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An Intriguing and Intelligent Discussion
Clive Hamilton, Kristin Alford, Signe Dean, Toby Walsh at the IQ2 Debate on The Future of Humanity. Image by Jade Jackson Photography.
Organised by The Ethics Centre, the IQ2 Debates attempt to challenge assumptions, explore important issues, and promote intelligent discussions - not just on the night, but to ideally promote change, or at least, instill a higher awareness.
This debate asked the question, What is the future of humanity? Are we destined to create our own demise or will we continue on, through some miraculous technological advancement? It was not about providing all the answers but to get people thinking - what kind of future do we want and envision for ourselves? Should we even be planning for the continuation of the human race?
Note: Quotes may have been edited for length and or clarity.
The IQ2 Debate on the Future of Humanity was held at the Sydney Town Hall. Image by Jade Jackson Photography.
There were four key speakers, Kristin Alford and Professor Clive Hamilton were for the argument; We're doomed to extinction, whilst Professor Toby Walsh and Signe Dean were representing the opposing side; We'll carry on, like we always have.
Each attendee was polled prior to entry about which side they agreed with before the debate; 51% of attendees thought humans were doomed, 25% thought we'd somehow carry on, and 24% were undecided.
The guest speakers had eight minutes for their opening argument, which was followed by open questions from the audience. Futurist and TEDxAdelaide Host, Kristin Alford is of the mindset that, "human's are wired for the quick hit, the instant gratification. We plan for the short term without much thought for the future. We don't know what we don't know and we don't see the things we're not looking for. Don't accept that progress is linear."
Kristin Alford speaking at the IQ2 Debate on The Future of Humanity. Image by Jade Jackson Photography.
Toby Walsh, Professor of Artificial Intelligence at UNSW, opened with the statement that, "many people think old times were better, but nostalgia isn't what it used to be. Right now, we're living in the period with the least violence, the least amount of genocide; civil war has been reduced ten-fold, and over the past twenty-five years, one billion people have been lifted out of extreme poverty. Simply, we designed a better future."
He went on to say, "with that, came universal education, labour laws, and the welfare state. We designed a system so we'd all benefit, so I'm confident we'll design something again."We should look after our ability to design a better future."
Professor of artificial intelligence at UNSW, Toby Walsh at the IQ2 Debate on the Future of Humanity. Image by Jade Jackson Photography.
Clive Hamilton, Philosopher and Professor of Public Ethics at Charles Sturt University surmised, "with technology, we have this idea that like Voltaire's character, Pangloss [from the novel, Candide]SIC 'everything will turn out fine in the end.' However, right now, we have two lunatics who have instilled a fear of incineration, at any moment."
Clive continued with, "antibiotics are so overused, the bugs that used to be killed by it, have created superbugs. Artificial Intelligence (A.I.) is the next big thing but the military have the biggest interest in A.I. and you can't appeal to the humanity of a machine."
He went on to ask, "is technology making us happier? Older generations couldn't do their banking online, couldn't use an app to shut the curtains at home, whilst they are elsewhere, but they were happier, than we are now."
Professor Clive Hamilton speaks at the IQ2 Debate on The Future of Humanity. Image by Jade Jackson Photography.
Science and Health Journalist Signe Dean, opened with, "how do we envision the future? What do we want it to be? We are fixing things as we speak. The future is notoriously difficult to predict, there are many variables based on the past and what we now know."
Signe continued with, "what we see in the headlines, about A.I. taking over, is far from reality, and it's easy to be despondent. The constant flow of information can be misleading; most progress has been in the past 100 years. As a journalist, I like to imagine a big picture newspaper which includes headlines such as 'millions of lives have been saved because of vaccines,' as an example, the Global Polio Eradication Initiative by the WHO, reduced polio cases from 350,000, when the program was started, down to 37 cases last year."
Signe believes, "humans never give up, poverty, violence and inequality are all declining; we've survived a lot and with further initiatives like the Paris Climate Agreement, we've proven we can act globally. If we can't solve it, we adapt, that's what we do as humans."
She finished with, "Last year, growth of renewables overtook fossil fuels for the first time. Do you really think humanity is doomed? We've already designed a better future."
Science and health journalist, Signe Dean at the IQ2 Debate on The Future of Humanity. Image by Jade Jackson Photography.
The open questions and statements by audience members brought up topics including:
Shouldn't we build in the prevention rather than constantly fixing stuff?
Most arguments have reduced humanity to Silicon Valley, but we're bigger than just apps or websites
Could the seemingly increased cases of mental health issues like PTSD and depression be not necessarily a rise in cases but more an openness and willingness to discuss and acknowledge the issues? Is it safe to use this as a measurement against past happiness? As it wasn't measured previously
Technology might allow us to communicate more, but the pressures of life are more intense and more people are lonely
If technology allowed us to live forever, the absence of death would create a social catastrophe
Professor Toby Walsh and Journalist Signe Dean at the IQ2 Debate on The Future of Humanity. Image by Jade Jackson Photography.
Going into the debate, I was undecided. I could easily see how humanity could end up destroying itself; however we have the capabilities of producing geniuses, who can think beyond the ordinary and as such, we have the ability to create solutions, to continue for aeons.
The debate brought about more questions than it provided answers but as the purpose was to ignite intelligent discussions; it started a deeper thinking, that will continue over many dinners, lectures and pubs.
Despite being a heavy topic, it wasn't all doom and gloom. There were plenty of laughs and unlike Parliament question time, all discussions were respectful.
The highlight of the evening was leaving with the combined sense that together, we can make a difference; we can create change, and after being reminded of what humans have accomplished over the past hundred years, there was a renewed belief that humans have the ability to construct, but also adapt, thereby surviving whatever happens to come our way.
Philosopher Simon Longstaff, host of the IQ2 Debate on The Future of Humanity. Image by Jade Jackson Photography.
At the end of the night, 9% of attendees were still undecided, 42% were against the idea that we're doomed and 49% thought that humans were devising our own demise.
Of course, one of the final questions by an audience member summed up the night perfectly, "if Earth ends up destroyed and unlivable, and a thousand people end up living on Mars - as per Elon Musk's vision; which side wins the debate?"[/B] To which Simon responded, [I]"does it even matter, if humans cease to exist?" Definitely something to ponder over.
THE IQ2 Debates will continue in 2018. If you purchase a season package from $49, it includes a ticket to all four debates. A substantial discount compared to the standard price of $39 for each debate.
The program for 2018 includes
27 March - The Tech Giants (Should we break up the Google's and Facebooks of the world before they take over?)
5 June - Capitalism (Is the system working? How could we do it better?)
28 August - Energy (What is the future of energy? Are we travelling the right path to meet our needs?)
23 October - Feminism (How far has feminism come? Is the idea working or not?)
Have your say and continue the discussion. What are your thoughts? Are humans heading towards extinction? Or will our ability to change and adapt, see us continue for thousands more years? Pop your thoughts and answers in the comments section below:
The IQ2 Debate on The Future of Humanity was held at the Sydney Town Hall. Image by Jade Jackson Photography.