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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 and download our weekly podcast every Friday.

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  • Anshel Pfeffer in conversation with Catherine Philp on Netanyahu and The Future of Israel
    Thu, Jun 14, 2018

    This week's Intelligence Squared podcast features Anshel Pfeffer, Haaretz journalist and author of Bibi - The Turbulent Life And Times Of Benjamin Netanyahu in conversation with Catherine Philp, diplomatic correspondent on The Times. In this in-depth podcast on the leadership and story of Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, they discuss the state of modern Israel and the future of the Middle East.

  • The Threat From Russia: Can Putin Be Stopped?
    Thu, Jun 07, 2018

    Is Vladimir Putin the most powerful – and dangerous – man in the world? With Putin in the Kremlin, we have returned to an era where former Russian spies are mysteriously poisoned on British soil and where Russia feels emboldened to roll its tanks into an eastern European state. The Kremlin uses deadly force to wipe out opponents and stifle dissent at home, while overseas it props up Bashar al-Assad, the butcher of Damascus, who slaughters civilians with barrel bombs and chemical weapons. And that’s not to mention Moscow’s alleged meddling in the US election, which may have played a decisive role in the rise of Donald Trump. Tensions have increased so much in recent months that the UN secretary general Ant?nio Guterres has warned of a ‘full-blown military escalation’ between Russia and the West.

    So what should we do? Some argue that the West has been appeasing Russia for too long, and that it’s finally time to get tough. Putin’s crimes in Syria and Ukraine – and allegedly on the streets of Salisbury – can’t be allowed to go unchecked, so we need to start ramping up the military pressure. Others claim, however, that the West is culpable for the new Cold War. After all, it was NATO’s decision to expand eastwards and take in former Soviet states that kick-started this new era of conflict. So should we instead show some humility and try to rebuild trust and fresh channels of communication with Russia?

    And what about the billions of pounds of dirty Russian money being laundered through the London property market and financial system? Much of Putin’s power stems from Russia’s kleptocratic economy, where his cronies control vast swathes of the nation’s wealth and hoard it overseas. By allowing the oligarchs to stash their cash in the City, are we not bolstering Putin’s grip on power?

  • The Disunited States: Is the Trump presidency causing irreparable damage to America?
    Thu, May 31, 2018

    America has never seen anything like this. Time and again, Donald Trump has attacked the very fabric of US democracy. He has called the press ‘the enemy of the American people’. He says that claims that Russia interfered in the US election are a hoax. And that the FBI - currently investigating his campaign - should be personally loyal to the president.

    And it’s not just political institutions Trump is damaging, his opponents say: in America he has stoked racial tension, coddled Wall Street and given succour to the gun lobby. On the world stage, he’s alienated key allies, slapped $50 billion in tariffs on China that may spark off a trade war, and appointed the hawkish John Bolton, who has advocated regime change in Iran and North Korea, as national security adviser.

    If Trump is a new kind of threat, the big question is whether the damage he is doing to America will be permanent. Will the country that survived two world wars, the Cold War and the attacks of 9/11 really be put off its stride by a reality show host who could be gone in less than three years’ time? Or is Trump dismantling the robust system that has kept America united and irreparably damaging its standing as the most powerful nation on earth?

    But perhaps this is all liberal hand-wringing. Could Trump, in fact, be that rarest of things - a politician who delivers on his promises - and prove to be the reformer the American electorate voted for?

    To examine the political health and standing of the United States at this crucial moment, Intelligence Squared brought together Ronan Farrow, former US government adviser and journalist, who has just been awarded the Pulitzer Prize for breaking the Harvey Weinstein scandal; Mark Lilla, the American political scientist who hit the headlines last year with an article arguing that it is the left’s preoccupation with identity politics that opened the door to Trump’s victory; Lionel Shriver, award-winning novelist and commentator; and Brian Klaas, an expert on authoritarianism who claims that with every autocratic tweet Trump is edging America away from its democratic norms.

  • Jordan Peterson on Gender, Patriarchy and the Slide Towards Tyranny
    Wed, May 23, 2018

    In May 2018, we recorded a special episode of the Intelligence Squared podcast in London. Jordan Peterson, author of 12 Rules for Life: An Antidote to Chaos, was joined by Anne McElvoy, Senior Editor at The Economist and head of Economist Radio, to discuss identity politics, liberalism and #MeToo.

  • Revere or Remove? The Battle Over Statues, Heritage and History
    Thu, May 17, 2018

    Statues and memorials to famous figures of the past adorn our towns and cities. But what should be done when some of these figures have come to be seen by many people as controversial symbols of oppression and discrimination?

    In Britain, the Rhodes Must Fall campaign hit the headlines when it demanded the removal of the statue of Cecil Rhodes from Oxford’s Oriel College, of which he was a leading benefactor, because of his colonialism. In the US, violent protests in Charlottesville were sparked by a decision to remove from a park a statue of Robert E. Lee, a Confederate general in the American Civil War, because of the association of the Confederacy with slavery.

    Passions run high on both sides. Are those calling for the removal of controversial statues seeking to right an historical injustice or are they trying to erase history? And are those who object to removing memorials defending the indefensible or are they conserving historical reality, however unpalatable that may be?

    To discuss these emotive questions and examine the broader cultural conflicts which lie behind them, Intelligence Squared joined forces with Historic England to bring together a stellar panel including historians David Olusoga and Peter Frankopan, the journalist and author Afua Hirsch and the cultural commentator Tiffany Jenkins. The event was chaired by Guardian columnist, broadcaster and author Jonathan Freedland.

  • The nuclear deal with Iran won't make the world a safer place
    Thu, May 10, 2018

    For this week's episode we're revisiting our debate from November 2015, "The nuclear deal with Iran won't make the world a safer place".

    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.

  • Send Them Back: The Parthenon Marbles Should be Returned to Athens
    Thu, May 03, 2018

    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.

    Joining Fry on the "For" side was Andrew George. Chair of Marbles Reunite and Liberal Democrat MP for St Ives. Against them were Felipe Fern?ndez-Armesto, the William P Reynolds Professor of History at the University of Notre Dame; and Tristram Hunt, Labour MP for Stoke-on-Trent Central and a broadcaster, historian and newspaper columnist.

    The debate was chaired by BBC World News presenter Zeinab Badawi.

  • Jamie Bartlett in conversation with Helen Lewis on how the internet is threatening our freedoms
    Thu, Apr 26, 2018

    This week's Intelligence Squared podcast features Jamie Bartlett, tech journalist and author of The People vs Tech in conversation with the New Statesman's Deputy Editor Helen Lewis. In this in-depth discussion on the politics of technology, they explored the addictive nature of social media and whether the tech giants are a threat to democracy.

  • Rembrandt Vs Vermeer: The Titans of Dutch Painting
    Thu, Apr 19, 2018

    (For a list of all paintings referenced by Simon Schama and Tracy Chevalier in this debate please go to:

    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.

  • Psychiatrists & the pharma industry are to blame for the current ‘epidemic’ of mental disorders
    Thu, Apr 12, 2018

    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 in November 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.

  • Hilton Als and Afua Hirsch on Race, Gender and Identity
    Thu, Apr 05, 2018

    In March 2018, we recorded a special episode of the Intelligence Squared podcast at the Acast studio in east London. Pulitzer prize winning writer and chief theatre critic for The New Yorker Hilton Als was in conversation with Guardian columnist and author Afua Hirsch. In this wide ranging discussion, they talked about issues of race, gender, culture and identity, which were some of the themes explored in Als' recent book White Girls

    Image © Brigitte Lacombe (2018).

  • Stop Brexit
    Thu, Mar 29, 2018

    It’s time we came to to our senses. Brexit is a disaster and must be stopped. Leave campaigners promised our exit from the European Union would herald a glorious new era – the sunlit uplands of ‘global Britain’, with new trade deals signed in a matter of months and an extra ?350 million per week for the NHS. But what do we have today? Sterling has collapsed, Boris has been busy bungling in Brussels, and the government’s own leaked economic assessments show that leaving the EU will harm every single region of the country, especially ‘left behind’ areas that voted to Leave. The public was misled, and as David Davis once said, ‘If a democracy cannot change its mind, it ceases to be a democracy’. Let’s end this madness and call the whole thing off.

    That’s the reasoning of the Remoaners. But can you imagine the damage we’d do to our politics if we overturned the democratic expression of 17 million people – the single biggest mandate in British history? If these sneering liberals had their way, the masses would be forced to vote in referendum after referendum until they gave the ‘correct’ answer. What part of ‘take back control’ don’t they understand? And spare us the whingeing over economic forecasts. We all remember Project Fear and the phoney establishment warnings that the sky would fall in once we voted to Leave.

    Is it time the public voted again on this defining issue of our times? Or should we embrace the opportunities presented by leaving the EU?

    Arguing in favour of the motion were Gina Miller, the businesswoman and campaigner who wasd the lead claimant in the successful legal fight to allow parliament to vote on whether the UK could start the process of leaving the EU; and Chuka Umunna, Labour MP for Streatham and a prominent pro-EU campaigner, who is now the leader of a coalition of cross-party groups representing 500,000 members pushing for a referendum on the final EU deal.

    Arguing against the motion were Gerard Lyons, one of the country’s leading economists and an expert on the global economy, and co-author of Clean Brexit: Why Leaving The EU Still Makes Sense; and Isabel Oakeshott, a pro-Brexit journalist and broadcaster who was political editor of The Sunday Times and authored The Bad Boys of Brexit, an inside account of Nigel Farage and Arron Banks’ Leave.EU campaign.

    The debate was chaired by Nick Robinson, presenter on Radio 4’s Today programme and former BBC political editor.

  • If You Believe You Are a Citizen of the World, You Are A Citizen of Nowhere
    Fri, Mar 23, 2018

    When Theresa May uttered these words at the Tory party conference in 2016, there was uproar. May was targeting the liberal establishment, who flit business class from Mayfair to Monaco, from Davos to Doha; those in positions of power, who, as May put it, ‘behave as though they have more in common with international elites than with the people down the road’.

    But many people who don’t fit in this frequent flyer category felt under attack too. For this group, believing you are a citizen of the world is a badge of honour, not shame. The cosmopolitan impulse, they believe, isn’t about loyalty to any single community. On the contrary, you can be a citizen of your street, your city, your country and the entire globe. And in our interconnected world, those with a burning concern for global justice, for the environment, for the strife and carnage happening beyond our borders, see themselves as part of humanity at large – as citizens of the world.

    But for a different group of people, May’s words resonated deeply. These are the people who feel genuinely rooted in their communities, who feel the strongest sense of solidarity with those who share their history, language and other elements of a common culture. These people often feel sneered at as nationalists or worse, as bigots, by the elites who do not understand their profound intuition that the nation state is the natural expression of group identity.

    We were joined by Simon Schama, one of Britain’s most celebrated historians, who embodies the cosmopolitan spirit; Elif Shafak, the Turkish novelist and commentator, who calls herself a ‘world citizen and a global soul’; David Goodhart, author of the bestseller The Road To Somewhere; and David Landsman, a former diplomat now in the corporate world. The event was chaired by BBC economics editor Kamal Ahmed.

  • Disruption Ahead: Will Future Transport Systems Benefit Society Or Drive It Apart?
    Fri, Mar 16, 2018

    A transport revolution in our cities is under way. Ride-sharing schemes, driverless cars and electric vehicles look set to bring us all kinds of benefits, such as lower pollution, faster flowing traffic and fewer accidents.

    But these benefits won’t just fall into our laps. What will we have to do to ensure that we reap the rewards of these changes and avoid potential pitfalls? Will technological change bring us closer together as a society or drive us further apart? Will we the consumers be the ones who make the all-important decisions, or will we be at the mercy of the tech and car companies and the policy-makers? And will these decisions actually result in a lower carbon future? There’s a lot of excitement about the future of cars: will people be prepared to give up the independence of the privately owned vehicle and use hailing schemes? Given that a total switchover to electric vehicles is unlikely to happen within the next ten years, how will a mix of vehicles on our streets affect the way we live? And is all this talk about cars a distraction from much needed investment in public transport?

    We were joined by author, journalist and Director of the Centre for the Analysis of Social Media, Jamie Bartlett; Uber's Head of Cities in the UK and Ireland, Fred Jones; creative technologist at the open innovation consultancy company Five by Five, Eugena Ossi; and journalist, author, and railway historian, Christian Wolmar. The debate was chaired by broadcaster Edith Bowman.

    You can continue the conversation online using #makethefuture.

  • The Power of Poetry, with William Sieghart, Jeanette Winterson and Helena Bonham Carter
    Fri, Mar 09, 2018

    For 15 years, the power of the spoken word has been at the heart of Intelligence Squared’s mission. Argument and debate, we believe, can move, persuade and create real change. Now, in these anxious and divided times, we held a special event that celebrated the positive, transformative force of another kind of spoken word – poetry.

    William Sieghart told the extraordinary story of his bestselling book, The Poetry Pharmacy: Tried-and-True Prescriptions for the Heart, Mind and Soul. This is no conventional collection but one created from Sieghart’s own, personal experience of prescribing real poems to real people in need. Every poem is matched to a specific condition: fear of the unknown, unrequited love, stagnation, purposelessness, convalescence, oppression

    Joining him in conversation were novelist and poetry devotee Jeanette Winterson. Together they explored poetry’s uncanny ability to calm, console and, above all, connect us to the minds and feelings of others. Finding the right poem at the right moment is not just a problem shared, Sieghart says, but a problem transformed. It is ‘to discover a powerful sense of complicity, and that precious realisation: I’m not the only one who feels like this.’ It is to forge a connection with ‘this stranger who understands – and what results is a sort of peace.’

    Bringing the poems to dramatic life were a cast of star actors including Helena Bonham Carter, Sue Perkins, Jason Isaacs and Tom Burke.

  • Western Parents Don't Know How to Bring Up Their Children
    Fri, Mar 02, 2018

    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.

    The debate was chaired by columnist and broadcaster Jenni Russell

  • The Left has right on its side
    Fri, Feb 23, 2018

    Let?s be honest. It?s the political Left that has society?s best interests at heart, that works for the good of all. It has always been the Left that has struggled to protect the weak from the strong, that has fought for workers? rights, for sexual and racial equality, for the welfare state. It is the Left that now challenges abuses of power by corporations and financial institutions. And it is the Left that seeks to build a world based on mutual respect, not individualistic self-seeking. It is the Left, not the Right, that has right on its side.

    Yet according to conservatives, it is precisely that self-regard, that attempt to monopolise virtue, which exposes the hypocrisy of left-wing ideology. To flaunt your concern for your fellow man doesn?t make you right ? it just gives you the smug glow of virtue signalling. In fact, by expanding the state, overtaxing the rich and splurging benefits on the poor, the Left has always damaged society by crippling people?s natural instinct to better themselves. It is the Right, by championing free markets, free choice and social cohesion, that has right on its side.

    Speaking for the motion were Labour MP for Walthamstow Stella Creasy and Guardian journalist and polemicist George Monbiot.

    Speaking against the motion were Conservative MP for Spelthorne Kwasi Kwarteng and Britain?s leading philosopher of conservative thought Roger Scruton.

    The event was chaired by Razia Iqbal, one of the main presenters of Newshour and a regular presenter of The World Tonight on Radio 4.

  • James Rhodes And Armando Iannucci on the Transformative Power of Music
    Fri, Feb 16, 2018

    In February 2018 Intelligence Squared brought Armando Iannucci and James Rhodes to our stage to discuss the transcendent power of music. Rhodes is known as the wild man of concert pianists. His approach to the piano is raw and unbridled, his tousled hair a whirl, his hands a blur over the keyboard – the diametric opposite to the composed figure in white tie and tails of classical music convention. He is as likely to play the Latitude pop music festival as the Albert Hall. His knowledge of, and passion for, the great composers is also unrestrained, pouring forth in recitals, documentaries, best-selling albums and his 2015 memoir, Instrumental.

    The extraordinary thing is that this virtuoso has no formal musical education. He had a place at the Guildhall but was unable to go, due to mental health issues brought on by harrowing sexual abuse at his London prep school. In his forthcoming book, Fire on All Sides, Rhodes airs his daily struggles with mental illness during a gruelling concert tour. In the depths of Rhodes’s sadness, Bach, Beethoven and Chopin were his solace. The lives of the great composers – as much as their music – inspired Rhodes’s recovery and his mission to spread the word about their genius.

    Armando Iannucci is Britain’s leading comedy writer, the creator of Alan Partridge, Veep and The Thick of It. But he is also an obsessive classical music fan, devoted since he was 11 to what he calls ‘the single most inspiring, most moving, most magical thread running through my whole cultural experience’. Although it is comedy that made his name, it is classical music that is his most comforting art form.

    In his latest book, Hear Me Out, he tells the story of his lifelong love for music. It isn’t just the canon – particularly Beethoven, Bach and Mahler – that he adores, but also modern composers like Philip Glass and John Adams. Although Iannucci proclaims himself a curious amateur rather than a technical expert, he has composed a complete libretto to a surreal, comic opera about plastic surgery, called ‘Face’.

    Like Rhodes, Iannucci is concerned that the British don’t talk about classical music enough. He longs to enthuse the public with his conviction that the greatest artistic miracle of all is man’s ability to create something as extraordinary as Bach’s Goldberg Variations. Rhodes shares Iannucci’s reverence for the work – he is currently recording a BBC Radio 4 documentary on Glenn Gould, the greatest interpreter of the Variations.

    Listen to these two evangelists for the power of sound, as they explain how music transformed their lives.

  • Ten Years On: The Financial Crisis and the State of Modern Capitalism
    Fri, Feb 09, 2018

    It’s been ten years since we saw suddenly unemployed Lehman Brothers bankers carrying their possessions out of their offices in boxes; since whole neighbourhoods in suburban America turned into empty ghost towns; since the British and American governments pumped trillions into the banking system, saving some institutions and abandoning others. The crash of 2008 and 2009 shook the very foundations of modern capitalism.

    So where are we today? Although we may have been spared a second Great Depression, post-crisis productivity has flatlined and the last decade has seen Britain’s worst pay squeeze since the nineteenth century. And according to some, the seeds of today’s political upheavals, from Brexit to Trump to the Corbyn surge, were sown during the 2008 crash, which irreparably damaged public trust in the establishment and its institutions.

    To look back at this critical moment for the global economy and examine its repercussions today, Intelligence Squared brought together a panel of the country’s top economic experts: Mervyn King, Governor of the Bank of England during the crash and its aftermath; acclaimed UCL Economics Professor Mariana Mazzucato, who recently advised Jeremy Corbyn on industrial strategy; and Torsten Bell, Director of the Resolution Foundation, a think tank focusing on improving the living standards of those on low incomes. Chairing the discussion will be the BBC’s economics editor Kamal Ahmed.

    Has enough been done to regulate the banks and protect our economy from future shocks? Is it only a matter of time before we face a new, even worse crash? And did we let the crisis go to waste by failing to rethink the system and rebalance the economy away from financial services?

  • Karen Armstrong on Religion and the History of Violence
    Fri, Feb 02, 2018

    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.

    Armstrong was in discussion with journalist and broadcaster Tom Sutcliffe.

  • Brian Cox and Alice Roberts on the Incredible Unlikeliness of Human Existence
    Fri, Jan 26, 2018

    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 in December. 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.

    In this wide-ranging conversation Cox and Roberts discussed the origins of the universe, life and humanity – and you. You’re the product of what seems to be an extremely unlikely chain of events. Our universe was born with just the right laws for galaxies to form, with at least one planet capable of producing and sustaining life. The origin of muliticellular life on this planet was essentially an accident; the mammals were lucky to outlive the dinosaurs; a handful of two-legged apes survived, against the odds, on the plains of Africa… and then there’s the unlikeliness of your mother meeting your father and that particular sperm fusing with that particular egg. The chance of you being here at all is tiny. How can physics and biology help us to make sense of all that unlikeliness? How did chance and accident combine to create us?

  • Break Up The Tech Giants
    Fri, Jan 19, 2018

    It is time to call the tech companies to account. In the space of just ten years, Google, Apple, Facebook, Amazon and Microsoft have become the biggest companies on the planet and have accrued a level of power that threatens us all. They control our data, warp our democratic discourse, and exert increasing dominance over our markets. No wonder we are in the middle of a long-awaited ‘techlash’ against the technology giants. Look at the EU’s recent crackdown on tax avoidance by Amazon and Apple, or its record ˆ2.4 billion fine of Google. In the UK, the Committee on Standards in Public Life has just set out guidelines for prosecuting web giants such as Facebook, arguing that they are publishers, not mere ‘platforms’, and therefore responsible for the content they host. Through the influence of ‘network effects’ (whereby the first to dominate a market reaps almost all the rewards), these companies have snuffed out the competition. This matters to everyone – not simply for the sake of healthy markets, but for the democratic wellbeing of all of us. The power of these companies lies not just in their size, but in the 21st century’s most valuable asset, data, the oil of the digital economy, which the tech companies extract freely from us, the users. With so much data and power centralised in the hands of a few West Coast companies, the tech giants have become a serious threat to our basic freedoms and must be broken up. That’s the argument that was made at this major Intelligence Squared debate by the FT’s global business columnist Rana Foroohar and by businessman and former chairman of Channel 4 Luke Johnson.

    But others would argue that it’s all too easy to make the tech giants a scapegoat for the inevitable upheavals caused by the digital revolution. The real winners of this revolution are not the tech companies but us, the users. Who could now imagine living without the services of Amazon, Apple, Google, Facebook and Microsoft? That’s the case that was made in our debate by former head of Facebook’s European politics and government division Elizabeth Linder and competition law expert Pinar Akman. The simple reason these companies have become so huge is that we prefer their services to anyone else’s. Amazon, for example, have served the consumer by keeping prices low – hardly a sign of anti-competitive behaviour. And when it comes to competition, the dominance of today’s tech giants is far from assured. Digital tools and cheap market entry have made it easier than ever for rival startups to launch new online businesses. Tech companies are uniquely vulnerable to changes in fortune. Far from being untamed monopolies, the tech giants face fierce competition from each other. Yes, they should be fairly regulated. But we should champion the benefits they have brought to the wider world.

  • Caitlyn Jenner on Identity and Self-Realisation
    Fri, Jan 12, 2018

    This week's episode of the Intelligence Squared podcast was recorded in a studio in London's Soho. We were joined by Caitlyn Jenner, the world's most famous transgender woman, as she talked with the Guardian's Jonathan Freedland about US politics, Caitlyn's fascinating personal journey and the recent revolution in how people think and talk about gender and sexuality.

  • David Brooks on the Road to Character
    Fri, Jan 05, 2018

    In May 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.

  • Inside The Head Of Terry Gilliam
    Fri, Dec 29, 2017

    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.

    In October 2015, 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.

  • Joseph Stiglitz on the Great Divide
    Fri, Dec 22, 2017

    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.

  • Stephen Fry and Friends on the Life, Loves and Hates of Christopher Hitchens
    Fri, Dec 15, 2017

    In this historic event, Stephen Fry and other friends of Christopher Hitchens came together to celebrate the life and work of this great writer, iconoclast and debater. Fry was joined on stage at the Southbank Centre's Royal Festival Hall by Richard Dawkins and the two discussed Hitch's unflinching commitment to the truth. Hollywood actor Sean Penn was beamed in from LA by Google+ and, between cigarette puffs, read from Hitch's acclaimed work, 'The Trial of Henry Kissinger'. Five friends of Hitch spoke via satellite in New York: satirist Christopher Buckley and editor Lewis Lapham mused on Hitch's prowess as a journalist. 'Like a pot of gold', said Lapham. Martin Amis, Salman Rushdie and James Fenton delighted the audience with stories of Hitchens as a young man. Rushdie drew roars of laughter when he recounted a word game invented by Amis and Hitchens where the word 'love' is replaced with 'hysterical sex'. Particular favourites included Hysterical Sex in the Time of Cholera and Hysterical Sex Is All You Need.

    Watching the event with Hitch at his bedside in Texas, Hitch's wife Carol and novelist Ian McEwan provided an email commentary. 'His Rolls Royce mind is still purring beautifully', typed McEwan.

    The event was watched live by 2500 at the venue, and by thousands more in UK cinemas and online.

  • Words that Changed The World, with Jeremy Irons and Carey Mulligan
    Fri, Dec 08, 2017

    For 15 years, Intelligence Squared has vigorously championed the spoken word. The finest speakers from across the globe have come to our stage — to argue, to move, to persuade and change minds. Their speeches epitomise the vital role that public speaking plays in our lives. To celebrate the power of oratory, we held a major event which will showcase how great speeches have swayed the course of history and demonstrate how, more than ever, we need them to help define our values and who we are.

    Barack Obama’s director of speechwriting, Cody Keenan, shared his experience of helping craft the presidential speeches that moved the hearts and minds of millions around the world. Alongside him was be Philip Collins, Tony Blair’s former speechwriter and Times columnist, whose new book argues for the importance of speeches in protecting and promoting democracy. With Newsnight’s Emily Maitlis in the chair, Keenan and Collins unpacked the tricks and techniques that have been used by the most brilliant orators down the centuries and which are still working their magic today. Bringing this all to life were star actors Carey MulliganJeremy Irons and Simon Russell Beale, who will perform extracts from remarkable speeches – some familiar, others that will surprise – from different continents and eras.

    What is it about a great speech that can give voice to people’s intense but unarticulated feelings? What is that special alchemy of words and personal charisma that makes us as susceptible to dangerous demagogues as to the morally uplifting oratory of a Mandela, a Martin Luther King or a JFK?

  • Brave New World vs Ninety Eighty-Four
    Fri, Dec 01, 2017

    Dystopian books and films are in the zeitgeist. Reflecting the often dark mood of our times, Intelligence Squared are staging a contest between two of the greatest dystopian novels, Brave New World and Nineteen Eighty-Four. Each book captured the nightmares of the 1930s and 40s. But which vision looks more prescient to us now in the 21st century? Are we living in George Orwell’s sinister surveillance state? Or in Aldous Huxley’s vapid consumerist culture? To battle it out, we are bringing two celebrated writers, Adam Gopnik and Will Self, to our stage.

    After Donald Trump was elected, it seemed as if Nineteen Eighty-Four had clinched it. The book shot to the top of the bestseller charts. It felt so ominously familiar. In Orwell’s dystopia, the corporate state controls the news, insisting that ‘whatever the Party holds to be truth is truth’. That sounds very like Trump’s ‘alternative facts’, and the war he is waging on the ‘fake news’ media. Orwell imagined two-way telescreens spying on every citizen’s home. Today we have Amazon’s ‘always listening’ Alexa device, while Google, Facebook and the security agencies hoover up our personal data for their own ends. Orwell also described an Inner Party – two percent of the population – enjoying all the privileges and political control. Isn’t that scarily close to the ‘one percent’, reviled for their wealth and influence by anti-capitalists today? No wonder everyone rushed out to buy the book.

    But Orwell’s critics say Nineteen Eighty-Four is a dated dystopia, a vision that died along with communism. The novel that better resonates with our present, they say, is Brave New World. Here Aldous Huxley imagined a plastic techno-society where sex is casual, entertainment light and consumerism rampant. There are pills to make people happy, virtual reality shows to distract the masses from actual reality, and hook-ups to take the place of love and commitment. Isn’t that all a bit close to home? Huxley even imagined a caste system created by genetic engineering, from alpha and beta types right down to a slave underclass. We may not have gone down that road, but gene-editing might soon enable Silicon Valley’s super-rich to extend their lifespans and enhance the looks and intelligence of their offspring. Will we soon witness the birth of a new genetic super-class?

    Both these novels imagined extraordinary futures, but which better captures our present and offers the keener warning about where we may be heading? Join us on November 28th as our advocates go head to head, with a cast of top actors who will illustrate their arguments with readings from the novels.

  • Michael Lewis On How Behavioural Economics Changed The World
    Fri, Nov 24, 2017

    Michael Lewis is one of the most successful non-fiction authors alive. He has been acclaimed as a genius by Malcolm Gladwell and as the best current writer in America by Tom Wolfe. In a series of titles that have sold 9 million copies worldwide, he has lifted the lid on the biggest stories of our times, enthralling readers with his knack for humanising complex subjects and giving them the page-turning urgency of the best thrillers. Liar's Poker is the cult classic that defined Wall Street during the 1980s; Moneyball was made into a film with Brad Pitt; Boomerang was a breakneck tour of Europe’s post-crunch economy; and The Big Short was made into a major Oscar-winning film starring Christian Bale, Ryan Gosling and Steve Carell.

    In November 2017 Lewis came to the Intelligence Squared stage, where he was joined by Stephanie Flanders, former economics editor at the BBC. Discussing the themes of his latest book, The Undoing Project: A Friendship that Changed the World, they explored the extraordinary story of the relationship between Daniel Kahneman and Amos Tversky – a collaboration which created the field of behavioural economics. This is the theory which shows that human beings are not the rational creatures we imagined ourselves to be, and has revolutionised everything from big data to medicine, from how we are governed to how we spend, from high finance to football. It won Kahneman the Nobel Prize in economics in 2002 – the first time the award had gone to a psychologist.

  • Jaron Lanier on the Future of Our Digital Lives
    Fri, Nov 17, 2017

    Jaron Lanier is one of the foremost digital visionaries of our times. One of Silicon Valley’s key early innovators, this dreadlocked digital prophet has been dubbed the ‘father of virtual reality’ and named as one of Time’s 100 most influential people in the world.

    A former goatherd and midwife, and a virtuoso player of rare instruments, Lanier is sometimes called the ‘alternative Steve Jobs’. Neither a tech optimist nor a doom-monger, he is unique for always seeing the opportunities offered by technology as well as the dangers. In bestsellers such as You Are Not A Gadget and Who Owns the Future? he sounded an early warning about the perils of the internet – describing the tech giants as ‘spy agencies’ and ‘lords of the clouds’ for the way they reduce the value of humans to that of the data they provide. But he has also proposed another, more imaginative way to use technology. A ‘human-centered approach’, he argues, ‘leads to more interesting, more exotic, more wild, and more heroic adventures than the machine-supremacy approach, where information is the highest goal.’

    Now Lanier is going back to the field where he did his pioneering work in the 1980s: virtual reality. VR has become the new frontier of human engagement with tech, and has become a medium that has transformed surgical trials, aircraft design and the treatment of injured war veterans. But it is not only about design, games and headsets, as he argues in his new book, Dawn of the New Everything. Virtual reality can extend the ‘intimate magic’ of childhood into the adult world, Lanier says, and allow us to imagine life beyond the limits of biology. But it will also test who we are. In the same way that he foresaw the dangers of web 2.0, Lanier offers a warning. Virtual reality has the potential to isolate us from each other – and render us even more in thrall to predatory tech companies.

    Lanier was joined om conversation by Economics editor at the BBC, Kamal Ahmed.

  • Neville Chamberlain did the right thing: Appeasement of Hitler was the best policy for the British government in the 1930s
    Fri, Nov 10, 2017

    If ever a politician got a bum rap it’s Neville Chamberlain. He has gone down in history as the British prime minster whose policy of appeasement in the 1930s allowed the Nazis to flourish unopposed. He has never been forgiven for ceding part of Czechoslovakia to Hitler in the Munich Agreement of September 1938, and for returning home triumphantly declaring “peace for our time”. The very word “appeasement” is now synonymous with him, signifying a craven refusal to stand up to bullies and aggressors. What a contrast to Winston Churchill, the man who took over as prime minister and who has ever since been credited with restoring Britain’s backbone.

    But is the standard verdict on Chamberlain a fair one? After all, memories of the slaughter of the First World War were still fresh in the minds of the British, who were desperate to avoid another conflagration. And anyway what choice did Chamberlain have in 1938? There’s a good case for arguing that the delay in hostilities engineered at Munich allowed time for military and air power to be strengthened.

  • Me, My Selfie and I: Self-Expression in the Digital Age
    Fri, Nov 03, 2017

    We are living in the age of selfie mania. Everyone from the Pope to Obama has appeared in one. In the past, only a handful of people were able to propagate their own images, whether it was artists like Rembrandt or Van Gogh painting self-portraits, society beauties commissioning fashionable artists to create a flattering likeness of themselves to be admired by a select few. But now, the smartphone has democratised visual self-expression. The instant transferability of photos to social media and imaging apps at our disposal allow us all to constantly ‘curate’ our look and present ourselves as we want the world to see us, recording ourselves day by day.

    But what effect is this cultural addiction having on us? Do we look out at our exciting world as observers full of curiosity, or do we simply wonder how we look in it, and what filter would work best? Has the selfie reduced life to a popularity contest governed by likes, Instagram followers and Facebook friends? How do we deal with the increasing social pressure to constantly post images of an impossibly perfect self?

    in July 2017, Huawei and the Saatchi Gallery brought together a panel from the worlds of cultural criticism, social media and neuroscience to discuss the impact of selfie culture from a multitude of perspectives. The event was hosted at the Saatchi Gallery, where the exhibition ‘From Selfie to Self-Expression’, presented by Huawei was on display.

  • Warfare: The New Rules - The Cyber Threat to States, Businesses and All of Us
    Thu, Oct 26, 2017

    We are at war: cyberwar. Cyber attacks are becoming the weapon of choice for states, terrorists and criminal organisations. Through the fragile, interconnected structure of the web, anything can be hacked – from national infrastructure to an individual’s identity. The recent worldwide Ransomware epidemic, for example, affected more than 200,000 computers in 150 countries, targeting individuals and global companies including Fedex. The nightmare scenario of an entire city’s physical infrastructure being brought down by cybercriminals is well within the realms of possibility. As tensions escalate, will they explode into traditional military conflict? Or – almost as frightening – will countries wall off their internets to protect themselves, bringing the dream of an global, open worldwide web to an end? To discuss this pressing topic, Intelligence Squared brought together a panel of the world’s top intelligence professionals and cyber experts: Jeh Johnson, former Homeland Security Secretary under President Obama, who led the agency during Russia’s cyber attack on the 2016 election and Jamie Bartlett, renowned digital technology expert and author who presented the recent BBC series “Secrets of Silicon Valley”, and Angela Sasse, a cyber security expert with a special interest in how humans interact with technology. Chairing the discussion was Radio 4’s Today presenter and former BBC political editor Nick Robinson. How should the West respond to cyber aggression from hostile states? In the new fog of cyberwar, terror, crime and state hostility are all intermingled on the same battlefield. How do governments and international institutions set about regulating this complex new landscape?

  • Oslo: Can We Bring Peace Between Enemies?
    Thu, Oct 19, 2017

    On October 17th Intelligence Squared staged a pre-theatre discussion, ‘Can We Bring Peace Between Enemies?’ before a performance of the award-winning play Oslo. The play is a political thriller which tells the true story of two maverick Norwegian diplomats who coordinated top secret talks culminating in the groundbreaking Oslo Peace Accords. The discussion took place at the Harold Pinter theatre, and brought together James Rubin, former Assistant Secretary of State for the US State Department, William Sieghart, founder of an NGO which works with leaders from all parties on both sides of the divide in the Israel/Palestine conflict, and award-winning CNN correspondent Clarissa Ward. Chaired by Jonathan Freedland, they discussed their experience of against-the-odds peace negotiations and what lessons can be learned from the past that apply to the political climate today. To find out more about the play and book tickets, please visit

  • Niall Ferguson on History's Hidden Networks
    Thu, Oct 12, 2017

    Have historians misunderstood everything? Have they missed the single greatest idea that best explains the past? Niall Ferguson is the preeminent historian of the ideas that define our time. He has challenged how we think about money, power, civilisation and empires. Now he wants to reimagine history itself. On October 4th, Ferguson came to the Intelligence Squared stage to unveil his new book, 'The Square and The Tower'. Historians have always focused on hierarchies, he argued – on the elites that wield power. Economists have concentrated on the marketplace – on the economic forces that shape change. These twin structures are symbolised for Ferguson by Siena’s market square, and its civic tower looming above. But beneath both square and tower runs something more deeply significant: the hidden networks of relationships, ideas and influence. Networks are the key to history. The greatest innovators have been ‘superhubs’ of connections. The most powerful states, empires and companies have been those with the most densely networked structures. And the most transformative ideas – from the printing presses that launched the Reformation to the Freemasonry that inspired the American Revolution – have gone viral precisely because of the networks within which they spread. ‘When we understand these core insights of network science,’ says Ferguson, ‘the entire history of mankind looks quite different.’

  • Randall Munroe with Marcus du Sautoy on Making the Complicated Simple
    Thu, Oct 05, 2017

    On 2nd October, Intelligence Squared brought together two of the world’s best-loved masters of explaining and popularising science, who lifted the lid on the technology we love and on the cutting edge of current scientific research. Randall Munroe is a physicist who once built robots for NASA. His webcomic xkcd uses simple cartoons and diagrams to make science funny, touching and incredibly clear. It gets a billion hits a year. In his latest series, Munroe has simplified the workings behind everything from space rockets to smartphones, while using only the thousand most common words in the English language. On stage with Munroe was Oxford’s professor for the public understanding of science Marcus du Sautoy, who has won a wide following through his bestselling books and TV programmes explaining the elegance and complexity of mathematics. While Munroe unpicked the detailed mechanics behind such technological breakthroughs as the large hadron collider at CERN, du Sautoy will examined some of the broader, philosophical questions about the nature — and limits — of scientific enquiry itself. Join Munroe and du Sautoy for this far-reaching exploration of the technology that drives our world, and have your chance to put your questions to two of the sharpest minds in science.

  • Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella on hitting refresh and seizing the opportunity of the digital revolution
    Thu, Sep 28, 2017

    Satya Nadella is one of the world’s most inspirational business leaders, as much a humanist as a technologist and executive. On September 28th, he comes to the Intelligence Squared stage to discuss his personal journey from a childhood in India to becoming CEO of Microsoft, the culture change that he has driven inside his legendary technology company, and the transformation that is coming to all our lives as we face the most disruptive wave of technology humankind has experienced: artificial intelligence, mixed reality, and quantum computing.While many people worry about the negative impact of exponential digital growth – from automation taking over our jobs to the increasing power that algorithms are having over our lives – Nadella will proffer his optimistic vision of the future, which he sets out in his forthcoming book Hit Refresh. He will argue that, as technology upends the status quo, the very human quality of empathy will become increasingly valuable. And he will explain how people, organisations and societies must transform in their quest for new energy, new ideas, relevance and renewal.

  • Napoleon the Great? A debate with Andrew Roberts, Adam Zamoyski and Jeremy Paxman
    Thu, Sep 21, 2017

    How should we remember Napoleon, the man of obscure Corsican birth who rose to become emperor of the French and briefly master of Europe? In 2014, as the 200th anniversary of the Battle of Waterloo approached, 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'.

  • The Great Realignment: Britain's Political Identity Crisis
    Thu, Sep 14, 2017

    Is Britain facing an identity crisis? The traditional dividing lines of left and right seem to be dissolving into new political tribes – metropolitan liberals versus the culturally rooted working classes, graduates versus the uneducated, the young versus the old. In June's general election, traditional Labour heartlands like Mansfield went Conservative, while wealthy areas such as Kensington swung to Corbyn. Britain seems utterly confused about its politics. As the far left and Eurosceptic right have gained strength, much of the country has been left feeling politically homeless. So what’s going on? How will these new alignments play out as the country faces the historic challenge of leaving the EU and forging a new relationship with the rest of the world? Are the Conservatives really up to the job, as they bicker over what kind of Brexit they want and jostle over who should succeed Theresa May? Is it now unthinkable that Jeremy Corbyn could be the next prime minister? Looming over the current turmoil is the biggest question of all: What kind of Britain do we want to live in? What are the values that should hold our society together? We were joined by Ken Clarke, the most senior Conservative voice in Parliament; Hilary Benn, Labour MP and Chair of the Brexit Select Committee; and Helen Lewis, deputy editor at the New Statesman and prominent voice on the left. Alongside them was David Goodhart, author of one of the most talked about analyses of post-Brexit Britain, and Anand Menon, a leading academic thinker on Britain’s fractious relations with the EU. The event was chaired by Stephen Sackur, one of the BBC’s most highly regarded journalistic heavyweights.

  • Sam Harris on the Science of Good and Evil
    Thu, Sep 07, 2017

    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. The event was chaired by Jeremy O'Grady, Editor-in-chief of The Week magazine and co-founder of Intelligence Squared.

  • Is London too rich to be interesting?
    Thu, Aug 31, 2017

    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.

  • Atheism is the new Fundamentalism, with Richard Dawkins and Richard Harries
    Thu, Aug 24, 2017

    Does God exist? Has atheism replaced religion as the new faith of the secular age? Are today's atheists as blinkered and dogmatic as they claim religious believers to be? This Intelligence Squared debate from November 2009 was recorded at Wellington College. Arguing for the motion were former Bishop of Oxford Richard Harries and Editor of the Daily Telegraph Charles Moore. Arguing against the motion were evolutionary biologist and science author Richard Dawkins and philospher AC Grayling. The debate was chaired by historian, author and Master of Wellington College Anthony Seldon.

  • The Elders in conversation with Jon Snow (Pres. Jimmy Carter, Archbp. Desmond Tutu & Mary Robinson)
    Thu, Aug 17, 2017

    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. Brought together by Nelson Mandela in 2007, The Elders use their collective experience and influence to promote peace, justice and human rights worldwide, using private advocacy and public diplomacy. They include the former holders of some of the world's most important and demanding posts, as well as individuals with an extraordinary track record on peace-making, reconciliation and driving social change. To celebrate the group's fifth anniversary, in July 2012 Intelligence Squared hosted three of the Elders on stage in London at the Barbican Centre. We were joined by Former President of the United States Jimmy Carter, the first female president of Ireland and former UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Mary Robinson, and Archbishop Emeritus of Cape Town, Nobel Peace Laureate, and Chair of The Elders Desmond Tutu. Chairman of Virgin Group Richard Branson and Singer and songwriter Peter Gabriel, whose original vision of The Elders was translated into reality by Nelson Mandela, made a special guest appearance at the beginning of this event. It was chaired by Channel 4 News presenter Jon Snow.

  • The Allied bombing of German cities in World War II was unjustifiable
    Thu, Aug 10, 2017

    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 in 2012 they had 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. Arguing for the motion were AC Grayling, philosopher and author of 'Among the Dead Cities: Is the Targeting of Civilians in War Ever Justified?'; and Richard Overy, Professor of history at Exeter University who has published extensively on World War II and air power in the 20th century. Arguing against them were Antony Beevor, award-winning historian and author of the No. 1 international bestseller 'The Second World War'; and Patrick Bishop, historian and author of 'Bomber Boys'. The debate was chaired by Jeremy O'Grady, Editor-in-chief of The Week magazine and co-founder of Intelligence Squared.

  • Britain Should Not Have Fought in the First World War
    Fri, Aug 04, 2017

    The First World War is not called the Great War for nothing. It was the single most decisive event in modern history, as well as one of the bloodiest: by the time the war ended, some nine million soldiers had been killed. It was also a historical full stop, marking the definitive end of the Victorian era and the advent of a new age of uncertainty. By 1918, the old order had fallen: the Bolsheviks had seized power in Russia; the German, Austro-Hungarian and Ottoman empires had been destroyed; and even the victorious Allied powers had suffered devastating losses. It was supposed to be the war to end all wars. And yet barely two decades later, the world was again plunged into conflict. Little wonder then that historians still cannot agree whether Britain's engagement was worth it. For some, the war was a vitally important crusade against Prussian militarism. Had we stayed out, they argue, the result would have been an oppressive German-dominated Europe, leaving the British Empire isolated and doomed to decline. And by fighting to save Belgium, Britain stood up for principle: the right of a small nation to resist its overbearing neighbours. For others, the war was a catastrophic mistake, fought at a catastrophic human cost. It 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. We often forget that, even a few days before Britain entered the war, it seemed likely that we would stay out. H. H. Asquith's decision to intervene changed the course of history. But was it the right one? Arguing for the motion in this Intelligence Squared debate were John Charmley, Professor of Modern History at the University of East Anglia; and Dominic Sandbrook, historian, columnist and broadcaster. Arguing against them were Max Hastings, historian, journalist and former newspaper editor; and Margaret MacMillan, Warden of St Antony’s College and Professor of International History at the University of Oxford. The debate was chaired by senior editor at The Economist, Edward Lucas.

  • Marina Abramovi? on art, performance, time and nothingness
    Thu, Jul 27, 2017

    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 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, in August 2014, 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. She was joined on stage by Will Gompertz, BBC Arts editor and former director at the Tate Gallery.

  • The EU is Failing Europe's Citizens
    Thu, Jul 20, 2017

    In the eyes of pro-Europeans, the founding of the EU after WWII secured peace across the continent for decades. But one needn’t look further than Brexit to see that the EU is teetering on the edge. By showing itself blind to the concerns of ordinary people and incapable of reform, has the European Union failed its citizens? Or should we ignore the doomsayers and march ahead with more European integration? Listen to the arguments from our inaugural Intelligence Squared debate in Berlin.

  • Francis Fukuyama with David Runciman - Democracy: Even the Best Ideas Can Fail
    Thu, Jul 13, 2017

    In September 2014, Professor Francis Fukuyama came to the Intelligence Squared stage 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?

  • Naomi Klein on Donald Trump and the new shock politics
    Thu, Jul 06, 2017

    Earlier this week we recorded a special episode of the Intelligence Squared podcast at the Acast studio in east London. We were joined by author and activist Naomi Klein and BBC economics editor Kamal Ahmed as they discussed Klein's bestselling new book 'No Is Not Enough'. In this wide-ranging discussion, Klein sets out her view of Trump as the ultimate megabrand. To her, Trump’s presidency is not an aberration – it's the culmination of recent political trends and amounts to nothing less than a giant corporate takeover of America.Will Trump-style politics become the new normal, or – however unstable the world feels right now – can progressives unite to to defeat what Klein calls the new politics of shock and fear?

  • Sheryl Sandberg, Malala Yousafzai and Adam Grant on Facing Adversity, Building Resilience And Finding Joy
    Thu, Jun 29, 2017

    ‘I learned about the depths of sadness and the brutality of loss. But I also learned that when life sucks you under, you can kick against the bottom, break the surface and breathe again.’ – Sheryl SandbergSheryl Sandberg is the COO at Facebook and international bestselling author of 'Lean In'. In 2015 disaster struck when her husband, Dave Goldberg, died suddenly at the age of 47. Sheryl and her two young children were devastated, and she was certain that their lives would never have real joy or meaning again. Just weeks later, Sandberg was talking with a friend about the first father-child activity without a father. They came up with a plan for someone to fill in. ‘But I want Dave,’ she cried. Her friend put his arm around her and said, ‘Option A is not available. So let’s just kick the shit out of Option B.’Everyone experiences some form of Option B. We all deal with loss: jobs lost, loves lost, lives lost. The question is not whether these things will happen but how we face them when they do. Sandberg’s new book, 'Option B', weaves her experiences of coping with adversity with new findings from her co-author, the award-winning psychologist Adam Grant, and other social scientists. The book features stories of people who recovered from personal and professional hardship, including illness, injury, divorce, job loss, sexual assault and imprisonment. These people did more than recover – many of them became stronger.In this special Intelligence Squared event on June 24th, Sandberg was joined by Malala Yousafzai, the Pakistani schoolgirl who was shot by the Taliban for speaking up for women’s education. She refused to be silenced, and her recovery, bravery and stoicism have made her an international role model. In 2014 she became the youngest ever winner of the Nobel Peace Prize. Sandberg and Yousafzai, in conversation with Grant, will explore how even after the most devastating events, we can learn to find deeper meaning and appreciation in our lives and rediscover joy. They will discuss how we can help others in crisis, raise strong children, and create resilient families, communities, and workplaces. Many of these lessons can be applied to our everyday struggles, allowing us to brave whatever lies ahead.

  • Daniel Dennett on Tools To Transform Our Thinking
    Thu, Jun 22, 2017

    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.In 2013 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.

  • It's time to bring Russia in from the cold: Rapprochement is in the West's best interests
    Thu, Jun 15, 2017

    Is it in the West’s interests to bring Russia in from the cold? Or should we be on our guard against an ascendant, belligerent country on Europe’s borders?For this major debate, Intelligence Squared put together a stellar line-up. Making the case for rapprochement with Russia was Vladimir Pozner, one of Russia’s best known television journalists and a former advocate for the Soviet Union, and Domitilla Sagramoso, a leading expert on security in Russia; arguing against them were Michael Hayden, former director of both the CIA and the NSA, and Radek Sikorski, who was Poland’s foreign minister from 2007 to 2014.

  • Europe on the Edge
    Thu, Jun 08, 2017

    What’s happening to Europe? The fall of the Berlin Wall in 1989 was seen as a triumph for liberal democracy. True, the ‘end of history’ narrative didn’t play out across the world as many predicted. But in Europe political liberalism seemed unshakable, supported as it was by international business and transnational organisations such as the EU and NATO.But now Europe stands at a precarious moment. Anti-establishment and anti-EU political parties are on the rise. Brexit and the presidency of Donald Trump add to the uncertainty. Europe seems to face a near near-constant threat of terrorist attacks. And while Marine Le Pen didn’t sweep to victory in the recent French presidential election, the new president Emmanuel Macron faces an uphill battle to fix the French economy and reform the EU’s institutions. If he fails, Le Pen could be well set to win the presidency in 2022.How can we account for this surge of support for far-right and populist parties in Europe? Conventional wisdom has it that it is only in times of economic hardship and high unemployment that these groups begin to gain ground. That may be true of France, which took a serious knocking in the 2008 crash and has a high rate of joblessness. But the Dutch sit comfortably high in all the OECD rankings for income levels, employment and life satisfaction. And look at Poland, a country initially seen by the west as a post-communist success story. Although it has been largely unaffected by the Eurozone crisis and has no immigration as such, a xenophobic, authoritarian government is now in charge.In this major Intelligence Squared event, we brought together a star panel to explore the reasons behind the rise of populism in Europe and to discuss where the continent is heading next. Are terrorist attacks the new normal in Europe? How will the continent deal with the effects of continuing large-scale immigration and its entrenched economic woes?

  • Can innovation transform London into a carbon neutral city?
    Thu, Jun 01, 2017

    Could London be the first carbon neutral city? Listen to this exciting debate hosted by Intelligence Squared. Gadget guru Jason Bradbury is the chair, plus guests including award winning actor and broadcaster Richard Ayoade.

  • Fake News: The Facts
    Thu, May 25, 2017

    There are lies, damn lies, and then there’s fake news. Manipulating the facts for political gain is as old as politics itself, but due to the rise of social media and search engine algorithms false stories can now spread like wildfire. In the run-up to the US presidential election, more people on Facebook engaged with fake news than they did with fact-checked media outlets. And according to a study by Stanford University, fabricated news items favouring Donald Trump were shared 30 million times during the campaign. In the recent French elections, a quarter of the political stories shared on Twitter were based on deliberate misinformation. Fake news was even broadcast live on television during the second-round debate, when Marine Le Pen alluded to a false online story that her rival Emmanuel Macron had an offshore bank account in the Bahamas.Welcome to the world of ‘alternative facts’, where conspiracy theories, false claims and dodgy statistics proliferate. This phenomenon doesn’t just undermine the work of the mainstream media: it may have devastating consequences for democracy itself. Our system depends on citizens making electoral decisions based on facts. What happens when people don’t know what to believe? Fake news – often linked to Russian interests – has become an increasingly effective instrument of propaganda to create chaos and weaken the public’s trust in democratic institutions.Can anything be done to combat the new post-truth politics? Tech giants such as Google, Facebook and Twitter are hosting, propagating and monetising ‘clickbait’ stories. Will they eventually come to acknowledge that they are no longer neutral platforms directing traffic to news sites and admit that they are media organisations with all the responsibilities that implies?

  • 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.

  • 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.

  • 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.

  • 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?

  • 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.

  • 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.

  • 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 ( 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.

  • 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.

  • 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.

  • 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?

  • 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.

  • 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.

  • 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.

  • 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.

  • 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.

  • 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.

  • 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 essentialPolitical leaders should be accelerating local start-ups in both the economic sector and the social sector, to build resilient and prospering citizensThe ideal skill set for the jobs of the future is ‘stempathy’: science, technology, maths — and empathyJoin 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.

  • 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.

  • 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.

  • 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.

  • 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".

  • 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...

  • 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...

  • 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...

  • 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...

  • The Rise of Populism and the Backlash Against the Elites, with Jonathan Haidt and Nick Clegg
    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.

  • No Backsliding On Brexit: Britain Should Prioritise Controlling Its Borders Over Staying In The European Single Market
    Fri, Nov 18, 2016

    Intelligence Squared brought 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 did battle over this all-important decision, and star BBC World News presenter Zeinab Badawi was 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.

  • 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...

  • 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...

  • 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).

  • 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...

  • 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...

  • 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...

  • 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...

  • 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...

  • 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.

  • 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?

  • 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 HarariYuval 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...

  • 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...

  • 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."

  • 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.

  • 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.

  • 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...

  • 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...

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