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News Formats Change, But the Content Stays the Same

June 02, 2015

I recently attended an Intelligence Squared debate over whether “smart technology is making us dumb.” Those who argued that it was said we’re too distracted by our phones to think long and hard about serious issues, and also because something something selfies. But the Pew study finds that between the selfies, Millennials are actually reading more serious news that challenges their point of view. Millennials report seeing more political news posts on Facebook than older generations, and they're more likely to report seeing posts that do not support their views. Only 18 percent of Millennials say they always or most of the time see posts that support their politics.

Is Smart Technology Making Us Dumb? Take Our Poll.

June 01, 2015

I attended a recent Intelligence Squared debate at the Kaufman Center in New York City on this question: Does smart technology make us dumb?

Two sets of panelists argued pro and con in front of a sold-out crowd. The audience was an integral part of the evening because it voted on who won the debate. After listening to both sides, how would you vote? Take our poll at the end of this story to tell us.

The Fatal Conceit of the “Right to be Forgotten”

March 17, 2015

Intelligence Squared hosted a lively debate last week over the so-called “Right to be Forgotten” embraced by European courts—which, as tech executive Andrew McLaughlin aptly noted, would be more honestly described as a “right to force others to forget.” A primary consequence of this “right” thus far has been that citizens are entitled to demand that search engines like Google censor the results that are returned for a search on the person’s name, provided those results are “inadequate, irrelevant, or no longer relevant.” In other words, if you’re unhappy that an unflattering item—such as a news story—shows up as a prominent result for your name, you can declare it “irrelevant” even if entirely truthful and ask Google to stop showing it as a result for such searches, with ultimate recourse to the courts if the company refuses. Within two months of the ruling establishing the “right,” the company received more than 70,000 such requests.

The Right to Be Forgotten from Google? Forget It, Says U.S. Crowd

March 12, 2015

The University of Oklahoma expelled two fraternity members this week after video of them leading a racist chant went viral. Now, a Google search of the young men’s names shows the incident right at the top of the results.

But should this still be the case in 30 years? Should future employers and girlfriends be able to use Google to easily discover the video? Or would it be better for the U.S. to create a law to allow such men, one day in the future, to cloak their youthful misdeeds?

On Wednesday night at the Kaufman Center in New York City, the Oklahoma frat brothers were discussed as part of a larger debate over whether it’s time for the U.S. to adopt a “right to be forgotten” law to help people hide their past.

Experts Debate Whether 'Right to Be Forgotten' Should Be Adopted in the U.S.

March 12, 2015

The “right to be forgotten” should be adopted in the U.S. because Americans deserve the ability to exercise control over their personal data. Then again, the right to be forgotten could be seen as a form of censorship that aims to conceal past news. At least that's what four privacy and technology experts debated Wednesday night.

The experts considered whether the ruling should be (hypothetically) implemented in the U.S. Organized by Intelligence Squared, a live New York City audience served as the barometer for which side won the debate. Before any words were exchanged, 36 percent believed the U.S. should adopt the ruling; 26 percent were against it, and 38 percent were undecided.

Amazon and Its Friends

January 26, 2015

During the 2012 campaign, Mitt Romney made an off-the-cuff comment about how “corporations are people.” He was mocked but perhaps was ahead of his time. A few years later, corporations are not only people but our friends.

Forget about same-day delivery of diapers or reconnecting with your high school girlfriend or publishing those novels without the aid of an editor or bookstore. The greatest achievement of Silicon Valley has been the marketing of Silicon Valley. Google, Apple, Facebook — they all assert they exist for your benefit, their only goal to amuse and enlighten and help you. To be, in short, your best buddy.

The tech world’s devotion to its customers was put to a vote this month in Manhattan, at one of the Intelligence Squared series of debates. The evening’s topic: “Amazon is the reader’s friend.”

For those nostalgic for last year’s clash between Amazon and Hachette, the debate — expertly moderated by the ABC news correspondent John Donvan — replayed the brawl. The self-published novelist Joe Konrath and the Vox editor Matthew Yglesias argued in favor of the proposition; the novelist Scott Turow and the former New Republic editor Franklin Foer argued against.

Is Amazon a Hero or Monster?

January 16, 2015

A passionate New York debate interrogates Amazon’s dominance in the book market—is it delivering well-priced books efficiently, or a greedy, rapacious behemoth?

What is the true nature of—the online retailing colossus that, like a massive corporate python, has swallowed up the book industry virtually whole?

In terms of cognitive dissonance, it would be difficult to match Thursday night’s Intelligence Squared debate on the proposition, “Amazon Is The Reader’s Friend.”

Is Amazon the Reader’s Friend? – Liveblog

January 15, 2015

I took a wrong turn on the subway and reached Brooklyn before I realized I was a long way from the Kaufman Center in Manhattan. I arrived late at the Intelligence Squared debate on the resolution “Amazon is the Reader’s Friend.”

We are now into questions from the audience. It’s been a fantastic discussion, organized in classic debate style with some innovations introduced by the steady, savvy moderator, John Donvan.

Arguing for the resolution are author Joe Konrath and journalist Matthew Yglesias. Arguing against are author Scott Turow and Franklin Foer, former editor of The New Republic. Here’s what’s happening…

Does The Mass Collection Of Phone Records Violate The Fourth Amendment?

October 10, 2014

Some very smart people try to make the case that gobbling up phone data on all of us isn’t really a constitutional case. Let’s see if they convince you…

Intelligence Squared held a debate on exactly this topic. If you’ve never checked out Intelligence Squared, I highly recommend it. Imagine a televised argument, except instead of sound bytes spewed by yelling heads, accomplished experts calmly and rationally hash out the issues with enough time to guarantee that nuance isn’t sacrificed to make time for another commercial.

VIDEO: Yes, Mass Collection of U.S. Phone Records Violates the Constitution

October 08, 2014

A resounding win! A Philadelphia audience sided squarely with team civil liberties in a debate hosted yesterday by Intelligence Squared. Arguing for the motion, "Mass Collection of U.S. Phone Records Violates the Constitution," were ACLU staff attorney Alex Abdo and Elizabeth Wydra, chief counsel of the Constitutional Accountability Center. They faced off against John Yoo, a former Justice Department attorney known for authoring the Bush-era torture memos, and Stewart Baker, former NSA general counsel.


October 08, 2014

A strong majority of audience members thought mass collection of U.S. phone records violates the constitution’s Fourth Amendment protection against unreasonable search and seizure following an Oxford-style debate on the topic last night sponsored by Intelligence Squared, which is affiliated with NPR. The motion — “mass collection of U.S. phone records violates the Fourth Amendment” — polled at 46 percent among audience members before the debate and at 66 percent afterward. Arguing in favor of the motion were ACLU staff attorney Alex Abdo and Elizabeth Wydra, chief counsel for the Constitutional Accountability Center. Opposing it were former NSA general counsel Stewart Baker and John Yoo, a former Justice Department lawyer best known for writing the Bush Administration memo justifying enhanced interrogation of terror detainees that critics have dubbed torture. Before the debate, 17 percent of audience members opposed the motion and 37 percent were undecided. After the debate, 28 percent opposed it and 6 percent were undecided.

This week on MOOCs, ep. 6

May 07, 2014

Is it really a question of bricks vs clicks? In a debate at Columbia University, the question whether it would be bricks or clicks — in other words campus vs MOOCs — in the future of higher education, the clicks won. Now, in all fairness, I believe that the future of (higher) education lies in combining both (and add in other elements) to get the best outcomes for students, but nevertheless the debate, as reported on in the New Yorker, is an interesting one.

Professor Makes Sure There’s No Disconnect in Her Online Program

May 05, 2014

Beyond issues of retaining students, critics also raise concerns about whether online education provides effective ways to learn and whether it affords students the personalized attention they deserve. Those issues were debated earlier this month at an Intelligence Squared U.S. Debates event, titled “More Clicks, Fewer Bricks: The Lecture Hall Is Obsolete,” at Columbia University.

How to Get a Campus Feeling in a MOOC

April 25, 2014

You can never recreate or replace the accelerated learning effect of being able to interact with your teacher and fellow students in person - in physical proximity. At least, this is an argument that is often used by those who are not big fans of MOOCs (massive open online courses). The last time I saw it was in an article about the Intelligence Squared debate at Columbia University on the question: 'bricks or clicks?' But, in our connected world, does that really hold up?

Are College Campuses Obsolete?

April 22, 2014

On one recent night, the Intelligence Squared U.S. debate series put forth a motion on Columbia University’s campus: “More Clicks, Fewer Bricks: The Lecture Hall Is Obsolete.” This is heavily contested territory, as both the setting and the style of the debate reflected. Columbia itself is the owner of quite a few nice-looking bricks, but, only last month, the university signalled its intention to start producing online courses. The Intelligence Squared events are inspired by traditional Oxford debates, decided by the votes of the audience, but they’re judged electronically. The points and counterpoints were streamed and tweeted live, but in tone the evening still evoked the charm of a winsome classroom professor: percussive jazz-fusion tracks piped in before, friendly anecdotes during, and a reception, in lieu of office hours, after.

Is It Time To Dismantle the Lecture Hall?

April 03, 2014

As higher education evolves, has the lecture hall model become obsolete? In a debate hosted by Intelligence Squared on the campus of Columbia University, two teams of academic experts squared off to settle that question.

Intelligence Squared U.S. Audience Agrees that “When It Comes to Politics, the Internet Is Closing Our Minds”

April 18, 2012

Last night, Intelligence Squared U.S. continued its spring 2012 season with a victory for the motion “When it Comes to Politics, The Internet is Closing Our Minds.” In the final tally, Eli Pariser and Siva Vaidhyanathan won the Oxford-style debate by convincing 25% of the audience to change their minds and oppose the motion.

The Web Is Turning Us Into Narrow-Minded Drones

April 18, 2012

If you live in Manhattan and get hungry for pizza, you’ll probably want your Google search for “pizza” to return local results. In fact, the more the search engine knows about your location and preferences, the better off you are. But does the same hold true for politics? Should Internet companies aim to serve you the news stories that best suit your taste? Think of Tuesday’s Slate/Intelligence Squared live debate in New York as a contest between pizza and politics.

Worth Watching: Pariser, Vaidhyanathan, Morozov and Weisberg On Whether the Internet Is Closing Our Minds

April 17, 2012

They say that anyone who knows what’s good for him will avoid arguing on the Internet. But what of arguing about the Internet? That’s what four net-centric thinkers — board president Eli Pariser, “Googlization of Everything” author Siva Vaidhyanathan, Slate’s Jacob Weisberg and “Net Delusion” author Evgeny Morozov — did Tuesday at an Oxford-style debate organized by Intelligence Squared U.S. and held here in New York.

Defining and Debating Cyber Warfare

April 15, 2012

Cyber warfare is a hot topic in the security industry, but what does this term actually mean? At what point does a cyber conflict become a cyber war? Are cyber threats, cyber attacks and cyber espionage acts of cyber war? Many of these questions need to be discussed – and that discussion is about to take place.

Does the Internet Narrow Our Political Horizons?

April 09, 2012

Does an Internet that cloisters us in ideological cocoons hurt our political life? Or are the Web’s skeptics just the latest in a long line of alarmists who don’t understand how technology is transforming civic discourse for the better? Optimists cheer the way social media and blogs have broadened our horizons beyond a handful of news networks. They insist that personalization enriches (but does not replace) a responsible media diet and that chance still rules the Web. On April 17, four writers and cyber-philosophers will cross swords over these issues at the next Slate/Intelligence Squared U.S. live debate.

Intelligence Squared, Cyber Warfare and Entertainment Extravaganzas

June 16, 2010

I attended the Intelligence Squared debate on Cyber Warfare on June 8, in Washington, DC. Those of you who read my blogs regularly know that I am an avid podcast listener (I have a one-hour commute each way to work). One of the podcasts in my regular rotation is the Intelligence Squared debates.

The "Cyber War Threat" Debate

June 10, 2010

I mentioned back in April that I was going to be out of DC on June 8 -- but that if I had been around, I would have been sure to attend the Intelligence Squared debate at the Newseum on the motion that "The Cyber War Threat Has Been Grossly Exaggerated." Well, the results are in, and the "against the motion" side won big.

In Debate, Audience Finds that the Cyberwar Threat is Not Exaggerated

June 09, 2010

Resolved: The cyberwar threat has been grossly exaggerated. True or false?
That was the question put to four top security experts last night in a public debate at the Newseum here in the nation's capitol. The debate, which was organized by the Intelligence Squared U.S. Foundation and sponsored by Neustar, was designed to cut through the hype surrounding cyberwar and help determine how serious the threat might be.

Threat of Cyber War is Real According to Audience in Washington D.C.

June 09, 2010

On Tuesday evening, a standing-room-only crowd at Washington, DC’s Newseum heard four of the country’s leading cyber experts discuss key issues related to the threats and challenges of the nation’s cyber security as they debated the motion “The cyber war threat has been grossly exaggerated.” The team arguing against the motion carried the day.

Cyber Threats Yes, But Is It Cyber War?

June 08, 2010

Last night Intelligence Squared and Neustar conducted a fascinating, Oxford style debate on whether the threat of cyber war has been exaggerated. A packed house at the Newseum in Washington, DC heard four cyber heavyweights go toe-to-toe verbally both for and against the proposition that the threat has been exaggerated. The audience size was all the more impressive considering the competition on a very big night in DC—Stephen Strasberg was making his major league pitching debut, Conan O'Brien was in town and there was also a James Taylor/Carole King concert.

I’m Not Going To Be in D.C. on June 8….

April 13, 2010

... but if I were, I would be sure to go to this debate, by the US branch of the Intelligence Squared debate organization, on the proposition that "The cyber war threat has been grossly exaggerated."

Intelligence Squared U.S. Travels for First-Time-Ever to Washington D.C.

April 11, 2010

Intelligence Squared U.S., the Oxford-style debate series, an initiative of The Rosenkranz Foundation, announced today that it would travel to Washington, D.C. to host its first ever debate outside of New York City. On June 8, IQ2US will present a special live debate from Washington D.C.'s Newseum. With corporate underwriting support from Neustar, Inc., the debate will consider the motion, "The cyber war threat has been grossly exaggerated."

Debating the Vices and Virtues of Google

November 19, 2008

The question on the table is "Google violates its 'don't be evil' motto."