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The 10 Moments that Defined IQ2US Debates in 2010s

IQ2US Staff
Tuesday, December 31, 2019

The 2010s were a decade of transformational change in format, platform, content, and structure for Intelligence Squared U.S. In the span of 140 debates, we tackled fundamental questions about the effects of technology, religion, the meaning of death, free speech, the role of regulation, and the changes in our political parties and body politic writ large. These moments highlight a mix of foundational shifts within Intelligence Squared, cultural and political shifts in the country and the world, and illuminate the nuance between these debates that we continue to grapple with today.

Islam Is a Religion of Peace (2010)
To date, “Islam Is a Religion of Peace” remains our most popular debate in Intelligence Squared U.S. history. And it’s no wonder. In the middle of an intensifying threat from al-Qaeda and other terrorist organizations, the world's most popular religion remained at the heart of political debate both in Washington and beyond.

The Two-Party System Is Making America Ungovernable (2011)
We love a nonpartisan debate, especially when it gives Arianna Huffington and David Brooks cause to join the same team. That’s exactly what happened in 2011, when they teamed up to argue that that two-party system had made the country ungovernable. Almost ten years and two presidents later, partisanship continues to calcify. Is the two-party system failing? We’ll be exploring with a fresh debate in 2020.

Ban College Football (2012)
College football has exploded over the course of the last half-century into a billion-dollar industry, replete with sponsorships, extensive recruiting machines, and multi-million-dollar television deals. In the seven years since we held this debate, the New York Times has reported on a degenerative brain disease, also known as C.T.E., that is reportedly caused by repeated blows to the head. According to Dr. Ann McKee, a neuropathologist, these findings have ended the debate on the damage football causes to its players. And yet, college football continues to grow. Does the sport provide young men with access to higher learning that they may not have otherwise? And at what cost?

The GOP Must Seize the Center or Die (2013)
After a disappointing electoral year in 2012, the Republican Party seemed to face an existential crisis about its future. Should it continue to be uncompromising on issues like immigration, the environment, and minority rights, or had the party grown moderate and waffled on core issues to conservative voters? Predating the dramatic change since the election of Donald Trump in 2016, this debate framed the changes soon to overtake the party.

Genetically Modify Food (2014)
Genetically modified foods have been around for decades but have become ubiquitous in grocery stores across the country in the last decade. With that ubiquity came a backlash, as consumers grew concerned about their safety, their impact on the environment, and the larger socio-economic impact of having food controlled and grown by multi-national conglomerates. The debate ended up being so strong on both sides that even Bill Nye changed his mind (moving in favor of GMO’s).

Smart Technology Is Making Us Dumb (2015)
When we held this debate in 2015, Instagram had less than half the users is has today (1 Billion+), the iPhone was only on version 6, Amazon Alexa and Google Home were just being introduced to homes, and a euphoric wave of techno-optimism still swept over America. At the outset of this transformational phase, we put that optimism up for debate.

Free speech Is Threatened on Campus (2016)
Free speech, the embrace of conflicting ideas, and open dialogue are cornerstones of our mission at Intelligence Squared U.S. In 2016, the debate over speech, censorship, and political correctness on college campuses was growing more contentious, so we decided to go straight to the source and hold a debate at Yale University.

Unresolved: Trump’s First 100 Days (2017)
This debate was the first of its kind for Intelligence Squared U.S. To tackle President Trump’s first 100 days in office, we rolled out a new format that brought five debaters to the stage to debate – independently – four questions.

Negotiations Can Denuclearize North Korea (2018)
While President Trump was negotiating with Kim Jong-un, we teamed up with Georgetown University to host a debate on just what those negotiations might accomplish, and where they might fail. In keeping with the theme of the Women’s Forum, the debate featured an all-female panel as well as a female keynote speaker, Suki Kim, who lived undercover in North Korea.

IBM Project Debater (2019)
Could a machine change your mind? For some in our live audience, that’s exactly what happened when we teamed up with IBM to help launch the first-ever AI system designed to debate humans. In this event, John Donvan moderated a debate with Project Debater and a world-class (human) debate champion on the value of universal pre-kindergarten.

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