relationships with their representations; our inklings are pitiful, delicate agoraphobes without some formal carapace to curl inside of. And, once linked, the two inevitably fuse; discerning a point of separation becomes an endless task: their boundary expands into infinite, alluring detail whose completion always appears near.

Further, our choices of formalization accrete in layers, each developing its own character, without ever fully concealing its origin.

Some representations excel at distinguishing multitudes and attaching to them, separately, myriad, manifold impressions; others have no memory for names, but are remarkably intuitive with relationships. There are factions, and contests: there are those who would have it that rigor stably supports life, and those who claim it the first sign of death. Others plead vociferously, and vaguely, for a kind of harmony. 

It was said, in a representation long forgotten, that, "no two forms possess intrinsic merit disparity; the worth of a form exists only in relation to a thought,"—but then! There arose a structure so impossibly well-balanced, so gloriously lacking in error, so frustratingly perfect, that psychotic murmurs of, "messiah," crying whispers of "divinity," and hopeless exhalations of, "God" filled the once heathen mound of abstract rabble. The one true form emerged:
The text in this screenshot is unfortunately misleading—each node should have a single sentence, plain, statement of some 'claim'—a 'proposition,' if you prefer.

Actually, no—my mistake—that's just a screenshot of a project I started nearly a year ago. Ah, well, I guess I'll just talk about it instead.

Natural language has many virtues. Formal mathematical languages also have many virtues—in fact, in a certain sense, it may even be said that they are the more virtuous of the two. Unfortunately, however, even if that is the case, in some sense, it is irrelevant: people have to actually use the language, and nobody has the time for something much more formal than natural language—not even mathematicians!

So, the idea here is to add just the smallest amount of structure to natural language: one must break their overall idea into the separate claims one desires to make—then state those claims with whatever level of formality you'd like. Furthermore, arrange your various claims so that some are supporting others; the supporting claims will be rendered as children in a hierarchy.

Once you have represented some idea, or hypothesis, in this manner, you may do a number of things with it: you can re-use its parts to state new ideas, you may share their parts or whole (though they'll be subject to rating at this point), you can request that a whole 'hypothesis' be critiqued—or, you can put it up for public debate, in the CRUCIBLE (or private debate, not in the crucible, is also fine).

The debate system emphasis the constructive qualities of argumentation: two competing hypotheses are reconciled into one improved hypothesis, with individual claims having been treated individually.

It's possible that a more refined taxonomy of rhetorical devices could be sequestered from conventional expository essay structure than just claims/justification. For instance, why not have 'alternate phrasings' or 'examples' or 'empirical evidence' be node types in the hierarchy of one's hypothesis?

Using such a system, one could represent: political arguments, business decisions, philosophical or scientific ideas—you name it!

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