Intelligence Squared U.S. Is Becoming “Open to Debate”
Combating extreme polarization, information silos, and echo chambers through the framework of formal debate.
NEW YORK, April 11, 2023 /PRNewswire/ — This month, Intelligence Squared U.S., the leading nonpartisan platform for debate in the country, is relaunching under the name “Open to Debate.”
It’s not just a name change. It’s about conveying a new, more focused mission to address how historic levels of polarization are dividing our nation and how we can fix it. The key word in the new name Open to Debate is “Open.” That means open to listening. Open to disagreeing. Open to understanding. Open to learning. Open to “the other side.” Open to Debate will use the framework of formal debate produced in a variety of innovative formats to serve as a national model for how we can combat echo chambers, information silos, and the tribal mentality that is dividing the country.
“The name Open to Debate better reflects what we bring to the public square,” said Chairman Robert Rosenkranz. “A healthy democracy needs citizens who are open minded and willing to consider opposing views. It needs more critical thinking and less emotion. It needs more analysis and less ideology. It needs a contempt free zone for public discourse. On the critical issues of the day, it needs to be Open to Debate.”
“Renaming our organization has been years in the making,” said CEO Clea Conner. “We worked with experts spanning education, policy, behavioral psychology, and mainstream media to address two serious problems facing America: new, extreme levels of polarization, and the historic erosion of trust in our institutions. Open to Debate is a call to action and an invitation to listen, learn, and work together despite our differences. We’re at an inflection point in this country and hope this new brand engages more Americans in being Open to Debate.”
“We’re going to disagree. We’re going to argue,” said moderator John Donvan. “That’s just human nature, but it doesn’t have to make us hate each other the way we’re seeing. Not if we set out to argue well, and in good faith, and in a way that involves actually hearing the other side. That’s the point of being Open to Debate. So, yeah, agreement may remain out of reach, but at least we’ll understand our opponents better. And by showing respect, win their respect … and maybe even a few arguments.”
Open to Debate aims to build on 15+ years of Intelligence Squared programming by doubling down on years of data acquired through audience polling which proves that debate has the power to change minds. On average, 32% of the Intelligence Squared audience has changed their mind from one side to the other after a debate. Even those who don’t change their minds often develop greater respect for the opposing view — by encountering facts and moral arguments they had never considered. For that reason, the organization plans to increase its role in education and activism to lead improved conversations not just on the Open to Debate stage, but across the country – including in the Presidential general election debates next year.
A weekly public media program, Open to Debate will continue releasing new debates on a weekly basis across platforms: public radio (including Saturdays on WNYC), podcasts, online broadcasts, and digital video – under the new name.
The first three Open to Debate episodes are inspired by some of the most popular Intelligence Squared U.S. programs over the years. On Friday, April 14, Open to Debate will officially launch with a debate on the question “Are Men Finished and Should We Help Them?,” bringing back former debater Hanna Rosin who, subsequent to participating in the original 2011 debate “Men Are Finished,” changed her mind on the issue. The following two programs will re-examine subjects first explored in the 2013 debate “For A Better Future, Live In A Red State” and the 2019 debate “Ten Years After the Global Financial Crisis, Is the System Safer,” bringing back past debaters who have re-examined the issues since their first time discussing them and adding new voices to the conversations. Upcoming participants on the program include Bill de Blasio, Bret Stephens, Gillian Tett, Jason Furman, Len Downie, Christopher Rufo, Yascha Mounk, Mehdi Hasan, and Reihan Salam.
Other subjects Open to Debate will tackle in its first weeks include a series of debates on climate solutions, starting with carbon capture; culture queries including book banning; issues relating to governance starting with constitutional originalism; and exploring trends related to the partisan divide, specifically journalistic objectivity. New episodes will come out every Friday on the Open to Debate podcast, YouTube, public radio, and opentodebate.org.
Founded in 2006, the organization has produced over 220 debates bringing to the stage the more than 600 of the most influential in their fields: Peter Thiel, Ayaan Hirsi Ali, Ian Bremmer, Liz Cheney, Deepak Chopra, George Church, Ray Dalio, Howard Dean, Malcolm Gladwell, Melissa Harris-Perry, Arianna Huffington, Karine Jean-Pierre, David Petraeus, Nadine Strossen, Kara Swisher, Fareed Zakaria, and many more. Guest Adam Grant said, “Intelligence Squared has done for debate what TED has done for speeches: Elevated it into an artform.” The company produced the first debate between artificial intelligence and a human debater in history in partnership with IBM’s Project Debater and introduced an “Intelligence Squared Round” into New York City’s mayoral debates.
About Open to Debate
Open to Debate addresses a fundamental problem in America: the extreme polarization of our nation and our politics. We are the nation’s only nonpartisan, debate-driven media organization dedicated to bringing multiple viewpoints together for a constructive, balanced, respectful exchange of ideas. Open to Debate is a platform for intellectually curious and open-minded people to engage with others holding opposing views on complex issues. We know debate works to find common ground: On average, 32% of the Open to Debate audience changes their mind on contentious topics after hearing a debate. That’s the power of debate done right, and at scale, it can change the direction we’re headed in America. Open to Debate is broadcast as a weekly public radio program, carried on NPR stations including WNYC (#1 in the nation). Open to Debate is made available as a podcast, video series, and digital platform, and records episodes with live audiences nationwide. Visit opentodebate.org to become a member, access an archive of more than 220 debates, and attend live events.