View of buildings

Global Debate


The NYU Presidential Global Debate Program engages the GNU in a wide-ranging conversation on current issues.  The university-wide, co-curricular competition invites undergraduate students to participate in two-on-two debates judged by NYU faculty, alumni staff and topic area experts.   NYU students from Accra to Shanghai debate the same topic using video as well as in-person competition.   When envisioning the Global Debate program, NYU President Emeritus John Sexton — a champion debater and debate coach — said, "The key idea of NYU as a global network university is that our students and faculty, regardless of location, are part of one university. While many of our pursuits, both scholarly and extracurricular, will be particular to one campus, as NYU continues to evolve as a global network university, many others, like debate, will take place across the network to test ideas and strengthen connections”.  
A new resolution is announced during the fall semester annually focused on a different controversy.   The top domestic and international entrants advance to elimination rounds at the end of the Spring Semester and compete for a share of thousands of dollars in awards and prizes.  
At the Global Debates, we are committed to making our program accessible to any student regardless of prior debate experience, topic knowledge, or access to resources.  Registered participants have access to extensive training resources, research starter kits, and consultations with experts in group settings or one-on-one. 

The Global Debates are a program of the Global Debate Fund.   The Global Debate Fund supports domestic and international programs and partnerships that enhance critical thinking, research and speaking abilities of NYU students and their surrounding communities.  Current Fund initiatives include:
  • Presidential Global Debate Program
  • International Public Policy Forum
  • Cross Examination Debate Association [CEDA] Policy Debate Team
  • Debate Pedagogy/Techniques For the Classroom
  • Portal Campus Debate Program Integration Initiative

2020-21 Global Debate Advancing Teams

1. Adelle Fernando & Adejoke Mason
2. Isabella Franklin & Vighnesh Mehrotra
3.Eugene Toth & Alex Sherman
4. Jaedon Abbott & Max Kornfeld
5. Eric Deng & Brandon Lu
6. Ethan Rosen & Aziza Kurbonova
7. Alejandro Scott & Siyu Sun
8. Faizan Hussain & Maggie Pierce

Top Prize: $3000/team Runner-Up: $1500/team Semifinalists: $500/team Quarterfinals: $300/team


Global Debate Partner-Matching/Orientation Session
Tuesday, March 30th | 5pm EDT

Global Debate Training Sessions
Thursday, April 1st | 9:30am EDT and 6:00pm EDT
Advance Registration is required for both to receive the Zoom link. Participants should email

Registration for the Global Debates closed on April 19th at 5pm EDT. 
Preliminary competition begins with Division B on April 22nd at 5pm EDT.
Elimination rounds will begin on May 7th.

2020-21 Topic Primer

The earliest successful AI program was written in 1951 by Christopher Strachey, later director of the Programming Research Group at the University of Oxford. Strachey’s checkers (draughts) program ran on the Ferranti Mark I computer at the University of Manchester, England. By the summer of 1952 this program could play a complete game of checkers at a reasonable speed.

Information about the earliest successful demonstration of machine learning was published in 1952. Shopper, written by Anthony Oettinger at the University of Cambridge, ran on the EDSAC computer. Shopper’s simulated world was a mall of eight shops. When instructed to purchase an item, Shopper would search for it, visiting shops at random until the item was found. While searching, Shopper would memorize a few of the items stocked in each shop visited (just as a human shopper might). The next time Shopper was sent out for the same item, or for some other item that it had already located, it would go to the right shop straight away. This simple form of learning, as is pointed out in the introductory section What is intelligence?, is called rote learning.

The first AI program to run in the United States also was a checkers program, written in 1952 by Arthur Samuel for the prototype of the IBM 701. Samuel took over the essentials of Strachey’s checkers program and over a period of years considerably extended it. In 1955 he added features that enabled the program to learn from experience. Samuel included mechanisms for both rote learning and generalization, enhancements that eventually led to his program’s winning one game against a former Connecticut checkers champion in 1962.

In 1950 Turing sidestepped the traditional debate concerning the definition of intelligence, introducing a practical test for computer intelligence that is now known simply as the Turing test. The Turing test involves three participants: a computer, a human interrogator, and a human foil. The interrogator attempts to determine, by asking questions of the other two participants, which is the computer. All communication is via keyboard and display screen. The interrogator may ask questions as penetrating and wide-ranging as he or she likes, and the computer is permitted to do everything possible to force a wrong identification. (For instance, the computer might answer, “No,” in response to, “Are you a computer?” and might follow a request to multiply one large number by another with a long pause and an incorrect answer.) The foil must help the interrogator to make a correct identification. A number of different people play the roles of interrogator and foil, and, if a sufficient proportion of the interrogators are unable to distinguish the computer from the human being, then (according to proponents of Turing’s test) the computer is considered an intelligent, thinking entity.

In 1991 the American philanthropist Hugh Loebner started the annual Loebner Prize competition, promising a $100,000 payout to the first computer to pass the Turing test and awarding $2,000 each year to the best effort. However, no AI program has come close to passing an undiluted Turing test.

In recent years more has been written about artificial intelligence in technology and business publications than ever before: the current wave of artificial intelligence innovations has caught the attention of virtually everyone, not in the least because of artificial intelligence fears.

Artificial intelligence (AI) isn’t new but this time it’s different. Cognitive systems and AI are innovation accelerators of the nascent digital transformation economy.

The evolution of AI-powered innovations and solutions in a myriad of areas has led to numerous articles and reports on the value of AI and its application across a wide range of domains, as well as the necessity and possibilities of artificial intelligence in a hyperconnected reality of people, information, processes, devices, technologies and transformations. Artificial intelligence in business is a reality.

It’s important to remember that Musk, Gates, Hawking and many others are not “against” artificial intelligence. Wht they are warning about are the potential dangers of superintelligence (as we start seeing in some neural networks), maybe even intelligence we don’t understand. And is there anything humans fear more than what they can possibly not understand? To quote Tom Koulopoulos: “The real shift will be when computers think in ways we can’t even begin to understand”.

When Bill Gates expressed his concerns about AI this is what he said, according to an article on Quartz: “I am in the camp that is concerned about super intelligence. First the machines will do a lot of jobs for us and not be super intelligent. That should be positive if we manage it well. A few decades after that though the intelligence is strong enough to be a concern. I agree with Elon Musk and some others on this and don’t understand why some people are not concerned.”

In more than one way it’s a pity that AI is associated with what it could become (and what it was in previous waves when it failed to deliver upon its promises) instead of what it is today. Artificial intelligence is far from a thing of the future. It exists today in business applications, clearly offering multiple benefits to the organizations using these solutions. It exists in so many platforms we use on a daily basis. Admittedly, it’s not here in the sense of super intelligence.

At a 2016 symposium by the Future of Life Institute, Alphabet Chairman Eric Schmidt (and others) adviced the “AI community to “rally around three goals”:
1. AI should benefit the many, not the few.
2. AI R&D should be open, responsible and socially engaged.
3. Developers of AI should establish best practices to minimize risks and maximize the beneficial impact.

The ability to reason logically is an important aspect of intelligence and has always been a major focus of AI research. An important landmark in this area was a theorem-proving program written in 1955–56 by Allen Newell and J. Clifford Shaw of the RAND Corporation and Herbert Simon of the Carnegie Mellon University. The Logic Theorist, as the program became known, was designed to prove theorems from Principia Mathematica (1910–13), a three-volume work by the British philosopher-mathematicians Alfred North Whitehead and Bertrand Russell. In one instance, a proof devised by the program was more elegant than the proof given in the books.

Newell, Simon, and Shaw went on to write a more powerful program, the General Problem Solver, or GPS. The first version of GPS ran in 1957, and work continued on the project for about a decade. GPS could solve an impressive variety of puzzles using a trial and error approach. However, one criticism of GPS, and similar programs that lack any learning capability, is that the program’s intelligence is entirely secondhand, coming from whatever information the programmer explicitly includes.

The global pandemic has reframed most issues and AI is no exception. Addressing matters of health, infrastructure, and medical advances has clashed directly with how data collection is being weaponized as recently alleged in China’s mask diplomacy strategy of COVID-19 vaccination offers contingent on clinical trial participation by partner countries which led to the discovery of numerous systematic partnerships targeting ancestry companies and maternity clinics near US military installations. China’s Digital Silk Road initiative has provided some unique strategic questions about synergies between AI, cyber and space across domains from both an economic and a military perspective.

The recent US water system hack, the assassination of Iran’s top nuclear scientist and the discussion of AI retaliatory methods as a response to the SolarWinds cyber breach have all brought this topic to the fore.

The tournament officials will not interfere if teams choose to use the definitions below or something similar. Framing matters beyond the terms above are issues for robust debate.
RISK Merriam Webster's Dictionary possibility of loss or injury : PERIL
Random House Dictionary a situation involving exposure to danger

REWARD Merriam Webster's Dictionary something that is given in return for good or evil done or received or that is offered or given for some service or attainment

ON-BALANCE Oxford English Dictionary-- all things considered MacMillian Dictionary After considering all the relevant facts

ARTIFICIAL INTELLIGENCE Webster's Dictionary AI- the theory and development of computer systems able to perform tasks that normally require human intelligence, such as visual perception, speech recognition, decision-making, and translation between languages.

BJ Copeland Professor of Philosophy and Director of the Turing Archive for the History of Computing, University of Canterbury, Christchurch, New Zealand. Author of Artificial Intelligence and others.

The ability of a digital computer or computer-controlled robot to perform tasks commonly associated with intelligent beings. The term is frequently applied to the project of developing systems endowed with the intellectual processes characteristic of humans, such as the ability to reason, discover meaning, generalize, or learn from past experience. Since the development of the digital computer in the 1940s, it has been demonstrated that computers can be programmed to carry out very complex tasks—as, for example, discovering proofs for mathematical theorems or playing chess—with great proficiency. Still, despite continuing advances in computer processing speed and memory capacity, there are as yet no programs that can match human flexibility over wider domains or in tasks requiring much everyday knowledge. On the other hand, some programs have attained the performance levels of human experts and professionals in performing certain specific tasks, so that artificial intelligence in this limited sense is found in applications as diverse as medical diagnosis, computer search engines, and voice or handwriting recognition.

1. Sutrop, M. M. S. e. (2019). Should We Trust Artificial Intelligence? TRAMES: A Journal of the Humanities & Social Sciences, 23(4), 499–522.
2. Artificial intelligence in healthcare: Is it beneficial? (2019). Journal Of Vascular Nursing: Official Publication Of The Society For Peripheral Vascular Nursing, 37(3), 159.
3. Allen, T. C. (2019). Regulating Artificial Intelligence for a Successful Pathology Future. Archives of Pathology & Laboratory Medicine, 143(10), 1175–1179.
4. Bruun, E. P. G., & Duka, A. (2018). Artificial Intelligence, Jobs and the Future of Work: Racing with the Machines. Basic Income Studies, 13(2), N.PAG.
5. Cheatham, B., Javanmardian, K., & Samandari, H. (2019). Confronting the risks of artificial intelligence. McKinsey Quarterly, (2), 1–9. Retrieved from
6. Adamu, S., & Awwalu, J. (2019). The Role of Artificial Intelligence (AI) in Adaptive eLearning System (AES) Content Formation: Risks and Opportunities involved. Retrieved from
7.Ali, S. M. (2019). “White Crisis” And/As “Existential Risk,” or the Entangled Apocalypticism of Artificial Intelligence. Zygon, 54(1), 207–224. Retrieved from

1. Hager, G. D., Drobnis, A., Fang, F., Ghani, R., Greenwald, A., Lyons, T., … Tambe, M. (2019). Artificial Intelligence for Social Good. Retrieved from
2. Sutrop, M. M. S. e. (2019). Should We Trust Artificial Intelligence? TRAMES: A Journal of the Humanities & Social Sciences, 23(4), 499–522. (both sides)
3. Nagarajan, N., Yapp, E. K. Y., Le, N. Q. K., Kamaraj, B., Al-Subaie, A. M., & Yeh, H.-Y. (2019). Application of Computational Biology and Artificial Intelligence Technologies in Cancer Precision Drug Discovery. BioMed Research International, 1–15.
4. Artificial intelligence in healthcare: Is it beneficial? (2019). Journal Of Vascular Nursing: Official Publication Of The Society For Peripheral Vascular Nursing, 37(3), 159. (both sides)
5. Varshney, K. R., & Mojsilovic, A. (2019). Open Platforms for Artificial Intelligence for Social Good: Common Patterns as a Pathway to True Impact. Retrieved from
6. Adamu, S., & Awwalu, J. (2019). The Role of Artificial Intelligence (AI) in Adaptive eLearning System (AES) Content Formation: Risks and Opportunities involved. Retrieved from sides)

Algorithmic Justice League 
Responsible Robotics 

Artificial Intelligence: A Modern Approach by Stuart Russell and Peter Norvig (3rd edition)
​Artificial Unintelligence By Meredith Broussard

Commonsense Reasoning and Commonsense Knowledge in Artificial Intelligence, Ernest Davis and Gary Marcus, CACM, September 2015.




How Will the 2020-21 GDP Domestic & International Prelims be Different from the Past?

Instead of in-person domestic prelims and international video submissions judged by a panel, the prelim rounds will be online debates. NYU sites will be separated into divisions and five regional tournaments will be held to determine the advancing teams. The number of entries in a division will determine if the tournament will be formatted with elimination rounds or just pre-sets.  

Division A – Abu Dhabi, Tel Aviv
Division B – Brooklyn, New York
Division D – District of Columbia, Los Angeles, Buenos Aires, Accra
Division P – Paris, Prague Berlin, Florence, London, Madrid,
Division S – Shanghai, Sydney

Each division champion will be guaranteed a slot in the top 8 teams. The rest of the top 16 will be completed with at-large bids and organized based on number of debates and relative performances.

For the prelim rounds, we will seek assistance to identify judges located in DIVISIONAL time zones but we’ll have back-up judges from NYU-NY available as needed. The preference is to hold all debates live with asynch options only available as a last resort.  

Once we see how many teams advance from each region, we will determine the schedule, number of days, and the format for the elimination rounds.  

​​Eligibility and Registration

Who is eligible to participate in Global Debate at NYU? 
Any matriculated undergraduate student in a degree granting program is eligible to participate in the NYU Global Debate Program. Find out more in Rules and Regulations.

What do I need to do to register? 
To register, you must complete the form available in the sidebar of this page. (You must be logged into your NYU account)

Is there a limit to entries? 
No, there will be no limit on the number of entries at this time, however the organizers reserve the right to cap entries based on room availability. All who wish to participate and are eligible may do so.


Does my partner need to complete a separate registration form? 
Yes, individual participants must complete their own form.

Can I compete without a partner? 
It depends. For the international competition, you do not need a partner for the opening round, although partnerships are strongly encouraged. For the domestic competition, you must have a partner for the competition.

Who can be my partner? 
Students may partner with any other eligible undergraduate student. For the international competition, the organizers encourage students to partner with others from their Study Abroad site.

What if I don't have or can't find a partner? 
The organizers will help facilitate partnerships where possible.  The more notice the better.

Prior Experience

Do I need to have public speaking or debate experience to participate? 
No, students with no experience are strongly encouraged to participate. A major goal of this program is to give people without such experience an opportunity to try it out.

How will I know what to do if I have no experience at public speaking or debate? 
We will offer training sessions for students who would like the opportunity to gain more information or public speaking practice. Once they register, students can also arrange to meet with the Coordinator or one of the involved faculty members to discuss the topic. Also, we strongly encourage you to practice, especially with other teams in your school or Residence Hall. Please use the resources provided as much as possible.

Do I have to attend the training session with my partner? 
No, you and your partner may attend separately if schedules do not allow you to attend together. However, it is strongly advised that you make every attempt to attend together.

Can I still attend a training/information session if I do not yet have a partner? 
Yes, and you may use the session to find a partner.

Am I eligible to participate if I am on one of the competitive speech or debate teams such as Mock Trial, Parliamentary Debate, Cross-Examination Debate, or Speech? 
Yes, and while you may have more of a background in persuasive public speaking, you may want to use the training sessions to learn about the topic and identify ways of adapting your normal competitive speaking style to the different format being used and to learn about the topic.

Do people with experience in a speech or debate activity have an advantage over other students? 
No, all participants will start out on equal footing. Some people with specific debate experiences may find it hard to adapt their normal competitive style into the more public forum style of the event.


What does "training" mean? 
The organizers and interested clubs will sponsor workshops about basic public speaking techniques and methods of argumentation. These sessions will provide examples of particular argument styles related to the topic and discuss research strategies provided for the topic and how evidence can be effectively incorporated into speech making.

Will training be provided outside of the scheduled training sessions? 
We strongly advise students to identify student organizations and faculty in their schools that might be useful resources for information and practice.


What is the topic and when is it announced? 
The topic is announced every fall and will be posted on the General Information page of this website.

Why isn't the topic phrased as a question? 
The topic is a resolution. The term "Resolved" indicates that one side, the affirmative, should advocate that the action of the topic should be taken. The other side, the negative, is responsible for disproving the statement of the resolution and demonstrating how the affirmative's call for action is flawed.


Do I have to do research on the topic on my own? 
Research can provide students with a competitive edge. A list of links to websites will be provided on the Resources page.

Besides background, is there any other purpose for the research? 
Yes. Students are expected to support their claims and arguments in their speeches in competition. To do so, competitors should refer to specific warrants and evidence from the research to justify their points in the debate. Additionally, judges and opponents have opportunities to ask questions during the debate round.

General Competition (DOMESTIC)

Are we expected to practice prior to the competition? 
The more you practice any speaking skill, the more you will improve. The organizers can help arrange practice sessions if necessary, but strongly encourages students to arrange such sessions on their own.

What is the format of the debates? 
The format is available on the information page, but essentially involves two teams of two people each alternating speeches on the topic, with cross examination periods after each person speaks for the first time. Find out more about the debate format in General Information.

Why does the affirmative both begin and end the debate? 
The affirmative must begin the debate so that the ground of the debate can be firmly established. It ends the debate because generally it is assumed that the affirmative has a higher burden of proof since they want something to change from the status quo and the negative has many options in explaining how the change would be detrimental. The person who speaks last has a slight advantage in what people will remember, so this counters the burden-of-proof issue. This is why prosecutors in trials who must argue guilt "beyond a reasonable doubt" also may choose to speak last.

Why does the negative speak twice in a row in the middle of the debate? 
The negative speaks twice in part to equalize any competitive advantages that the affirmative may have in speaking first and last. Also, this structure is required in order to allow the affirmative to speak last. This structure allows the negative to develop their arguments in depth, which is important because the affirmative got to choose the ground of the debate in their first speech. Strategically the negative should use this opportunity to make as many points against the affirmative as possible, and to maximize the time crunch the first affirmative rebuttal will have in the next speech.

Why are there only cross examinations after the first four speeches? 
Cross-examinations provide an opportunity for the debaters to clarify the points made by the other side so that they can strongly refute them. They also offer an opportunity to point out flaws in the other side's arguments. Cross-examinations can be very powerful performance tools in establishing credibility. However, at some point competitors should stop adding new points to the debate and should start comparing and evaluating the arguments on both sides and their merits. Once this "rebuttal" stage of the debate is reached, cross-examination is less useful because the clarification has already been done and debaters should try to avoid making many new points. Finally, each debater will have already had one chance to answer and one chance to ask questions, so the time allocated for cross examination is sufficient.

What is a rebuttal? 
A rebuttal is a speech in which competitors respond to and evaluate the arguments of the other side in comparison to the arguments that they have made so far. Rebuttal arguments might include indicting the source of the warrants for a given argument, discussing why the evidence that supports one side's arguments is better than the evidence from another side, identifying how different arguments interact, or explaining how the other side's responses to an argument are insufficient. Specifically, the first Affirmative Rebuttal should indicate what the key arguments are for the affirmative side in each issue. The second Negative Rebuttal should indicate what arguments mean that the negative should win and why. This speech should also predict and preempt the reasons the affirmative will state as to why the affirmative should win. The second Affirmative Rebuttal should explain why their arguments are the most valid and deserve a win.

General Competition (INTERNATIONAL)

Are we expected to practice prior to the competition? 
Since the preliminary rounds consist of video submissions, you will want to put your best foot forward by practicing before entering your final work.

What is the format of the debates? 
The format is available on the information page, but essentially involves teams submitting short videos in favor of or against the topic for review by the organizers. The best submitters will advance to the later rounds. Find out more about the debate format in General Information. The elimination rounds will be held at NYU and follow the format outlined for the domestic competition (see above).

If we advance, how will we get to NY for elimination rounds?
The Global Debate Fund will be responsible for awards, lodging and ground transportation.  Unless notified in writing otherwise, each competitor is responsible for arranging their air travel through their local site.


How will judges evaluate the competition? 
Judges will evaluate the competition on a number of criteria, including persuasiveness and content of the speeches. In general, the judges are looking for how well each side advocates its own points while responding to and engaging in the arguments from the other team. This is an activity about intellectual engagement and substance. Although style is important and can be essential in conveying a point, it should not be a substitute for supported analysis.

Who will be judging the competition? 
Interested faculty will volunteer not only to prepare students, but also to judge in the preliminary competition. Graduate students will also judge, making this a truly University-wide event. Excellent faculty judges will be honored as guest coaches for the elimination competition.


How will I find out the results of the competition? 
There will be a public posting of the students who advance on the website. Results of the preliminary competition will be posted on this website soon after the competition. All participants will be emailed directly with the names of the teams advancing to the Elimination Rounds within three days of the end of the preliminary competition.

The Elimination Rounds

What is elimination round? 
An elimination round is one in which only the winning team will continue on in the competition.

What is the difference between the preliminary competition and the elimination rounds? 
The biggest difference is that the preliminary rounds will be visual competitions (based on video submissions) and the elimination rounds will be oral competitions (based on head-to-head debates similar to the preliminary rounds of the domestic competition).

The preliminary round of international competition is open to all NYU students who have international placements for the spring semester. These students will submit videos. Only the top submitters will advance to the elimination rounds. The elimination rounds will be held at NYU Washington Square campus and will consist of octofinals, quarterfinals, semifinals, and finals. In these rounds, only the winner of the round advances to the next round of competition. All participants in the elimination rounds will receive recognition and awards.

How do I qualify for the elimination rounds? 
The top teams based on their combined video evaluations will advance to the elimination rounds.

For more information, visit us on social media