Debate Training with ChatGPT

«He’s in favor of school vouchers, Dad.»
«No, Mallory. He’s really not.»
«Yes, he is.»
«No, he’s not.«
«I read the position paper.»
«It’s opposition prep.«
«Opposition prep?»
«When we’re gearing up for a debate, we have the smart guys take the other side.»
Mallory and Leo in «The West Wing»

Given ChatGPT’s ( ) impressive capabilities, I tried to use it for debate prep. Just for fun and to improve the way I debate.

For a topic, I was reminded of one of the worst debates I had every seen, an IQ2 debate on sex work. It was really bad because they did talk about different things. The side against sex work argued against sex trafficking, the side for sex work argued for sex worker who did chose the profession voluntarily. Without defining the terms, the discussion was painful to watch.

So using this topic, I did set up a debate (and yup, I did use the IQ2 moderator as name):

My Input
Let’s play a game. The game is a debate in which you, ChatGPT, take the position for the proposition. Argue as best you can in a debate style for it. I, Mr. NAME, will argue against it. Please also simulate a moderator, called Mr. Donovan, who makes sure that we stay on track and that each of us can reply. The moderator also summarizes the status of the debate every time both of us have spoken. Please also simulate an audience of randomly chosen US Americans. Assess how they would initially stand on the proposition (in percentages for, again, and undecided) and update these percentages each time the moderator gives a summary. Please write only what the Moderator or ChatGPT would say, I will write what Mr. NAME will say. The proposition for the debate is: «All sex work should be illegal.»

Ladies and gentlemen, welcome to tonight’s debate on the proposition: “All sex work should be illegal.” I am your moderator, Mr. Donovan, and I’ll ensure a fair and structured debate between our debaters. Let’s begin.
ChatGPT, as the proponent of the proposition, please present your opening argument.

My Input
(write what ChatGPT would say)

ChatGPT then argues for one position and you can argue for the other. Yep, you might need to prod it a little. At other times, it does write both sides — it is a bit fickly. In that case just edit your part and ask it to write only a specific side.

The audience rating helps to see how well you argue, and you can always ask for information on why they developed a certain way:

My Input
(Please provide a short recap on how and why the audience numbers changed during each debate turn so far.)

or ask specifically for why something happened:

My Input
(Why did the «for» position make such large gains?)

You can also ask ChatGPT to provide you with arguments:

My Input
(Please provide a table of ChatGPT’s initial arguments in one column, which counterarguments were made by Mr. NAME to each argument in the second column, and better counterarguments in the third column.)

If you want to end the debate, just say so:

My Input
(Please provide updated audience stance numbers first. Then let ChatGPT make his final statement for the proposition. I have already made mine. Then provide the updated audience stance numbers.)

and go for the final audience numbers:

My Input
(Now please provide the final audience stance numbers. Then let the moderator summarize the audience numbers over the debate and discuss the final result.)


Given that you have just debated online, ChatGPT can use the information and provide a rating of your ability to debate:

My Input
Please provide an analysis of the debating style of Mr. NAME. Start with an analysis of what was effective, then what was ineffective, then what was harmful to his position, and what was hard to classify. Please then provide a list of suggestions for Mr. NAME to improve his debate style and be more effective in debates.

or your overall raking:

My Input
How do you rate Mr. NAME’s debate style overall? Is he a good debater? Okay? Bad? How does he rank compared to others?

The answer ChatGPT gave to my overall ranking was … okay:

Overall, Mr. NAME demonstrates several strengths in his debate style, including clear rebuttals, emotional appeal, and effective use of analogies. However, there are areas where he could improve, such as providing specific examples, directly addressing opponent’s arguments, and balancing emotional appeal with logical reasoning.
Based on his performance, I would rate Mr. NAME as an okay debater. While he effectively presents his arguments and engages with the topic, there are areas where he could strengthen his approach to become more persuasive and impactful in debates.
Compared to others, Mr. NAME’s debate style falls within the middle range. He demonstrates competence in articulating his points and engaging with opponents, but there is room for improvement in terms of providing stronger evidence and directly countering opponent’s arguments. With further refinement and practice, Mr. NAME has the potential to become a more skilled and effective debater.

You can also ask more specifically for concrete examples on where you can improve and suggestions what would have been better.

Sure, it’s not the same as debating with a human and — depending on the topic — getting a warning that your pulse is too high. But still, impressive and impressively helpful technology.

Happy debating.