Peter McBurney

Peter McBurney is a researcher who has closely studied the use of advanced software in deliberative democracy.

In the abstract of his paper on Intelligent Systems to Support Deliberative Democracy in Environmental Regulation, 2000, which he cited in much later work, he claimed that "among normative models for democracy, the Deliberative model suggests that public policy decisions should be made only following rational, public deliberation of alternative courses of action. We argue that such a model is particularly appropriate for the assessment of environmental and health risks of new substances and technologies, and the development of appropriate regulatory responses. To give operational effect to these ideas, we propose a dialectical argumentation formalism..." which later led to risk agora and epistemic uncertainty models.

In Truth or Consequences: Using argumentation to reason about risk he claims that "Policy debates about the impact of new technologies or substances often begin with a proposal that the innovation poses potential hazards to those exposed to or using it. Such potential hazards are typically disputed by other scientists on the basis that no theoretically-sound causal mechanism exists to explain the alleged relationship. Debates often then proceed with an experiment which demonstrates a statistical correlation, but articulation of a sound causal mechanism" requires explicit argumentation - the form of which he specified as the Eightfold Way of Deliberation Dialogue after the Noble Eightfold Path.

While the issue/position/argument structure that Horst Rittel proposed initially in 1970 is the best known way to represent argument, Gordon's work on the Zeno Argumentation Framework has formalized it somewhat. These methods are however markedly more rationalistic than the dialectic approach of McBurney. In A Hundred Schools of Thought Automatically Contending, 2001, Peter McBurney and Simon Parsons justifies thist as "human participants rarely, if ever, satisfy one of the central tenets of the classical economic models of decision-making 26: they do not usually begin a decision process with pre-determined preferences and utility valuations, but instead these are formed (either partially or completely) in the very process of undertaking the transaction 45."

This tends to be even more true of public policy decisions, which are often not seriously examined by those most affected until they are undertaken. Structuring Dialogue Between the People and Their Representatives (2003), Katie Greenwood, Trevor Bench-Capon and _Peter McBurney__ note that "the use of technology often requires a rethinking of the existing process if the full benefits are to be achieved. Drawing on the work of Walton and Krabbe" they "identified a number of different dialogue types", six in all. These were incorporated in living ontology along with a seventh type, the diagnostic dialogue that generalizes scientific method and includes the pose principle which it has in common with McBurney's risk agora.