Each IAI Live event is a full evening's entertainment - featuring the headline debate, speaker sessions, introductory talks, documentary screenings and the opportunity to join the debate yourself in our social spaces. All taking place within a totally unique virtual reality venue.
IAI Live is back for 2021, with our next event taking place on the 19th of April. Below find our past events, browse the high calibre debates IAI Live has had to offer, and get a hint of the big ideas our next events will explore.
You can get access to all these fantastic events with an IAI Live subscription, plus catch up on previous events on the IAI Player, for just £9.99 a month.
Status and Wonder
From the school curriculum to government spending, the arts are a largely peripheral activity. Often seen as a luxury for the privileged and second to productive work. Yet at the same time, from the great art galleries to the latest music and films, art is revered both in status and in monetary value, and its authors celebrated more widely than any other walk of life.
Should we see art as vital and central to our lives and our culture? Should it be placed as much at the heart of education as reading, writing and mathematics? Or is the importance we give to art and artists a largely empty form of celebrity that has little lasting worth and is a product of fashion, accident and a desire for status?
The Necessity and Danger of Belief
Once faith was revered. Now in a secular age, it is seen by many as an irrational dedication to an unproven belief. Yet science, Marxism, and liberalism, all rely on core beliefs that are unprovable. And to live without belief in anything at all would be considered empty and meaningless.
Should we accept that an element of faith is required whatever our perspective, and embrace the comfort and purpose that stems from unqualified belief? Or is this to undermine the very idea of knowledge and progress, heralding a world where evidence means nothing and only rhetoric matters?
Drugs, Death and Hypocrisy
Alcohol and tobacco are the drugs of choice for much of the Western world. Even though they are remarkably deadly. The WHO estimates that alcohol alone kills 3 million annually - that's more than the number that have died from Covid in the last year. Yet at the same time Western nations have carried out a war on the recreational drugs of other nations, such as cocaine, cannabis and heroin, for half a century. Sometimes with boots on the ground, more commonly with economic and legal barriers.
Should we end this hypocrisy by recognising the dangers of alcohol and tobacco by ceasing to export them to other nations or more radically by making them illegal? Or should we accept that the policy is economically unjust and cease to constrain the trade in recreational drugs of whatever type and from whatever nation?
The Search for Well Being
More of us are engaged in the search for mental well being than ever before. And psychotherapy is on a roll. At last count, there were more than 250,000 psychotherapists in the US alone, offering everything from cognitive behavioural therapy to neuro-linguistic programming, mindfulness to psychoanalysis. Yet psychotherapists don't seem a very well adjusted bunch themselves. Three-quarters have experienced major distress in their lives in the last 3 years, their divorce rate is 51% higher than the general population and they are twice as likely to have experienced depression.
Is the very fact that therapists suffer, and admit to suffering, what makes them better placed to help others? Or should we be more sceptical of the boom in psychotherapy, when studies show in the long term it is often no better than visiting your doctor? Should we see the search for well being as a response to society's fragmented and isolating culture and would we be better to focus instead on social change to help make us well?
Passion, Action and Hypocrisy (previous event)
From family feuds to Twitter tirades, many speak passionately about the need for change, and draw inspiration from individuals who risked life and limb for progress. Yet few act on their beliefs, other than the occasional vote, and many continue to participate in systems that they publicly condemn and deem unjust.
Are we cowards, hypocrites or worse? Should we accept that we don't have the answers and leave it to those elected to find solutions to intractable problems? Do we have to recognise that individuals don't have the capacity to change the course of history and find contentment in living according to our own values in our own lives? Or is it the duty of all citizens to act on our beliefs and do all we can to change society in ways we think necessary?
Hosted by journalist and broadcaster Isabel Hilton,
American primitivist ecophilosopher John Zerzan, Novara Media co-founder Aaron Bastani, banker turned Buddhist nun Emma Slade, and former UK Liberal Democrat leader Vince Cable.
In association with:
The Survival Paradox (previous event)
We are working toward a true account of the universe, and the world we see around us is an accurate picture of reality. Or so most of us believe. At the same time we think we, along with our experience, are a product of evolution. Yet evolution is driven by survival not by truth. Some scientists go further and argue that evolution rules out even the possibility that we experience an accurate and true account of reality.
Should we conclude that while our biology enables us to successfully function in the world, our experiences and theories are illusions rather than truths? Is the theory of evolution itself flawed, unable to account for the truth of the theory itself? Or can we fashion a new account of ourselves that would give us a better way to understand both who we are, the process of evolution, and our relationship to reality?
Hosted by documentary film-maker David Malone.
Distinguished Professor of Philosophy Graham Harman, Associate Professor of History and Philosophy of Science Mazviita Chirimuuta, and cognitive psychologist Donald Hoffman.
Our Saviour or Our Downfall (previous event)
From climate change to nuclear weapons, surveillance to resource depletion, science is increasingly in the firing line. As a result, many are highly critical of science and the organisations it is seen to sustain - from agribusiness and military spending to big pharma and big tech. Yet faced with a global pandemic the same critics look to science for the solutions, to find a vaccine, to create drugs to fight the disease, to efficiently manufacture and distribute billions of items of protective equipment.
Should we end the hypocrisy and see science as our saviour? Or have technological advances led humanity into a dark and troubling world from which we need to reverse? To avoid these polarised options, can and should we intervene to direct and control the way science is used and by whom? And if so, is the politics of science and technology central to the future?
Biologist and evolutionary theorist Bret Weinstein, inventor of voice assistant SIRI Luc Julia, genetic researcher Güneş Taylor and Flint water crisis whistle-blower Marc Edwards. Mary Ann Sieghart hosts.
Getting Real about Global Power (Previous Event)
Is the West irrelevant?
Many argue that the West is in decline, some go further claiming the Asian age has already begun. Yet US politics dominates the media. Are we in denial? Does the West cling to the idea of dominance fearing the reality of a radically different future? Or is the end of the West overdone?
Is it time to recognise that it is just not that important who the US president is, or what American policy is in the world? Should we be focussing on China, and its recently announced 5 year plan to triple GDP by 2035 and its 'civil-military strategy' to use technological advance to strengthen military power? Or does the US remain the most influential country in the world and will it remain so for decades to come?
Former UK Foreign Secretary Malcolm Rifkind, China reporter and broadcast editor at The Spectator Cindy Yu, writer and historian Michael Pembroke, and Global Reporting Centre collaborator Melissa Chan get real about global power. Rana Mitter hosts.
Consciousness and the World (Previous Event)
Almost from the outset of Western thought we have distinguished between our experience and the world, between the subjective and the objective, between consciousness and material reality. Yet, the connection remains profoundly puzzling. We have sought solutions - from modern day materialists and neuroscientists who argue the self is an illusion, to philosophical idealists who claimed everything is subjective, to the mind/body dualism of Descartes.Yet, none have managed a credible solution to the mystery of consciousness and its relationship to an external reality.
Might the very distinction between subject and object, conscious experience and the world, be the mistake? Can we formulate a new conceptual framework that might enable us to escape the puzzle? Or will advances in neuroscience and AI enable us find an answer to a puzzle that has dogged us for millennia?
Post-postmodern philosopher and renowned critic of philosophical realism Hilary Lawson, author of the NYT Bestseller '‘Conscious: A Brief Guide to the Fundamental Mystery of the Mind’ Annaka Harris, Iranian philosopher and the author of 'Intelligence and Spirit' Reza Negarestani, and computer scientist, researcher, and proponent of "metaphysical idealism" Bernardo Kastrup debate Consciousness and the World.
The Rational Animal (Previous Event)
Humans are rational animals. Or so many would have us believe. Yet, during the pandemic decisions by individuals, institutions and governments are rarely driven by the data. Do you know the relative risk of taking the vaccine, and not taking it? Or will you just wait to see what others, experts and celebrities, do? Are you aware that the risk of dying from alcohol and tobacco related diseases in 2020, some 8.5 million people last year, was five times the risk of dying from covid, with 1.6 million deaths?
Do we all need to wise up and get more rational about our decisions and the risks we do and don't face? Or are humans evolved to make social and emotional decisions, relying on the value and importance of crowd responses? And more fundamentally which is the best strategy for survival, emotion or reason?
Dan Ariely, the James B. Duke Professor of Psychology and Behavioral Economics at Duke University, Paul Bloom, the Brooks and Suzanne Ragen Professor of Psychology and Cognitive Science at Yale University, and Patty Kostkova, Professor in Digital Health and the Director of UCL IRDR Centre for Digital Public Health in Emergencies debate if humans are truly rational animals. Güneş Taylor, training fellow at the Francis Crick Institute, hosts.
Language and Power (previous event)
We think sharing experience is essential to being human. At an individual level, we share experience to get to know others and understand them. Political experience is shared to build community and solidarity. Yet from the taste of an apple to giving birth, we know we cannot fully describe experience to one who has not already had it. And many now maintain the experience of discrimination and other cultures can only be understood by those who have experienced it.
Is the idea that we can understand the experience of others the liberal fantasy of a white, male, privileged elite? Should authors limit their writing to experiences they have undergone or fall within their culture? Or is this a recipe for division and conflict? And instead do all we can to share experience and build a common language to understand each other and the world?
John McWhorter is an American linguist, who claims many social problems faced by Black America are driven by black culture rather than external racism.
Laurie Ann Paul is a philosopher, cognitive scientist and expert in transformative experience. Author of ‘What you can’t expect when you’re expecting’.
Kehinde Andrews is Britain’s first Professor of Black Studies, an expert on empire who argues capitalism and The Enlightenment are profoundly racist.
Mary Jane Rubenstein is a Professor of religion, philosophy, science studies and gender studies, specialising in the mythological and theological legacies in contemporary philosophy and science
Designer Babies (previous event)
Nazi talk of a master race, and the atrocities it spawned, have led us to be appalled by the idea of eugenics and the proposed manipulation of human reproduction to 'improve' the species. Yet, 83% of women have pre-natal tests for 'abnormalities' including Downs Syndrome, and if diagnosed the great majority then chose to have terminations. Meanwhile, sperm banks allow the selection of characteristics that include, height, eye colour, ethnicity and intelligence.
Are we hypocritical to condemn past figures such as Churchill for sympathising with eugenics while applying eugenic principles in our personal lives? Should we regulate pre-natal tests, terminations, and sperm banks more tightly? Or should we extend further our ability to precisely determine the character of our children?
Hosted by Emily Grossman, a science author and broadcaster with a PhD in genetics. She is best known as a resident science expert on Sky1's Duck Quacks Don’t Echo and for her best-selling children's book Brain-fizzing Facts: Awesome Science Questions Answered, which was recently shortlisted for the Teach Primary Book Awards.
Kári Stefánsson is the pioneering founder of Iceland’s deCODE Genetics, and a leading figure in the hunt for human disease genes.
Rebecca Bennett is a bioethicist and critic of prenatal screening practices, arguing they're too currently too eugenic.
Jacob Appel is a polymath, who controversially advocates mandatory genetic profiling in IVF to eliminate genetic defects, as well as genetic enhancement to promote equality.
Simon Baron-Cohen is a world-leading expert on autism, founder of the UK’s first diagnosis clinic for people with Asperger syndrome, and a neurodiversity campaigner.
Put your questions directly to the panel in an exclusive speaker session after the debate. Meet and carry on the conversation with other attendees in unique social spaces. And close the evening with an exclusive screening of landmark documentary Eugenics: Science's Greatest Scandal, courtesy of our friends at DOKBOX.
Being Good and Being Authentic (Previous Event)
The idea of a strict personal moral code based on an unchanging set of universal rules is seen by many as old fashioned and Victorian. Yet most of us retain the desire to be a good person, and morality is often cited to support political and cultural opinions and actions.
Is this a hypocrisy designed to make us look good but avoiding having to change our own behaviour? If we are to make use of the notion of morality must we see morality as a universal set of rules or law that applies to all in all circumstances? Or can we endorse a personal morality that is sustained by the consistency and integrity of the individual to give it force and value?
Legendary feminist writer Julie Bindel, renowned moral philosopher, Jonathan Wolff, and Tory party Rising Star Jesse Norman MP join host Mary Ann Sieghart to debate if morality should be universal or personal.