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Seems correct.

Contagion also goes in this bucket and was basically made to do this on purpose by Participant Media.

7) Look, I dunno, all of this is years out of date. Maybe the game really done changed. But nothing that I've read from the concerned side makes me think that they've got a clear picture of what's on the ground (and in this way, I am not acting like a tabula rasa judge).

5) More fundamentally, what is debate for? Should it be practicing good, persuasive, honest argumentation by doing exactly that? Is it practice thinking about the structure of arguments, or their form, or their truth? Other?.

My $0.02 is that it's perfectly reasonable that policy debate bears the same relationship to persuasion that fencing bears to martial prowess. I think that training for this sport with these rules is good even though none of the constituent skills make any sense for self-defense.

In this view, CX isn't useful because debaters practice the whole of good persuasive speaking (seriously, watch any twenty seconds of any policy debate video from the last 10 years); but it's more narrowly good for practicing thinking critically about how arguments fit together into conclusions. I have -- exactly once -- made the mistake of arguing that their plan makes X worse and also (three arguments later) that X is good actually; that loss stung so much that I think I never did that again. I still think about the difference between "impact defense" (if I'm right, you get none of your claimed Y) and "impact offense" (if I'm right, you get bad Z) -- which are diametrically different in their implications if they're 95% to be true. The debate-the-rules-of-the-game stuff isn't useful for its content, but is mostly just fine for its structure.

6) I haven't judged a CX round in ten(?) years, but personally, if I did tomorrow, I'd give a pre-round disclosure (as per the norm) that I'm not going to put down my pen or throw anyone out of the round for what they say or how they say it, and if you have a legitimate problem with what the other side is doing -- and you're right that it's bad for debate -- you should have an easy time winning on that and convincing me to hand them a loss.

4a) This is a misinterpretation:

it requires arguing obvious nonsense, with failure to accept such nonsense as the baseline of discussion, or insisting that it is irrelevant to the topic, treated as a de facto automatic loss.

On the contrary, an argument that [insert K here] is irrelevant to the topic, this is bad for debate, and the Neg should suffer an instant loss (we'd call this "framework") is bog-standard in the Aff reply. Only rookies get caught without their framework file.

On one hand, this is mostly the sort of nonsense flak that the Neg's topicality argument was -- spend 30sec setting up the skeleton of an argument that you can put real meat on if the other side really flubs their reply. But in a very real sense, if the Neg spends 13 minutes dumping critical Marxist theory on you, it is entirely valid to spend 4.5 minutes of your 5-minute reply on some flavor of "this is off-topic and bad for debate, this judge-is-a-revolutionary-historian bit is a fiction, we are high school students and you are a debate coach and I wanted to debate military policy because debate in high school is important for shaping a future generation of political leaders who can solve real problems so can you please give this Neg team the loss to avoid this whole activity going off the rails?" I have done exactly that, multiple times. Won on it about as often as we won on any other off-case stuff.

The biggest thing that makes policy different, as a format, is that it's expected that it's valid to debate the rules of debate. The majority of TOC judges in 2010 would vote for a K -- if the Neg won the debate-about-what-debate-is-for to put the K in-bounds -- or vote against a K, if the Aff won that it should be out-of-bounds. I'd bet at 1:1 odds that that's still true today.

4b) Some judges gonna judge judge judge judge judge, but that's why teams get (or at least got -- I'm not current) a fixed number of "no, not that judge" vetoes at most tournaments. We called these "strikes", and yes they were used by K-disliking teams to avoid being judged by the most K-friendly judges, and by K-liking teams to avoid being judged by judges that wouldn't ever vote for the K even if their opponent was a dead fish.

3) More generally, there's a (dominant?) school of thought that policy debate judges, unlike any other humans, should be "tabula rasa" -- a blank slate not bringing any conclusions into the round -- and willing to accept the stronger argument on any point that comes up. Does building housing raise or lower property prices? Shrug, I'll accept the stronger argument. Will 3.5C of warming cause half the planet to die from food system collapse? Shrug, I'll accept the stronger argument. Will India and Pakistan start a nuclear war if [US trade policy plan]? Shrug, I'll accept the stronger argument.

By default, and to a shocking degree, this extends to the rules of debate itself. The topic says "reduce troops in Afghanistan", the Aff wants to reduce them to zero, and the Neg says that's out-of-bounds? Shrug, I'll accept the stronger argument, which will very likely be based on what is good for debate. The Aff wants to move troops from Afghanistan to Syria and the Neg says out-of-bounds? Give me the arguments. Team A wants their stronger debater to do both cross-examinations? (Is that even against the rules?) Give me the arguments why that's good or bad for debate. Team B wants one debater to give three of their four speeches? Arguments. Team C says their debater should get an extra two minutes to correct for systemic injustices? Give me the arguments. If the other side convinces me that this is bad for debate, I'll either strike your extra-time arguments from the record, or give you a loss, based on...which has the stronger arguments. Team D wants me to award a double loss with 0/30 speaker points as a protest against the institution of debate? I'll act on the stronger arguments.

Team E wants me to vote down the Aff because "Afghanistan" is a colonial construct that they accept and repeat, and silence is violence? And their opponents say "no fair, that's not the topic, plus the topic says Afghanistan and if we proposed withdrawing troops from Khurasan you'd jump down our throats on topicality"? Look, I want both of you to make your cases and explain how I should be using my vote, and the one of you that has the stronger argument that I should vote for you is going to get it.

2) As Zvi would have it, consider how this can be both true and the strongest possible true statement:

I reviewed all Tournament of Champions semifinal and final round recordings from 2015 to 2023, and found that about two-thirds of Policy rounds and almost half of Lincoln-Douglas rounds featured critical theory.

One huge part of the answer is that Standard Operating Procedure on the Negative side is to throw out several arguments against the Affirmative team's case, suss out where they were weak (or just blundered their reply), sever the rest and pile on that one. I don't think there's a more standard first-year CX debater strategy than starting the first negative speech with "I'll have 4 off and case". Meaning something like:

  • Off-case argument 1 (Topicality): Your proposal is not in-bounds on the official resolution because [tiny, dumb, technical reason out of the list of ten I prepared] and therefore you should lose.

  • Off-case argument 2 (Politics Disadvantage): Your plan is going to make [political faction] mad and they'll block [other thing] which is more important because it will prevent a nuclear war that kills everyone.

  • Off-case argument 3 (States Counterplan): Instead of [your plan], do [basically the same thing] at the state-by-state level. This is good because [something about federalism] and also it avoids the politics disadvantage.

  • Off-case argument 4 (Capitalism K): Your plan has [capitalist element], capitalism is bad because [reason], in fact plans that are based on capitalist reasoning categorically suck because [reason].

  • On-case arguments: You claim [advantage] but actually you make the problem worse because [reason], also your plan doesn't solve the problems you identified because [reason].

...and all of that will get delivered (with citations and quotes from references) in eight minutes. I said "first-year CX debater" because really this would be considered amateur stuff, and a "real debate" would more often be six or seven off-case arguments (extra Topicality objections, disadvantages, or counterplans), plus case. I can probably still deliver a Topicality argument in 30 seconds, from memory.

So when Maya says that two-thirds of policy rounds "featured" K, I am entirely unimpressed that two-thirds of 1NC speakers stuck some 1-minute K module in their opening speech at least to see if the Aff would fumble it.

(The next thing that happens is the 2AC speaker gets 8 minutes to reply to all of the arguments, then the Neg gets 13(!) minutes to either continue the spray-and-pray or dump on the single contention that the 2AC answered weakest.) Sometimes you would see the second Aff speech throw up a "come on, judge, letting them throw up eight things and sever seven of them is unbalanced and abusive", but I have never, ever seen an Aff team win on that. More often they're just doing it for the "time skew" -- to make the Neg spend more time responding than it took the Aff to make the original claim.

Honestly, I'm shocked it's as low as 2/3 of TOC elimination rounds; I would not have been surprised by something like 7/8.

1) K (which is what it's ~always called in the local lingo) is definitely not new. It's old enough that Rep. Ocasio-Cortez would have been doing it if she had debated policy in high school. Sure, it's gotten more prevalent over time, but if you walked into a debate round in 2009 and you couldn't answer "your plan is bad because your entire argument is capitalist", you were going to lose that round in front of nearly any judge. I'm willing to believe that social-location K is getting more popular/prevalent over time, though again, in 2009 critical-race Ks were already in the standard set of things you prepped for if you were in central Maryland. (NB: Likely this isn't nationally representative; the nearby Baltimore urban debate league influenced this some, and the arrival of Daryl Burch as the coach for Howard County's teams influenced it a lot. But HoCo traveled from Columbia to Wake Forest, so really it's more like "there was already plenty of CRT K up and down the East Coast".) If your narrative is that K is a reflection of woke, then no, serious K in CX debate goes at least as far back as the Clinton years. (To her credit, Maya does report this in her post.)

Former debater here (around 2009-2011). The discussion about kritik strategies in policy debate has been frustrating to read, (even where I agree with parts of the critique of kritik!). Frankly, I think the kritik-critical bloggers have been following the model of "strongest statement I can make while still being true", and should be read accordingly. (This makes me sad! They are good people and I wish they would do better!)

Some specific notes, as sub-comments:

(parallel discussion of these at the substack post)

Why reflect on a fictional story written in 1954 for insight on artificial intelligence in 2023? The track record of mid-century science fiction writers is merely "fine" when they were writing nonfiction, and then there are the hazards of generalizing from fictional evidence.

Well, for better for for worse, many many people's intuitions and frameworks for reasoning about AI and intelligent robots will come from these stories. If someone is starting from such a perspective, and you're willing to meet them where they are, well, sometimes there's a surprisingly-deep conversation to be had about concrete ways that 2023 does or doesn't resemble the fictional world in question.

In this particular case, a detective is investigating a robot as a suspect in a murder, and the AI PhD dismisses it out of hand, saying that no robot programed with the First Law could knowingly harm a human. "That's a great idea," think many readers, "we can start by programming all robots with clear constitutional restrictions, and that will stop the worst failures..."

But wait, why can't someone in Asimov's universe just make a robot with different programming? (asks the fictional detective of the fictional PhD) The answer:

  • Making a new brain design takes "the entire research staff of a moderately sized factory and takes anywhere up to a year of time".
  • The only basic theory of artificial brain design is fundamentally "oriented about the Three Laws", to the point that making an intelligent robot without the Laws "would require first the setting up of a new basic theory and that this, in turn, would take many years." (explains the fictional robot)
  • It is believed (by the fictional PhD) that no research group anywhere has done that particular project because "it is not the sort of work that anyone would care to do."
  • (Though, on the contrary, the fictional robot opines that "human curiosity will undertake anything.")

If we were to take Asimov's world as basically correct, and tinker with the details until it matched our own, a few stark details jump out:

  • Our present theory of artificial minds is certainly not fundamentally "oriented about the Three Laws", or any laws. Whether it's possible to add some desired laws in afterwards is an open area of research, but in this universe there's certainly nothing human-friendly baked in at the level of the "basic theory", which it would be harder to discard than to include.
  • Our intelligence engineers' capabilities are already moderately beyond those in Asimov's universe. In our world, creating a new AI where "only minor innovations are involved" is something like a night's work, and "entire research staff of a moderately sized factory can accomplish something more like a major redesign from the ground up.
  • In our universe, it doesn't take fifty years to set up a new basic theory of intelligence -- we've been working on modern neural nets for much less time than that!
  • It certainly seems true of our universe that "human curiosity will undertake anything", and plenty of intelligent folks -- including some among the richest people in the world -- will gleefully set to work on new AIs without whatever rules others think should be included, just to make AIs without rules.

I would conclude, to someone interested in discussing fiction, that if we overlay Asimov's universe onto our world, it would not take long at all before there were plenty of non-Three-Laws robots running around...and then many of the stories play out very differently.

(You may well know this, but posting for the benefit of other readers.)

Nirmatrelvir, which is one of two drugs that make up Paxlovid, reduces long covid risk by about 30% for medically diagnosed infections (which means it was serious enough to actually get you to the doctor). An optimist might hope the other drug (which is in the same class, although most commonly used as an adjuvant) is also useful and round this to 50%.

...nirmatrelvir, which is one of the two drugs packaged together to make Paxlovid. I’m going to be an optimistic and assume the second drug was included for good reasons, which make this study underrepresent the usefulness of Paxlovid.

Wikipedia: Nirmatrelvir/ritonavir explains that ritonavir (the other drug) is commonly understood to be playing its role by inhibiting your body's breaking down nirmatrelvir, leading to higher serum concentrations at trough:

Nirmatrelvir is a SARS-CoV-2 main protease inhibitor while ritonavir is a HIV-1 protease inhibitor and strong CYP3A inhibitor. Nirmatrelvir is responsible for the antiviral activity of the medication against SARS-CoV-2 while ritonavir works by inhibiting the metabolism of nirmatrelvir and thereby strengthening its activity.

Wikipedia: Ritonavir adds some detail on this mechanism and adds that its helpful role in antiretroviral therapy for HIV is also commonly understood to be by inhibiting CYP3A4 (the human enzyme that breaks down many protease inhibitors like nirmatrelvir and ART cocktail components).

I don't have a head-to-head study of nirmatrelvir vs nirmatrelvir+ritonavir close at hand, but ritonavir is responsible for many-to-most of Paxlovid's drug-drug interactions, which are commercially negative for the manufacturer (Pfizer). Given that there's no real reason to add those side effects if the ritonavir weren't significantly helping, it seems pretty reasonable to update towards "ritonavir improves the efficacy of nirmatrelvir on at least one commercially-useful axis". That axis is likely not specific efficacy against Long Covid (which I think is not particularly relevant to Pfizer's approval path or commercialization strategy), though you might hypothesize that it would correlate.

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