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Intelligence Squared Podcast

Intelligence Squared Podcast

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Intelligence Squared is the world’s leading forum for debate and intelligent discussion. Live and online we take you to the heart of the issues that matter, in the company of some of the world’s sharpest minds and most exciting orators. Join the debate at www.intelligencesquared.com and download our weekly podcast every Friday.


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How to Think Like a Freak: Learn How to Make Smarter Decisions with the authors of "Freakonomics"


Thu, May 18, 2017


The books 'Freakonomics' and 'SuperFreakonomics' have been worldwide sensations, selling tens of millions of copies. They have come to stand for challenging conventional wisdom using data rather than emotion. Questions they examine are typically: Which is more dangerous, a gun or a swimming pool? How much do parents really matter? Why is chemotherapy prescribed so often if it’s so ineffective? Now the books’ two authors, Steven D. Levitt and Stephen J. Dubner, have turned what they’ve learned into a readable and practical toolkit for thinking smarter, harder, and different – thinking, that is, like a Freak. On 28th May they came to Intelligence Squared to discuss their new Frequel, 'Think Like a Freak'. By analysing the plans we form and the morals we choose, they showed how their insights can be applied to help us make smarter decisions in our daily lives.

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Between You and I The English Language Is Going To The Dogs


Thu, May 11, 2017


Speaking and writing correct English are the hallmark of an intelligent person. No one who cares about language wants to be caught splitting an infinitive or muddling up ‘infer’ and ‘imply’. Which is why the bestseller lists are regularly topped by books on 'good' English by the likes of Daily Mail polemicist Simon Heffer and Today programme presenter John Humphrys - both of whom defend the motion in this debate from 5th March 2014. Taking them on were Mary Beard, Professor of Classics at Cambridge, and Oliver Kamm, top commentator at The Times. No one would dare describe either as lacking in grey matter or being insensitive to good English. So why the disagreement with Heffer and Humphrys? Because people on their side of the argument believe that our language can take care of itself, and that it certainly doesn’t need a bunch of self-appointed rule-book sticklers to make others feel insecure about how they speak and write. Good style matters, they argue, and can be taught but the pedants should stop confusing their pet peeves with ‘correct’ English.

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An Evening with Slavoj ?i?ek


Thu, May 04, 2017


Radical philosopher, polymath, film star, cult icon, and author of over 30 books, Slavoj ?i?ek is one of the most controversial and leading contemporary public intellectuals, simultaneously acclaimed as the ‘Elvis of cultural theory’ and denounced as ‘the most dangerous philosopher in the West’. In this special lecture for Intelligence Squared from July 2011, ?i?ek argues that global capitalism is fast approaching its terminal crisis and that our collective responses to economic Armageddon correspond to the five stages of grief – ideological denial, explosions of anger, attempts at bargaining, followed by depression and finally acceptance of change. Referencing everything from Kafka, the "Hollywood Marxism" of Avatar, the Arab Spring and WikiLeaks, he presents a roadmap for finding a way beyond the madness.

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Trump is Making America Great Again


Thu, Apr 27, 2017


As Donald Trump approaches the first 100 days of his presidency, things couldn’t be worse. His administration has been more gaffe-prone, incompetent and unstable than any other in American history. Trump has been engulfed in a scandal over his campaign’s links to Russia, his first choice for National Security Advisor, Michael Flynn, was forced to resign within weeks, and other senior officials remain under investigation for dodgy dealings with the Kremlin. And what of Trump’s key policies? Despite a Republican majority, his efforts to repeal Obamacare foundered in Congress, while his controversial ‘travel ban’ was deemed unconstitutional and blocked twice in the courts. Meanwhile, Trump has kept busy bragging about the size of his inauguration crowd and tweeting crackpot wiretapping allegations. And when it comes to foreign policy, he has been just as reckless and haphazard as his critics predicted. He has flip-flopped on NATO and has taken a bizarrely belligerent stance against longstanding allies such as Germany and Mexico. Make America great again? Quite the reverse – Trump is leading the USA towards disaster and decline. That’s the hand-wringing liberals’ view of Trump, but have they got him right? In the eyes of his supporters, he’s the first president in history to actually follow through on his campaign promises. Trump pledged to shake up the system and put America first. He vowed to withdraw from disastrous trade deals which harm blue-collar workers like the Trans-Pacific Partnership, to protect America’s borders with hardline immigration policies and to get tough on China and North Korea. And that’s what he’s done. And while the Washington establishment has tried to block him at every step, he has prevailed. But moderates need not despair. Trump was initially deplored for his isolationist foreign policy, but he is proving himself to be remarkably flexible. He has finally reasserted American global leadership by enforcing the ‘red line’ against chemical weapons and retaliating against Assad’s barbaric attacks. After standing up to Assad and Russia where Obama never dared, Trump has proved himself to be no Kremlin lackey. So will Trump restore America to greatness? Or will he send it to the dogs?

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Anne-Marie Slaughter on Our Hyper-Networked World


Thu, Apr 20, 2017


Anne-Marie Slaughter is one of the world’s top foreign policy thinkers, admired by influential global leaders such as Joe Biden, Condoleeza Rice and Eric Schmidt. A former senior adviser to Hillary Clinton in the State Department, she hit the headlines in 2012 when she published an article in The Atlantic called ‘Why Women Still Can’t Have It All’. The piece went viral and sparked off a massive debate about the future of work-life balance. But long before this, Slaughter was hailed in political circles for her understanding of the emerging world of networks. She was among the first to see how networks are overturning traditional hierarchies, upending international diplomacy and transforming patterns of global power and politics. Now once again, with the launch of her new book 'The Chessboard and the Web', she has moved ahead of conventional thinking and came to the Intelligence Squared stage to share her insights. The power of networks, she explained, has grown so quickly with the advance of digital technology that we have barely begun to fully understand it and see how it can transform our world. Take government, which has traditionally been a vertical and closed system (apart from periodic elections). Why not embrace a ‘wiki’ model of power, using digital networks to make government decision-making truly open and participatory? In other words, government with the people rather than government for the people. Or take the tech world, which has become dominated by a handful of giants with closed business models. Counterintuitively, Slaughter will argue, these companies would benefit if they were to loosen up and open their platforms to other parties, thereby benefiting from the robustness of the whole network, rather than concentrating power in a single hub. Or look at how ordinary citizens are using peer-driven networks, such as Occupy or Black Lives Matter, to effect change in society, or using data to help the authorities with crisis communications in disaster zones. At a time when so many of us feel that our voices aren’t being heard where it matters, could progress lie in Slaughter’s prescription for a more open, participatory world where governments and citizens, armed with 21st century technology, come together to forge a new social and political contract? Slaughter was joined by former Foreign Secretary Jack Straw and connectivity expert Geoff Mulgan. Steering the conversation was the Guardian’s Jonathan Freedland.

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Has the Political Establishment Failed America?


Thu, Apr 13, 2017


Has the political establishment failed America? Whether they voted for Trump or Sanders or none of the above, millions of Americans say the answer is yes – and that the system benefits the elites at the expense of everyone else. Others say that despite its flaws, the political establishment has been a force for unparalleled stability, prosperity and equality — and that it is now the only thing standing between America and the abyss. Is it time for the old guard to come to the rescue or to make way for a new political reality? Arguing in favour of the motion were Michael Eric Dyson of Georgetown University and William Howell of UChicago. Arguing against the motion were Jennifer Rubin of the Washington Post and Eric Oliver of UChicago.

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Whose Prosperity? How Can We Build Inclusive and Sustainable Economies?


Thu, Apr 06, 2017


A debate on the eve of the Second PAGE Ministerial Conference (http://bit.ly/2jhYyaX). Filmed at the Federal Ministry for the Environment, Nature Conservation, Building and Nuclear Safety (BMUB) in Berlin on March 26th 2017. Globalisation has created wealth across the world, lifting hundreds of millions out of extreme poverty. But has too much of the wealth ended up in the hands of too few? How can our model for globalisation be reconfigured to promote more equal, stable economies which do not overstretch environmental resources? Our current socio-economic system, many argue, is increasing inequalities and accelerating climate change and destruction of the environment. The Sustainable Development Goals — the UN’s roadmap to prosperity for all on a healthy planet — will require considerable financial resources. Many experts are now calling for a change to our entire model of doing business, by measuring national prosperity beyond GDP, sharing wealth equitably, and shifting economies to an inclusive, sustainable model. But how can these goals be met, and what are the risks to an increasingly strained global jobs market and the needs of developing nations? We were joined on stage in Berlin Barbados' Minister of Labour and Social Security, Minister Esther Byer-Suckoo; Executive Director of Oxfam International, Winnie Byanyima; UN Assistant Secretary-General and head of the UN Environment Programme’s New York Office, Elliott Harris; Chairman of the Supervisory Board of Heraeus Holding, Dr J?rgen Heraeus and Professor of Sustainable Development at the University of Surrey, Tim Jackson. The event was hosted by our Senior Producer Robert Collins.

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Social Media is Killing Art


Thu, Mar 30, 2017


Social media is like fast food – rapidly consumed for instant gratification. No wonder social media demeans art. Artworks that instantly seduce online become tedious when contemplated over time in the flesh. Once art goes viral, it gains traction, particularly in the market, and becomes unjustifiably acclaimed. Museums may be keen to reach new audiences, but can great masterpieces really be appreciated on the miniature canvas of your mobile phone screen? Shrink art and you shrink its power – no one can really believe they've experienced an artwork without examining the ideas and the artist's mastery of their medium. And this is an even bigger issue when it comes to experiential artworks such as performance or virtual reality. What nostalgic nonsense, say digital art fans. Attacking social media is like attacking photography in the 19th century. The internet is the medium of the age. To ignore it is to reject the future. For existing masterpieces, social media is the key to all the world’s museums and galleries. No longer are works hidden away in dusty storage rooms in another country. With a simple swipe of your finger you can explore artworks you never knew existed, prompted by suggestions from people you admire. Commercially, the online art market is estimated to have grown to over $3 billion in 2016. At last, art has become truly democratic, open to all to view and buy. This debate took place in Hong Kong on 23rd March 2017. Arguing for the motion were internationally acclaimed artist Ryan Gander and curator for the Encounters sector of Art Basel Hong Kong Alexie Glass-Kantor. Arguing against the motion were the Director of Indonesia's Museum of Modern and Contemporary Art in Nusantara, Aaron Seeto, and international art advisor and founder of FSA Art Advisory, Lisa Schiff. The debate was chaired by Tim Marlow, Director of London's Royal Academy of Arts.

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Niall Ferguson On The Six Killer Apps Of Western Civilisation


Fri, Mar 24, 2017


Niall Ferguson is the most brilliant British historian of his generation. In this talk from February 2011, based on his book 'Civilisation: The West and the Rest', he asks how Western civilization came to dominate the rest of the world. His answer is that the West developed six “killer applications” that the Rest lacked: competition, science, democracy, medicine, consumerism and the Protestant work ethic. The key question today is whether or not the West has lost its monopoly on these six things. If it has and the Rest of the world can successfully download these apps, we may be living through the end of Western ascendancy.

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Don’t give them what they want: Terrorists should be starved of the oxygen of publicity


Fri, Mar 17, 2017


Why do they do it? Again and again, after every attack, our media react by giving the terrorists exactly what they want – maximum publicity. Of course, the public should be told that an atrocity has taken place. But each attack dominates the news for days at a stretch. The TV networks go into overdrive, flying out their journalists to the scene of the attack and saturating their airtime. All this plays into the hands of terrorist organisations, allowing their killers to be glorified in the eyes of their supporters. In addition, the wall-to-wall news coverage creates a climate of fear and fuels the more authoritarian and xenophobic strands of our politics. President Trump’s recent actions – banning refugees and appearing to reference fictional terrorist attacks in Sweden – might be seen as an inevitable consequence of this hysteria. We should get things into proportion. After all, you’re more likely to fatally slip in the shower than be killed in a terrorist attack. This is the line that was taken by former Times editor and Guardian columnist Simon Jenkins. He was joined by Fawaz Gerges, a prominent expert on ISIS and al-Qaeda who has extensively researched the historical roots of jihadi extremism on the ground in the Middle East. Gerges explained how the West has played into the narrative of terrorists by portraying them as an existential danger, rather than as mere common criminals. But for national security commentator Douglas Murray, the only way to defeat terrorism is to tackle it head on, speaking plainly about the true scale of the threat. The recent wave of attacks by ISIS was just the beginning, he argued. Over a thousand foreign fighters have recently returned from Syria to Europe, and are highly likely to pose a risk to our security. It’s vital that our media and authorities keep the public fully aware about the terrorist threat and encourage everyone to be vigilant. Honest reporting is absolutely crucial, especially when society itself is under attack. As for ISIS, how they are portrayed in the mainstream media is a matter of indifference to them – their publicity strategy is all about broadcasting their attacks on social media to an audience of millions, not headlines in the press. Does publicising terrorism play into the hands of the perpetrators or does it help keep us on the alert against further attack?

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Feminism Is For Everyone


Fri, Mar 10, 2017


A year ago, you could have been forgiven for thinking that gender equality was on an unstoppable trajectory. America stood poised to elect its first female president. On this side of the Atlantic, members of the political and cultural establishment proudly sported ‘This Is What a Feminist Looks Like’ T-shirts. Had you told a Hillary Clinton supporter or one of those T-shirt campaigners that a year later the US president would be Donald Trump, a man with an abysmal record of sexually harassing women, and that women over the world would be defending their basic rights, including access to abortion, they would have barely believed it. How did we end up here? Has feminism become trapped, as some claim, in its own elitist ‘lean-in’ bubble? The recent Women’s Marches may have seen millions take to the streets in a tide of popular outrage. But some feminist commentators argue that the marches only demonstrated just how much middle-class liberal aspirations have become over-represented in the gender equality movement. Feminism, for these critics, has failed ‘ordinary’ women by focusing almost exclusively on the advancement of women at the top. According to a new report, while female CEOs’ salaries are rising, the gender pay gap across the globe is actually wider today than it was in 2008. If the gender equality project is to move beyond the needs and concerns of the so-called ‘elite’, what are the blindspots it needs to address? What can feminism do to expand the conversation beyond the ‘politically correct’ classes? How can we bring men into the conversation, and involve them in a project that stands to benefit everyone? To explore how gender equality can be made more accessible, Intelligence Squared is bringing together a brilliant panel to put forward their practical solutions. Speakers will include Jess Phillips, the outspoken MP described as ‘Labour’s future red queen’, and Catherine Mayer, bestselling author and co-founder of the Women’s Equality Party. They will be joined by writer and TV star David Baddiel, and teenage activist and journalist June Eric-Udorie, named one of the BBC’s 100 Women of 2016. Join us on March 8th, International Women’s Day, hear the arguments, and put your questions to our speakers.

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Jeffrey Sachs on America and a New World Order


Fri, Mar 03, 2017


'America first!' Donald Trump hammered out this message over and again in his inauguration speech a week ago today. He promised tariffs, a crackdown on immigration, and a restoration of American military might. He entered the White House as the least popular incoming president in 40 years. Not every liberal thinker, however, is in a state of despair. Jeffrey Sachs was recently ranked by The Economist as one of the world’s most influential political scientists. No Trump supporter himself, he came to the Intelligence Squared stage to explain why there may be silver linings to the Trump cloud, and to set out a new world order. Take trade. Trump has threatened to tear up Nafta and slam huge taxes on Mexican imports, and has already withdrawn the US from the Trans-Pacific Partnership to bring jobs back to the heartlands of America. While this strikes fear amongst free-trade supporters, there is a case to be made that globalisation has been moving faster than is politically sustainable, dividing rich from poor. Or take Trump’s proposal to invest $1 trillion in infrastructure. Sachs has described this promise to rebuild America’s decrepit inner cities, highways, schools and hospitals as 'a valid, indeed uplifting perspective’, provided it is done in a smart and fair way. Trump’s programme could be viewed as a Keynesian fiscal policy to boost competitiveness and job creation. It may, Sachs believes, be Trump’s great legacy. And then there’s foreign policy. As Sachs pointed out, Trump has filled his administration not just with protectionists but also with business people like himself, who enjoy making a buck (in fact, billions of them) and who have profitably invested for years in Russia, China, and other emerging economies. So while the rhetoric may be all about American primacy and trade protection, we shouldn’t rule out some friendly deal-making with other countries. And while Trump’s future relations with Vladimir Putin remain obscure, would it necessarily be a dangerous move if he pursues a conciliatory line with Russia? From a Russian perspective, America’s meddling in Ukraine and its attempts to bring that country into NATO, which would take the US-led military alliance right up to Russia’s border, look like aggression in its own historical sphere of influence. Isn’t it time there were a better understanding between both countries? Sachs argued that we are entering not a new tripolar world, dominated by the US, China and Russia, but what he calls ‘the World Century’, in which the rapid spread of technology and the sovereignty of nation states mean that no single country or region will dominate the world. For Sachs, the great foreign policy challenge will be to manage cooperation among regions, and face up to our common environmental and health crises. The idea that one place or people should have primacy over any other should be as antiquated as slavery or empire, and guard us against the senseless descent into violence.

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Daniel Dennett on the Evolution of the Mind, Consciousness and AI


Fri, Feb 24, 2017


How come there are conscious minds? How do language and culture evolve? Should we still teach children things which computers can do better? Will our smart electronic devices rob us of our intelligence? Will human intelligence and AI co-evolve? These are some of the intriguing questions that Daniel Dennett, one of the most influential and provocative thinkers of modern times, sought to answer when he came to the Intelligence Squared stage to discuss his lifetime’s work on the evolution of the human mind. Dennett’s cross-disciplinary approach – encompassing neuroscience, evolutionary biology and artificial intelligence – has been widely acclaimed and helped redefine the role of the philosopher for our age. In this exclusive event, Dennett explored the major themes of his forthcoming book, 'From Bacteria to Bach and Back', including how our minds came into existence, how our brains work, and how ideas are culturally transmitted. He explorede many of the notions we take for granted about how we think – such as the idea of the individual – offering instead a bold new explanation of human consciousness which views it largely as a product of cultural evolution built up over millennia. Sharing the stage with Dennett were key figures from the next generation of scientists, AI experts, philosophers and artists, with whom he engaged on what it means to be human.

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The Bittersweet Truth About What We Eat


Fri, Feb 17, 2017


What should we be eating to live a long and healthy life? How is it that some people can eat absolutely anything and stay slim, while others on a ‘healthy’ diet get fat? Why is it that Cubans are much healthier than Americans, despite eating on average twice the amount of sugar? To unpack the truth behind the often confusing information about the food we eat, Intelligence Squared brought together some of the world’s leading experts on the science of human nutrition and health. Sugar has recently replaced saturated fat as the nutritional enemy number one. The theory is that it messes with our metabolism and causes heart disease, obesity and diabetes. Arguing that sugar is the tobacco of the new millennium in our event was acclaimed science writer Gary Taubes, whose new book The Case Against Sugar has been making waves on both sides of the Atlantic. No one doubts that consuming a lot of sugar is unhealthy, but does the ‘sugar is poison’ theory really tell the whole story? A different explanation lies in a subject that has been getting a lot of attention recently – our gut microbiome. This is made up of the trillions of bacteria that inhabit our intestines and help digest our food and keep us healthy. The bad news is that the diversity of our microbes has plummeted in recent years due to the narrower range of foods and the predominance of processed junk in the Western diet. Research indicates that, rather than any single foodstuff being to blame for the rise of obesity and other modern diseases, the root of the problem lies in our depleted microbiomes. Setting out the new research on our gut bacteria and debunking many popular myths about diet was Tim Spector, an award-winning scientist who runs the British Gut project. What makes the subject even more fascinating is that we all have a very individual cocktail of bacteria in our gut, and research shows that the way we respond to food relates more to our own specific set of microbes than the calories in the food itself. Joining us was Eran Segal, one of world’s leading scientists in this field, who will explain how his lab can wire you up and predict precisely which carbohydrates you should and shouldn’t eat so as to prevent weight gain and be healthy. The results can be surprising. In 60% of cases, they show that you can enjoy sugary ice-cream but should avoid rice. A sharp critic of many of the ‘fashionable’ theories about diet and wellbeing is Sarah Jarvis, a GP who appears regularly on BBC radio and television. Her goal is to help her patients and the general public get the best quality information on nutrition and lifestyle so that they can make the informed decisions they need to be in control of their health. Chairing the event was Xand van Tulleken, a medical doctor and popular television broadcaster, who with his twin brother Chris, has presented a number of documentaries, often testing various diets on their identical genes.

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Steven Pinker on Good Writing, with Ian McEwan


Fri, Feb 10, 2017


Steven Pinker is one of the world’s leading authorities on language, mind and human nature. A professor of psychology at Harvard, he is the bestselling author of eight books and regularly appears in lists of the world’s top 100 thinkers. In 2014 he returned to the Intelligence Squared stage to discuss his latest publication 'The Sense of Style', a short and entertaining writing guide for the 21st century. Pinker argued that bad writing can’t be blamed on the internet, or on “the kids today”. Good writing has always been hard: a performance requiring pretence, empathy, and a drive for coherence. He answered questions such as: how can we overcome the “curse of knowledge”, the difficulty in imagining what it’s like not to know something we do? And how can we distinguish the myths and superstitions about language from helpful rules that enhance clarity and grace? Pinker showed how everyone can improve their mastery of writing and their appreciation of the art. Professor Pinker was in conversation with Ian McEwan, one of Britain’s most acclaimed novelists, who has frequently explored the common ground between art and science.

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Queen Elizabeth I vs Queen Victoria


Fri, Feb 03, 2017


Intelligence Squared’s historical and cultural combat events have been thrilling our audiences with their unique blend of entertainment, information and live performance. Here we present the battle of the queens. Both Queen Elizabeth I and Queen Victoria set their stamp firmly on their era but which was the greater monarch? On one side stood Philippa Gregory, bestselling author of the Tudor Court series of novels. She made the case for Elizabeth I, with widely acclaimed actor Fiona Shaw bringing this most majestic and flirtatious of rulers to life with readings from her speeches and letters. In the other corner was Daisy Goodwin, writer of last autumn’s hit ITV series Victoria, who will argue the case for her heroine. Award-winning star of stage and screen Greta Scacchi revealed the determination and wit of this most human of monarchs by performing extracts from Victoria’s diaries and personal missives. Chairing the proceedings was celebrated historian and television presenter Dan Jones. Neither Elizabeth nor Victoria grew up expecting to be queen, and each had to struggle to assert herself in a man’s world. As Gregory will argue, Elizabeth managed this by her shrewd intelligence, playing off the men in her court against each other and refusing to dilute her power by marrying, despite the intense pressure of her advisers. As Catholics and Protestants fought wars across Europe, she averted bloodshed in England by consolidating the Protestant revolution begun by her father Henry VIII, expressing her religious tolerance with the famous words, 'I have no desire to make windows into men's souls.' Goodwin made the case that Victoria was not just a great queen but an icon for our own times. Not only did she save the monarchy after a succession of dissolute and incompetent Georgian kings; by embracing marriage and motherhood, she set an example that our own queen and royal family have followed to this day. Her popularity was such that when in 1848 revolutionary uprisings toppled monarchies in France, Austria, Italy and Poland, Victoria’s throne remained secure.

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Thomas Friedman on Thriving in the Age of Acceleration


Fri, Jan 27, 2017


He has been called ‘the most influential columnist in America’, and is read by everyone from small-business owners to President Obama. As a star columnist of The New York Times, Thomas Friedman has won the Pulitzer Prize three times. Although he has been dubbed ‘the high priest of globalisation’, Friedman is well aware that it is the tensions created by globalisation which have paved the way for the election of Donald Trump. Nevertheless, when he comes to the Intelligence Squared stage, Friedman will argue that contrary to Trump’s promises of walls and tariffs, it is openness to trade and ideas that will allow us all to thrive amid the rapid, startling changes sweeping through the world. Given the dizzying whirlwind of technological change which has wiped out jobs and transformed workplaces, it is no wonder that electorates have reached for Trump’s protectionist solutions in the US and nativist retrenchment in the UK. But, as Friedman will argue, the forces of globalisation needn't spell disaster. Instead, it is how we respond to these accelerating changes that will determine whether we falter or flourish. Both the EU referendum and the US presidential election were contests not between left and right, but between what Friedman calls ‘Wall People’ — those who feel their identity threatened by globalisation — and ‘Web People’: those who instinctively embrace the current pace of change and are keen to collaborate in a world without walls. In this major event, Friedman will offer his guide to updating our lives and institutions for the accelerating changes of the 21st century. For example: We need to innovate not just technologically, but politically: moral leadership in a complex world is becoming ever more essential Political leaders should be accelerating local start-ups in both the economic sector and the social sector, to build resilient and prospering citizens The ideal skill set for the jobs of the future is ‘stempathy’: science, technology, maths — and empathy Join us on January 24th, and hear how the new asset class is not information but ‘human capital talent’, and how we can all thrive in the age of acceleration.

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The New Optimism, with Matt Ridley, Johan Norberg, David Runciman and Laura Kuenssberg


Fri, Jan 20, 2017


Are you an optimist or a pessimist? And why should it matter? After what for many of us has been an annus horribilis in 2016, pessimists seem to have all the best tunes. Terror attacks, horror headlines from Syria, a tide of hatred and resentment poisoning our politics: the world looks increasingly grim. But what about the actual facts? If you step back and examine the data, it’s clear that life is better today for the majority of people than at any previous time in history. And we’re not just talking about the developing world, where progress has been remarkable. Here in the West, most of us have never had it so good. Just look at the improvements in health and longevity, the breadth of entertainment available, and the opportunities to travel that we blithely take for granted. In this special Intelligence Squared event, we examined two fundamentally opposing worldviews. In the optimists’ corner were Matt Ridley, author of the prize-winning The Rational Optimist, and Johan Norberg, whose latest book is Progress: Ten Reasons to Look Forward to the Future. They argued that the progress that has been made over the past centuries – whether in education, child labour, poverty or violent deaths – is now running at an unprecedented pace and that there is every reason to think that it will continue for decades to come. But is their essentially rationalist approach one that can really explain what appears to be the conflict-ridden world we live in? After all, many of us have never felt so gloomy and perplexed. This tension is not new. It has run through mainstream political thought since the Enlightenment. It set rationalists such as Adam Smith and J. S. Mill against those who sought to interpret the darker side of human nature such as Rousseau and Dostoevsky. They have been joined more recently by behavioural economists such as Daniel Kahneman and Richard Thaler. For these latter thinkers, rationalism will always fail to give a full account of human behaviour. Exploring this line of thought in our event was the acclaimed political scientist David Runciman. And steering the discussion was be the BBC’s star political editor Laura Kuenssberg. Optimist or pessimist? Some say that pessimism is dangerous, as it’s the emotions of fear and nostalgia that are fertile breeding grounds for populist demagogues. Others argue that too optimistic a view can blind us to the real threats facing our freedoms and democracy.

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Steven Pinker on The Better Angels of Our Nature


Fri, Jan 13, 2017


In 2011, we welcomed world renowned American cognitive scientist Steven Pinker to the Intelligence Squared stage. He argued that, contrary to popular belief, we are living in the least violent period of history, and that even the horrific carnage of the last century, compared to primitive societies, is part of this trend. Pinker claimed that, thanks to the spread of government, literacy and trade, we are actually becoming better people. He was in conversation with Matt Ridley, One of the UK’s most popular science writers, whose books - including the award-winning 'The Rational Optimist' - have sold over a million copies and been translated into 30 languages.

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The Hand that Rocks the Cradle Cannot Rock the Boardroom


Fri, Jan 06, 2017


Is it a myth that women can have it all, all of the time? Or do the rising numbers of female executives in Hong Kong and around the world suggest otherwise? Does the glass ceiling exist as a barrier to the boardroom, or is the only limitation to a woman’s professional success her personal ambition? To celebrate International Women’s Day this year, Intelligence Squared Asia brought together four experts to ask whether a good mother has time to be a good CEO. In this debate, which took place in Hong Kong on 3 March 2014, award-winning journalist and author Allison Pearson and author of “Wonder Women: Sex, Power, and the Quest for Perfection” Debora Spar proposed the motion. CEO of Newton Investment Helena Morrissey and CEO of SOHO Property Zhang Xin opposed the motion.

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William Gibson on 'Zero History', with Cory Doctorow


Fri, Dec 30, 2016


On 5th October 2010, Intelligence Squared paired author William Gibson with popular blogger and science fiction writer Cory Doctorow in a wide-ranging conversation that gives a fascinating insight into the mind of the man heralded as the "architect of cool".

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Dan Pink on the Science of Buoyancy


Fri, Dec 23, 2016


It happens to all of us every day. You get rejected. Your customer doesn’t buy. Your boss doesn’t agree. Your crush doesn’t say yes. In this provocative and entertaining talk, exclusive to Intelligence Squared, American author Daniel H. Pink harvested a rich trove of social science to explain the theory and practice of bouncing back. He showed why questioning your abilities is often more effective than affirming them; why being positive (but not too positive) can improve your performance; and how to explain failure in ways that prepare you for your next encounter. Dan Pink is the author of the New York Times and BusinessWeek bestsellers A Whole New Mind and Drive. His 18-minute lecture on the science of motivation is one of the twenty most-viewed TED Talks of all time. He has written for the New York Times, Harvard Business Review, Fast Company and Wired, where he is a contributing editor. He has provided analysis for CNN, CNBC, ABC, NPR and other networks in the U.S. and abroad. Pink lectures on economic transformation and the new workplace at corporations, associations and universities around the world. His latest book is To Sell is Human: The Surprising Truth About Persuading, Convincing and Influencing Others.

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Tim Harford on the Importance of Being Messy


Fri, Dec 16, 2016


Have the forces of tidiness marched too far? Would we all benefit from being a bit messy? That’s the big question that the FT’s star economist Tim Harford will be asking in this exclusive Intelligence Squared event. In Harford’s view, we need to be tidy up to a point. But in some areas of life, too much order makes things rigid, fragile and sterile. Take the office, where research shows that people are more productive and creative if they are allowed to surround themselves with a bit of clutter. Or take Donald Trump. There’s no shortage of accounts that explain how this brash reality TV star, who began his campaign for the Republican nomination as a 150/1 no-hoper, ended up as President-elect of the United States. But Harford has his own theory. Trump’s rivals were tidy-minded career politicians, surrounded by lumbering professional messaging operations. Trump deployed a strategy of chaos and improvisation, confounding his enemies with his late-night tweets and moving on before they had even had time to react. This messy strategy, Harford will argue, is one that has worked in many different contexts, from countless against-the-odds military victories, to Jeff Bezos’s phenomenal success with Amazon. And then there’s automation. Computers may be ‘tidying up’ our lives in all sorts of ways, Harford will argue, but the world still remains an unpredictable place. And the qualities we are going to value more than ever in our automated world – creativity, resilience and responsiveness – simply cannot be disentangled from the messy soil that produces them.

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Trump: An American Tragedy?


Fri, Dec 09, 2016


It’s one month since we woke up to the shock news that the next president of the United States will be Donald Trump, and the whole world is trying to read the runes and work out what the next four years will hold for America and the rest of the world. Many are decrying Trump’s election as the end of democracy and the beginning of fascism. Others, observing that he is already watering down many of his more extreme threats, are willing to see a silver lining in at least some of his avowed policies. To weigh up these conflicting attitudes and gauge what a Trump presidency might actually look like, Intelligence Squared are bringing together a high-profile cast of Republicans, Democrats, historians and former political advisers. Given what we know of Trump’s character (he’s been described by clinical psychologists as a case-book narcissist), perhaps the most pressing question is how much power he will actually be able to wield in office. To what extent will he be able to take executive action to push through his plans, and how much will the constitutional checks and balances work to rein him in? At home, his supporters (and even some on the left) have welcomed his economic plan to revive America’s impoverished areas by building new infrastructure. His critics, however, see this as a con – nothing more than a tax-cut for the wealthy construction sector and its investors. And then there’s trade. While Trump’s promise to tear up international trade agreements won him millions of votes amongst blue-collar workers who feel left behind by globalisation, most experts believe such a move would cause a recession that hurts the rust belt more than free trade ever did. When it comes to Trump’s foreign policy, opinions are again divided. His negative stance towards NATO has sparked alarm, particularly in eastern Europe which sees the alliance as a bulwark against an increasingly aggressive Russia. To others, Trump’s apparent willingness to work with President Putin could mark the start of a new east-west d?tente that should be welcomed.

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Ian Fleming vs John le Carr?


Fri, Dec 02, 2016


They are the titans of the spy novel, who have elevated thrillers to the level of literary fiction. Much imitated, much adapted by the big and small screens, Ian Fleming and John Le Carr? have painted our picture of post-war espionage: Fleming through the dashing figure of James Bond, with his lush locations and Martinis as icy as his heart; Le Carr? through his damning portrait of the British secret service drawn from his own time in MI5 and MI6. But which of the two novelists is the greater? In this thrilling contest, Fleming’s case will made by Anthony Horowitz, creator of the bestselling Alex Rider spy novels and author of the official Bond continuation novel Trigger Mortis. Championing Le Carr? – whose memoir about his life as a former spy currently sits in the bestseller lists – will be David Farr, Emmy-nominated screenwriter of the BBC’s adaptation of The Night Manager. ‘Fleming is one of the very few writers – Charles Dickens and JK Rowling might be two others – who have transcended fiction, who have created stories that capture a particular time and place, that are universally recognisable and that are, it would seem, immortal,’ says Horowitz. ‘George Smiley is a fascinating character. James Bond is an icon. That’s the difference.’ By contrast, pointing to Le Carr?’s own experiences in the secret service, Farr says: ‘John Le Carr? turns espionage into existentialism. His canvas is betrayal — of the realm and of the heart. His greatness comes from the personal nature of that exploration.’ To illustrate their arguments, Horowitz and Farr will be calling on a cast of actors to bring the novels to life. So far we are delighted to have confirmed Harry Potter star Matthew Lewis and Peaky Blinders star Alex Macqueen.

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The Rise of Populism and the Backlash Against the Elites


Fri, Nov 25, 2016


What is going on in the Western democracies? From Britain’s vote for Brexit, to Donald Trump’s election victory in America and the growth of populist movements across Europe, voters are expressing their dissatisfaction with the status quo. Economic anxieties go some way to explain the phenomenon, but as with the Brexit decision, people are voting in ways that seem – at least to their critics – likely to harm their own material interests just to give the establishment a bloody nose. In this special Intelligence Squared event, renowned American social psychologist Jonathan Haidt and politician Nick Clegg will examine the complex web of social, moral and political concerns that are driving the unrest. How can we explain the new illiberalism that is growing on both left and right, as authoritarian trends spread across campuses throughout the Anglosphere (the no-platforming of speakers being a typical example)? How should we understand the new ‘culture war’ emerging in Britain, America and elsewhere between the ‘globalists’ and ‘nationalists’? As deputy prime minister during the Coalition government, Clegg witnessed the upheaval in British politics from the inside. Haidt, author of the acclaimed bestseller 'The Righteous Mind', has long been studying the moral and cultural drives that divide people into different political camps.

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No Backsliding On Brexit: Britain Should Prioritise Controlling Its Borders Over Staying In The European Single Market


Fri, Nov 18, 2016


Intelligence Squared are bringing out the big guns for our debate on what a post-referendum deal between Britain and the EU should look like. Douglas Carswell, Patrick Minford, Anna Soubry and Alexander Stubb will be doing battle over this all-important decision, and star BBC World News presenter Zeinab Badawi will be in the chair. So-called ‘hard Brexiters’ like Douglas Carswell are adamant that Britain must regain its status as a sovereign nation with full control of its borders, laws, money and trade. Anything less would be a betrayal of the majority who voted Leave in the referendum last June. If that means severe restrictions on Britain’s access to the single market, so be it. We don’t have to heed the warnings of the doom-mongerers: Britain is the world’s fifth largest economy and other countries, whether in or out of the EU, are going to want to do business with us. What’s more, Europe is beginning to look like a ticking time bomb. The eurozone is in crisis and Britain’s relatively healthy growth and unemployment figures show what a wise move it was not to sign up to the euro in 2002. And now things are looking decidedly scary, with Angela Merkel’s rashly generous immigration policies fuelling voter discontent across the continent, and populist parties on the rise in every member state. The response from EU leaders such as Jean-Claude Juncker to this disgruntlement? Ever closer integration, the very thing that the voters are rejecting. If the EU implodes, we’ll be grateful to have put ourselves at a safe distance. This is rubbish, according to those who think the Leave vote was a mistake. If we have to go through with Brexit, then the UK should do everything it can to salvage our current relationship with our EU partners – and that means keeping access to the single market. Withdrawing from it would do untold damage to British jobs and prosperity, especially in our car industry and financial services. Countries such as Norway show that it is perfectly possible to be inside the single market but outside the EU, even if there is a price to pay in terms of membership dues and some compromise over freedom of movement from the member states. And let’s not kid ourselves that keeping out foreign workers will provide more jobs for British citizens. Our economy depends heavily on migrant workers, and if we don’t bring them in from outside we risk exporting many of our manufacturing jobs to foreign countries with cheaper labour. This is the case that Anna Soubry and Alexander Stubb will be making. As Britain redefines its place in the world, major decisions will have to be made on what our priority should be – controlling our borders with Europe or keeping our markets open to it.

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One size doesn’t fit all: Democracy is not always the best form of government


Fri, Nov 11, 2016


Democracy is the worst form of government except all the others that have been tried. So said Winston Churchill and who would disagree? One man, one vote, the rule of law, equality and a free press. These are the Enlightenment principles the West has developed over the centuries and fought tooth and nail in countless wars to preserve or to propagate. But is the assumption that democracy always leads to a more liberal and tolerant society correct? Many would argue that it can lead to quite illiberal outcomes especially where there is profound ethnic division. Take for example Yugoslavia. Slobodan Milosevic – the democratically elected president – left a legacy of more than 200,000 dead in Bosnia and ethnically cleansed more than 800,000 Albanians from their homes in Kosovo. And what if democracy were installed in Syria? It’s not hard to imagine the outcome for the minority groups who for decades have enjoyed the protection of Assad’s regime. Is democracy always the best outcome? Arguing in favour of the motion were Rosemary Hollis, Professor of Middle East Policy Studies and Director of the Olive Tree Scholarship Programme at City University, and Martin Jacques, Senior Fellow at the Department of Politics and International Studies, Cambridge University. Speaking against the motion were Ian Bremmer, American political scientist specialising in US foreign policy and states in transition, and Andriy Shevchenko, Member of the Ukrainian Parliament and of former prime minister Yulia Tymoshenko’s party ‘Fatherland’. The debate was chaired by BBC World News presenter Nik Gowing.

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Let Them Eat Meat: There is Nothing Wrong With Rearing and Killing Animals for Human Consumption


Fri, Nov 04, 2016


Fancy a nice juicy steak? Most of us do from time to time, and we don’t trouble our consciences too much with the rights and wrongs of eating meat. Others, while vaguely aware that we ought to go vegan, just can’t face the rest of our lives denying ourselves bacon, beef, butter etc. But once we start looking into the arguments for veganism (and it has to be full-blown veganism, because eggs and dairy are all part of the animal food production line), it becomes difficult to justify the omnivore diet. Take the environment for starters. As polemical author and commentator George Monbiot will argue in this debate, livestock farming has a massive impact on the planet, producing around 14% of carbon dioxide equivalent emissions according to the UN. That’s roughly the same as the total amount of global transport emissions. Animals are extremely inefficient processors of the maize and soya that farmers grow to feed them. If we ate those crops ourselves instead of feeding them to livestock, we could free up hundreds of millions of hectares of rainforests, savannahs and wetlands where wild animals could flourish instead. And then there are the arguments about animal welfare. Recent scientific research indicates what many of us feel we already know – that animals have complex emotional lives not dissimilar to our own. Intensive farming – the kind that confines hens, pigs and cattle to squalid indoor pens – thwarts their instincts to move around freely and build social bonds with their group. Tens of billions of animals exist in this way, and that’s before their short lives are ended in the horror house of the abattoir. As for those who say a vegan diet isn’t healthy, elite athletes who have made the switch, including world tennis No 1 Novak Djokovic, prove you don’t need animal protein to excel at the highest levels in sport. On the other side of the argument, making the case for the meat munchers, will be sharp-tongued Sunday Times food critic AA Gill. The fact is, he will say, we developed as omnivores and every human culture has its culinary traditions, based on the taste and aesthetics of meat and dairy. Do we really want to live in a world where there is no beef Wellington or cheese souffl?? As for the environmentalist arguments, omnivores now have some serious eco-credentials behind them. A study at Cornell University shows that a diet that includes a few small portions of grass-fed meat a week may actually be greener than eating no animal products at all. And when it comes to animal welfare, rather than abandoning animal products altogether, couldn’t we do more good by pressing for genuinely transparent labelling of our meat and dairy? If consumers really know what they are getting, fewer people might be willing to buy the ?3 chicken produced in the barbaric conditions of the agricultural industry. As for a vegan diet being healthier, we should stop giving airtime to self-appointed health experts and lifestyle bloggers. Some dieticians argue that there are nutrients we need that we just can’t get from plants alone. Yes, we can get calcium from kale and iron from beans, but the quantity, quality and bio-availability of such elements are far better when we get them from animal rather than plant sources. Join our two speakers for this major debate chaired by Afua Hirsch, Social Affairs Editor of Sky News (pictured).

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An Anatomy Of Truth: Conversations on Truth-Telling


Thu, Oct 27, 2016


Not everyone tells the truth. ‘Read my lips: no new taxes.’ ‘This isn’t going to hurt.’ ‘I see no ships, my lord.’ ‘Of course I love you.’ When can we know what to believe? Four out of five of us don’t think politicians tell the truth, according to a recent MORI poll. But is telling the truth always the right or best thing to do? If it isn’t, what happens to trust? If it is, are there different kinds of truth? Do we always want to hear the truth? Do different professions need to have systemically different attitudes to truth-telling? Is there a moral difference between outright lies, falsehoods, deceits, dissimulation and just plain old ‘economy with the actualit?’? In October 1013, Intelligence Squared headed to London's Westminster Abbey to discuss truth with a politician (Jack Straw), a journalist (Max Hastings), a scientist (Professor Robert Winston) and a poet (Wendy Cope).

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Pornography is Good For Us: Without it We Would Be a Far More Repressed Society


Thu, Oct 20, 2016


Hooray for porn! What would we be without it? Bored, repressed, frustrated. Porn allows the timid to indulge fantasies they’d never live out in real life and the adventurous to experiment with new forms of pleasure. Now that it has stepped down from the top shelf and waltzed across the internet we can all enjoy it. All we need to do is stop pretending it’s something dirty and come straight out and salute it. Or maybe not. Porn after all is selling a lie: that women are always eager to engage in extreme practices, that bodies are always tanned and buffed, orgasms explosive. Isn’t this a recipe for frustration and disappointment? And to attract the restless voyeur, porn is always having to up the ante – cyber-sex is getting ever more degrading and extreme. Men are finding it harder to be satisfied with their real world partners, women are feeling inadequate and pressured to live up to the cyber-competition – this is the reality of pornland. So which is it – the great liberator of the libido or a blight on human intimacy? Listen to pornographic film maker Anna Arrowsmith and erotica expert Dr Clarissa Smith, square up to renowned feminist Germaine Greer and addiction specialist Dr Robert Lefever.

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PJ O'Rourke on the US Presidential Clash


Fri, Oct 14, 2016


As Donald Trump faces Hillary Clinton in what has been one of the most vitriolic and unpredictable races in recent US election history, we were joined by America’s leading political satirist PJ O’Rourke, just a month ahead of US election day, as he cast his merciless eye over both candidates. He is known for taking no prisoners on either side of the political divide. He has already called Trump ‘a flying monkey’ and Clinton ‘Jimmy Carter in a pantsuit’. As author of such bestsellers as 'Don’t Vote: It Only Encourages the Bastards', and with more citations in 'The Penguin Dictionary of Humorous Quotations' than any other living writer, O’Rourke has been lambasting American politics for some 40 years. Such is his stature that even President Nixon conceded: ‘Whether you agree with him or not, PJ writes a helluva piece.’ O’Rourke will delved into why, in his own words, ‘America is experiencing the most severe outbreak of mass psychosis since the Salem witch trials of 1692’. As a sign of how the race for the White House is upending loyalties, O’Rourke, a lifelong Republican supporter, has shocked his allies by recently backing the Democrats, declaring: ‘I endorse Hillary Clinton for president. She is the second-worst thing that could happen to America.’ PJ O'Rourke was in conversation with Nick Robinson, presenter on Radio 4’s Today programme and former BBC political editor.

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The Gene: Unlocking the Human Code, with Siddhartha Mukherjee


Fri, Oct 07, 2016


Genetics has revolutionised not just how we think of biology but how we think of ourselves. We are, in the words of one geneticist, the first organism that has ‘learned to read its own instructions’. Now, with the breakthrough of gene-editing technology — whose precision allows us to alter a single letter of DNA — we can now not only decipher but rewrite our genetic code. We may soon be able to treat diseases such as cancer not simply with drugs, but with genetic manipulation. Yet behind this medical revolution lies the prospect of something altogether more worrying. Already, we possess the technology to add to our genetic code at will, and thus create the world’s first generation of ‘transgenic’ humans. As we intervene genetically on ourselves with ever more accuracy, do we risk changing what it means to be human? In a potential quest for the genetically ‘normal’, will we risk annihilating the very diversity and mutations on which evolution depends? These are some of the questions that the Pulitzer prize-winning author, cancer geneticist and stem-cell biologist Siddhartha Mukherjee explored when he came to the Intelligence Squared stage. Joining him was neuroscientist and BBC broadcaster Daniel Glaser, director of the Science Gallery at King’s College London and former Head of Engaging Science at the Wellcome Trust. As we enter a new era of ‘previvors’ (people who have been screened for certain genetic predispositions) and post-humans (those who have altered their genetic propensities), will we use this technology responsibly? Can we, as Mukherjee asked, make our genomes a ‘little better’ without risking the possibility of making ourselves substantially worse?

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Karl Marx Was Right


Fri, Sep 30, 2016


We can’t say Karl Marx didn’t warn us: capitalism contains the seeds of its own destruction. In their chase for ever higher profits, the capitalists shed workers for machines. The higher return on capital means that the share of profits rises and the share of wages falls, and soon the mass of the population isn’t earning enough to buy the goods capitalism produces. And that’s exactly what’s been happening over the past four years of the Great Recession: ever increasing income inequality, leading to ever weaker aggregate demand – temporarily disguised by an unsustainable credit binge – leading to collapse. You don’t have to be a communist to see that this is so. We should all be Marxists now. Or should we? Every time capitalism hits an inevitable bad patch, Marx’s name is invoked with wearisome regularity. But no serious economist or political thinker – with the possible exception of Gordon Brown – has ever suggested capitalism can break free of booms and busts. Once bust, as we’ve seen time and again, the capitalist economy has a robust in-built ability to restore itself. As for all the talk of growing inequality, hasn’t anyone noticed that ordinary people in the capitalist West have enjoyed an astonishing long-term rise in their standard of living? We are not suffering an existential economic crisis. We do not need extraordinary remedies. We do not need Marx. So which is it? Is Marx the voice we should be heeding? Or are his modern day apostles resuscitating a late Victorian corpse whose main contribution to human affairs has been the Soviet gulag?

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The End of Antibiotics?


Fri, Sep 23, 2016


This panel discussion took place at the New York Academy of Sciences in September 2016 and was produced by Intelligence Squared, in partnership with the World Health Organisation and the Wellcome Trust. There’s a time bomb ticking that is going to affect us all. Whether you are a sub-Saharan subsistence farmer or a New Yorker buying a super-smoothie in Wholefoods, there will be no escape. The threat? An invisible army of super-resistant bacteria is on the march. Antibiotics, the drugs that have saved millions of lives and are critical for the world’s health and wellbeing, have become a victim of their own success. Their overuse and misuse have helped bacteria and other infectious bugs to develop resistance to them, meaning that many infections are no longer effectively treatable by current medicines. Every year 700,000 people die of drug-resistant infections, and experts predict that this number could rise to 10 million. On top of this, recent research points to a possible link between antibiotics and obesity, as well as type 2 diabetes and asthma. If the link with obesity sounds surprising, it shouldn’t. Antibiotics have been used not just to combat sickness, but to promote weight gain and faster growth in farm animals for several decades. In fact, around 70% of antibiotics in the US are given to livestock, and this has a knock-on effect on human health, as the resistant strains of bacteria get into the food chain and are consumed by us. Antibiotic residues have also been found in crops that have been fertilised with manure from livestock and in the water supply – so going vegan does not guarantee protection. We risk entering a post-antibiotic era where routine operations such as hip replacements and cancer treatment, which rely on effective antibiotic medicines, will become much more dangerous, and people will die of common infections as they did 100 years ago. This is a global problem, whose impact will be felt by everyone everywhere. To beat it, people and communities need to get informed and engaged. We are going to have to take urgent action at every level, from governments right down to the individual consumer. That’s why Intelligence Squared, in partnership with the World Health Organization and the Wellcome Trust, brought together an international panel of speakers from science, agriculture, food production and consumer activism, to discuss what is being done and must be done to reverse the situation for the long term. The event took place on September 14th at the New York Academy of Sciences, one week before the high level United Nations meeting on the subject.

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Yuval Noah Harari on the Myths we Need to Survive


Mon, Sep 19, 2016


Myths. We tend to think they’re a thing of the past, fabrications that early humans needed to believe in because their understanding of the world was so meagre. But what if modern civilisation were itself based on a set of myths? This is the big question posed by Professor Yuval Noah Harari, author of 'Sapiens: A Brief History of Humankind', which has become one of the most talked about bestsellers of recent years. In this exclusive appearance for Intelligence Squared, Harari argued that all political orders are based on useful fictions which have allowed groups of humans, from ancient Mesopotamia through to the Roman empire and modern capitalist societies, to cooperate in numbers far beyond the scope of any other species.

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David Eagleman on the Science of De- (and Re-) Humanisation (and Why it Matters)


Fri, Sep 16, 2016


Which side were you on? The Jets or the Sharks? The Capulets or the Montagues? The Greeks or the Trojans? Antony or Caesar? William or Harold? And so the list goes on ... Indeed, maybe the whole of human history is the story of group-making and group-breaking. The passions of loyalty and love for the in-group are matched by the de-humanising indignation and hatred for the out-group. But what's actually going on in the chemical soup of the brain when Agamemnon gathers his heros-to-be and sets sail after Helen? Will peering into that soup - as neuroscientist David Eagleman is now doing - actually give peace a chance? Maybe utopia can come out of the lab. Will a scientific understanding of love and hate deliver social programmes that undermine the nastiness without sacrificing the good?

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Yuval Noah Harari on the Rise of Homo Deus


Fri, Sep 09, 2016


“Studying history aims to loosen the grip of the past… It will not tell us what to choose, but at least it gives us more options.” – Yuval Noah Harari Yuval Noah Harari is the star historian who shot to fame with his international bestseller 'Sapiens: A Brief History of Humankind'. In that book Harari explained how human values have been continually shifting since our earliest beginnings: once we placed gods at the centre of the universe; then came the Enlightenment, and from then on human feelings have been the authority from which we derive meaning and values. Now, using his trademark blend of science, history, philosophy and every discipline in between, Harari argues in his forthcoming book 'Homo Deus: A Brief History of Tomorrow', our values may be about to shift again – away from humans, as we transfer our faith to the almighty power of data and the algorithm. In conversation with Kamal Ahmed, the BBC’s economics editor, Harari examined the political and economic revolutions that look set to transform society, as technology continues its exponential advance. What will happen when artificial intelligence takes over most of the jobs that people do? Will our liberal values of equality and universal human rights survive the creation of a massive new class of individuals who are economically useless? And when Google and Facebook know our political preferences better than we do ourselves, will democratic elections become redundant? As the 21st century progresses, not only our society and economy but our bodies and minds could be revolutionised by new technologies such as genetic engineering, nanotechnology and brain-computer interfaces. After a few countries master the enhancement of bodies and brains, will they conquer the planet while the rest of humankind is driven to extinction?

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Museums are Bad at Telling us Why Art Matters


Fri, Sep 02, 2016


Museums are our new churches, as is commonly agreed. Millions of people flock to them to be uplifted, inspired, or distracted from everyday cares for an hour or two by encountering magnificent art. But while churches know exactly how to present art in order to foster faith and remind us of the Christian virtues, couldn't our museums do a better job at displaying art in a way that fully engages our emotions? Aren’t all those academic categories – “the 19th century”, “the Northern Italian School” – dry and dull? Aren't museums just places where great art goes to die? Why can't museums organize their collections in such a way as to convey art’s life-enhancing possibilities and even inspire us to become better people? But isn't that taking the "art as religion" line a bit too seriously? It implies that museums have a social function, even a didactic role to play. Do we want to visit museums in order to be told by invisible curators to think and feel in a certain way? And while it may be the case that religious art was created to instruct the minds and improve the souls of the congregation, can that be said of modern art whose purpose is to challenge, question or shock the viewer? And don’t ever soaring visitor numbers prove that our museums are already doing a brilliant job? We were joined by a panel of experts in June 2011 to debate the motion "Museums are Bad at Telling us Why Art Matters". Arguing in favour of the motion were philosopher and author Alain de Botton; Chief Executive of the RSA Matthew Taylor; and award-winning documentary film-maker Ben Lewis. Arguing against the motion were painter, writer and TV broadcaster Matthew Collings; Director of the National Portrait Gallery Sandy Nairne; and director of Tate Modern Chris Dercon. The debate was chaired by Tim Marlow, author broadcaster and Director of exhibitions at White Cube Gallery.

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P J O'Rourke: The Funniest Man in America


Wed, Aug 10, 2016


P.J. O'Rourke is America's premier political satirist and has more citations in 'The Penguin Dictionary of Humorous Quotations' than any other living writer. In this live appearance for Intelligence Squared in 2010, he discussed his new book, 'Don't Vote — It Just Encourages the Bastards', a brilliant, hilarious and ultimately sobering look at why politics and politicians are a necessary evil — but only just barely necessary. Moving from Adam Smith to Milton Friedman to a late-night girls' boarding school game called Kill-F*@k-Marry, O'Rourke explored the nature of the social contract. For him the essential elements are power, freedom and responsibility: the people like the freedom part, politicians like the power part, and hardly anyone wants to hear the responsibility part. This leads him to postulate the "Death, Sex and Boredom Theory of Politics."

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Brexit Britain – Our Divided Nation


Sun, Jul 31, 2016


This panel session was part of Brexit Britain, an afternoon of debate and discussion produced by BBC Newsnight in partnership with Intelligence Squared at the Royal Geographical Society in London. In this, the first session of the day, folk singer/songwriter and left-wing activist Billy Bragg, Director of Resolution think tank Torsten Bell, UKIP parliamentary spokesperson Suzanne Evans and Vice-Chair of Migration Watch UK Alp Mehmet, discussed what the referendum - and the campaigning that preceded it - have taught us about Britain. The discussion was chaired by Newsnight's lead presenter Evan Davis.

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Brexit Britain - Political Fallout


Sun, Jul 31, 2016


This panel session was part of Brexit Britain, an afternoon of debate and discussion produced by BBC Newsnight in partnership with Intelligence Squared at the Royal Geographical Society in London. In this, the second session of the day, Guardian columnist Owen Jones, Kwasi Kwarteng MP, former Northern Ireland secretary Theresa Villiers, and former advisor to the Chancellor Catherine Macleod, discussed the political fallout of the Brexit vote. The discussion was chaired by Newsnight's political editor Nick Watt.

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Carlo Rovelli and Christophe Galfard on the Architecture of the Universe


Fri, Jul 29, 2016


Does time exist? Was our universe born from a Big Bang, or from a Big Bounce triggered by a former universe imploding? Is this the only universe, or are there infinite ones, all expanding in parallel and out of sight of each other? These are just some of the questions that were tackled by world-renowned physicists Carlo Rovelli and Christophe Galfard when they came to the Intelligence Squared stage, in this event chaired by BBC science star Helen Czerski. Theoretical physics deals with matters at the very limits of human understanding. Einstein was once prompted to tell a student: ‘If you have understood me, then I haven’t been clear.’ In the face of this complexity, Rovelli and Galfard have found a way of explaining the mysteries of physics that has made them the most popular science communicators in their countries. In Italy, Rovelli has consistently outsold Fifty Shades of Grey with his book 'Seven Brief Lessons on Physics', which last year became a Sunday Times bestseller. Galfard — who gained his PhD as Stephen Hawking’s graduate student — won France’s Science Book of the Year for his book on the cosmos 'The Universe in Your Hand'. There could hardly be a better moment for Rovelli and Galfard to shed light on the revelations that physics is making about the universe. Technology is allowing us to observe for the first time in reality phenomena that have until now only been suggested in theory. Earlier this year, the LIGO observatory in the US made the first ever detection of gravitational waves — 100 years after Einstein predicted the existence of these ripples in spacetime. Galfard describes the discovery as the beginning of ‘a totally new era for mankind’. He states: ‘We haven’t lived through such a thing since the advent of Galileo’s telescope, which changed the whole face of the universe. This is history in the making. Mankind will probably remember this in 1,000 years.’ Being able to see these waves, Galfard and Rovelli will explain, will let us peer into the very origins of matter and time.

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Richard Dawkins: The Rational Revolutionary


Fri, Jul 22, 2016


In the 1960s and 70s, a revolution took place in the way we understand human nature. Out went Marx and Freud, and in came a rational, scientific approach to the way we see ourselves. At the vanguard of that revolution was Richard Dawkins, the evolutionary biologist whose book 'The Selfish Gene' changed the thinking not just of other scientists but of all of us, and propelled its author to intellectual stardom as the modern heir to Darwin. To mark the 40th anniversary of 'The Selfish Gene' and Dawkins’ 75th birthday, Intelligence Squared staged a global event, bringing together luminaries from the worlds of science, philosophy and culture to engage with Dawkins about his life and work. Steven Pinker, celebrated cognitive scientist, and Daniel Dennett, philosopher and fellow ‘New Atheist’, were beamed in live from America. On-stage guests included the illusionist Derren Brown, an avowed fan of Dawkins’ theories about the workings of the mind, the science writer Susan Blackmore, who has further developed some of Dawkins’ important ideas, and the acclaimed novelist and playwright Michael Frayn. It was Dawkins’ understanding of the gene as the fundamental unit of natural selection that captured the popular imagination. It was Dawkins, too, who invented the word ‘meme’ to describe the cultural equivalent of a gene – an idea, belief or practice that replicates itself from person to person and is subject to the same selective pressures as genes – whether it’s an age-old religious practice or a modern fad such as the ice bucket challenge. And on the subject of religion, the publication of 'The God Delusion' a decade ago marked the moment when Dawkins became the patron saint of atheism. The book turned him into the world’s leading controversialist – hero-worshipped by atheists, demonised by believers. But throughout the hubbub of being the celebrity scientist and the non-believers’ poster boy, Dawkins continued his scientific studies at New College, Oxford, and in obscure corners across the world – where he honed the art of observing and writing beautifully about nature, conveying his sense of wonder at how organisms developed their complexity over the ages.

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Ancient Worlds: A Meeting of East and West


Fri, Jul 15, 2016


There’s a new school of history that’s revolutionising the way we look at the past. For centuries, our history has been taught in separate chunks, with the classical, European world divided from China and the East. This traditional, somewhat lazy history of civilisation, zeroing in on the Western Mediterranean, drastically restricts our understanding of the world – and the crucial ideas and problems that have affected human civilisation as a whole; from politics to religion; from war to money. The ‘ancient world’ has been confined in the West to Greece and Rome, when, of course, it encompassed the whole globe. By crashing through these boundaries, of time and geography, we can connect the strands of our human story and develop a more sophisticated sense of why the world looks like it does today – a global history for global times. This is nothing less than a new historical movement that completely changes the prism through which we see the past and explain the present. And on July 5th Intelligence Squared staged an unprecedented chance to see these new ideas developing over the course of a thrilling evening. Dr Michael Scott, the BBC’s charismatic young classics presenter, aired his ground-breaking view of interconnected history. His forthcoming book, Ancient Worlds: An Epic History of East and West, reveals how closely the world’s civilisations have engaged with each other, from the ancient era right up until today. Spinning through 1,000 years, and travelling from Spain to China – via the Mediterranean, Africa, western Asia, central Asia and India – Scott dramatically joinedtogether the dots of world history. He was joined in conversation with the distinguished classicist and BBC presenter Bettany Hughes. Hughes has also been leading the field in the new, globalised approach to ancient and modern history. In her 2015 BBC Four series, Genius of the Ancient World, she drew together the worlds of Socrates, Confucius and the Buddha. All three thinkers were active between the sixth and fifth century BC – a brief spell of unparalleled intellectual advance that revolutionised our perception of ourselves, then and now. Hughes is currently working on a major new history of Istanbul, the city which was the bridge between East and West for centuries.

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Brexit: What Next?


Tue, Jul 05, 2016


The UK has made the momentous decision to leave the EU. Intelligence Squared staged an emergency event to discuss the ramifications. A panel including Douglas Carswell, Jonathan Freedland, Josef Janning, Liz Kendall, Anand Menon and Adair Turner will examined: Who will be the next prime minister to steer us through the rocky negotiations with the EU that lie ahead? What kind of deal can we expect to get? Will the EU play tough with us in order to stop anti-EU contagion spreading to other member states? Or will Brexit be the wake-up call Europe needs to achieve real reform? Will the Brexit camp be able to deliver on its promises – on immigration, NHS spending etc? If not, will there be a backlash from the voters? Will we lose Scotland? Will George Osborne’s dire warnings about the economy be borne out? Is the second referendum which some Remainers are petitioning for a real possibility?

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Yes, he Can! No, he couldn't. Obama Is A Failed President


Thu, Jun 23, 2016


Eight years ago the banners said ‘Behold the new Kennedy!’ Tears flowed and expectations were sky-high as Obama spoke on election night surrounded by his young family. Here was America’s saviour, the man who could overcome the legacy of slavery, heal a divided nation, even reclaim its moral leadership. In fact, Obama’s record has been one of failure. Once the world’s policeman, today America is seen as weak. Tyrants know that Obama rarely exercises power and they have taken full advantage of that fact. Putin has rolled the tanks into part of Ukraine while China flexes its muscles in the South China Sea. Islamic State rose to ugly prominence on his watch, and Obama did little to stop it. He also let Assad get away with gassing his people even though he had warned such action would be crossing his ‘red line’. Traditional Middle East allies such as Israel and Saudi Arabia are rightly dismayed. At home, the president has been just as limp. Some critics go so far as to say that he prepared the ground for Donald Trump, by failing to reassure Republican voters who feel vulnerable to terrorist attacks and not doing enough about uncontrolled immigration. Equally he has disappointed Democrats by his failure to counter the gun crime epidemic, and African Americans have gained little stature or pride from his time in the White House. Who would have imagined #BlackLivesMatter taking off under the first black president of the United States? Far from being an inspiring leader, Obama has turned out to be a sensitive loner, temperamentally unsuited to the hustle and bustle of power. To Obama’s supporters, such charges are ludicrous. Despite the many crises that have afflicted his time in office, he has pulled off a significant number of his promises. Through Obamacare, he has enabled 20 million uninsured adults to have health insurance – something seven previous presidents were unable to achieve. He agreed a climate change accord unthinkable under his predecessors. He negotiated a groundbreaking deal with Iran, stopping its dash to nuclear weapons. Far from being weak and passive in his foreign policy, he has been tough when needed. Bin Laden was killed and so were other terrorist leaders. Yet he has refused to continue hopeless wars that cost lives, tarnish America’s reputation and squander money. Instead, he has concentrated on reviving the economy. Millions of new jobs have been created in the past eight years. Obama’s stewardship has been calm and assured, generating no personal scandals. His real crime, in the eyes of his opponents, was his rejection of ideology. Partisans on all sides despise his willingness to compromise. So how should we assess Obama’s legacy, given that Guantanamo Bay is still open while American minds grow ever more closed? Arguing in favour of the motion were Christopher Caldwell, a senior editor at the Weekly Standard and the author of 'Reflections on the Revolution in Europe'; and David Frum, chairman of the think tank Policy Exchange. Opposing them were Bernard-Henri L?vy, a French philosopher and one of Europe’s best selling writers; and Neera Tanden, President and CEO of the Center for American Progress. The debate was chaired by BBC World News presenter, Nik Gowing.

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One Size Doesn’t Fit All: Democracy is Not Always the Best Form of Government


Wed, Jun 22, 2016


Democracy is the worst form of government except all the others that have been tried. So said Winston Churchill and who would disagree? One man, one vote, the rule of law, equality and a free press. These are the principles which tens of thousands have been imprisoned or lost their lives for in despotic regimes from South America to Burma. But is the assumption that democracy always leads to a freer and more tolerant society correct? Many would argue that it can lead to quite illiberal outcomes especially where there is profound ethnic division. What if democracy were installed in Syria? It’s not hard to imagine what would happen to the minority groups who have enjoyed the protection of Assad’s regime. There have been successful transitions to democracy in post- war Germany and Japan, but free elections in countries such as Iraq and Egypt have not brought peace and prosperity. In this debate, from March 2014, Rosemary Hollis, Professor of Middle East Studies at City University, and Martin Jacques, academic and acclaimed author of 'When China Rules the World', proposed the motion. Opposing them were American political scientist Ian Bremmer and eminent Ukrainian MP Andriy Shevchenko.

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The Return of History and the Death of Democracy, with Peter Frankopan and Kwasi Kwarteng


Fri, Jun 17, 2016


25 years ago, with the fall of the Berlin Wall, the future looked rosy. Liberal democracy, freedom and individual rights were on the march, triumphing over tyranny and repression. The end of the Cold War had brought an end to history, declared Francis Fukuyama. A quarter of a century on, that sunny picture has clouded over. History has come bouncing back, says Peter Frankopan, the Oxford historian and author of the bestseller, 'The Silk Roads', a major reassessment of world history which has won ecstatic reviews across the globe. We are living in a time of transition. Migration, religious fundamentalism and climate change leave many of us anxious about the future. So too does the rise of China, the re-emergence of Iran, the actions and posturing of Russia and a Middle East that seems fragile and volatile, where the dreams of the Arab Spring have turned to despair, as conflict rages across north Africa and the Middle East. How should we best understand what is going on – and how do we prepare for the new world that is emerging? On June 9th Frankopan came to the Intelligence Squared stage to put these questions into an historical perspective. He was joined by the politician Kwasi Kwarteng, a rising star in Westminster, whose books on the history of empire and on finance have given him a rare perspective on global change and on the ways the West has engaged with other parts of the world, sometimes as he sees it with disastrous effect. Frankopan and Kwarteng examined the rise of Asia and asked whether we are entering a new era where Europe is becoming not just less important, but potentially irrelevant. They will also look at the lessons that can be learned from the recent and not so recent past. As Frankopan argues so powerfully in 'The Silk Roads', history looks very different when viewed from different perspectives. The rhythm of change that we find so unsettling today has characterised previous centuries and is not only unsurprising, he claims, but actually predictable. The globe has rotated towards the West for the last five hundred years. Now, as Frankopan will explain, it is turning east, towards the new Silk Roads, largely funded by China, that fan out in all directions across Asia. Is it closing time in the gardens of the west, as our old comfortable democratic assumptions – and our comfort – fall prey to a world order that is changing at terrifyingly quick pace?

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The Benefits System Perpetuates Misery


Sat, Jun 11, 2016


Beveridge would be turning in his grave. The benefits system that his 1942 report introduced has become a travesty. Right now there are some 4.5m people in the UK living in households where nobody has a job. Behind that figure lies a subsection of society mired in multi-generational unemployment. What was meant to be a safety net has become a poverty trap. Far from being the short-term stopgap that Beveridge envisaged, benefits have created a culture of long-term welfare dependency. And that leads to misery. A 2012 survey showed that the unemployed in Britain are 3.6 times more likely than those with jobs to say they are seriously unhappy. If you want to help the poor, don’t just throw money at them. Incentivise and help them into work, and reform the system in which many people are actually better off not working at all than taking a job. Such an environment of worklessness simply makes it harder for the next generation to break out of the cycle. That’s the argument that was made by journalist James Bartholomew and social scientist Dr Adam Perkins, who has made a study of the adverse effect on personality of state benefits. Taking them on was Jess Phillips MP, dubbed Labour’s ‘future red queen’, and Matthew Taylor, chief executive of the RSA, who argued that benefits aren’t a handout but a hand-up. It’s all very well saying that benefits perpetuate misery. The fact is that one in five people in the UK still lives under the poverty line. And what after all caused this privation in the poorest parts of the country? Not benefits, but the free-market economics introduced by Mrs Thatcher in the 1980s, which led to the closing of mines and the devastation of industries in northern cities. The benefits systems isn’t perpetuating misery. It’s picking up the pieces of the neoliberal juggernaut. Attacks on benefits are a continuing assault on society’s neediest — part of a concerted campaign to dismantle the welfare state, as typified by the Chancellor’s now abandoned proposal that more than 600,000 disabled people collectively lose ?1.3bn a year from their payments. Is that how society protects its most vulnerable? This isn’t benevolent reform; it’s austerity making the worst-off pay.

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Let the bad guys be: foreign intervention does more harm than good


Fri, Jun 03, 2016


In February 2012 Intelligence Squared Asia presented leading voices and influential figures in a debate about foreign intervention. This discussion raised questions such as: Does foreign intervention lend itself to long-term partnerships characterized by respect and progress? Does it pose fundamentally damaging practical and moral problems? What country has the right to meddle in the affairs of another? Do human rights violations compel other nations to embrace interventionism as foreign policy? Under what circumstances may the presumption of sovereign state integrity be set aside? Arguing in favour of the motion were Dr Edward Luttwak, a leading public intellectual, historian and government consultant on strategic affairs; and Professor Zhang Weiwei, author of 'Shifting Gravity' and professor of International Relations at the Geneva School of Diplomacy. Against them were Emily Lau, Legislative Council (LegCo) member and vice-chair of the Hong Kong Democratic Party; and MJ Akbar, Editorial Director of India Today magazine, Editor of The Sunday Guardian and author of 'Tinderbox: The Past and Future of Pakistan'. The debate was chaired by Deborah Kan, new media entrepreneur, award-winning news anchor and former Executive Producer at the Wall Street Journal.

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The Great Intelligence Squared Brexit Debate


Fri, May 27, 2016


How do we decide? The in-out referendum on the UK’s membership of the European Union on June 23 is a once-in-a-generation vote. For some of us it’s a matter of gut political instinct: we are natural inners or outers. But for many, coming to an informed decision on how to vote is a challenge, given the swirl of claims and counterclaims being made by pro-EU campaigners on one side, and Brexit supporters on the other. Every day there’s a fresh round of media stories, with ‘Project Fear’ warning us of the dire effect Brexit would have on everything, from jobs to farming and the NHS, followed by a slew of denials by the out campaign along with their own scare stories, such as the horrific crimes committed by EU citizens living in Britain under the freedom of movement right. Just give us the facts, people cry. How would Brexit affect trade, for example? Is it true that Britain would be in limbo for ten years while our existing deals with other countries are renegotiated, or would we move swiftly to a new trading relationship with the outside world? And what about security? Does being part of the EU keep us safer, since it gives us access to other members’ databases on suspected terrorists? Or would Brexit lead to security gains, because Britain’s borders could be strengthened and extremists more easily deported? In this major debate, to make the case for remaining in the EU we hosted former deputy prime minister Nick Clegg, who has long supported further European integration. Against him was Gisela Stuart, the Labour MP and chair of Vote Leave. No ‘little Englander’, she argued that Brexit is the progressive choice. But this was a debate with a difference. As well as our two main advocates, there were three special experts – who shared the findings of their research on the economy, law and immigration. In addition, there was a professional fact checker from Full Fact, an independent factchecking charity, who was on hand to resolve any disputed claim at the click of a button.

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Is the Party Over for Economic Growth? When economic stagnation becomes the new normal


Fri, May 20, 2016


It was a blast. Since the Industrial Revolution, we enjoyed unprecedented economic growth, propelled by a seemingly unstoppable wave of technological innovation. For 100 years from around 1870, life in the West was transformed by inventions such as electricity, the car and domestic appliances, which led to soaring growth, better lives and booming wealth for all. The poor became less poor, and the number of middle income earners exploded. In the second half of the 20th century the rest of the world began to catch up, with China lifting hundreds of millions out of extreme poverty and the rise of the BRICs. But then it stopped. Since around 1970, middle incomes in the US have stagnated, while the top 1% have pulled away in terms of earnings and wealth. Productivity growth fell. The great recession of 2008 was expected to be a blip but we are still in the doldrums. China’s miracle growth has shuddered to a slowdown and is set to drop even further. Just last week, the European Central Bank announced fresh rounds of quantitative easing to try and pump life into the eurozone’s flagging economy. Many economists are now predicting that stagnation is here to stay. We may hear a lot of excited talk from the techno-optimists about the Second Machine Age and the Fourth Industrial Revolution and the rewards they are set to bring us, but some say that most of the fruits of the IT revolution have already been harvested. For example, driverless cars may be the future, but they will change the world far less than the invention of cars in the first place – and put millions of professional drivers out of a job. If the age of endless growth is over, how should we assess the implications? Does the developed world face decades of misery-inducing recession, or – given that the planet’s resources are finite – can we look forward to a more sustainable future where ever-increasing consumption does not count as the main good? Or are the economic doom-mongers wrong? Will capitalism, that engine of human ingenuity, continue to be the route to rising prosperity for all? If so, what are the mechanisms that will kick-start the global economy again? On 16th May 2016, we were joined by a star panel for this major discussion on the future of the global economy. On stage were Stephanie Flanders, JP Morgan’s chief market strategist for Europe; Deirdre McCloskey, acclaimed US economic historian; and Tim Jackson, Professor of Sustainable Development at the University of Surrey and author of 'Prosperity Without Growth: Economics for a Finite Planet'. The event was chaired by Economics Editor of BBC News Kamal Ahmed.

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Assisted suicide should be legalised


Fri, May 13, 2016


The law allows me to kill myself, but what if I have a progressive illness and reach a stage when I long to end my life but cannot do so unaided. Isn't it needlessly cruel and illogical that as the law stands, no friend or family member or doctor can then help me die without risking prosecution and a possible jail sentence? No it isn't, say those who oppose legalising assisted suicide. Think of the pressures that would build once it became a legally sanctioned option - not least the pressure to extend the category of those whom it is permissible to help kill beyond the terminally ill to the old, the frail and even the mildly depressed. Think of the internal and external pressure on elderly relatives to seek assistance for an early exit so as to avoid being a burden and using up the family inheritance; or the pressure on the NHS to create more bed space. Would it not be better, say opponents of legalisation, to retain the kind of fudge we've got at the moment, allowing the Director of Public Prosecutions to give a nod and a wink to assisted suicide unless he suspects foul play? Or is that just a recipe for the very uncertainty - and attendant misery that gives rise to such passionate calls for a change in the law in the first place? We were joined by a panel of experts in 2011 to debate the motion "Assisted suicide should be legalised". Arguing in favour of the motion were Emily Jackson, Professor of Law at the London School of Economics; Mary Warnock, moral philosopher, life peer and former Member of House of Lords Select Committee on Euthanasia; and the late Debbie Purdy, a right-to-die campaigner who in 2009 won a landmark ruling to clarify the law on assisted suicide. Arguing against the motion were Lord Carlile QC, barrister, Liberal Democrat peer and chairman of Care not Killing; Baroness Finlay, Professor of Palliative Medicine at Cardiff University; and Richard Harries, former Bishop of Oxford and author of 'Questions of Life and Death: Christian Faith and Medical Intervention'. The debate was chaired by journalist and broadcaster Sue Lawley.

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Michael Sandel on the Moral Limits of Markets


Fri, May 06, 2016


Michael Sandel is one of the world's most acclaimed and popular political philosophers. He has given the Reith lectures, been called "the most influential foreign figure of the year" by China Newsweek, and his online video lectures for Harvard University attract millions of viewers. His book 'Justice' was an international bestseller. Now he turns his attention to the markets. In this special Intelligence Squared event from 2013 he discussed his provocative new book, 'What Money Can't Buy: The Moral Limits of Markets'. Should we pay children to get good grades? Is it ethical to pay people to test risky new drugs or to donate their organs? What about hiring mercenaries to fight our wars, or selling citizenship to immigrants willing to pay? Isn't there something wrong with a world in which everything is for sale? Sandel argued that market values have crowded out nonmarket norms in almost every aspect of life - medicine, education, government, law, art, sports, even family life and personal relations. So what is the proper role of markets in a democratic society, and how can we protect the moral and civic goods that markets do not honour and money cannot buy?

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Tony Blair on Trial


Fri, Apr 29, 2016


When Tony Blair became prime minister in May 1997, he had a landslide majority, an approval rating of 93 per cent, and he went on to become Labour’s longest-serving premier. At his last PMQs he got a standing ovation in the chamber of the House of Commons. How things have changed. Nowadays all we hear about is the accusations of lies, hubris and money-making business deals. But is this disillusionment justified? To assess the record of this extraordinary politician, Intelligence Squared staged Tony Blair on Trial. Levelling the charges against him was Tom Bower, the investigative journalist who was about to publish his most explosive book yet: 'Broken Vows: Tony Blair and the Tragedy of Power'. All this is a travesty, according to David Aaronovitch, award-winning columnist on the Times, who defended Tony Blair in our event. As they slugged it out, Bower and Aaronovitch called upon their specially chosen expert witnesses to bolster their case: Professor Margaret Brown, Emeritus Professor of Mathematics Education at King’s College London; Michael Clarke, Director General of the Royal United Services Institute from 2007-2015; John McTernan, Tony Blair’s Director of Political Operations from 2005 to 2007; and Matthew Taylor, Chief executive of the RSA and a Downing Street adviser to Tony Blair from 2003 to 2006. The debate was chaired by former BBC political editor and presenter on Radio 4’s Today programme, Nick Robinson.

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The Future of Health: When Death Becomes Optional


Fri, Apr 22, 2016


What if doctors no longer played God and you became CEO of your own health? What if medicine were tailor-made for your own DNA? What will the world be like when people start living to 150 – or even forever? If only the wealthy can afford super-longevity, will the growing gap between rich and poor lead to a new form of social inequality? These are some of the questions Intelligence Squared explored in The Future of Health: When Death Becomes Optional. Massive change is already under way. New tools, tests and apps are taking healthcare away from the professionals and into the hands of the individual. Wearable devices which monitor our fitness and activities are already ubiquitous. Before long they will be superseded by ‘insideables’ – chips planted just under our skin – and ‘ingestibles’ – tiny sensor pills that we swallow. The plummeting cost of DNA profiling means we will soon be entering the era of truly personalised medicine – the right drug for the right person at the right time – instead of the same drug for everybody. All this means that we will be living longer, healthier lives. Some of the world’s top scientists believe that ageing itself can be treated as a disease, and the race is on to find a ‘cure’. Google and other Silicon Valley giants are pouring billions into longevity research, hoping that they can find the elusive cause of ageing and deactivate it, putting an end to the age-related diseases such as cancer, heart disease and Alzheimers that we tend to die of. If they succeed, the first person to live to 150 may have already been born. And an elite handful of very wealthy tech entrepreneurs have even more ambitious dreams: to make death just another medical problem which technology will sooner or later disrupt. But what will defying ageing and death mean for society? What will be the impact on our financial, social and environmental resources when people start living well into their ‘second century’? And what will our democracies look like when old people are in the majority and start voting for all the privileges to be channelled to themselves? We were joined by Dr Daniel Kraft, Faculty chair for the Medicine and Exponential Medicine program at Singularity University; Jo?o Pedro de Magalh?es, senior lecturer at the University of Liverpool, where he leads the Integrative Genomics of Ageing Group; and Professor Tony Young, the NHS’s National Clinical Director for Innovation (known as ‘the NHS’s disrupter-in-chief’). The event was chaired by documentary maker and award-winning science journalist. Dr Michael Mosley.

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Art Today Has Sold Out To The Market


Fri, Apr 15, 2016


Today’s global art market is reminiscent of a roller coaster - even as it rotates and retrenches - the ride continues to propel, excite and surprise. With a tenfold increase in buyers over the last decade, unprecedented numbers of influencers are playing a part in work being made, seen and sold. Art has inextricably become dominated by the market. Private collectors on museum boards have become the new curators, driving acquisitions and dictating exhibition content. Advisors and dealers are conditioning the next “hot” artists, who in turn, capitulate to the feeding frenzy, churning out works only to be dropped when the next fad takes hold. Galleries prioritise and promote sales of commercial-friendly paintings, setting their sights on short-term gains while overlooking more genuine forms of artistic production. Or is this just a cynic’s view, swayed by nostalgia for a time when artists, curators and critics were the only intellectual taste-makers? Record numbers are being measured not just in sales but in museum attendance, fair appearances, column inches and public programmes. The truth is, art has never been so honest, and so popular. The market is part of the solution, not the problem; there are more places than ever to showcase new talents and more philanthropists eager to nurture the kind of art - video, installation, performance - that can’t be hung at home. Surely, global demand means that art has never enjoyed such buoyant circumstances in which to flourish. So has ‘real’ art been sold out to the market in favour of trophies for billionaires? Or are we in fact enjoying an artistic renaissance where art is more accessible and exciting than ever? Arguing for the motion in this debate in Hong Kong were The Art Newspaper editor-at-large and FT art market columnist Georgina Adam and Founder and director of Carlos/Ishikawa, London, Vanessa Carlos. Facing them were Award-winning Pakistani-American artist Shahzia Sikander and London-based art dealer, curator, lecturer and prolific writer Kenny Schachter. The debate was chaired by Tim Marlow, Artistic Director at the Royal Academy of Arts, London.

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Democracy is India's Achilles' heel


Fri, Apr 08, 2016


We assume that democracy is what every country should have. But what has democracy done for India? Easy. It has stimulated corruption on a massive scale, and if you want to get rich in India the most direct way is to run for parliament and reap the payoffs businesses are obliged to make to the local MP. Caste, that Indian curse, becomes more entrenched as politicians exploit caste allegiances to win votes. Bombay may be booming but it’s hardly Shanghai. A country that is striving to be an economic powerhouse is being pulled down by its political system. Democracy is India’s Achilles’ heel. So say the pundits but what would they put in democracy’s place? Would they prefer India to be ruled by a Mubarak or an Indian version of the Beijing politburo? Democratic politics is always messy and often corrupt but it is the inevitable price of seeking the will of the people, which will always be preferable to the will of the dictator. Speaking in favour of the motion in this debate from September 2011 were Patrick French, writer, historian and author of 'India: A Portrait'; and Suhel Seth, author, columnist and Managing Partner of Counselage India, a strategic brand management and marketing consultancy. Arguing against them were William Dalrymple, an author and historian who has lived in Delhi for 25 years; and Mani Shankar Aiyar, former government minister and member of the Indian National Congress. The debate was chaired by Bridget Kendall, BBC diplomatic correspondent and presenter of The Forum on BBC World Service.

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George Steiner on the Poetry of Thought


Thu, Mar 31, 2016


Renowned polyglot and polymath, George Steiner has long been recognised as one of the most original minds and brilliant lecturers of our generation. In this talk from April 2009, he argued that at the deepest level there is no essential difference between the language of poetry on the one side, and the language of science, philosophy and politics on the other. Poets and scientists may appear to inhabit different worlds, but as Steiner shows in a series of fascinating examples, the boundaries that separate their modes of thought and articulation are, at root, arbitrary.

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The United Nations is terminally paralysed: the democratic world needs a forum of its own


Thu, Mar 24, 2016


In January 2009, a panel of experts came to the Intelligence Squared stage to debate the motion "The United Nations is terminally paralysed: the democratic world needs a forum of its own". Speaking for the motion were Radek Sikorski, Foreign Minister of Poland; Robert Kagan, an expert in US National Security and Foreign policy; Denis Macshane MP, former Minister of state at the Foreign and Commonwealth office. Speaking against the motion were Sir Jeremy Greenstock, UK Ambassador to the United Nations during the Iraq war; Shashi Tharoor, who served 29 years at the UN; and Lord Malloch Brown, former Deputy Secretary General of the United Nations. The debate was chaired by BBC World News presenter Zeinab Badawi.

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Obama's foreign policy is a gift to America's enemies


Fri, Mar 18, 2016


Barack Obama’s foreign policy came under expert scrutiny in this Intelligence Squared debate from 2010, as influential hawks and doves debated whether the president’s policies have left America looking feeble on the world stage. Historian and academic Simon Schama clashed with General Jack Keane, former vice chief of staff of the US Army, on the motion “Obama’s foreign policy is a gift to America's enemies.” Speaking in favour of the motion alongside General Keane were conservative commentator and editor of the Weekly Standard Bill Kristol and Executive foreign editor of the Telegraph Con Coughlin. Joining Simon Schama in arguing against the motion were France's leading philosopher Bernard-Henri L?vy and Herbert Wechsler Professor of Federal Jurisprudence at Columbia Law School Philip Bobbitt. The debate was chaired by BBC World News presenter Zeinab Badawi.

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Both Britain and the EU would be happier if they got divorced


Thu, Mar 10, 2016


Some people just can’t bring themselves to acknowledge that a relationship is over. Finished. Unsalvageable. David Cameron, for instance. His long awaited speech on Europe has been one big exercise in denial. Yes, we should stay married to Europe, he says, because we can now renegotiate our wedding vows and get the EU to do things our way. Who is he kidding? If it were so easy to pick ‘n mix what we want from Brussels, wolfing down all the soft-centred goodies and rejecting the nutty ones, wouldn’t every member state do the same? That would be a certain recipe for a 27-speed Europe and why on earth would Brussels agree to that? After the euro crisis, Brussels is hell-bent on tightening the rules not loosening them. But do we really want to throw away all we have achieved in the post-war decades – years of painstaking negotiations which have led to a peaceful and prosperous Europe? Not only has the EU enhanced trade between its members – to Britain’s benefit as much as the others – it has also provided Europe with a real voice in the world. Of course it’s far from perfect. That’s why it needs to be reformed not rejected. And of course it involves some loss of sovereignty: in a globalised world that’s inevitable. But only political juveniles hanker after a lost world of unfettered sovereignty. Time to be grown up and accept that the EU is our future, warts and all. So which side of the argument should we heed? This is the biggest national issue of our time: Britain’s destiny is at stake. In this Intelligence Squared debate from March 2013, our panel of experts debated the motion "Both Britain and the EU would be happier if they got divorced".

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The Trouble with This Country Is the Daily Mail


Fri, Mar 04, 2016


"Immigrant-bashing, woman-hating, Muslim-smearing, NHS-undermining, gay-baiting”. That’s how one critic has described the Daily Mail. It depicts a world where traditional British values are under siege – from the EU, rising crime, and benefit scroungers – and it assures its readers that they are not alone in their anxieties. It loves nothing more than a good health scare. According to the Mail, almost everything causes cancer (116 items at the last count, including salami, flipflops and chimney sweeping). As for women, they are castigated for trying to ‘have it all’, and any female celebrity who ‘dares to bare’ on the beach is subjected to microscopic scrutiny of her physique. Perhaps most worrying of all is the power the Mail holds over our politicians. “What would the Mail say?” is the question ministers ask themselves when considering any liberal policy that might get a slap-down from the paper. Making the case against the Mail in this debate will be Zoe Williams of the Guardian and the Rev Richard Coles, the former popstar who is now a parish priest and much-loved Radio 4 presenter. On the other side of the argument we have Daily Mail columnist Peter Oborne and Roger Alton, former editor of the left-leaning Observer newspaper. As they will point out, the Mail is the UK’s most popular newspaper in print and online. Millions of ‘ordinary’ people read it because it understands and articulates their concerns better than other papers. Mail readers are decent, hardworking people, struggling to pay their bills, ambitious for their children and loyal to their country. Hatred of the Mail comes largely from the liberal elite who sneer at unfashionable types who don’t work at the BBC or the Guardian. The Mail may be hard on immigrants and celebrities, but it has served this country time and again by exposing the wrongdoings of the rich and powerful. And it has a fine track record as a campaigning newspaper, most famously bringing the killers of Stephen Lawrence to justice by naming them murderers and challenging them to sue.

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Umberto Eco in conversation with Paul Holdengr?ber


Fri, Feb 26, 2016


RIP Umberto Eco, bestselling Italian author and semiotician perhaps best-known for his novel 'The Name of the Rose', who sadly died aged 84 earlier this week. This week's podcast revisits our event from November 2011, when we were lucky enough to host Eco as he discussed the persistence of conspiracies, the infinity of lists, the future of books, and writing fiction. Eco was in conversation with Paul Holdengr?ber, Director of LIVE from the New York Public Library.

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Defeating Isis means Western Boots on the Ground


Fri, Feb 19, 2016


Enough is enough. Paris, Sharm El-Sheikh, Istanbul, Jakarta. Isis is the global crucible of terrorism and must be stopped using all means available. After the Paris attacks last November, the US and its allies stepped up the bombing of Isis targets in Syria. Unquestionably, the campaign has had some effect and Isis is not the unstoppable force it seemed to be a year ago. Ramadi was taken by Iraqi forces a few weeks ago, and reports are filtering through of disillusionment and desertion amongst the caliphate’s fighters in Syria. That’s why some experts, such as General John Allen, Obama’s former special envoy to Syria, are calling for the West to finish off the job by deploying its own troops on the ground. After all, no one seriously believes that the war against Isis can be won from the air alone or by using existing local forces. But a judicious and limited use of Western ground forces could crush Isis in its vital nerve centres, after which local troops trained up by the West would take over security, and a political and diplomatic process to find a long-term solution for the region would begin in earnest. But to others such as Ken Livingstone, who took on Gen. Allen in this debate, such a move would be to fall into a trap. Isis wants to entangle the West in another war that will boost its drive to recruit jihadists across the Muslim world. And even if Isis were defeated, no doubt something just as bad would take its place. As many as 15 Syrian-based Islamist groups are reportedly standing ready to fill the vacuum and would happily absorb what’s left of the die-hard Isis jihadis. Let’s also not forget the dangers of mission creep, which embroiled the West in years of conflict and ‘nation-building’ in Afghanistan and Iraq. Of course, there are no easy or obvious solutions to this complex crisis, but there are better ways to deal with Isis than sending in the troops – such as starving it of its funding from oil and illicit goods. As for terror attacks, we should keep things in proportion. Whatever the scaremongers say, Isis is not an existential threat to the West. Intelligence and vigilance, not military adventurism, are the key to our security. Will deploying Western ground troops diminish the pernicious threat of Isis? Or play into the organisation’s hands by encouraging more jihadis to sign up to its violent creed? Speaking for the motion in this Intelligence Squared debate from February 2016 were President Obama’s former special envoy for the global coalition to fight Isis General John Allen, and Associate Director at The Henry Jackson Society Douglas Murray. Speaking against the motion were Foreign policy analyst for MSNBC, journalist, and author Rula Jebreal and former Mayor of London and current co-convenor of Labour’s foreign policy review Ken Livingstone. The debate was chaired by BBC World News presenter Nik Gowing.

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The Catholic Church is Beyond Redemption: Pope Francis Cannot Save it


Fri, Feb 12, 2016


Mired in allegations of sexual abuse, corruption in the Vatican and the first papal resignation in six centuries, the Catholic Church is in crisis. Two thousand years of arcane methods, tired dogma and unpalatable lies have left the papacy crippled and out of touch. The secularised West has lost faith in notions of infallibility, of temporal power and of a world in which gay marriage, abortion and the use of condoms remain outlawed. The Catholic Church stands on the brink of entropy, and no amount of confession can save it. It is beyond redemption. Or is it? In the wake of Benedict’s abrupt departure, Pope Francis has emerged as a beacon of hope for downtrodden Catholics worldwide. Finally there’s a leader who can reconcile the principles of the traditional institution with the needs of young church-goers in search of a spiritual path: a man of humility, concerned for those in want and committed to promoting dialogue between faiths and cultures. Moreover, as Catholicism in the West declines, the numbers of the faithful have surged across Africa and Southeast Asia, which as the West slumps into economic decline, must give grounds for optimism. The Catholic Church has come through a hell of a lot worse over the centuries, and with a new captain at the helm it can surely weather the storm. Pope Francis can save it. Speaking for the motion were barrister and human rights expert Dr Ronan McCrea and Colm O’Gorman, an outspoken critic of the Catholic Church. Speaking against the motion were Catholic theologian, priest and author James Alison and former editor of the Catholic Herald Peter Stanford. The debate was chaired by Guardian columnist, author and broadcaster Jonathan Freedland.

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Greece versus Rome, with Boris Johnson and Mary Beard


Fri, Feb 05, 2016


On November 19th Intelligence Squared hosted the ultimate clash of civilisations: Greece vs Rome. It was also the ultimate clash of intellectual titans. Boris Johnson, Mayor of London and ardent classicist, made the case for Greece; while Mary Beard, Professor of Classics at Cambridge and redoubtable media star, championed Rome. As Boris argued, the Greeks got there first: in literature, history, art and philosophy. The Iliad and the Odyssey are the earliest surviving epic poems, the foundations on which European literature was built. The Greek myths – the tales of Oedipus, Heracles and Persephone, to name but a few – contain the archetypal plot elements of hubris and nemesis on which even Hollywood films depend today. It was in ancient Athens that the birth of democracy took place under the leadership of the great statesman Pericles. And in that political climate with its love of freedom and competition, and passion for argument, the great cultural flourishing of classical Athens occurred: the tragedies of Aeschylus, Sophocles and Euripides; the philosophical writings of Plato and Aristotle; and the marble and stone wonders of the Parthenon. Nothing before or since has matched that explosion of talent in a slice of Mediterranean coast smaller than Gloucestershire, with a population the size of Bristol’s. But as Mary Beard reminded us, Greece eventually lost out to Rome. Little Athens, with its loose-knit, short-lived empire, had nothing to rival Rome’s scale. From Hadrian’s Wall to north Africa, from Spain’s Atlantic coast to Babylon, the Romans stamped a permanent legacy on architecture, language, religion and politics. Although nothing can detract from the brilliance of Greek literature, the great Roman writers have an immediacy unmatched by any other ancient culture. Virgil’s epic poem the Aeneid, while invoking Homer, conveys an ambiguity towards war that appeals to modern sensibilities; Catullus’s taut analysis of his own complex emotions and the scatological insults he hurls at his rivals make him seem like the kind of clever and amusing friend we all wish we had. These poets reach out to us with voices that make the intervening 2,000 years vanish. While Athens declined into a forgotten backwater, Rome became the eternal city, home to the greatest classical buildings on earth – the Colosseum, the Pantheon and Trajan’s column. It is thanks to a Roman emperor, Constantine, that Christianity became both the presiding European religion and the force that shaped the Renaissance. Europe is still built in Rome’s image, despite the fall of the Roman Empire. Some say that if Mary Beard had been in charge, the Roman Empire would never have fallen. Others say Boris is soon to be the Pericles of Downing Street. Who gets your vote?

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What Next For Feminism?


Fri, Jan 29, 2016


Anne-Marie Slaughter is the Washington power player who upset the feminist applecart. At the peak of her career — as first female Director of Policy Planning at the US State Department — she turned her back on her dream job with Hillary Clinton in order to spend more time with her teenage sons. How, cried her contemporaries, could she have sacrificed her high-powered career for her family? Slaughter’s ensuing article for The Atlantic, ‘Why Women Still Can’t Have It All’, went viral, sparking furious debate about how men and women juggle their working lives. Having it all, Slaughter argued, remained a mirage. Women who managed to be both mothers and top professionals were either ‘superhuman, rich or self-employed’. On January 26, Anne-Marie Slaughter came to the Intelligence Squared stage, together with Amanda Foreman, award-winning historian and presenter of the recent BBC documentary series The Ascent of Woman, which charts the role of women in society over 10,000 years. They were joined by neuroscientist and broadcaster Daniel Glaser and Sky News social affairs editor Afua Hirsch, as they examined what real equality might look like for both men and women. Is gender equality a matter of women ‘leaning in’ harder in their careers? Or do we all need to fundamentally rethink the roles we assign ourselves, so that both sexes can break free from traditional gender stereotypes?

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From The Library: The Art World Is A Boys' Club


Mon, Jan 18, 2016


Botticelli's Venus. Warhol's Marilyn. Chen Yifei’s Beauties. Historically, the creation of art has been largely the preserve of men. And not a lot has changed. In recent years, the top 100 highest grossing living artists at auction were men, selling predominantly to male buyers. Women run just a quarter of the biggest art museums in the world, earning about a third less than their male counterparts. More women then men graduate from art school, but fast forward a few years and it's the men who are making it big, in the market, the galleries and the museums. So what's going on? The art world is a boys' club, that's what. This is the gripe of those who think the system is stitched up against women, but whose fault is it really? Perhaps women don’t ‘lean in’ enough, or get sidetracked by motherhood. And while gender imbalance remains a fact, things have improved quite dramatically for women in the art world, especially when compared to the business world and its glass ceilings. From Middle Eastern sheikhas to American museum directors, from Korean gallerists to Japanese conceptual artists, the trajectory is up, not down, which is what really matters. So is the art world a bastion of male privilege and prejudice, or an evolving arena where women are continually breaking the mould? We were joined by a panel of experts in Hong Kong on 15th March 2015 to debate the motion "The Art World is a Boys' Club". Arguing for the motion were Head of Collections, International Art at Tate Modern Frances Morris and Executive Director of the Institute of Contemporary Arts, London Gregor Muir. Arguing against the motion were Publisher of Artforum International Magazine Charles Guarino and Director of Education, Christie's Education, Asia Elaine Kwok. The debate was chaired by Alexandra Munroe, Samsung Senior Curator, Asian Art at the Solomon R Guggenheim Museum.

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Anthony Sattin on Cairo


Fri, Jan 15, 2016


Cairo. The facts say one thing: the biggest city in Africa and the Middle East and now so chaotic and polluted that most visitors to Egypt prefer to avoid it. This same city also speaks to us of history and humanity – Moses and Jesus, Arab poets and Napoleon’s scholars who were here beside the Nile. It speaks of brilliance, beauty and power, of Europeans looking on in amazement at a Cairo that was the trading partner of Venice and of such importance that the Arabian Nights narrator called it the Mother of the World. More recently, through writers such as Nobel prizewinner Naguib Mahfouz and Alaa Al-Aswany, it has spoken of humour amid hardships, of both compassion and corruption. Having seen Cairo shift and grow over the past twenty-five years, former resident Anthony Sattin examined the streets, the stories and the history of Cairo in an attempt to reconcile the myths with the facts.

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From the Library - Daniel Goleman On Focus: The Secret to High Performance and Fulfilment


Fri, Jan 08, 2016


Psychologist Daniel Goleman shot to fame with his groundbreaking bestseller 'Emotional Intelligence'. The premise of the book, now widely accepted, is that raw intelligence alone is not a sure predictor of success in life. A greater role is played by ‘softer’ skills such as self-control, self-motivation, empathy and good interpersonal relationships. In this exclusive talk for Intelligence Squared, Goleman discusses the themes of his latest book, 'Focus: The Hidden Driver of Excellence'. Attention, he argues is an underrated asset for high achievers in any field. Incorporating findings from neuroscience, Goleman shows why we need three kinds of focus: inner, for self-awareness; other, for the empathy that builds effective relationships; and outer, for understanding the larger systems in which organisations operate. Those who excel rely on Smart Practices such as mindfulness meditation, focused preparation and positive emotions that help improve habits, add new skills, and sustain excellence.

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From the Library: The Parthenon Marbles Should Be Returned To Athens


Wed, Dec 30, 2015


What’s all this nonsense about sending the Parthenon Marbles back to Greece? If Lord Elgin hadn’t rescued them from the Parthenon in Athens and presented them to the British Museum almost 200 years ago, these exquisite sculptures – the finest embodiment of the classical ideal of beauty and harmony – would have been lost to the ravages of pollution and time. So we have every right to keep them: indeed, returning them would set a dangerous precedent, setting off a clamour for every Egyptian mummy and Grecian urn to be wrenched from the world’s museums and sent back to its country of origin. It is great institutions like the British Museum that have established such artefacts as items of world significance: more people see the Marbles in the BM than visit Athens every year. Why send them back to relative obscurity? But aren’t such arguments a little too imperialistic? All this talk of visitor numbers and dangerous precedents – doesn’t it just sound like an excuse for Britain to hold on to dubiously acquired treasures that were removed without the consent of the Greek people to whom they culturally and historically belong? That’s what Lord Byron thought, and in June 2012 Stephen Fry took up the cause. In this debate Fry argues we should return the Marbles as a gesture of solidarity with Greece in its financial distress, and as a mark of respect for the cradle of democracy and the birthplace of rational thought.

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From the Library: Terry Eagleton in conversation with Roger Scruton


Fri, Dec 18, 2015


What really divides the left and the right? To answer this question, Intelligence Squared brought together two giants of British intellectual culture for an ideological reckoning: Terry Eagleton, literary critic and long-time hero of the radical left, and Roger Scruton, right-wing philosopher who has written on everything from economic theory to literature, and architecture to wine. What we heard was two two irreducibly different views of the world, where each tries hard to understand the other’s view.

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The Right To Bear Arms Is A Freedom Too Far


Thu, Dec 10, 2015


Filmed at the Sadler's Wells Lilian Baylis Studio on 27th March 2013. Arguing in favour of the motion was journalist, novelist and broadcaster Will Self. Arguing against the motion was author and Mail on Sunday columnist Peter Hitchens. Joining us via Google+ Hangouts were celebrated sociologist and Professor of International Affairs at The George Washington University, Amitai Etzioni and Attorney at Law and Research Fellow at the Independent Institute, Stephen Halbrook. The debate was chaired by Editor-in-chief of The Week magazine and co-founder of Intelligence Squared, Jeremy O'Grady.

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Effective Altruism: A Better Way to Lead an Ethical Life


Fri, Dec 04, 2015


Almost all of us want to make a difference in our lives. So we give to charity, recycle, volunteer, or cut down our carbon emissions. But are we getting it right? In a world where ever more data is available, shouldn’t we be paying closer attention to the measurable effects of our altruistic actions? Why, for example do we spend so much time and effort researching hotels and restaurants online while we rarely bother to investigate the effectiveness of the charities we donate to? Are we more concerned with feeling good about ourselves than actually doing good? Enter William MacAskill, rising star philosopher at Oxford University and co-founder of the Effective Altruism movement. MacAskill’s new book 'Doing Good Better' has won acclaim from the likes of Peter Singer and Steven Pinker. Bill Gates, perhaps the world’s greatest philanthropist, has even described him as ‘a data nerd after my own heart.’ By crunching the numbers, MacAskill has shown that the standard ways of doing good often turn out to be less effective than we think. For example: - Giving to disaster relief is generally not the best way to help the poor. - Buying sweatshop produced goods generally reduces poverty. - Buying Fairtrade achieves little. - Typical ?charities do a hundred times less good than the best charities. We need to be more rational and savvy, MacAskill argues, when it comes to giving, and we need to be willing to accept that the best ways to do good are often counterintuitive: If you want to reduce your carbon footprint, he claims, rather than buy local produce you should donate to offsetting charities. If you want to reduce animal suffering, you should first stop eating chicken, not beef. When choosing your career, working for a non-profit isn’t necessarily the most altruistic choice: you can achieve more good over your lifetime by taking a highly-paid job and donating a chunk of your earnings to worthwhile causes. And in order to have the biggest impact, forget the maxim that charity begins at home: you should give money to organisations that save lives in the developing world rather than those that help people at the bottom of the pile in your own rich country. But not everyone agrees with MacAskill’s utilitarian approach to altruism. Sharing the stage with him in this Intelligence Squared event will be priest and philosopher Giles Fraser. To Fraser, the important point is that we are people, not algorithms, and our personal attachments and loyalties are an important part of our identities. So if it comes a choice between spending a few hours consoling a bereaved friend, or using that time to earn money to give to a good cause, don’t the fundamental requirements of kindness and empathy – the qualities that make us human – make consoling the friend the correct ethical choice? And can it really be right for an individual to choose a dispiriting but lucrative career spanning decades in order to fund a deworming initiative in Africa? These are some of the ethical challenges that BBC business editor Kamal Ahmed steered our speakers through. In the front row we had heads of charities, philosophers and philanthropists to take part in the discussion.

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The Great European Refugees And Migrants Debate


Fri, Nov 27, 2015


Europe is gripped by the biggest migrant crisis since the Second World War. The parallels with that earlier crisis are hard to avoid. When in 1938 tens of thousands were fleeing Nazi Germany, not a single European country agreed to raise its quotas. In response Hitler and Goebbels observed that, while other countries complained about how Germany treated the Jews, no one else wanted them either. This is one of the points that Rabbi Jonathan Wittenberg made in the Intelligence Squared Great European Refugees and Migrants Debate. With the squabbling last month between the countries of Europe over the quota system, the Hungarian government erecting a steel fence on its southern border and Germany and Sweden reintroducing border controls, will this period go down in history as another one when Europe closed its doors? Some would argue, however, that humanitarian pleas to give a compassionate welcome to the refugees may be admirable, but the numbers entering Europe are simply too high for everyone to be accommodated. Over a million people have already crossed into the continent this year, and the European Union estimates that another 3 million will enter by 2017. Angela Merkel – who of all the European leaders has been most generous in welcoming the refugees – has seen her popularity in Germany plummet amid anxieties about a surge in support for the extreme right. Meanwhile, the declaration by Hungary’s Prime Minister Viktor Orb?n that he is defending Europe’s ‘Christian identity’ against a vast ‘Islamic influx’ has given him a boost in the polls. And now the situation has been further complicated by the horrific attacks in Paris carried out by Isis terrorists. Evidence has emerged that one of the killers may have posed as a Syrian refugee to enter Europe. Whether or not this can be proved, more European countries look set to impose border controls as a response. What will this mean for refugees who are likely to be trapped in a backlog in the Balkan states, and how will the rising tensions be dealt with? Joining Rabbi Wittenberg in this major event were: Lord Ashdown, who played a key role in putting Bosnia back on its feet after the war in Yugoslavia; Pia Oberoi, a migration adviser from the UN High Commission for Human Rights; former foreign secretary Sir Malcolm Rifkind; and Hungarian migration expert Bal?zs Orb?n.

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Fight Your Own Battles: Foreign powers shouldn't intervene in the Middle East


Wed, Nov 18, 2015


Filmed at Sadler's Wells on 17th July 2013. Speaking for the motion were Palestinian-American writer, human rights campaigner and political commentator Susan Abulhawa and Former British Ambassador to Syria Sir Andrew Green. Speaking against the motion were Director of Research for the Brookings Doha Center Dr. Shadi Hamid and Senior Adviser on Public Affairs for the Electoral Reform Society Nick Tyrone. The debate was chaired by Guardian columnist, author and broadcaster Jonathan Freedland.

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The Nuclear Deal With Iran Won't Make the World a Safer Place


Thu, Nov 12, 2015


What’s not to like? The deal reached between Iran and six world powers in July is a major diplomatic breakthrough. In exchange for Tehran halting its nuclear weapons programme, the West will lift the sanctions that have been crippling Iran’s economy for the last decade. The deal was hailed by President Obama as ‘a historic understanding’ and met with cheers of approval from around the world. Of course, the agreement doesn’t guarantee that Iran will never get the bomb some time in the future. But its supporters argue that in a complex world it’s the best option going. There will be no pre-emptive strike on Iran’s nuclear facilities for at least 10 years. The freeing up of over ?100 billion of frozen assets will increase Iran’s stability, and the improved communication and trade between Iran and other countries will strengthen the hand of those Iranians who want their nation to be part of the modern world. The deal is a major step towards making the world a safer place. That’s the line of those who support the deal. But to others, including Israel’s prime minister Binyamin Netanyahu, it’s not so much a historic understanding as a terrifying historic mistake. The Iranians, they say, have a track record of wily negotiating. Once the agreement’s restrictions expire in around 2025, what is there to stop the mullahs cranking up their nuclear programme and producing the bomb? In the meantime, relaxing sanctions will allow the Tehran to channel ever more funds to murderous regimes such as Assad’s Syria, and the terrorist organisations Hamas and Hezbollah. Furthermore, by cosying up to the Shiite Iranians, the West risks alienating its Sunni allies in the Middle East and leaving Israel feeling even more dangerously exposed. Will the deal avert war and give moderate Iranians the time they need to bring their country in from the cold? Or will it do no more than put a hold on Iran’s nuclear ambitions and allow the mullahs to ramp up their dangerous meddling in the region? Alan Dershowitz, one of America’s most formidable and celebrated lawyers, and Emily Landau, one of Israel’s top nuclear proliferation experts, went head to head with senior politicians Norman Lamont and Jack Straw, both impassioned advocates of rapprochement with Iran.

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Karl Ove Knausgaard: The Alchemist of the Ordinary


Fri, Nov 06, 2015


Novelists worship him. Critics fall over themselves to explain his genius. His celebrity fans say his books are like drugs. ‘I just read 200 pages and I need the next volume like crack. It’s completely blown my mind,’ Zadie Smith tweeted. What they’re all raving about is Karl Ove Knausgaard’s bestselling series of six autobiographical novels, 'My Struggle'. The books recount in microscopic detail every aspect of Knausgaard’s own life: his bullying alcoholic father, his marriages, the raising of his children. As James Wood, the literary critic at the New Yorker, has said: ‘Many writers strive to give you the illusion of reality. Knausgaard seems to want to give his readers the reality of reality. And he achieves this. You read Knausgaard as if in real time.’ What is it that makes Knausgaard’s highly confessional books so addictive? What does it say about our voyeuristic urges that the minutiae of his life are so gripping? On October 29, Karl Ove Knausgaard came to the Intelligence Squared stage for an exclusive UK appearance to discuss how — by a remarkable process of literary alchemy — he has made the mundane episodes of his own life both utterly compelling and of universal significance for so many readers.

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The Art of Political Power, with Robert Caro and William Hague


Fri, Oct 30, 2015


Every industry has its guru. And when it comes to the dark arts of political statecraft, the American biographer Robert Caro is the mentor politicians turn to for guidance. His biography of President Lyndon B. Johnson has been described as ‘the greatest insight into power ever written’. Caro is revered by presidents and politicians on both sides of the Atlantic. In the US, his fans include Barack Obama and Bill Clinton. Here in Britain, his life of LBJ is George Osborne’s favourite political work and has been read by every MP and wonk in Westminster. On October 27th, Robert Caro made a rare appearance in London on the Intelligence Squared stage. He was joined by William Hague, the former foreign secretary and leader of the Conservative party, and himself an acclaimed political biographer. Hague quizzed Caro on the nature of political power. How is it built and preserved? Where does true political power lie? With our elected representatives, or shady figures behind the scenes? One of the most powerful operators ever, who never entered public office, is Robert Moses, the man who built modern New York City. Moses is the subject of Caro’s Pulitzer-winning 1974 biography 'The Power Broker', now published in Britain for the first time. Described as ‘a majestic, even Shakespearean, drama about the interplay of power and personality’, the book offers unparalleled insight into the use and misuse of power.

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China picks better leaders than the West


Fri, Oct 23, 2015


As Chinese President Xi Jinping visits the UK for a four-day state visit and David Cameron hails a "golden era" in the relationship between the two countries, we revisit the Intelligence Squared Asia debate "China picks better leaders than the West", which urgently explored the issues around global leadership today. The debate took place in Hong Kong in October 2012. Arguing in favour of the motion were Tsinghua University Confucian philosopher and scholar Daniel A Bell and China-US relations specialist, senior counsel and former Hong Kong Solicitor General Daniel Fung. Arguing against the motion were Brookings Institution fellow and former Asia adviser at the US National Security Council Kenneth Lieberthal and Hong Kong Senior Counsel, legislator and Civic Party Executive Committee member Ronny Tong Ka-wah. The debate was chaired by NPR's Beijing correspondent Louisa Lim.

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Niall Ferguson: Henry Kissinger Reappraised, with Andrew Roberts


Fri, Oct 16, 2015


No American statesman has been as revered and as reviled as Henry Kissinger. To the late Christopher Hitchens he was a war criminal who should be prosecuted for crimes against humanity. To his admirers he is the greatest strategic thinker America has ever produced, the ‘indispensable man’, whose advice has been sought by every president from John F. Kennedy to George W. Bush. Internationally renowned Harvard historian Niall Ferguson came to the Intelligence Squared stage to discuss his new appraisal of Kissinger. In his view, far from being the amoral arch-realist portrayed by his enemies, Kissinger owed a profound debt to philosophical idealism. In this exclusive London appearance, Ferguson was joined by the distinguished historian Andrew Roberts, who brought his expertise from writing about great statesmen of the past – from Napoleon to Churchill – to the examination of this controversial figure. How did Kissinger’s worldview develop over the course of his early years, as a Jew in Hitler’s Germany, a poor immigrant factory worker in New York, a GI at the Battle of the Bulge, and in the aftermath of the war an interrogator of Nazis? How should we assess Kissinger’s record during his time as adviser to Kennedy, Nelson Rockefeller and Richard Nixon, as he helped steer US policy during the Vietnam War, the rapprochement with China, and the Cold War?

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Inside The Head Of Terry Gilliam


Fri, Oct 09, 2015


Terry Gilliam is one of the most multifaceted, visionary talents alive. He first found fame as a member of Monty Python, the surreal comedy troupe that has had a cult following since its inception in 1969 right up to today. Had Gilliam stopped there, his artistic immortality would have been guaranteed. But over the decades his talent has rampaged across different genres – comedy, opera and above all cinema. He ranks among the tiny handful of film directors the world’s leading actors will drop everything for. Hollywood royalty including Robert De Niro, Bruce Willis, Brad Pitt, Robin Williams, Uma Thurman and Johnny Depp have flocked to work on his masterpieces Brazil, Twelve Monkeys, The Adventures of Baron Munchausen and Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas. On October 7, Gilliam made an exclusive appearance at Royal Festival Hall, presented by Intelligence Squared and Southbank Centre. Joined on stage by BBC arts editor Will Gompertz, he took us on an immersive, multimedia journey through the many inspirations he has drawn on — from the Bible and Mad magazine to Grimm’s fairy tales and the films of Powell and Pressburger. Listen as we venture inside the mind of the filmmaker once described as ‘half genius and half madman’, whose popularity has remained undimmed for almost half a century.

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Let's end the tyranny of the test. Relentless school testing demeans education


Fri, Oct 02, 2015


British children are the most tested in the industrialised world. Is regular testing worthwhile training for success in later life, or have our schools become exam sausage factories? Our panel of experts debated whether regular school testing helps our children to flourish or hinders their development.

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Yuval Noah Harari on the myths we need to survive


Fri, Sep 25, 2015


Myths. We tend to think they’re a thing of the past, fabrications that early humans needed to believe in because their understanding of the world was so meagre. But what if modern civilisation were itself based on a set of myths? This is the big question posed by Professor Yuval Noah Harari, author of 'Sapiens: A Brief History of Humankind', which has become one of the most talked about bestsellers of recent years. In this exclusive appearance for Intelligence Squared, Harari argued that all political orders are based on useful fictions which have allowed groups of humans, from ancient Mesopotamia through to the Roman empire and modern capitalist societies, to cooperate in numbers far beyond the scope of any other species.

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From the Library: Western Liberal Democracy Would Be Wrong for China


Fri, Sep 18, 2015


People everywhere are better off living in liberal democracy: that has been the reigning assumption of the western world. But could it be we’ve got it wrong? If you were one of the world’s billions of poor peasants might you not be better off under a system dedicated to political stability and economic growth – one that has lifted 400 million out of poverty – rather than one preoccupied with human rights, the rule of law, and the chance to vote out unpopular rulers? Thanks to the Chinese model of government life expectancy in Shanghai is now higher than in New York. So is China better off without democracy? Or is that just the age-old mantra of the tyrant?

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Ten Years After 9/11: The World Remade


Fri, Sep 11, 2015


Fourteen years on from 9/11, we revisit our event "Ten Years after 9/11: The World Remade" from 2011. In this special Intelligence Squared event, former Foreign Secretary David Miliband and other leading experts from Oxford Analytica, the global strategic analysis and advisory firm, charted the tumultuous path since September 11th and showed how it will shape tomorrow's volatile global order. Questions they asked included: Why did the hunt for Osama bin Laden take so long? Is counterterrorism counterproductive? Have the "Wars of 9/11" been worth the money and lives expended? What has their effect been on the Middle East and the Muslim world? And how have Russia and China responded and, in Beijing's case, managed to strengthen its geopolitical standing during the decade following the attack? Speaking alongside David Miliband were former advisor to the British Government Michael Crawford; former Deputy Director of the CIA Counterterrorist Center Phillip Mudd; and former US Department of Defense Senior Analyst Sarah Michaels. The event was chaired by CEO of Oxford Analytica Nader Mousavizadeh.

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From the Library: Jimmy Carter in Conversation with Jon Snow


Fri, Sep 04, 2015


President Jimmy Carter is a Nobel Prize winner, author, humanitarian, professor, farmer, naval officer and carpenter. In this special Intelligence Squared interview with Channel 4 News's Jon Snow, which took place in October 2011, President Carter talks about his career as president, and the past three decades as a senior statesman and ambassador for the Carter Center. He shares his stories from a truly remarkable and well-lived life and his views of global politics today.

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Europe is failing its Muslims


Fri, Aug 28, 2015


The debate "Europe is failing its Muslims" took place on February 23rd at Cadogan Hall in London, in association with BBC World News and the British Council. Arguing in favour of the motion were Tariq Ramadan and Petra Stienen; against the motion were Douglas Murray and Flemming Rose.

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From the Library: Robert Macfarlane on Landscape and the Human Heart


Thu, Aug 20, 2015


How do the landscapes we love shape the people we are? Why do we walk? For several years and more than a thousand miles, celebrated travel writer Robert Macfarlane has been following the vast network of old paths and routes that criss-cross Britain and its waters, and connect them to countries and continents beyond. Listen to his enthralling account from June 2012 of the ghosts and voices that haunt old tracks, of songlines and their singers, of the stories our tracks keep and tell, and of rights of way and rites of way.

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Norman Stone on Istanbul


Fri, Aug 14, 2015


In this talk from October 2011 the historian Norman Stone, who has lived in Turkey since 1997, took us on a journey through the country's turbulent history, from the arrival of the Seljuks in Anatolia in the 11th century to the modern republic applying for EU membership in the 21st. Along the way we met rapacious leaders such as Genghis Khan and Tamerlane, Sultan S?leyman the Magnificent and Kemal Atat?rk, the reforming genius and founder of modern Turkey. At its height, the Ottoman Empire stretched from the Atlantic coast of Morocco to Indonesia. It was a superpower that brought Islam to the gates of Vienna. Stone examined the reasons for the empire’s long decline and showed how it gave birth to the modern Turkish republic, where east and west, religion and secularism, tradition and modernity still form vibrant elements of national identity.

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Israel Is Destroying Itself With Its Settlement Policy


Fri, Aug 07, 2015


Patriacide. Nationcide. Whatever you want to call it, that is what Israel is doing with its settlement policy: it is killing itself. If ever greater numbers of Jewish settlers are installed on land regarded by Palestinians as the basis for a state of their own, the possibility of a two-state solution grows ever more remote. Yet the single state alternative, involving annexation of the West Bank, would result in a country where Arabs vastly outnumber Jews and then you won’t have a one-state or a two-state solution: you’ll have a no-state solution. For those who love Israel and wish to preserve a democratic Jewish homeland, as much as for those who hate it, the settlements must stop. That’s what many left-wing Israelis and their friends say. But defenders of the settlements see things very differently. The two-state solution has long been a dead letter in their view: why stop building settlements in the name of a peace plan that is frankly unattainable? Whatever the eventual solution – it could even be a West Bank jointly governed by Jordan and Israel – there is no good reason why both Israelis and Palestinians shouldn’t both expand their settlements in the interim before an eventual peace deal.

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Roberto Saviano on the War Against Organised Crime


Fri, Jul 31, 2015


Roberto Saviano made a rare appearance in the UK in July 2015 when he came to the Intelligence Squared stage. In conversation with Intelligence Squared's very own Robert Collins, Saviano talked about his life in hiding and his beginnings as a reporter on the streets of Naples. He revealed his latest work of investigative reporting, 'Zero Zero Zero', in which he delves into the sprawling network of the global cocaine trade. He traced how the $400 billion a year generated by drugs trafficking filters into the international banking system through money laundering from Wall Street to the City of London. The cocaine trade isn’t just a playground for criminals, Saviano argued. It is part of the structure of our global economy where some of the biggest players — the banks — have profited without facing a single criminal conviction.

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John Gray and Adam Phillips in conversation on humankind's search for immortality


Fri, Jul 24, 2015


Political philosopher John Gray and psychotherapist and essayist Adam Phillips came to the Intelligence Squared stage in 2011 to discuss themes of science and immortality. Can we in the 21st century claim to be no longer gripped by the hope that somehow science can make us invincible?

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Digital Summit Highlights: 'London's Star Tech Enterprise' and 'Who we are on the Web'


Wed, Jul 15, 2015


This week's episode of the Intelligence Squared podcast features two sessions from our recent Digital Summit with Vanity Fair. In the first session, 'Who are we on the web?' we examined how deeply the internet is affecting us as human beings. Our panel of experts comprised blogger, journalist and science fiction author Cory Doctorow; author of 'The Dark Net' Jamie Bartlett; Director of the 2013 film 'InRealLife' Beeban Kidron; and Director of the Governance Lab at NYU Beth Simone Noveck. It was chaired by the UK editor of Vanity Fair Henry Porter. In the second session, 'London's star tech enterprise' we explored how London startups can scale up and compete on the global stage, with founder of Ariadne Capital Julie Meyer; CEO of Telefonica UK (O2) Ronan Dunne; YouTube entrepreneur and founder of SBTV Jamal Edwards; CEO and co-founder of HelixNano Carina Namih; and co-CEO of Decoded Kathryn Parsons. This session was chaired by co-founder of Second Home and former Senior Policy Adviser to David Cameron Rohan Silva.

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Churchill was more a liability than an asset to the free world


Fri, Jul 10, 2015


Does the fact that Winston Churchill is routinely cited as Britain’s greatest hero say more about us than it does about him? Yes, he warned us of the need to face down Hitler when others were urging appeasement and yes, he gave a good speech. But what of his tendency to initiate disastrous military campaigns – think of Gallipoli in World War I or Norway in World War II. What of the fact that his generals constantly had to restrain him from embarking on even more madcap ventures? Could it be that the British had - and still have – a deep need to lionise their war leader in order to disguise from themselves the relative insignificance of Britain’s contribution to defeating the Nazis in comparison with that of the Soviet Union or America? Is our refusal to diminish Churchill’s stature born of the fear that we may have to diminish our own? We were joined by a panel of experts at Methodist Central Hall Westminster in September 2009 to debate the motion "Churchill was more a liability than an asset to the free world". Arguing for the motion were former US presidential adviser Pat Buchanan; political scientist Nigel Knight; and historian Norman Stone. Arguing against the motion were historian and bestselling author Antony Beevor; historian and Second World War specialist Richard Overy; and historian and author of 'Eminent Churchillians' Andrew Roberts. The debate was chaired by journalist and broadcaster Joan Bakewell.

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Digital Summit Highlights: 'The Hopes of the Pioneers' and 'Artificial Intelligence'


Thu, Jul 02, 2015


This week's episode of the Intelligence Squared podcast features two sessions from our recent Digital Summit with Vanity Fair. In the first session, 'This is For Everyone: The hopes of the pioneers', we explored the hopes and memories of the internet's early days – could the internet have developed in any other way than the one we know today? Our panel of experts featured former Guardian editor Alan Rusbridger; entrepreneur and co-founder of lastminute.com Martha Lane Fox; journalist, blogger and science fiction author Cory Doctorow; and Chief Executive Officer of Telef?nica UK (O2) Ronan Dunne. It was chaired by the UK editor of Vanity Fair Henry Porter. In the second session, 'Artificial Intelligence: Are we engineering our own obsolescence?' we looked forward to how we will meet the daunting but thrilling challenge of advanced artificial intelligence. We were joined by leading AI expert Nicholas Bostrom; Professor of Cognitive Robotics at Imperial College London Murray Shanahan; neuroscientist Daniel Glaser; and transhumanism advocate and tech investment consultant Riva-Melissa Tez. The session was chaired by science writer and broadcaster Adam Rutherford.

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From the library: Angela Merkel is destroying Europe


Wed, Jul 01, 2015


The stakes couldn’t be higher, as Greek prime minister Alexis Tsipras seeks a new agreement on a bailout and German chancellor Angela Merkel refuses any talks before this Sunday’s referendum. What will happen is anyone’s guess, but for anyone looking for background information, Intelligence Squared is posting again the podcast of our 2013 debate ‘Angela Merkel is destroying Europe’. Listen to The New Statesman's Mehdi Hasan and Greek MP Euclid Tsakalotos take on historian Anthony Beevor and Belgian-born veteran journalist Christine Ockrent. The debate was chaired by journalist and broadcaster Nik Gowing.

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The West should get out of bed with the House Of Saud


Thu, Jun 25, 2015


Have we no morals? We know that the Saudis created the monster that is Islamic terrorism, allegedly spending some $100 billion on exporting fanatical Wahhabism to other Muslim nations around the world. We know about the public beheadings and floggings, and the treatment of women that amounts to gender apartheid. Yet Western governments persist in cosying up to the Saudi royal family, making an ally of one of the most reactionary regimes in the world, so that we can buy their oil and sell them our expensive weaponry. Enough: we should stop turning a blind eye and start treating Saudi Arabia with the condemnation it deserves. That’s the liberal, reformist position. But others would maintain that even if we find many of its practices abhorrent, it is of vital interest to the West to stay in bed with the Saudi kingdom. After all, it is one of our most important allies amongst the Arab states, helping curb Iran’s ambitions for supremacy within the Middle East. It has also joined the coalition against the horrifyingly brutal Islamic State, sending warplanes to strike targets in Syria and training moderate Syrian rebels to fight the extremists. The Saudis have also donated $500 million to UN humanitarian efforts in Iraq. These are policies we should support. Hold your nose if you must, but the West should keep in with the House of Saud. Speaking in favour of the motion were Egyptian-American freelance journalist Mona Eltahawy and US foreign policy expert Hillary Mann Leverett. Speaking against the motion were former Minister of State for International Development Sir Alan Duncan MP and writer, commentator and lecturer on world affairs and U.S. foreign policy James Rubin. The debate was chaired by BBC World News Presenter Zeinab Badawi.

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The internet is a failed utopia


Thu, Jun 18, 2015


This week's podcast comes from the closing session of our recent Digital Summit with Vanity Fair. See intelligencesquared.com for more information about the summit. To many the hopes we had for the internet when it first emerged have been smashed by the revelations of government surveillance of our personal data – with the cooperation of the tech giants who know and record our every move online. But to others the technological advances of the last 20 years have opened up an unprecedented world of abundance. It’s not just as consumers of physical goods that we have benefited, but as users of information from books, websites and communication with people on the other side of the world. Is the dream a failed one, or still to come? We were joined by a panel of experts to debate the motion "The internet is a failed utopia". Arguing for the motion were Silicon Valley’s favourite controversialist Andrew Keen and big data and financial algorithms expert Frank Pasquale. Arguing against the motion were Founder of the White House Open Government Initiative Beth Simone Noveck and Vice President of Communications and Public Affairs for EMEA at Google Peter Barron. The debate was chaired by broadcaster and author Jeremy Paxman.

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Faramerz Dabhoiwala on the Origins of Sex


Wed, Jun 10, 2015


Rising star historian Faramerz Dabhoiwala came to the Intelligence Squared stage in February 2012 to describe how the permissive society arrived in Western Europe, not in the 1960s as we like to think, but between 1600 and 1800. It began in England and is now shaping and challenging patterns of sexual behaviour all over the world. For most of western history, all sex outside marriage was illegal, and the church, the state, and ordinary people all devoted huge efforts to suppressing and punishing it. This was a central feature of Christian civilization, one that had steadily grown in importance since the early middle ages. Three hundred years ago this entire world view was shattered by revolutionary new ideas - that sex is a private matter; that morality cannot be imposed by force; that men are more lustful than women. Henceforth, the private lives of both sexes were to be endlessly broadcast and debated, in a rapidly expanding universe of public media: newspapers, pamphlets, journals, novels, poems, and prints. In his account of this first sexual revolution, Dabhoiwala will argue that the creation of our modern culture of sex was a central part of the Enlightenment, intertwined with the era's major social, political and intellectual trends. It helped create a new model of Western civilization, whose principles of privacy, equality, and freedom of the individual remain distinctive to this day.

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David Brooks on the Road to Character


Thu, Jun 04, 2015


On May 26th 2015, New York Times columnist David Brooks came to the Intelligence Squared stage to share the insights of his latest book, 'The Road to Character'. Brooks argued that today’s ‘Big Me’ culture is making us increasingly self-preoccupied: we live in a world where we’re taught to be assertive, to master skills, to broadcast our brand, to get likes, to get followers. But amidst all the noise of self-promotion, Brooks claimed that we’ve lost sight of an important and counterintuitive truth: that in order to fulfil ourselves we need to learn how to forget ourselves. Brooks was joined on stage by writer and lecturer on psychology, politics, and the arts Andrew Solomon.

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Joseph Stiglitz on the Great Divide


Thu, May 28, 2015


Inequality is an increasing problem in the Western world, leaving everyone – the rich as well as the poor – worse off. The dream of a socially mobile society is becoming an ever more unachievable myth. That’s the view of Nobel Prize-winning economist Joseph Stiglitz, who came to the Intelligence Squared stage for a rare London appearance on May 20th. Stiglitz argued that inequality is not inevitable but a choice – the cumulative result of unjust policies and misguided priorities. Stiglitz was joined on stage by Economics Editor of Sky News Ed Conway.

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Spotlight On Piketty


Thu, May 21, 2015


In this rare appearance in London, French economist Thomas Piketty appeared centre stage for Intelligence Squared, along with a panel of experts, to debate his findings of his book 'Capital in the 21st Century', an analysis of the causes and growth of inequality that was the publishing sensation of 2014. Do the alleged inaccuracies found in Piketty’s historical data affect the premise of his book? Is he right to predict that inequality will continue to rise during the 21st century? Is the allegedly growing wealth gap a threat to democracy? And what should we make of his proposal for a global tax on wealth? Appearing alongside Piketty were Economics Editor of the Sunday Times David Smith and Associate Editor and Chief Economics Commentator at the Financial Times Martin Wolf. The event was chaired by former BBC economics editor Stephanie Flanders.

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Post-Election Dissection


Thu, May 14, 2015


On May 12th, before the dust had settled on the General Election, Intelligence Squared hosted a post-election dissection with pundits and politicians of all persuasions. They battled it out over what the outcome means for the future of British politics. Is it fair, for example, that a bunch of Scots who want to leave the Union should have so much sway over the rest of the country? Will a break-up of the Union be inevitable? How long will any minority government, reliant on querulous smaller parties, be able to survive? Are we hearing the death knell of the two-party political system? And if so, do we need fundamental reform of our electoral system? We were joined by constitutional expert Vernon Bogdanor, Labour MP Margaret Hodge, Conservative MP Jesse Norman and columnist and interviewer for The Times Alice Thomson. The event was chaired by columinst and author Simon Jenkins.

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Simon Sebag Montefiore on Jerusalem


Fri, May 08, 2015


Jerusalem. How did this small, remote town became the Holy City, the desire of every empire, and the key to Middle East peace? In this dazzling talk from February 2011, Simon Sebag Montefiore revealed the ever-changing city through its many incarnations, bringing every epoch and character blazingly to life. Jerusalem’s biography was told through the wars, adventures, love-affairs and messianic revelations of the men and women – kings, empresses, saints, conquerors, prophets and whores – who created, destroyed, chronicled and believed in the Holy City. Its cast varies from Solomon and Saladin to Churchill, Cleopatra and Caligula, from Abraham, Jesus and Muhammad to Jezebel, Nero, Napoleon, Rasputin, Herod and Nebuchadnezzar, from the Kaiser, Disraeli and Lloyd George, to Yasser Arafat, King Hussein and Moshe Dayan.

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The World Needs Religion Even if it Doesn't Need God


Wed, Apr 29, 2015


God is dead and man has no need of the myths and false consolation that religion offers. That’s the battle-cry of Richard Dawkins and other tough-minded critics of religion. And yet millions cling to their faith, finding value and meaning in the concepts and rituals they adhere to. But is this dichotomy all we have to choose from – prostration or denigration? Some would argue that there’s another way, that it’s possible to remain an atheist and still make use of certain ideas and practices of religion that secular society has failed to engender – the promotion of morality and a spirit of community, for example, and the ability to cope with loss, failure and our own mortality. But is this “religion for atheists” something that would ever catch on? Without belief in the numinous and some form of authority wouldn’t it all fall apart? And do atheists really need sermons and reminders to be good? Arguing against this motion in this debate from January 2012 were philosopher and author Alain de Botton and artist Grayson Perry. Arguing against the motion were journalist and broadcaster Anne Atkins and Benedictine monk and former school headmaster Dom Antony Sutch. The debate was chaired by openDemocracy's Tony Curzon Price.

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The Future of Parliamentary Democracy


Fri, Apr 24, 2015


In the wake of the MPs’ expenses scandal (May-June 2009), we brought a panel of politicians and journalists to the Intelligence Squared stage to discuss the state of democracy in Britain – is the system rotten to the core, or was the expenses scandal simply a storm in a teacup? In a departure from the usual debate format, the seven panelists each present their views on the current state of affairs and suggest if, and how, the system needs to be reformed. Joining us were historian Sir David Cannadine; former Foreign Secretary Sir Malcolm Rifkind; barrister and Labour Peer Helena Kennedy; constitutional expert Vernon Bogdanor; Professor of Politics at the University of Westminster John Keane, author and Daily Mail political columnist Peter Oborne; and author and Times columnist David Aaronovitch. The event was chaired by Standard columnist Sir Simon Jenkins.

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Can art be taught to the Facebook generation?


Fri, Apr 17, 2015


We were joined at the Saatchi Gallery in July 2009 by Turner Prize-winning artists Grayson Perry and Antony Gormley; author, philosopher and television presenter Alain de Botton; design critic, author and columnist Stephen Bayley and founder of the charity Kids Company Camila Batmanghelidjh, as they debated the motion "Can art be taught to the Facebook Generation?" The debate was chaired by author, journalist and broadcaster Joan Bakewell.

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Burgundy vs Bordeaux, with Hugh Johnson and Jancis Robinson


Thu, Apr 09, 2015


Among wine lovers, there is no greater divide than that between Burgundy and Bordeaux. These are the world’s most celebrated wine regions, different places producing different styles of wine. What separates them and why the great rivalry? Many wine buffs believe that Bordeaux is for beginners. It’s a wine that you enjoy before your palate has fully matured and you then move on to the more exquisite pleasures of Burgundy. Bordeaux, say its detractors, is cerebral, like algebra, and is dignified at best. Burgundy, on the other hand, is a wine that makes you dream. As Roald Dahl once wrote, “To drink a Roman?e-Conti is like having an orgasm in the mouth and nose at the same time”. But others disagree. The best red Burgundy is made only from the pinot noir grape and some would argue that there’s not that much going on with it. Bordeaux, its aficionados like to point out, is almost always a blend of grapes that include cabernet sauvignon, merlot, cabernet franc, malbec and petit verdot. It’s a construct, it has detail, you feel more deeply engaged. On March 23rd Intelligence Squared brought together Britain’s two giants of wine writing, Hugh Johnson and Jancis Robinson, to go head to head in a debate on the world’s two greatest wines. The debate was chaired by Michel Roux Jr, Chef de cuisine at Le Gavroche and present on the BBC's 'Masterchef: The Professionals'.

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The Extreme Present: An Evening of Self-Help for Planet Earth


Thu, Apr 02, 2015


Shumon Basar, writer, thinker and cultural critic, Douglas Coupland, the renowned author of 'Generation X', and Hans Ulrich Obrist, one of the world’s best-known curators, joined forces for a special event with Intelligence Squared to explore the challenges that the planet faces in the Extreme Present. Ours is an era so unfamiliar that in their book, 'The Age of Earthquakes' – their 21st-century update of Marshall McLuhan’s seminal 1967 book 'The Medium Is the Massage' – Basar, Coupland and Obrist have developed a new ‘Glossarium’ to describe the unsettling experiences of the always-on, networked age. Do you suffer from ‘monophobia’ (the fear of feeling like an individual) or from ‘connectopathy’ (a range of irregular behaviours triggered by the rewiring of our brains)? Do you spend more and more of your time ‘deselfing’ (willingly diluting your sense of self by plastering the internet with as much information as possible) or, as technology makes you ever smarter yet leaves you feeling ever more stupid, maybe you – along with everyone else on the net – have begun to feel ‘smupid’? They were joined on stage by London-based artist, writer and filmmaker Sophia Al Maria, Director of Climate and Landscape Change science at the British Geological Survey Dr Mike Ellis, neuroscientist Dr Daniel Glaser and internet technologist, journalist and author Ben Hammersley

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The Art World is a Boys' Club


Thu, Mar 26, 2015


Botticelli's Venus. Warhol's Marilyn. Chen Yifei’s Beauties. Historically, the creation of art has been largely the preserve of men. And not a lot has changed. In recent years, the top 100 highest grossing living artists at auction were men, selling predominantly to male buyers. Women run just a quarter of the biggest art museums in the world, earning about a third less than their male counterparts. More women then men graduate from art school, but fast forward a few years and it's the men who are making it big, in the market, the galleries and the museums. So what's going on? The art world is a boys' club, that's what. This is the gripe of those who think the system is stitched up against women, but whose fault is it really? Perhaps women don’t ‘lean in’ enough, or get sidetracked by motherhood. And while gender imbalance remains a fact, things have improved quite dramatically for women in the art world, especially when compared to the business world and its glass ceilings. From Middle Eastern sheikhas to American museum directors, from Korean gallerists to Japanese conceptual artists, the trajectory is up, not down, which is what really matters. So is the art world a bastion of male privilege and prejudice, or an evolving arena where women are continually breaking the mould? We were joined by a panel of experts in Hong Kong on 15th March 2015 to debate the motion "The Art World is a Boys' Club". Arguing for the motion were Head of Collections, International Art at Tate Modern Frances Morris and Executive Director of the Institute of Contemporary Arts, London Gregor Muir. Arguing against the motion were Publisher of Artforum International Magazine Charles Guarino and Director of Education, Christie's Education, Asia Elaine Kwok. The debate was chaired by Alexandra Munroe, Samsung Senior Curator, Asian Art at the Solomon R Guggenheim Museum.

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Muhammad Yunus on a new kind of capitalism


Fri, Mar 20, 2015


‘Making money is a happiness. And that’s a great incentive. Making other people happy is a super-happiness.’ These are the words of Muhammad Yunus, the Nobel Peace Prize-winning Bangladeshi economist world-famous for starting the microfinance movement. That movement is just part of Yunus’s mission to ‘put poverty in the museums’. A charismatic visionary, as much at ease with global leaders as he is with the poorest of street beggars, Professor Yunus believes every person can play a part in reducing poverty. And they can do this not by writing out a cheque to a charity or through hard-headed capitalism, but by means of a model that lies somewhere between the two. He calls this model social business. As Professor Yunus likes to explain it, social business isn’t just about helping the poor – it can also help to change us. When we put on ‘social business glasses’ we start looking at the world and thinking about it in new ways. We bring fresh insight to our conventional profit-maximising companies and become more multi-dimensional, happier human beings in the process. We were joined by Professor Yunus in London on 4th March 2015 as he explained how Yunus Social Business is helping social businesses all over the world – and how we too can become part of his movement. The event was chaired by the Caroline Daniel, Editor of the FT Weekend.

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Be afraid, be very afraid: the robots are coming and they will destroy our livelihoods


Fri, Mar 13, 2015


They are coming to an office near you: job-gobbling robots that can do your work better and more cheaply than you can. One in three jobs could be taken over by a computer or a robot in the next 20 years. Most at risk are less skilled workers such as machine operators, postmen, care workers and professional drivers. The CEO of Uber, the ride-sharing company, recently said that his goal is to replace all the firm’s drivers with autonomous cars. That’s the view of the tech pessimists, but others would argue that all this automation anxiety is overblown. While advances in technology have always caused disruption, in the long run they have led to the creation of more jobs. To give an example, in the 19th century the industrial revolution wiped out jobs on the land as farm workers were replaced by machinery, but millions found new work in factories as they sprang up in the cities. Why should things be different with the AI revolution? We were joined by a panel of experts to debate the motion "The robots are coming and they will destroy our livelihoods" on 2nd March 2015. Arguing for the motion were internet entrepreneur, author and digital commentator Andrew Keen and economist, commentator and consultant George Magnus. Arguing against the motion were author and CEO of the Aspen Institute Walter Isaacson and Co-Founder of H Robotics Pippa Malmgren. The debate was chaired by BBC World News presenter Zeinab Badawi.

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Rembrandt Vs Vermeer: The Titans of Dutch Painting


Thu, Mar 05, 2015


Rembrandt van Rijn is the best known of all the Dutch masters. His range was vast, from landscapes to portraits to Biblical scenes; he revolutionised every medium he handled, from oil paintings to etchings and drawings. His vision encompassed every element of life – the sleeping lion; the pissing baby; the lacerated soles of the returned prodigal son. Making the case for him in this debate was Simon Schama. For him Rembrandt is humanity unedited: rough, raw, violent, manic, vain, greedy and manipulative. Formal beauty was the least of his concerns, argues Schama, yet he attains beauty through his understanding of the human condition, including to be sure, his own. But for novelist Tracy Chevalier it can all get a little exhausting. Rembrandt’s paintings, she believes – even those that are not his celebrated self-portraits – are all about himself. Championing Vermeer, she will claim that his charm lies in the very fact that he absents himself from his paintings. As a result they are less didactic and more magical than Rembrandt’s, giving the viewer room to breathe. The debate was chaired by art historian , broadcaster and Director of Artistic Programmes at the Royal Academy Tim Marlow.

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Money can grow on trees: what's good for nature is good for business


Fri, Feb 27, 2015


Capitalists don’t care about the environment. Industry, agriculture and commerce have long exploited nature’s resources. The pursuit of profit pays scant regard to the underlying cost of using up the planet’s capital. That’s the familiar story that we hear about capitalists. But a growing number of voices are claiming that big business and nature in fact make perfect partners. Harnessing the processes of nature, they argue, is simply good business sense. Forests, for example, perform carbon capture worth ?2.3 trillion a year. Nature not only does this for free, it executes it with greater efficiency than any supply-chain manager could dream of. A Texan chemical plant, for instance, recently discovered that it could keep its ground ozone levels down by planting a forest nearby, for the same cost as erecting a new smokestack scrubber which would have done the same job. This is simply one example of how business can thrive through collaboration with nature. But the question is, can such solutions be developed on a mass scale? Or is this vision of business and nature working hand in hand across the globe just a case of wishful green thinking? Intelligence Squared, in partnership with The Nature Conservancy, brought together some of the world’s leading conservation experts, along with voices from the worlds of finance and industry, to ask whether working in tandem with nature is the soundest investment that business can make. Joining us were sustainability adviser and former Executive Director of Friends of the Earth Tony Juniper, Director of the World Development Movement Nick Dearden, Chief Scientist for The Nature Conservancy Peter Kareiva, Leader of McKinsey’s global practice on Sustainability and Resource Productivity Jeremy Oppenheim and the Observer's ethical living columnist Lucy Siegle. The event was chaired by the Chief Executive of the RSA, Matthew Taylor.

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Keep 'em off the streets and behind bars: tough prison sentences mean a safer society


Thu, Feb 19, 2015


Lock them up. That’s the way we’ve always dealt with offenders. Criminals deserve to be put away for their crimes. Prison works because it keeps those criminals out of circulation, and acts as society’s most effective deterrent. Rehabilitation is all well and good – but the fundamental purpose of prison is to protect the public, and to punish those who have done wrong. That’s the argument of the bang ’em up brigade; but others say that there’s a better way. New prison models have emerged in several European countries that suggest it’s not incarceration alone that prisoners need – it’s treatment for drug, alcohol, social and mental health issues. Norway, for example, has a ratio of almost one prison worker per inmate to help them overcome these problems. This system isn’t simply humane, say its advocates, it’s good for society. In England and Wales, 47% of inmates reoffend within a year of leaving prison. In Norway, by contrast, only 20% do. Its prison system works because it treats inmates as human beings, not criminals. Isn’t it time that we did the same? Proposing the motion in this debate were principal opinion columnist for The Sunday Times Dominic Lawson and former prison doctor and now Spectator columnist Theodore Dalrymple. Opposing the motion were author and Guardian columnist Erwin James and Director General of the Norwegian Correctional Service Marianne Vollan. The debate was chaired by broadcaster, journalist and former presenter of BBC Newsnight Jeremy Paxman.

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Magna Carta: Myth and Meaning


Thu, Feb 12, 2015


June 2015 will see the 800th anniversary of Magna Carta, the ‘Great Charter’ which was signed at Runnymede by King John to resolve a political crisis he faced with his barons. Buried within its 69 clauses is one of immeasurable importance. This is the idea that no one should be deprived of their freedom without just cause, and that people are entitled to fair trial by their peers according to the law of the land. At the time Magna Carta did nothing to improve the lot of the vast majority of English people, and all but three of its provisions have been repealed. Yet Magna Carta has come to be seen as the cornerstone of English liberty and an international rallying cry against the arbitrary use of power. But Where does Magna Carta stand today? In a time of secret courts in Britain and the Guantanamo gulag, the threat to rights from terror laws and state surveillance of our online activities, do we need to reaffirm its basic principles? Should we take things even further, as Tim Berners-Lee has suggested, and create a new Magna Carta for the worldwide web to protect our liberty online? On 5th February 2015, Intelligence Squared hosted an evening dedicated to the history, the reinvention and the enduring significance of this historic document. We were joined by leading constitutional historian David Starkey; barrister specialising in civil liberties and public law Dinah Rose QC; and conservative MP and bestselling author Rory Stewart. The event was chaired by Henry Porter, writer and journalist specialising in human rights and the London editor of Vanity Fair.

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Art must be beautiful


Thu, Feb 05, 2015


In May 2011, Intelligence Squared Asia presented four leading voices in the arts to argue the motion "Art must be beautiful". Can aesthetic standards of the day dictate the long-term value of art? Who defines taste? Do parameters of institutional validation differ from collector ideals? Does concept in art triumph over creation? Is meaning in art an obligation or an afterthought? Arguing for the motion were artist and acclaimed photographer David LaChapelle and Co-founder of Phillips de Pury and Co Simon de Pury. Arguing against the motion were Award-winning Singaporean multimedia artist Ming Wong and best-selling author Stephen Bayley. The debate was chaired by Lars Nittve, Executive Director of M+ at the West Kowloon Cultural District.

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An evening with Britain's best poets


Thu, Jan 29, 2015


Love. Sorrow. Anger. Death. Laughter. God. Sex. Hell. Home. Only one profession can get to the heart of that lot – the poets. And not any old poets but amongst Britain's very best: Wendy Cope, Andrew Motion and Don Paterson – plus Clive James who's been here so long he almost counts as British. They came to the Intelligence Squared stage in April 2011 to read and talk about not just their own poems, but their favourite works by poets from the past.

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The High Street is dead, long live the High Street


Thu, Jan 22, 2015


A screen, an image, a click. Proceed to checkout. Sign for it the next day. We are the first generation to enjoy the thrill and convenience of online shopping. No queuing, no frustration at going home empty-handed, because we can always find what we’re looking for online – anywhere, anytime, on our laptop or smartphone. For centuries the high street has been the focus of local community, the place where people meet to trade and exchange news. But many high streets in the UK are struggling and some say that the online revolution is to blame. In October 2014, Intelligence Squared, in partnership with eBay, brought together a panel of experts to debate how the most forward-looking businesses are using technology to marry the best of online and bricks-and-mortar to meet ever-changing consumer expectations. Click-and-collect, location-based technology that sends special offers to your phone in store, augmented reality that shows you what a sofa would look like in your living room – these are just some examples of a new kind of retail experience which merges social, digital and physical shopping. Our panel included Bill Grimsey, author of The Grimsey Review into the High Street; Ben Hammersley, internet technologist, journalist, author and broadcaster; Simon Mottram, founder of cycling and sportswear brand Rapha; and Paul Todd, Vice President of eBay Marketplaces in Europe. The event was chaired by Jemima Kiss, Head of Technology at the Guardian.

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The War on Terror was the right response to 9/11


Thu, Jan 15, 2015


Have the West’s efforts to eradicate Al-Qaeda around the world simply been fuelling the flames of hatred and violence? Or would we have suffered even more atrocities if we’d left the militants to plot in their hiding places? Is the US right to be pursuing its hard line against militants in countries such as Pakistan and Yemen? These are just some of the questions explored in this Intelligence Squared debate from September 2011, which saw former President of Pakistan Pervez Musharraf and former US Deputy Assistant Secretary of State for Public Diplomacy Colleen Graffy defend the motion. Opposing the motion were former French foreign minister and co-founder of M?decins Sans Fronti?res Bernard Kouchner and former UK Permanent Representative at the United Nations in New York Sir Jeremy Greenstock. The debate was chaired by BBC World News presenter Zeinab Badawi. Thanks to Audible for supporting the Intelligence Squared podcast. Get a free audiobook of your choice at audiblepodcast.com/debate.

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Bernard-Henri L?vy on the Libyan intervention and universal values


Thu, Jan 08, 2015


Bernard-Henri L?vy is France’s best-known public intellectual, passionately committed to the causes he believes to be just. A writer, journalist, and film-maker, he has the status of a rock star in France where he is known simply as BHL, and has repeatedly turned down the L?gion d'Honneur. In this rare appearance in London for Intelligence Squared he lectured on liberal interventionism (he is credited with persuading President Sarkozy to take the lead in the international intervention in Libya), the crisis in Europe, the race for the US presidency, and French politics; he also touched on his literary and philosophical heroes and the role of the public intellectual in France and elsewhere.

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Beware of the dragon: Africa should not look to China


Tue, Dec 23, 2014


We all know that the Chinese are the neo-colonialists of Africa. They've plundered the continent of its natural resources, tossing aside any concern for human rights and doing deals with some of the world's most unsavoury regimes. The relentless pursuit of growth is China's only spur. But is this picture really fair? In Angola, for example, China's low-interest loans have been tied to a scheme that has ensured that roads, schools and other infrastructure has been built. China has an impressive track record of lifting its own millions out of poverty and can do the same for Africa. And is the West's record in Africa as glowing as we like to think? After decades of pouring aid into Africa, how much have we actually achieved in terms of reducing poverty, corruption and war? So which way should Africa look for salvation - to the West, to China, or perhaps to its own people? Defending the motion in our debate from 28th November 2011 were Ghanaian economist and author George Ayittey and Portuguese MEP Ana Maria Gomes. Opposing the motion were Professor of International Development at the American University in Washington DC Deborah Brautigam, and Professor of International Relations at the School of Oriental and Asian Studies, London University Stephen Chan. The debate was chaired by Channel 4 News’ International Editor Lindsey Hilsum.

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Umberto Eco In Conversation With Paul Holdengr?ber


Thu, Dec 18, 2014


The persistence of conspiracies. Grasping the infinity of lists. Writing fiction about the real. The future of books. These are some of the topics Umberto Eco discussed with Paul Holdengr?ber, Director of LIVE at the New York Public Library, when he came to the Intelligence Squared stage in November 2011. Their wide-ranging conversation focused in part on Eco's book 'The Prague Cemetery', an historical pseudo-reconstruction set in a 19th-century Europe teeming with secret service forgeries, Jesuit plots, murders and conspiracies, and covering everything from the unification of Italy, the Paris Commune, the Dreyfus Affair to The Protocols of the Elders of Zion. It has been criticised by both the Vatican-backed newspaper the Osservatore Romano and the Chief Rabbi of Rome.

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Brian Cox & Alice Roberts on the Incredible Unlikeliness of Human Existence


Thu, Dec 11, 2014


Who are we? Why are we here? Are we alone in the universe? How did we become the creatures that we are? How might we further evolve? These are some of the big questions that Brian Cox and Alice Roberts tackled when they came to the Intelligence Squared stage on 2nd December 2014. Brian Cox is the rockstar who became a scientist, and is now a rockstar scientist. He is known to millions as the presenter of the BBC Wonders series in which he unravels the complexities of the universe with calm clarity and an infectious sense of wonder. Alice Roberts is a no less talented science story-teller. A doctor, anatomist, osteoarchaeologist and writer, she has enthralled television audiences with BBC series such as The Incredible Human Journey.

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P.J. O'Rourke: The Funniest Man in America


Thu, Dec 04, 2014


P.J. O'Rourke is America's premier political satirist and has more citations in The Penguin Dictionary of Humorous Quotations than any other living writer. In this live appearance for Intelligence Squared in 2010, he discussed his new book, "Don't Vote - It Just Encourages the Bastards", a brilliant, hilarious and ultimately sobering look at why politics and politicians are a necessary evil — but only just barely necessary. Moving from Adam Smith to Milton Friedman to a late-night girls' boarding school game called Kill-F*@k-Marry, O'Rourke explored the nature of the social contract. For him the essential elements are power, freedom and responsibility: the people like the freedom part, politicians like the power part, and hardly anyone wants to hear the responsibility part. This leads him to postulate the "Death, Sex and Boredom Theory of Politics." Thanks to Audible for supporting the Intelligence Squared podcast. Get a free audiobook of your choice at audiblepodcast.com/debate.

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I'd rather Be a Roundhead than a Cavalier


Wed, Nov 26, 2014


In the 1640s England was devastated by a civil war that divided the nation into two tribes – Roundheads and Cavaliers. Counties, towns, even families and friends were rent apart as the nation pledged its allegiance either to King Charles I (supported by the Cavaliers) or to Parliament (backed by the Roundheads). Some 200,000 lives were lost in the desperate conflict which eventually led to the victory of the Roundheads under Oliver Cromwell and the execution of the king in 1649. The ideas that circulated in that febrile climate 350 years ago have shaped our democracy and also created a cultural divide that still resonates today. The Cavaliers represent pleasure, exuberance and individuality. Countering them are the Roundheads who stand for modesty, discipline and equality. To debate both the historical and present-day significance of this divide, Intelligence Squared brought together two acclaimed historians: Charles Spencer to defend the Roundhead cause (in spite of the fact that his forebear the Ist Baron Spencer fought for the Royalists), and Anna Whitelock to make the case for the Cavaliers. Which side are you on – Roundhead or Cavalier?

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David Grossman in conversation with Linda Grant


Thu, Nov 20, 2014


One of Israel’s most acclaimed writers, David Grossman is the author of numerous pieces of fiction, nonfiction and children's literature. His work has dealt with Jewish history, the occupation of the West Bank, the cost of war and the dramas of family life, and has been translated into 25 languages around the world. He has been a vocal critic of Israeli policy towards the Palestinians and has been one of the most prominent cultural advocates of a two-state solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. He came to the Intelligence Squared stage on October 4th 2011 to discuss his life and work with novelist and journalist Linda Grant. Thanks to Audible for supporting the Intelligence Squared podcast. Get a free audiobook of your choice at audiblepodcast.com/debate.

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Psychiatrists & the pharma industry are to blame for the current ‘epidemic’ of mental disorders


Thu, Nov 13, 2014


Drug pushers. We tend to associate them with the bleak underworld of criminality. But some would argue that there’s another class of drug pushers, just as unscrupulous, who work in the highly respectable fields of psychiatry and the pharmaceutical industry. And they deserve the same moral scrutiny that we apply to the drug pedlar on the street corner. Within the medical profession labels are increasingly being attached to everyday conditions previously thought to be beyond the remit of medical help. So sadness is rebranded as depression, shyness as social phobia, childhood naughtiness as hyperactivity or ADHD. And Big Pharma is only too happy to come up with profitable new drugs to treat these ‘disorders’, drugs which the psychiatrists and GPs then willingly prescribe, richly rewarded by the pharma companies for doing so. That’s the view of those who object to the widespread use of the ‘chemical cosh’ to treat people with mental difficulties. But many psychiatrists, while acknowledging that overprescribing is a problem, would argue that the blame lies not with themselves. For example, parents and teachers often ramp up the pressure to have a medical label attached to a child’s problematic behaviour because that way there’s less stigma attached and allowances are made. And psychiatrists and the pharma companies also take issue with those who argue that the ‘chemical imbalance’ theory of mental disorder is a myth. ADHD is a real condition, they say, for which drugs work. Research shows that antidepressants really are more effective than just a placebo, especially in cases of severe depression. Defending the motion in this Intelligence Squared debate at London's Emmanuel Centre on November 12th 2014 were author and journalist Will Self and psychoanalyst and author Darian Leader. Opposing the motion were former Head of Worldwide Development at Pfizer Inc. Dr Declan Doogan and President of the Royal College of Psychiatrists Professor Sir Simon Wessely. The debate was chaired by Matthew Taylor, Chief Executive of the RSA.

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William Gibson on 'Zero History' with Cory Doctorow


Fri, Nov 07, 2014


On 5th October 2010, Intelligence Squared paired author William Gibson with popular blogger and science fiction writer Cory Doctorow in a wide-ranging conversation that gives a fascinating insight into the mind of the man heralded as the "architect of cool". Thanks to Audible for supporting the Intelligence Squared podcast. Get a free audiobook of your choice at audiblepodcast.com/debate.

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Stop Bashing Christians! Britain has become an anti-Christian country


Thu, Oct 30, 2014


Are Christians victims of a hateful animus, or are they demanding special treatment in a secular state which in fact applies the law equally to all? Peter Hitchens fears that without Christianity, we might end up undermining the whole foundation of law in this country. But agony aunt Claire Rayner thinks that we shouldn’t need God in order to be good. Journalist Matthew Parris wonders how intelligent people can still believe in God. They were joined by former Archbishop of Canterbury George Carey, leading human rights lawyer Geoffrey Robertson QC and Benedictine monk and former school headmaster Dom Antony Sutch to debate the motion "Stop Bashing Christians! Britain has become an anti-Christian country" at the Royal Geographical Society on 3rd November 2010. The debate was chaired by Executive editor and columnist at the Guardian, Jonathan Freedland.

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Is London too rich to be interesting?


Thu, Oct 23, 2014


It used to be so easy. You left university, came to London and got yourself a flatshare in one of the cheaper areas: Notting Hill, Maida Vale or Highgate. Living was cheap and if it took you a while to find out what you really wanted to do with your life you could drift about a bit and get by. But now thanks to vast City bonuses and the influx of foreign billionaires, London house prices have soared beyond the reach of all but the seriously rich. Parts of Notting Hill and Kensington have become ‘buy to leave’ ghost towns, the houses boarded up and showing no signs of life. Shoreditch and Hackney, not long ago the hip new outposts for musicians and artists, are now home to well-paid professionals. And London is the worse for it. That’s the argument of those who worry that London is becoming too rich to be interesting. But is there any evidence that the city is growing bland? Quite the reverse. On any evening almost wherever you go London’s streets are abuzz with life. People here crave a communal experience and the city provides it with its 600 parks, thousands of pubs and dynamic cultural scene. There’s a dynamic between wealth and creativity that keeps London exciting. If you prefer greater egalitarianism and more cycle lanes, there’s always Stockholm. Joining us to discuss the question "Is London too rich to be interesting?" were rapper and poet Akala, journalist Tanya Gold, artist Gavin Turk, and author and journalist Simon Jenkins. The event was chaired by Kieran Long, senior curator of contemporary architecture, design and digital at the V&A.

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Karen Armstrong on Religion and the History of Violence


Thu, Oct 16, 2014


Karen Armstrong has written over 16 books on faith and the major religions, studying what Islam, Judaism and Christianity have in common, and how our faiths have shaped world history and drive current events. She came to the Intelligence Squared stage to talk about her forthcoming book 'Fields of Blood: Religion and the History of Violence'. Journeying from prehistoric times to the present, she contrasted medieval crusaders and modern-day jihadists with the pacifism of the Buddha and Jesus’ vision of a just and peaceful society. And she demonstrated that the underlying reasons – social, economic, political – for war and violence in our history have often had very little to do with religion. Instead, Armstrong celebrates the religious ideas and movements that have opposed war and aggression and promoted peace and reconciliation.

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Napoleon The Great?


Thu, Oct 09, 2014


How should we remember Napoleon, the man of obscure Corsican birth who rose to become emperor of the French and briefly master of Europe? As the 200th anniversary of the Battle of Waterloo approaches in 2015, Intelligence Squared brought together two of Britain’s finest historians to debate how we should assess Napoleon’s life and legacy. Was he a military genius and father of the French state, or a blundering nonentity who created his own enduring myth? Was his goal of uniting the European continent under a common political system the forerunner of the modern ‘European dream’? Or was he an incompetent despot, a warning from history of the dangers of overarching grand plans? Championing Napoleon was historian Andrew Roberts, author of, among other books, 'Napoleon the Great', 'Napoleon and Wellington', and 'Waterloo: Napoleon's Last Gamble'. Opposing him was fellow historian Adam Zamoyski, author of, among other books, '1812. Napoleon's Fatal March on Moscow' and 'Rites of Peace. The Fall of Napoleon and the Congress of Vienna'.

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Steven Pinker on Good Writing with Ian McEwan


Tue, Sep 30, 2014


Steven Pinker is one of the world’s leading authorities on language, mind and human nature. A professor of psychology at Harvard, he is the bestselling author of eight books and regularly appears in lists of the world’s top 100 thinkers. On September 25th he returned to the Intelligence Squared stage to discuss his latest publication 'The Sense of Style', a short and entertaining writing guide for the 21st century. Pinker argued that bad writing can’t be blamed on the internet, or on “the kids today”. Good writing has always been hard: a performance requiring pretence, empathy, and a drive for coherence. He answered questions such as: how can we overcome the “curse of knowledge”, the difficulty in imagining what it’s like not to know something we do? And how can we distinguish the myths and superstitions about language from helpful rules that enhance clarity and grace? Pinker showed how everyone can improve their mastery of writing and their appreciation of the art. Professor Pinker was joined by Ian McEwan, one of Britain’s most acclaimed novelists, who has frequently explored the common ground between art and science.

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Francis Fukuyama in Conversation with David Runciman


Thu, Sep 25, 2014


Professor Francis Fukuyama came to the Intelligence Squared stage in September, to square up with one of Britain’s most brilliant political thinkers, David Runciman, to assess how democracy is faring in 2014. We certainly haven’t attained the rosy future that some thought Fukuyama was predicting in his book 'The End of History and The Last Man' in 1992: authoritarianism is entrenched in Russia and China, in the last decade the developed democracies have experienced severe financial crises and rising inequality, and Islamic State militants are wreaking havoc in Iraq and Syria. Is religion becoming the new politics? How will the technological revolution continue to impact our politics? And in the West are we in danger of becoming complacent about the challenges to democracy that we face?

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Marina Abramovi? on art, performance, time and nothingness


Thu, Sep 18, 2014


Marina Abramovi? is the most celebrated performance artist in the world. Over a career spanning four decades she has pioneered performance as an art form and accumulated a devoted following that includes Jay-Z and Lady Gaga. Using her body as both subject and object, Abramovi? explores notions of nothingness and time, and draws in the audience as part of her performance. At her 2010 exhibition, ‘The Artist is Present’, at New York’s MOMA visitors were invited to sit silently opposite her and gaze into her eyes for an unspecified amount of time. Every day people broke down in tears. Her recently finished exhibition ‘512 Hours’ featured featured only herself, the empty gallery, a few props, and the audience who both literally and metaphorically left their baggage at the gate: bags, phones, iPads etc were left in lockers before entry. Warned only to expect the unexpected, visitors were invited to give testimony to their experiences on video, and many have spoken of their overwhelming sense of presentness and gratitude. After the exhibition closed, Abramovi? came to our stage to discuss her recent experience in London and why, rejecting the materiality and glitz of so much contemporary art, she believes that in the 21st century art will be made not out of objects but out of energy.

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History Shows Us That Scotland and England Would Be Better Off as Separate Kingdoms


Thu, Sep 11, 2014


This event was recorded at the Chalke Valley History Festival in July 2014. The future of the Union will be voted for in a referendum soon, and this debate explored the historical relationship between Scotland and England, and the direct bearing that has on the vote facing the Scots in a few days' time. The United Kingdom faces one of the biggest constitutional issues in its history, and our panel debated this most important of decisions. Proposing the motion were journalist and historian Simon Jenkins and Lecturer at the Department of History, Texas State University Bryan Glass. Opposing it were Liberal Democrat politician Sir Menzies Campbell and Secretatry of State for Education the Rt Hon Michael Gove. The debate was chaired by Editor of Prospect Magazine Bronwen Maddox.

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London Should Love Its Bankers


Thu, Sep 04, 2014


Do the British have a death wish? You’d be forgiven for thinking so the way so many of them seem to want to cripple the most dynamic part of their own economy. What is the world’s largest market for dollars? London. Where does the Chinese State Administration of Foreign Exchange go when it wants to buy or sell billions of US Treasury bonds? London. Which sector of the economy delivers ?12 out of every ?100 in tax to the Chancellor of the Exchequer? London’s financial centre. Its accumulated skills, its light touch regulation, its openness to competition – these have made London the envy of the world, the magnet for all the smartest financiers: they have turned London into the most exciting city to live in on the planet. Of course there have been scandals – what do you expect in the world’s most competitive market place? Yet instead of lauding London’s banks for their achievement in outclassing all their rivals, we seem interested only in penalising them and letting New York or Frankfurt steal the show. Stop it. Learn to love London’s bankers. That’s the line being sold by those who love the City. But when you start allocating blame for the financial crisis, when you think that it was deals done in London that led to the downfall of Lehman Brothers, AIG and Bear Stearns; when you consider the bonus culture, the Libor scandal, the money-laundering of Mexican drug money – can you really buy it? In this debate from October 2012, the motion was proposed by Chairman of Espirito Santo Investment Bank in London Anthony Fry, former MD of Goldman Sachs and former adviser to PM Gordon Brown Jennifer Moses, and writer and columnist on banking and financial markets William Wright. Opposing the motion were economics leader writer for the Guardian Aditya Chakrabortty, former Mayor of London Ken Livingstone and associate editor at OpenDemocracy Tony Curzon Price. The debate was chaired by the The Economist's international section editor, Edward Lucas.

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Has Martin Luther King's Dream Been Realized?


Fri, Aug 29, 2014


This event was on the 50th anniversary of Martin Luther King’s ‘I Have a Dream’ speech. On 28 August 1963, civil rights campaigners marched on Washington to secure equality before the law. Today, America’s first black president sits in the White House, yet more African-Americans are on probation, parole or in prison than there were slaves in 1850. In the UK, 45% of young black people are unemployed as opposed to 20% of young whites. Meanwhile support for European far right organisations like Golden Dawn is growing. On the anniversary of his seminal speech, Versus brought together five global voices to discuss Dr. King’s legacy. To what extent has his dream been realised? Are Muslims now the new targets of racism post-9/11? And will racism still be blighting us in 50 years’ time?

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Money Can't Buy Happiness


Thu, Aug 21, 2014


Leading voices from the fields of science, philosophy came to the Intelligence Squared Asia stage for this thought-provoking debate about the pursuit of wealth and its relationship to happiness. Among other topics, this debate raised questions about the link between being rich and being happy, what constitutes happiness, whether economic prosperity is key to personal satisfaction - or to political stability, and if so, what the policy implications should be. Speaking for the motion in this debate in Hong Kong in September 2011 were philosopher and author A C Grayling and best-selling author of "The Science of Happiness" Dr Stefan Klein. Opposing it were prominent Taiwan diplomat, novelist and commentator Ping Lu and former President of the Oxford Student Union Lewis Iwu. The debate was chaired by Douglas Young, Founder of the leading Hong Kong lifestyle brand Goods of Desire (G.O.D.).

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University is an unwise investment


Thu, Aug 14, 2014


For many Western teenagers university has long been considered a passport to the good life: a rite of passage consisting of mind-expanding reading and writing or the acquisition of a professional qualification, and meeting like-minded people often over a drink or three – all ending up in a well paid, interesting job and a network of useful contacts. But in these straitened times is the traditional university education really worth the time and money – and the hangovers? More and more young people are attending university in Britain and the US, and ever fewer graduates are finding jobs. Costs are soaring too: fees at American universities have increased by over 1000% in the last 30 years and British institutions have nearly tripled their annual fees to ?9000 in the last year. The result? A new type of high-school leaver is emerging who combines formal learning with on-the-job experience. Businesses are increasingly interested in employing young people with a sense of determination, grit and a strong work ethic, qualities which graduates don’t necessarily have. So should the wise young high school-leaver skip university and get on with acquiring the business, tech and life skills he or she needs for a successful career? (Look what dropping out did for the likes of Bill Gates and Steve Jobs.) Or is a university education still a desirable end in itself – a way of rounding out a young person’s mind and character that will be an enhancement for life? These are some of the issues covered in this debate at the Cambridge Union in October 2013. Some speakers were on stage and others were beamed in from all over the World via Google+ Hangouts.panel. The panel included writer and teach Francis Gilbert, Professor in Greek Literature and Culture Simon Goldhill, education editor of Spiked-Online Joanna Williams, and Grover 'Russ' Whitehurst, Director of the Brown Center on Education at the Brookings Institution.

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It's Time to End The War on Drugs


Mon, Aug 04, 2014


To liberalise or prohibit, that is the question. Prohibitionists argue that legalising anything increases its consumption. The world has enough of a problem with legal drugs like alcohol and tobacco, so why add to the problem by legalising cannabis, cocaine and heroin? The liberalisers say prohibition doesn’t work. By declaring certain drugs illegal we haven’t reduced consumption or solved any problem. Instead we’ve created an epidemic of crime, illness, failed states and money laundering. Who's right and who's wrong? Russell Brand, Richard Branson, Julian Assange, Bernard Kouchner, Louise Arbour, Colombian President Juan Manuel Santos, former President of Brazil Fernando Cardoso, former President of Mexico and Member of the Club de Madrid Vicente Fox were among the speakers that took part in this debate in London in March 2012, with some speakers on stage and others beamed in from all over the World via Google+ Hangouts.

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"Contemporary Art Excludes the 99%"


Thu, Jul 31, 2014


What is the role of contemporary art museums today? Are biennales and art fairs platforms for experiment and exchange, or little more than social attractions for the elite? Have collectors become the new curators? Are private and corporate interests in culture at odds with the public good? And ultimately, who is art for? In this debate recorded in Hong Kong in 2012, award-winning documentary film-maker, author and art critic, Ben Lewis, and Hong Kong-born artist, Paul Chan, spoke for the motion. Director of Sydney’s Museum of Contemporary Art, Elizabeth Ann Macgregor, and conceptual art pioneer, Joseph Kosuth, spoke against the motion.

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America's Drone Campaign Is Both Moral And Effective


Thu, Jul 24, 2014


Bug splats. That’s what the American operators of drones, sitting in safety thousands of miles away, call the casualties of a drone attack in Pakistan or Yemen. Why bug splats? Because that’s what a human body zapped by a drone looks like on those Americans’ video screens. Thousands of those splats were in fact innocent bystanders unfortunate enough to be nearby the “target”. We call this warfare but it isn’t: it’s assassination. Drones allow political and military leaders, unhampered by public or legal scrutiny, to eliminate anyone they want killed. But moral and legal arguments aside, what do drones actually achieve? A drone strike is a sure way to inflame a community against the West and throw it into the arms of the local militants. In sum, drones are not just illegal and immoral. They are counterproductive. That’s the cry we hear as we learn more about America’s drone programme. But do the gentle souls who condemn drones have a better strategy for dealing with the militants operating within the borders of states that want rid of them? In this kind of situation where you’re not fighting a regular army, targeting enemy ringleaders is an imperative. And drones, it turns out, are more effective than troops in hunting down the bad guys and cause far fewer civilian deaths than conventional warfare. In many cases they are actually welcomed by the local population who are only too happy to see the militants come under attack. Thanks to drones, jihadis now know there is nowhere to hide. No one is saying they are pretty: violence and death are always abominable. But in an imperfect and often violent world, the use of drones is moral and effective. In this debate from February 2013, author and broadcaster David Aaronovitch and writer and columnist Douglas Murray proposed the motion. It was opposed by Noel Sharkey, Professor of Artificial Intelligence and Robotics at the University of Sheffield, and Civil Rights lawyer Clive Stafford Smith. The debate was chaired by Jeremy O'Grady, Editor-in-chief of The Week magazine.

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Sex, bugs & video tapes: the private lives of public figures deserve more protection from the press


Thu, Jul 17, 2014


Would you like the details of your sex life, private conversations, and hidden passions splashed across the pages of a British tabloid or published online? Could you do anything to stop it? In Britain, unlike in the USA or France, there is no right to privacy, only a much weaker "right to confidence". And though Britain has notoriously tight libel laws – making it the favoured destination for libel tourists – they only work retrospectively, after publication, by which time your reputation has been shattered. That at any rate is the view of former FIA president Max Mosley – whose proclivities were exposed by the News of the World. In 2010 he applied to the European Court of Human Rights in Strasbourg for a change in the law that would make it compulsory to inform people before publishing private information about them. Did he have a good case? Or was he making an outrageous assault on press freedom? Hear him and Rachel Atkins take on Tom Bower and Ken MacDonald QC in our debate from 2010.

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Art Schools Are Bad At Producing Good Artists


Thu, Jul 10, 2014


What makes a good artist? Can creativity can be taught? What kind of education ups the ante for success in today’s global culture? These are some of the questions that were explored in this Intelligence Squared Asia debate in Singapore in January 2013. Singapore artist and curator Heman Chong and White Cube Asia Director Graham Steele proposed the motion. It was opposed by British artist Michael Craig-Martin and American art critic Blake Gopnik. The debate was chaired by Georgina Adam, editor-at-large of the Art Newspaper and FT art market columnist.

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Jesus Would Have Voted Democrat


Thu, Jul 03, 2014


Remember the rich man and the eye of the needle? Blessed are the meek? The last shall be first? Jesus didn’t hold much truck for wealth or power, nor was he exactly a supporter of family values. He didn’t even encourage hard work (“Consider the lilies of the field, how they grow: they neither toil nor spin”). So you might easily conclude that like every other liberal Jesus would have voted Democrat. Yet most God-fearing, church-going Americans vote Republican, the party associated with the rich and powerful. Is that because the Right fundamentally has the public good at heart? Tough love, after all, is still love, even if it means harsh treatment of the work-shy and feckless (or, as Romney knows them, the ’47 percent’). In this debate from October 2012 Conor Gearty, James Boys, Tim Montgomerie, and Giles Fraser debated if Jesus would have been a Democrat, a Republican, or somewhere in between.

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Shakespeare vs Milton: The Kings of English Literature Debate


Thu, Jun 26, 2014


Nearly four centuries after his death, no writer has come close to matching Shakespeare’s understanding of the world – or his gift for dramatic poetry. It’s not just kings and queens that he captured so uniquely in his transcendent verse. Shakespeare analysed the human condition, not just for Elizabethan England, but throughout the world and for eternity. Britain may not have matched the Continent for music or art but when it comes to literature, Shakespeare sees off all international rivals, whether it’s in the spheres of comedy, tragedy or the sonnet. Even today you and I quote Shakespeare without knowing it: if you act more in sorrow than in anger, if you vanish into thin air or have ever been tongue-tied, hoodwinked or slept not one wink, you’re speaking the Bard’s English. Milton, say his fans, works on an altogether different, higher plane. In Paradise Lost – the best poem ever written in English – Milton moved beyond the literary to address political, philosophical and religious questions in a way that still resounds strongly today. In his complex, intellectual poetry he drilled down deep into the eternal truths and sought to embody new scientific discovery in his work. His engagement with the issues of the day – with the nature of knowledge, slavery, free will, love and creation – was unparalleled. Despite complete blindness in middle age, he was the English republic’s best known, most fervent apologist, and a key civil servant for Oliver Cromwell. In his other works, notably in Areopagitica, his attack on censorship, he showed himself as much a master of prose as poetry. He defines not only his age, but our own. To help you decide who should be crowned king of English letters we brought together advocates to make the case for each writer, and they called on a cast of leading actors to illustrate their arguments with readings from the works.

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A Journey Into Outer Space, With Brian Cox


Thu, Jun 19, 2014


Are they out there? Intelligent beings from another world. Will we ever make contact with them? Is it even sensible to make guesses about whether life exists in other galaxies billions of light years from our own? How much do we know about outer space? What are black holes, dark matter and strange attractors? Is our universe just one amongst an infinity of multiverses? Can we dispense with the idea of a creator God? On 16th March 2011 some of the greatest names in space exploration and the mysteries of the cosmos guided us to outer realms and argued about some of the most fascinating questions we’ve ever asked ourselves.

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VS Naipaul in Conversation With Geordie Greig


Thu, Jun 12, 2014


Nobel laureate and giant of Western letters, Trinidad-born V. S. Naipaul has excelled in both fiction and non-fiction. His latest book The Masque of Africa: Glimpses of African Belief is a travelogue in which Naipaul sets out to discover how far the old Africa's belief in magic has been subverted by the outside world. "I had expected that over the great size of Africa the practices of magic would significantly vary. But they didn’t. The diviners everywhere wanted to ‘throw the bones’ to read the future and the idea of ‘energy’ remained a constant, to be tapped into by the ritual sacrifice of body parts...To witness this, to be given some idea of its power, was to be taken far back to the beginning of things. To reach that beginning was the purpose of my book." In this event from May 2011, V.S. Naipaul talked to Evening Standard editor Geordie Greig.

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Stop Poking the Bear: The West Needs to Engage with Putin Not Castigate Him


Thu, Jun 05, 2014


You don’t have to like Vladimir Putin, or doubt that he’s a nasty piece of work, to recognise that the Russian president’s reaction to the crisis in Ukraine is largely justified. The promise that Russia managed to extract from the West, as it watched its old empire crumble, was that NATO would not expand eastward and that the Baltic states and Poland would not be absorbed into the EU. Not only have Nato and the EU broken that promise, they have even sought to bring Ukraine – for centuries seen as umbilically tied to Russia – into the western fold. The West has tried to influence elections in Ukraine. It has backed the overthrow of a democratically elected president. Putin isn’t being expansionist: he just wants Ukraine to remain a non-aligned buffer zone between Russia and the West. He couldn’t survive the national humiliation of it becoming yet another western outpost. So cut him some slack: we need more diplomacy and fewer threats of reprisals. That’s the voice of the non-interventionists but haven’t they been duped? Is a man who sends undercover troops into Crimea and then swears that they are locals defending their homeland really to be trusted? Ask the people of Georgia, whose country has been carved up by Putin, whether they think he has no interest in expansion. Ask most Ukrainian citizens, yearning for western democratic freedoms, whether Putin has a right to deprive them of those freedoms in the name of some bogus historical affinity. Of course autocrats have their reasons, but are they reasons we have to accept as justifiable? There is no moral equivalence between the ambitions of a repressive state and those of a repressed people. Putin needs to know that there is a line he cannot cross. Otherwise you can be absolutely sure he will cross it. In this debate from May 2014, former Ambassador to Russia Tony Brenton and Russian economic and foreign affairs specialist Sergey Karaganov spoke in favour of the motion. Senior Editor at The New Republic Julia Ioffe and Senior Editor at the Economist Edward Lucas opposed it.

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How to Think Like a Freak: Learn How to Make Smarter Decisions with the authors of "Freakonomics"


Thu, May 29, 2014


The books Freakonomics and SuperFreakonomics have been worldwide sensations, selling tens of millions of copies. They have come to stand for challenging conventional wisdom using data rather than emotion. Questions they examine are typically: Which is more dangerous, a gun or a swimming pool? How much do parents really matter? Why is chemotherapy prescribed so often if it’s so ineffective? Now the books’ two authors, Steven D. Levitt and Stephen J. Dubner, have turned what they’ve learned into a readable and practical toolkit for thinking smarter, harder, and different – thinking, that is, like a Freak. On 28th May they came to Intelligence Squared to discuss their new Frequel, Think Like a Freak. By analysing the plans we form and the morals we choose, they showed how their insights can be applied to help us make smarter decisions in our daily lives.

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Look West Not East: South America Will be the 21st Century's Superpower


Wed, May 21, 2014


Conventional wisdom tells us that a new star will rise in the East, and all eyes have been looking towards China or India as the 21st century’s new superpower. But remarkable as their recent economic growth may have been, the institutional frailty of both nations raises questions about long-term sustainability. Meanwhile the economies of South America have also been transforming themselves quietly and less flashily, unburdened by the dead weight of caste politics or communism. And it’s not just Brazil that catches the eye: at 9.8 percent Peru's growth rate last year was one of the world’s fastest. So perhaps we should all do an about-turn. In this debate from March 2011, Senior Lecturer in Law at Birkbeck College Oscar Guardiola-Rivera, Brazilian Ambassador to the UK HE Roberto Jaguaribe, and Director of the Global Governance Initiative Parag Khanna spoke in favour of the motion. Speaking against the motion were former Economist editor Bill Emmott, Professor of the History and Politics of Modern China at Oxford University Rana Mitter, and the FT's chief foreign affairs commentator Gideon Rachman.

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The Allied Bombing of German Cities in World War Two Was Unjustifiable


Mon, May 12, 2014


No one doubts the bravery of the thousands of men who flew and died in Bomber Command. The death rate was an appalling 44%. And yet until the opening of a monument in Green Park this year they have received no official recognition, with many historians claiming that the offensive was immoral and unjustified. How can it be right, they argue, for the Allies to have deliberately targeted German cities causing the death of hundreds of thousands of civilians? Even on a strategic level the offensive failed to bring about the collapse of civilian morale that was its intention. Others, however, maintain that the attacks made a decisive contribution to the Allied victory. Vast numbers of German soldiers and planes were diverted from the eastern and western fronts, while Allied bombing attacks virtually destroyed the German air force, clearing the way for the invasion of the continent. In this debate from October 2012, philosopher and author A C Grayling and Professor of History at Exeter University Rochard Overy speak for the motion. Award-winning historian Antony Beevor and military historian Patrick Bishop speak against the motion.

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Calm Down Dears: State Snooping Is A Price Worth Paying For Our Security


Wed, May 07, 2014


So now we know: our spooks and their spooks are hoovering up and exchanging massive amounts of data on our private lives: not just whom we phone and email but the actual content of our communications; not just which websites we visit but what we choose to buy online. No wonder there’s been such a furore. William Hague has already admitted that the spooks are allowed to pry pretty much where they want and now it’s been revealed that the US National Security Agency allows analysts to search our emails and online chats with no prior authorisation. And the big internet companies – Google, Facebook and so on – have been colluding on how best to keep track of us. Our entire political history has been one of reining in the power of the state and here we are saying to it: come on in and look round. Calm down? You must be joking! That’s the line taken by the blowhards in this debate, screaming about the threat to civil liberties, but are they making a big fuss about nothing? After all we’ve known for years now that technology has made it ridiculously easy to monitor what we get up to. And in the perpetual debate between liberty and security it’s easy to forget that the government’s first duty is to protect its citizens. In the post 9/11 world there simply has to be some kind of trade-off between preserving our privacy and keeping ourselves safe from those who would do us harm. So is loss of privacy a sacrifice we have to pay for our security, or does it herald a world where fundamental democratic freedoms will no longer exist?

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Western Parents Don't Know How to Bring Up Their Children


Thu, May 01, 2014


Why are there so many Chinese maths and music prodigies? Because Chinese mothers believe schoolwork and music practice come first, that an A-minus is a bad grade, that sleepovers, TV and computer games should never be allowed and that the only activity their children should be permitted to do are ones in which they can eventually win a medal - and that medal must be gold. These methods certainly seem to get results but do they make for the rounded individuals Western parents are striving to bring up? Isn't it better that our children should be happy rather than burnt-out brain boxes? Who's right and who's wrong? In this debate from June 2011, Amy Chua, author of the best-selling ‘Battle Hymn of the Tiger Mother’, and Theodore Dalrymple, the writer and psychologist, speak for the motion. Justine Roberts, co-founder of Mumsnet, and Frank Furedi, emeritus professor of sociology at the University of Kent and parenting expert, speak against the motion.

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The Making Of The Modern Middle East: Lawrence of Arabia and King Faisal I


Thu, Apr 24, 2014


How much blame for the current troubles in the Middle East lies with the decisions made by the West in 1919 – when the Ottoman Empire was carved up arbitrarily into the modern states we know today? Is it true that Arab society has tended to define itself less by what it aspires to become than what it is opposed to: colonialism, Zionism, and Western imperialism? That era seems to be coming to an end with the recent Arab Spring movements. As ethnic and religious loyalties intensify, will new lines be drawn? And will they lead to greater harmony in the region or exacerbated conflict? These are some of the questions we asked in this Intelligence Squared event, which focuses on two of the central players behind the formation of the modern Middle East, Lawrence of Arabia and King Faisal I. Both are subjects of brilliant new biographies. On 27th March 2014 at the Royal Institution of Great Britain, the books’ authors, Scott Anderson and Ali Allawi, discussed the intertwining lives of these extraordinary men, and the war, treason, and secret colonial plots that are part of their story.

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Britain Should Not Have Fought In The First World War


Thu, Apr 17, 2014


As we approach the centenary of the outbreak of the First World War, books, television documentaries and articles on the subject abound. So do different opinions, especially as to whether Britain’s engagement was worth it. Was it a vitally important crusade to prevent an oppressive German-dominated Europe? Or a catastrophic mistake that brought Communism to power in Russia, ripped up the map of Europe and left a festering sense of resentment that would fuel the rise of Nazism? In this debate from April 2014 four of Britain’s leading historians battle it over whether or not Britain should have fought in the First World War. Professor John Charmley and Domnic Sandbrook speak for the motion. Max Hastings and Professor Margaret MacMillan speak against.

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Stephen Fry and Friends on the Life, Loves and Hates of Christopher Hitchens


Fri, Apr 11, 2014


In this historic event, Stephen Fry and other friends of Christopher Hitchens came together to celebrate the life and work of this great writer, polemicist and orator. Fry was joined on stage in London by Richard Dawkins where the two discussed Hitchens' unflinching commitment to the truth. Hollywood actor Sean Penn was beamed in from LA via Google+ Hangouts and, between cigarette puffs, read from Hitchens' acclaimed work, 'The Trial of Henry Kissinger'. And friends of Hitchens, including Martin Amis, James Fenton and Salman Rushdie, spoke of their deep affection for him via satellite in New York. Hitchens himself watched the event live online from his bedside in Texas. Novelist Ian McEwan who was at his side sent Fry a text which read “The Rolls Royce mind is still purring". The event took place on 11th November 2011, shortly before Hitchens died on 15th December. We are proud to make this special discussion available for all to listen to on our podcast.

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The Hand that Rocks the Cradle Cannot Rock the Boardroom


Thu, Apr 03, 2014


Is it a myth that women can have it all, all of the time? Or do the rising numbers of female executives in Hong Kong and around the world suggest otherwise? Does the glass ceiling exist as a barrier to the boardroom, or is the only limitation to a woman’s professional success her personal ambition? To celebrate International Women’s Day this year, Intelligence Squared Asia brought together four experts to ask whether a good mother has time to be a good CEO. In this debate, which took place in Hong Kong on 3 March 2014, award-winning journalist and author Allison Pearson and author of “Wonder Women: Sex, Power, and the Quest for Perfection” Debora Spar proposed the motion. CEO of Newton Investment Helena Morrissey and CEO of SOHO Property Zhang Xin opposed the motion.

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The Best Chance For Peace In Israel And Palestine Is For Uncle Sam To Butt Out


Thu, Mar 27, 2014


Is it surprising that the Israelis and Palestinians are still unable to come to some sort of agreement? After all if the adjudicator in a mediation is firmly on your side why bother to concede anything to the enemy? Conversely, why accept anything proposed by the adjudicator if you know his affections are biased towards the other side? We know America’s neutrality is hopelessly compromised on this issue and it doesn’t pretend otherwise. Say something against Israel in the run-up to the US presidential elections and you won’t become president. And since that’s not going to change, the best thing one can hope is for America to simply withdraw from the peace process. Or is it? Some have faith that Washington can be persuaded to adopt a more flexible and even-handed stance – that it can free itself from the influence of the hard-liners and be responsive to more liberal voices. For if America were not involved – if the most important global playmaker were excluded or pulled out of the negotiating process – then negotiations would become a charade; the power to force through compromises and enforce them will have gone. Uncle Sam may be a troublesome relative, but you’ll get nowhere without him. In our debate from February 2012, Mustafa Barghouti the Palestinian democracy activist and William Sieghart, Founder and Chairman of Forward Thinking, propose the motion. Roger Cohen the The New York Times columnist and Jeremy Ben-Ami, Founder and President of J Street, oppose the motion.

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One Size Doesn’t Fit All: Democracy is Not Always the Best Form of Government


Thu, Mar 20, 2014


Democracy is the worst form of government except all the others that have been tried. So said Winston Churchill and who would disagree? One man, one vote, the rule of law, equality and a free press. These are the principles which tens of thousands have been imprisoned or lost their lives for in despotic regimes from South America to Burma. In recent months a violent struggle for democratic rights has been taking place on the EU’s doorstep in Ukraine. Scores of people have been killed in demonstrations against Viktor Yanukovych, now ousted as President. Elections are set for May but tensions are mounting between western governments and President Putin over the Crimea and the eastern parts of the country. But is the assumption that democracy always leads to a freer and more tolerant society correct? Many would argue that it can lead to quite illiberal outcomes especially where there is profound ethnic division. What if democracy were installed in Syria? It’s not hard to imagine what would happen to the minority groups who have enjoyed the protection of Assad’s regime. There have been successful transitions to democracy in post- war Germany and Japan, but free elections in countries such as Iraq and Egypt have not brought peace and prosperity. In this debate, which took place on 11 March 2014, Professor of Middle East Studies at City University Rosemary Hollis and academic and acclaimed author of 'When China Rules the World' Martin Jacques propose the motion. American political scientist Ian Bremmer and eminent Ukrainian MP Andriy Shevchenko oppose the motion.

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Sam Harris on the Science of Good and Evil


Thu, Mar 13, 2014


Where do our ideas about morality and meaning come from? Most people - from religious extremists to secular scientists - would agree on one point: that science has nothing to say on the subject of human values. Indeed, science's failure to explain meaning and morality has become the primary justification for religious faith and the reason why even many non-believers feel obliged to accord respect to the beliefs of the devout. In this podcast, recorded at our event in April 2011, Sam Harris, the American philosopher and neuroscientist, argues that these views are mistaken - that amidst all the competing arguments about how we should lead our lives, science can show us that there are right and wrong answers. This means that moral relativism is mistaken and that there can be neither a Christian nor a Muslim morality - and that ultimately science can and should determine how best to live our lives. After an opening speech, Revd Dr Giles Fraser, former-canon chancellor of St Paul's Cathedral, joins Harris in conversation.

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Between You and I The English Language Is Going To The Dogs


Thu, Mar 06, 2014


Speaking and writing correct English are the hallmark of an intelligent person. No one who cares about language wants to be caught splitting an infinitive or muddling up ‘infer’ and ‘imply’. Which is why the bestseller lists are regularly topped by books on 'good' English by the likes of Daily Mail polemicist Simon Heffer and Today programme presenter John Humphrys - both of whom defend the motion in this debate from 5th March 2014. Taking them on are Mary Beard, Professor of Classics at Cambridge, and Oliver Kamm, top commentator at The Times. No one would dare describe either as lacking in grey matter or being insensitive to good English. So why the disagreement with Heffer and Humphrys? Because people on their side of the argument believe that our language can take care of itself, and that it certainly doesn’t need a bunch of self-appointed rule-book sticklers to make others feel insecure about how they speak and write. Good style matters, they argue, and can be taught but the pedants should stop confusing their pet peeves with ‘correct’ English.

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Jane Austen Vs Emily Bronte: The Queens of English Literature Debate


Thu, Feb 27, 2014


Who was the Queen of English literature. Was it Jane Austen with her sensitive ear for the hypocrisy lurking beneath the genteel conversation in the drawing rooms of Georgian England? Or Emily Bront? with the complex tale of violent attraction, thwarted love, death and the supernatural that she recounts in her masterpiece 'Wuthering Heights'? In this, the first of our new series of literary combat events, we gather together an illustrious cast of speakers. Professor John Mullan, distinguished English literature specialist and author of 'What Matters in Jane Austen? Twenty Crucial Puzzles Solved' argues for Austen. And Kate Mosse, No. 1 bestselling novelist of historical and Gothic fiction battles for Bront?. To illustrate the arguments and bring the novels to life some of Britain’s finest actors join our advocates on stage, reading from the books and adding their own thoughts to the debate: Dominic West, international star who played the role of McNulty in The Wire; Sam West, acclaimed actor and director; and two young leading lights of stage and screen, Mariah Gale and Eleanor Tomlinson. The event took place on 26th February 2014 in London.

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Niall Ferguson On The Six Killer Apps Of Western Civilisation


Thu, Feb 20, 2014


Niall Ferguson is the most brilliant British historian of his generation. In this talk from February 2011, based on his book 'Civilisation: The West and the Rest', he asks how Western civilization came to dominate the rest of the world. His answer is that the West developed six “killer applications” that the Rest lacked: competition, science, democracy, medicine, consumerism and the Protestant work ethic. The key question today is whether or not the West has lost its monopoly on these six things. If it has and the Rest of the world can successfully download these apps, we may be living through the end of Western ascendancy.

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"Let The Bad Guys Be: The Perils of Foreign Intervention" with David Aaronovitch and Rory Stewart


Thu, Feb 13, 2014


Some leaders are so objectionable – Bashar al-Assad, Robert Mugabe – that it may seem only right to strain every sinew to get rid of them. But ghastly as their regimes may be, is there any reason to think that foreign intervention makes the situation better? Quite apart from the loss of life and limb to those intervening, what are the costs to those being "liberated"? In the end, forced to choose between these two evils, wouldn't most of us prefer tyranny to anarchy? In this one on one debate from March 2011, David Aaronovitch and Rory Stewart debate the perils of foreign intervention.

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Daniel Goleman On Focus: The Secret to High Performance and Fulfilment


Fri, Feb 07, 2014


Psychologist Daniel Goleman shot to fame with his groundbreaking bestseller 'Emotional Intelligence'. The premise of the book, now widely accepted, is that raw intelligence alone is not a sure predictor of success in life. A greater role is played by ‘softer’ skills such as self-control, self-motivation, empathy and good interpersonal relationships. In this exclusive talk for Intelligence Squared, Goleman discusses the themes of his latest book, 'Focus: The Hidden Driver of Excellence'. Attention, he argues is an underrated asset for high achievers in any field. Incorporating findings from neuroscience, Goleman shows why we need three kinds of focus: inner, for self-awareness; other, for the empathy that builds effective relationships; and outer, for understanding the larger systems in which organisations operate. Those who excel rely on Smart Practices such as mindfulness meditation, focused preparation and positive emotions that help improve habits, add new skills, and sustain excellence.

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We've Never Had It So Good


Fri, Jan 31, 2014


It's 2014 and what does Britain have to look forward to? Osborne’s welfare cuts. An umpteenth series of Celebrity Big Brother. Adult children still living at home and cadging off the Bank of Mum and Dad (repayment not guaranteed). That’s the gripe of the Debbie Downers, but give a thought to how life used to be even within living memory. Buttoned up emotions. Casual racism. Meagre defences against disease and infection. And no internet. Surely life is better now than it’s ever been before? On 22nd January we brought together a star panel to slug out the arguments in our debate “We’ve never had it so good”. Two of Britain’s most brilliant and sardonic writers, Will Self and Rod Liddle, opposed the motion. And the journalist and satirical novelist Rachel Johnson and Jesse Norman, the brilliant Tory MP who has been hailed as a man to watch even in the pages of the Guardian, proposed it.

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An Evening With Slavoj Zizek


Fri, Jan 24, 2014


Radical philosopher, polymath, film star, cult icon, and author of over 30 books, Slavoj ?i?ek is one of the most controversial and leading contemporary public intellectuals, simultaneously acclaimed as the ‘Elvis of cultural theory’ and denounced as ‘the most dangerous philosopher in the West’. In this special lecture for Intelligence Squared from July 2011, ?i?ek argues that global capitalism is fast approaching its terminal crisis and that our collective responses to economic Armageddon correspond to the five stages of grief – ideological denial, explosions of anger, attempts at bargaining, followed by depression and finally acceptance of change. Referencing everything from Kafka, the "Hollywood Marxism" of Avatar, the Arab Spring and WikiLeaks, he presents a roadmap for finding a way beyond the madness.

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Let Them Come: We Have Nothing To Fear From High Levels Of Immigration


Fri, Jan 17, 2014


Does mass immigration boost our economy and cultural richness or undermine them? Hear Times columnist David Aaronovitch, former Mayor of London Ken Livingstone and the economist Susie Symes go head to head with UKIP's Nigel Farage, Demos director David Goodhart and journalist and author Harriet Sergeant, over our motion "Let them come: we have nothing to fear from high levels of immigration". The debate took place at London's Royal Geographical Society on 10th October, 2013.

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Steven Pinker on The Better Angels of Our Nature


Fri, Jan 10, 2014


We launch our first podcast of the year today – our 2011 talk by the world renowned American cognitive scientist Steven Pinker. In it he argues that, contrary to popular belief, we are living in the least violent period of history. And that even the horrific carnage of the last century, compared to primitive societies, is part of this trend. Pinker claims that, thanks to the spread of government, literacy and trade, we are actually becoming better people.

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Verdi vs Wagner: The 200th Anniversary Debate with Stephen Fry


Tue, Dec 24, 2013


Think opera and you think Verdi. Verdi created some of the most beloved operas of all time, from the romantic tragedy of La traviata and Rigoletto to the Shakespearian dramas of Macbeth, Otello and Falstaff Verdi’s music transcends the barriers between high and low culture. Many of his arias count among the greatest songs ever written, streaming out of opera houses and into football stadiums and even the charts. Verdi was also the outstanding cultural figure at the heart of the unification of Italy, the musical father of the Risorgimento. Who needs Wagner when Verdi offers such richness? People who truly appreciate great music, say the Wagnerians. Wagner’s music is on an altogether more intellectual sphere. You hum Verdi; you think Wagner. Here is opera, and music, at its epic, definitive height. To know The Ring is to be fully immersed in opera at its greatest technical brilliance and compositional originality. To appreciate Wagner’s music is not to forgive his political views, but to cast them aside in the face of irresistible, unassailable genius. In September 2013, Stephen Fry chaired Intelligence Squared's first ever musical event live from the Royal Opera House. Two advocates made the case for their chosen composer - the irrepressible musicologist Norman Lebrecht championed Verdi and the award-winning novelist and critic Philip Hensher who cheered on Wagner - illustrating their points with the help of a live 63-piece symphony orchestra and the internationally renowned bassist Sir John Tomlinson.

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Eric Schmidt On The New Digital Age


Sat, Dec 21, 2013


Eric Schmidt is one of the leading visionaries of our time. He has taken Google from a small start-up to one of the world’s most influential companies. In this conversation with Bryan Appleyard from May 2013, he sets out the themes of his new book 'The New Digital Age: Reshaping the Future of People, Nations and Business', which he has co-authored with Jared Cohen, director of Google Ideas. These include: - new technologies that will change lives: information systems that increase productivity, thought-controlled motion technology that will revolutionise medical procedures, and near-perfect translation systems that will allow us to communicate with anyone on the planet. - the threat to privacy and security: how much of these will we have to sacrifice to be part of the new digital age? - the politics of the hyperconnected world: who will be more powerful, the citizen or the state? - the threat of cyberterrorism: will technology increase or undermine our security?

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An Anatomy Of Truth: Conversations on Truth-Telling


Fri, Dec 20, 2013


Not everyone tells the truth. ‘Read my lips: no new taxes.’ ‘This isn’t going to hurt.’ ‘I see no ships, my lord.’ ‘Of course I love you.’ When can we know what to believe? Four out of five of us don’t think politicians tell the truth, according to a recent MORI poll. But is telling the truth always the right or best thing to do? If it isn’t, what happens to trust? If it is, are there different kinds of truth? Do we always want to hear the truth? Do different professions need to have systemically different attitudes to truth-telling? Is there a moral difference between outright lies, falsehoods, deceits, dissimulation and just plain old ‘economy with the actualit?’? In October 1013, Intelligence Squared headed to London's Westminster Abbey to discuss truth with a politician (Jack Straw), a journalist (Max Hastings), a scientist (Professor Robert Winston) and a poet (Wendy Cope).

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Putin Has Been Good For Russia


Fri, Dec 20, 2013


There’s not a lot to like about Vladimir Putin: he’s autocratic, vain and runs a corrupt government. And he doesn’t give a fig for human rights. The repression in Chechnya, the jailing of the (now pardoned) businessman Mikhail Khodorkovsky and the Pussy Riot protesters, the murders of journalist Anna Politkovskaya and of Alexander Litvinenko, the former spy – all this happened on Putin’s watch. Who would not be on the side of the 100,000 people who turned out on Moscow’s streets last winter to protest against Putin’s election to a third term as president and to demand fair elections and an honest government? Russia would be better off without Putin – who would argue otherwise? As a matter of fact, millions would. Talk to many Russians and they’ll tell you that life under Putin is vastly better than under Boris Yeltsin. Yeltsin let a handful of oligarchs hoover up Russia’s wealth while ordinary Russians were reduced to selling their possessions on the street. Putin, by contrast, has quelled the economic mayhem – inflation is down, pensions have increased. Even more importantly he has restored Russia’s sense of self-worth – crushing the Chechen revolt, refusing to play along with the West over Syria. Living in Notting Hill you might not find Putin to your taste, but for those facing the realities of contemporary Russia he is a godsend, the strong leader that the country needs at this crucial time of transition and uncertainty. An apology for tyranny? Or a realistic appraisal of modern Russian realities? Christopher Granville and Boris Jordan take on Masha Gessen and Luke Harding in our debate from May 2013.

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Nate Silver On The Art And Science Of Prediction


Thu, Dec 19, 2013


Nate Silver is the 35-year-old data engineer and forecaster with superstar status. He shot to fame in 2008 for correctly predicting the outcome in 49 out of 50 states in the US presidential election. In 2012, when most media pundits and political analysts claimed the US election was “too close to call”, Silver trumped them all again, giving Obama a 92% chance of winning. Barack Obama has called him “my rock, my foundation”, and Bryan Appleyard in the Sunday Times described him as “our age’s Brunel”. In this event from April 2013, he came to Intelligence Squared to discuss the themes of his latest book, 'The Signal and the Noise' with Tim Harford, the FT's 'Undercover Economist'. We hear endlessly about Big Data, but when the quantity of data in our world is increasing by 2.5 quintillion bytes per day how can we find the signal in all the noise, the nugget of information that will help us make sense of it all, or maybe even predict the future? Silver explains how expert forecasters think, and describes what lies behind their success, covering the stock market, the poker table, politics, sports, earthquakes, the weather and disease control. With everything from the health of the global economy to our ability to fight terrorism dependent on the quality of our forecasts, never has it been more vital to know how to distinguish true insights from the noise of useless data.

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Angela Merkel is Destroying Europe


Thu, Dec 19, 2013


They're calling her the devil. Inflammatory words, but Europe has every reason to be livid with the German Chancellor. Angela Merkel’s austerity measures are strangling the economies of the southern nations of Europe, creating huge unemployment and preventing them from paying off their debts – the very reason for introducing these measures in the first place. Worse still, she refuses to give Europe a desperately needed boost by opening up Germany’s economy, and now plans to run a budget surplus in Germany. No wonder her recent electoral victory was greeted with gloom in Greece and other struggling eurozone countries. But is this a fair take on the crisis in Europe? Isn’t this just another case of scapegoating Germany for being Europe’s largest and best run economy? Those other eurozone nations recklessly disregarded the rules on fiscal discipline to which they’d signed up on joining the euro and now they blame Germany for the woes they brought upon themselves. Angela Merkel isn’t destroying Europe: she’s one of the few elements that is keeping it together. The New Statesman's Mehdi Hasan and Greek MP Euclid Tsakalotos take on historian Anthony Beevor and Belgian-born veteran journalist Christine Ockrent in our debate from November 2013.

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Jimmy Carter in Conversation with Jon Snow


Wed, Dec 18, 2013


President Jimmy Carter is a Nobel Prize winner, author, humanitarian, professor, farmer, naval officer and carpenter. In this special Intelligence Squared interview with Channel 4 News's Jon Snow, which took place in October 2011, President Carter talks about his career as president, and the past three decades as a senior statesman and ambassador for the Carter Center. He shares his stories from a truly remarkable and well-lived life and his views of global politics today.

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Send Them Back: The Parthenon Marbles Should be Returned to Athens


Mon, Dec 16, 2013


What’s all this nonsense about sending the Parthenon Marbles back to Greece? If Lord Elgin hadn’t rescued them from the Parthenon in Athens and presented them to the British Museum almost 200 years ago, these exquisite sculptures – the finest embodiment of the classical ideal of beauty and harmony – would have been lost to the ravages of pollution and time. So we have every right to keep them: indeed, returning them would set a dangerous precedent, setting off a clamour for every Egyptian mummy and Grecian urn to be wrenched from the world’s museums and sent back to its country of origin. It is great institutions like the British Museum that have established such artefacts as items of world significance: more people see the Marbles in the BM than visit Athens every year. Why send them back to relative obscurity? But aren’t such arguments a little too imperialistic? All this talk of visitor numbers and dangerous precedents – doesn’t it just sound like an excuse for Britain to hold on to dubiously acquired treasures that were removed without the consent of the Greek people to whom they culturally and historically belong? That’s what Lord Byron thought, and in June 2012 Stephen Fry took up the cause. In this debate Fry argues we should return the Marbles as a gesture of solidarity with Greece in its financial distress, and as a mark of respect for the cradle of democracy and the birthplace of rational thought.

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The West Has Failed Syria


Mon, Dec 16, 2013


To say “The West has failed Syria” tempts us into the dangerous belief that had we only got stuck into this conflict from the off, things would now be better. It’s a belief, as recent history shows, we badly need to resist. So speaks the voice of caution. But are we really saying that the best the big powers can do is just sit on the sidelines and watch Syria destroy itself? In this debate from October 2013, former Liberal Democrat leader Paddy Ashdown and City University's Professor of Middle East Policy Studies Rosemary Hollis, take on NYT columnist Roger Cohen and former British Ambassador to the US Nigel Sheinwald.

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The Catholic Church is a Force For Good in The World


Fri, Dec 13, 2013


Can anything good really be said of an institution that has such a warped attitude to sex that it tries to stop the world from wearing a condom, is bitterly opposed to gays leading a fulfilled life and regards women as unworthy of officiating in its rituals? But who you gonna call when it comes to finding a good school for your children, when it comes to standing up for the oppressed, when it comes to giving material and spiritual succour to the wretched of the earth? In 2009 Stephen Fry and Christopher Hitchens locked horns with Anne Widdecombe and John Olorunfemi Onaiyekan, the Roman Catholic Archbishop of Abuja, over whether or not the Catholic Church was a force for good. Today the debate has been watched more times online than any other Intelligence Squared event. We're thrilled to make the audio available to all as part of our Advent podcast.

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Daniel Dennett on Tools to Transform our Thinking


Thu, Dec 12, 2013


Daniel Dennett is one of the world’s most original and provocative thinkers. A philosopher and cognitive scientist, he is known as one of the ‘Four Horseman of New Atheism’ along with Richard Dawkins, Sam Harris and the late Christopher Hitchens. On May 22nd he came to Intelligence Squared to share the insights he has acquired over his 40-year career into the nature of how we think, decide and act. Dennett revealed his favourite thinking tools, or ‘intuition pumps’, that he and others have developed for addressing life’s most fundamental questions. As well as taking a fresh look at familiar moves – Occam’s Razor, reductio ad absurdum – he discussed new cognitive solutions designed for the most treacherous subject matter: evolution, meaning, consciousness and free will. By acquiring these tools and learning to use them wisely, we can all aspire to better understand the world around us and our place in it.

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Thomas Friedman: A Manifesto For Rescuing America


Wed, Dec 11, 2013


14. Thomas Friedman: A manifesto for rescuing America Thomas L. Friedman is an internationally renowned author, reporter, and columnist – the recipient of three Pulitzer Prizes and the author of six bestselling books, and writes a twice-weekly column for The New York Times. He's also one of the most brilliant orators to have graced the Intelligence Squared stage. In this talk from June 2012 he discusses his latest book 'That Used to be Us: What Went Wrong with America and How it Can Come Back' where he and co-author Michael Mandelbaum present an urgent manifesto for the America's renewal and address the major challenges it faces today.

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David Eagleman on the Science of De- (and Re-) Humanisation (and Why it Matters)


Wed, Dec 11, 2013


Which side were you on? The Jets or the Sharks? The Capulets or the Montagues? The Greeks or the Trojans? Antony or Caesar? William or Harold? And so the list goes on ... Indeed, maybe the whole of human history is the story of group-making and group-breaking. The passions of loyalty and love for the in-group are matched by the de-humanising indignation and hatred for the out-group. But what's actually going on in the chemical soup of the brain when Agamemnon gathers his heros-to-be and sets sail after Helen? Will peering into that soup - as neuroscientist David Eagleman is now doing - actually give peace a chance? Maybe utopia can come out of the lab. Will a scientific understanding of love and hate deliver social programmes that undermine the nastiness without sacrificing the good?

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Naomi Wolf on 'Vagina: A New Biography'


Tue, Dec 10, 2013


American author Naomi Wolf made her name with The Beauty Myth, a book that exposed the tyranny of the ideal of female beauty. Now she’s back with a no less dramatic or controversial new work. In Vagina: A New Biography Wolf makes the case that the vagina is much more than a sex organ – it is integral to female well-being, and a catalyst to female creativity, confidence and identity. In this talk for Intelligence Squared she explained how the latest neuroscience reveals fascinating new discoveries about the vagina and female wellbeing, and discussed sexual relationships, pornography, history and literature. She showed how men can learn more about ‘what women really need’, and how women can experience themselves in a new way.

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Chris Anderson on the Democratisation of Manufacturing, Design and Technology


Tue, Dec 10, 2013


In an age of custom-fabricated, do-it-yourself product design and creation, the collective potential of a million garage tinkerers and enthusiasts is about to be unleashed... Check out today's Advent podcast where Wired Magazine editor Chris Anderson takes you to the front lines of a new industrial revolution as today’s entrepreneurs, using open source design and 3-D printing, bring manufacturing to the desktop.

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Jeffrey Sachs on JFK and His Quest For Peace


Fri, Dec 06, 2013


How can leadership lessons from the past be applied to intractable international problems today? In this talk from July 2013, shortly before the 50th anniversary of President John F Kennedy's assignation, the world renowned economist Jeffrey Sachs analysed JFK’s rhetoric of peace and explains how it began a process that led to d?tente and eventually to the end of the Cold War. How was it that only 8 months after the Cuban missile crisis had brought the world to the brink of self-destruction Kennedy could reach out to the Soviet leader Nikita Khrushchev and persuade him that they shared the same aims and interests? How at such a time of external peril could he dare to ask the American people to look inward and examine their own attitudes towards the Soviet Union? And where, when we need him, is the John Kennedy of the 21st century? Listen to this masterful lecture: part history lesson, part road map for the future.

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Terry Eagleton in conversation with Roger Scruton


Fri, Dec 06, 2013


What really divides the left and the right? To answer this question, Intelligence Squared brought together two giants of British intellectual culture for an ideological reckoning: Terry Eagleton, literary critic and long-time hero of the radical left, and Roger Scruton, right-wing philosopher who has written on everything from economic theory to literature, and architecture to wine. What we heard was two two irreducibly different views of the world, where each tries hard to understand the other’s view.

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Dan Pink on the Science of Buoyancy


Wed, Dec 04, 2013


It happens to all of us every day. You get rejected. Your customer doesn’t buy. Your boss doesn’t agree. Your crush doesn’t say yes. In this provocative and entertaining talk, Daniel Pink, author of the New York Times best seller Drive, harvests a rich trove of social science to explain the theory and practice of bouncing back.

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Michael Sandel on the Moral Limits of Markets


Wed, Dec 04, 2013


Should we pay children to get good grades? Is it ethical to pay people to test risky new drugs or to donate their organs? What about hiring mercenaries to fight our wars, or selling citizenship to immigrants willing to pay? Michael Sandel is one of the world's most acclaimed and popular political philosophers. He has given the BBC Reith lectures and his online lectures for Harvard University attract millions of views. In this talk from May 2012 he looked at the role of markets in a democratic society, and asked how can we protect the moral and civic goods that markets do not honour and money cannot buy?

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Robert Macfarlane on Landscape and the Human Heart


Wed, Dec 04, 2013


How do the landscapes we love shape the people we are? Why do we walk? For several years and more than a thousand miles, celebrated travel writer Robert Macfarlane has been following the vast network of old paths and routes that criss-cross Britain and its waters, and connect them to countries and continents beyond. Listen to his enthralling account from June 2012 of the ghosts and voices that haunt old tracks, of songlines and their singers, of the stories our tracks keep and tell, and of rights of way and rites of way.

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Western Liberal Democracy Would be Wrong for China


Mon, Dec 02, 2013


People everywhere are better off living in liberal democracy: that has been the reigning assumption of the western world. But could it be we’ve got it wrong? If you were one of the world’s billions of poor peasants might you not be better off under a system dedicated to political stability and economic growth – one that has lifted 400 million out of poverty – rather than one preoccupied with human rights, the rule of law, and the chance to vote out unpopular rulers? Thanks to the Chinese model of government life expectancy in Shanghai is now higher than in New York. So is China better off without democracy? Or is that just the age-old mantra of the tyrant?

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Pornography is Good For Us: Without it We Would Be a Far More Repressed Society


Sun, Dec 01, 2013


Hooray for porn! What would we be without it? Bored, repressed, frustrated. Porn allows the timid to indulge fantasies they’d never live out in real life and the adventurous to experiment with new forms of pleasure. Now that it has stepped down from the top shelf and waltzed across the internet we can all enjoy it. All we need to do is stop pretending it’s something dirty and come straight out and salute it. Or maybe not. Porn after all is selling a lie: that women are always eager to engage in extreme practices, that bodies are always tanned and buffed, orgasms explosive. Isn’t this a recipe for frustration and disappointment? And to attract the restless voyeur, porn is always having to up the ante – cyber-sex is getting ever more degrading and extreme. Men are finding it harder to be satisfied with their real world partners, women are feeling inadequate and pressured to live up to the cyber-competition – this is the reality of pornland. So which is it – the great liberator of the libido or a blight on human intimacy? Listen to pornographic film maker Anna Arrowsmith and erotica expert Dr Clarissa Smith, square up to renowned feminist Germaine Greer and addiction specialist Dr Robert Lefever.

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Both Britain and the EU Would Be Happier if They got Divorced


Sun, Dec 01, 2013


Some people just can’t bring themselves to acknowledge that a relationship is over. Finished. Unsalvageable. David Cameron, for instance. His long awaited speech on Europe has been one big exercise in denial. Yes, we should stay married to Europe, he says, because we can now renegotiate our wedding vows and get the EU to do things our way. Who is he kidding? If it were so easy to pick ‘n mix what we want from Brussels, wolfing down all the soft-centred goodies and rejecting the nutty ones, wouldn’t every member state do the same? That would be a certain recipe for a 27-speed Europe and why on earth would Brussels agree to that? After the euro crisis, Brussels is hell-bent on tightening the rules not loosening them. So once you discard the new wrapper Cameron is trying to put around a thorny old problem, the reality re-emerges in all its starkness: we can’t live under the old rules – Cameron himself is clear about that – and the new rules will entail an even greater loss of sovereignty. So time for divorce. But do we really want to throw away all we have achieved in the post-war decades – years of painstaking negotiations which have led to a peaceful and prosperous Europe? Not only has the EU enhanced trade between its members – to Britain’s benefit as much as the others – it has also provided Europe with a real voice in the world. Of course it’s far from perfect. That’s why it needs to be reformed not rejected. And of course it involves some loss of sovereignty: in a globalised world that’s inevitable. But only political juveniles hanker after a lost world of unfettered sovereignty. Time to be grown up and accept that the EU is our future, warts and all. So which side of the argument should we heed? This is the biggest national issue of our time: Britain’s destiny is at stake.

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Intelligence Squared Presents the Elders


Thu, Nov 28, 2013


Independent, free now from the constraints of office, with a wealth of experience and the ability to open doors at the highest level, The Elders are helping tackle some of the world’s most intractable problems. On 2nd July 2012, we brought together three members of the organisation – President Jimmy Carter, Mary Robinson and Archbishop Desmond Tutu – for a special discussion with Channel 4?s Jon Snow at the Barbican Centre. Listen to it now.

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