Lauren on Lectures – By @laurenpeters123

Lauren Peters

By Lauren Peters


Lauren on Lectures

Looking back at my previous scabs, there is a definite theme of ‘attempted humour with very little take out’. So to compensate for the lack of substance I have opted for content over style in this instance and intend to wax lyrical re some lectures I went to. LECTURES? Oui, si, yes. Lectures.
A few weekends ago I attended the Battle of Ideas at the Barbican (, where 400-plus speakers from around the world and across disciplines took part in over a 120 hours of high-level thought-provoking public debate. Stay with me. 
As the goddess Adah said last week, ‘the point is not to provide the answers but to help ask the questions’, so under each of the 10 talks I attended I have written a series of questions for you to have a look at (or not). For those of you utterly unaroused by the prospect, skip ahead to ‘Overheard at the Battle of Ideas’ for alternative fly-on-the-wall trash. 
  1. The moral case for abortion
  • There is no denying an embryo is human DNA and a distinct combination of sperm + egg, but can you equate the death of an embryo to that of a fully formed human being? To what extent is the embryo conscious and self-aware? 
  • If women have the choice to use contraception pre-pregnancy, should they take responsibility for their actions? To what extent is abortion merely a back up to contraception? 
  • Should you deny people liberty because you disagree with what they’re doing? If yes, would you deny people the right to free speech because you disagreed with what they were saying?
  • Is abortion as safe as any other form of contraception? Should it be treated as such?
  1. Do we need a common tongue? 
  • To what extent does language allow us to explore another personality within ourselves? 
  1. The great inequality debate: are the super-rich heroes or villains?
  • Entrepreneurs such as Bill Gates and Mark Zuckerberg have become as well-known for their philanthropic foundations as for their business successes. Is the increasing influence of wealthy individuals a threat to democracy or a welcome alternative to inefficient state bureaucracies? 
  • Current discussions of inequality are top-down/elite-led. Some argue they are driving the discussion in a way that is different to old-fashioned socialism i.e. they are not fighting for equality, but against extreme inequality so as to make the public more willing to do with less. Do you agree?
  • Should people earn an unlimited amount of money in a finite world?
  • 56% of billionaires made their own money, are you surprised? 
  1. Genome editing: should we change the building blocks of life?
  • Genetically modified mosquitos? 
  1. Are young people scared of sex? 
  • Is sex still perceived as a means to procreate? 
  • How much of this can be attributed to wider social issues?
  1. Get real: where will virtual reality take us?
  • Should the ethics and morals of the real world apply to the virtual? How do you go about enforcing laws in a lawless space? Will we be prepared morally when the two worlds collide?
  • Are we moving towards an era where the virtual is more real than reality? Do we need a new category of meaning to understand the virtual as we do the real? Are we acting as ourselves or someone else in the virtual world? Where is the incentive to go and actually experience these things if you can do it from the comfort of your own home?
  • If VR is merely another level of mediated reality (a bit like having an extra octave on the piano to play with), we should be able to maintain an understanding of what is real. But what about those born into this new mediated reality, will they know the difference?
  • Are we creating a digital world we want to live in or one riddled with misogyny, racism and hate? As a parent, do you try and restrict your child’s usage or do you engage so as to better understand? Are we all going to turn into HIKIKOMORI (Japanese phenomenon of reclusive adults who withdraw from social life, often seeking degrees of isolation and confinement?)
  • Can VR be used for good – for phobias, public speaking and to encourage donations by situating people in a specific environment? Under what conditions can this be replicated? How long do these feelings of empathy last? Is it not just a high tech form of voyeurism? What are the problems of manipulating peoples’ perception? Who is using VR to obtain what? What will happened if VR gets into the wrong hands? 
  • Will VR provide a more immersive form of learning (exploring places otherwise unseen) or will it simply heighten inequality between those that can afford to learn and those that can’t? 
  • Is VR a passing trend or have enough companies expressed commitment to prevent a collapse?
  1. What is the truth about ‘post-factual politics’?
  • Why do people choose to ignore the facts?
  • Who has monopoly over the truth?
  • Is there such a thing as ‘truth’ or just ever decreasing uncertainty? 
  1. What’s God got to do with it?
  • Do the gods approve because it’s good, or do people do good because the gods approve?
  1. Is masculinity toxic for boys?
  • Is feminism emasculating men?
  • What role models exist for men today? Where do men take their cues for masculinity? 
  • Where does masculinity come from? If from fatherhood, what then for transgender men who grow up as women? Are they unable to bring up a boy as a man?
  1. Decolonising education: is the curriculum ‘too white?’ 
  • Do ideas have colour? If so, what colour are they? 
  • Is there a way of thinking i.e. white, female?
  • Do good ideas come from everyone or established knowledge? 
  • Should we be veering away from tokenism to tell history how it is? 
Overheard at the Battle of Ideas: 
  • ‘Trust me to put all my eggs in one bastard’
  • ‘Why are there no champions of abortion? Where are all the “congrats you’ve had an abortion” cards?’
  • ‘I am immensely wealthy’
  • ‘This way for the super-rich, this way for gambling’
  • ‘What is your personal map of erotic attraction?’
  • ‘Why is it that men are allowed to grow these heinous beards and women forced to remove all their hair? They look like militant jihadis!’ / ‘I’m sorry you think I’m a militant jihadi’
  • ‘The man at the back pointing at himself – yes you’ (to female audience member)
  • ‘I’m skinny now but I used to have tits and arse. I was a hottie.’
  • ‘Fact free’ / ‘Reduced fact’
  • ‘Where does masculinity come from. Is it balls?’
  • ‘Do you understand sir, if you can even call yourself sir?’ (expert to a transgender member of the audience)
£25 well spent. 

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