Index of Discussion Topics
proposed and discussed by participants in Adelaide Lunchtime
Seminar meetup from
+ topics from earlier meetup series
[ An extra set of topic questions for English as a Second Language learners is online here]
Adelaide Lunchtime Seminar Topic
5 March 2018 :
Complexity - change yourself (and the world)
AQ&A Topic 15 Date:
19 February 2018 : Imagination exercise: What Startup would you
like to start up?
AQ&A Topic 14 Date: 5
February 2018 : No hiding place: Have you been milkshake-ducked?
AQ&A Topic 13 Date:
22 January 2018 :
Money has made
us human(e). Disagree if you dare
AQ&A Topic 12 Date 8 January 2018 :
Have You Been
Socially Engineered by Governments & Companies?
AQ&A Topic 11 Date: 27 December 2017 : Lazy and Stupid Saves Us All
AQ&A Topic 10 Date: 11 December 2017 : A Short History of the Future
AQ&A Topic 9 Date: 27 November 2017 : The Blowback from Punishment
AQ&A Topic 8 Date: 13 November 2017 : Outsiders and Ritual Followers
AQ&A Topic 7 Date: 30 October 2017 : Humans as Predators - a net plus or a minus?
AQ&A Topic 6 Date: 16 October 2017 :
Is Time Wasting a Waste of Time?
AQ&A Topic 5 Date: 1 October 2017 : China - Friend or Enemy? Neither or Both?
AQ&A Topic 4 Date: 17 September 2017 : A citizen of the world? .. of a country, a town? So what is a citizen anyway?
AQ&A Topic 3 Date: 3 September 2017 : Maybe "God" is a brain bot for avoiding responsibility ..
AQ&A2 DATE: August 20 2017 Topic: The War on Terror - does it make sense?
AQ&A1 DATE: August 6 2017 Topic: The Contest for Competence
EH6 DATE: July 23 2017 Topic: Bamboozled ! Finding a way through double talk
Let's explore the infinitely deceptive and confusing answers that can be given to the most innocent of questions.
EH5 DATE: 9 July 2017
Topic: Creatively destroy a short talk by Thor: “The holiday business – do holidays actually change people?”
EH4 DATE: 25 June 2017
Topic : History shows that humans have never found a way to choose the best leaders for anything, or even the best partners. ( .. the aim is for those who come to the meetup to formulate ten questions which will throw light on the topic before allowing themselves to debate, express opinions and discuss. The underlying objective is to foster skills in framing interesting questions)
EH3 DATE: 11 June 2017
Topic : There are so many competing sources of information and distraction now that the idea of a “common culture” is nonsense. ( .. the aim is for those who come to the meetup to formulate ten questions which will throw light on the topic before allowing themselves to debate, express opinions and discuss. The underlying objective is to foster skills in framing interesting questions). [Post-meetup sub-questions by Thor on Common Culture]
EH2 DATE: 4 June 2017
Topic : Equality is a myth ( .. the aim is for those who come to the meetup to formulate ten questions which will throw light on the topic before allowing themselves to debate, express opinions and discuss. The underlying objective is to foster skills in framing interesting questions). [Post-meetup sub-questions by Thor on Equality]
EH1 DATE: 21 May 2017
Topic : Money - past, present & future ( .. the aim is for those who come to the meetup to formulate ten questions which will throw light on the topic before allowing themselves to debate, express opinions and discuss. The underlying objective is to foster skills in framing interesting questions). [Post-meetup sub-questions by Thor on Money]
QE8 DATE: 14 May 2017
1. How can people, projects, organizations, countries .. be both a success and failure at the same time? Think of examples, and what can be done about failure as a partner of success? [Thor] = sub-Questions & references about simultaneous success and failure @ http://thormay.net//unwiseideas/DiscussionTopics/QESUB-QUESTIONS/Failure&Success.html
2. Where will we go after we achieve all we want (at this moment) in our life? [Min, Thor] = sub-Questions & references about success @ http://thormay.net//unwiseideas/DiscussionTopics/QESUB-QUESTIONS/AfterSuccess.html
My background for this question is that I have a Chinese supervisor. He immigrated in Australia in 1989. Now he is a professor in Uni. He is a typical successful migrant here. He came here with nothing, owns his own gorgeous house in Adelaide, has 2 lovely daughters, a well-paid job in university, high status and a good reputation...
Everything he has is all I'm chasing now. I'm trying so hard to graduate, to find a great job, to have beautiful children, to be a successful person. [But] I have never thought about what I'm going to do if I achieve everything.
QE8 DATE: 30 April 2017
1. What is the best way to ask interesting questions, and why bother anyway? [Thor] = sub-Questions about Reasons for Asking Questions @ http://thormay.net//unwiseideas/DiscussionTopics/QESUB-QUESTIONS/HowToAskQuestions.html
2. What is the meaning of universities apart from learning knowledge, which may never be used in your life? [Min, Thor] = sub-Questions & references about the meaning of universities @ http://thormay.net//unwiseideas/DiscussionTopics/QESUB-QUESTIONS/WhyUniversities.html
QE7 DATE: 23 April 2017 [nil attendance - cancelled]
QE6 DATE: 3 April 2017 [nil attendance - cancelled]
1. Is personal threat (or its disappearance) usually the main driver of action or belief? … or stated in a more colourful way: "Knowing that you will be shot at dawn concentrates the mind wonderfully" - How useful is this idiom as a guide to management and self-management? [Thor] = sub-Questions about Threat driving behaviour @ http://thormay.net//unwiseideas/DiscussionTopics/QESUB-QUESTIONS/Threat-as-a-driver-to-action.html
Here are some example propositions that flow from it (they might or might not be true):
a) "The great handicap of the welfare state is that it takes pressure off individuals to exercise initiative".
b) "Australian's are basically lazy because there is always a way to get by in this country".
c) "Traditional religion has been fading for 300 years because the fear of early death has lost reality for the young (with increasing lifespans )."
d) "Trumpism's assault on democracy and truth-telling is leading to an urgent rebirth of democracy and truth-telling".
Are humans too successful as a species?
war and disease, will we simply breed ourselves out of a food
supply? Can/should populations be controlled locally and/or
= sub-Questions about Human Futures @
2. "Why is it that the worlds greatest advances in technology,
social welfare and human rights have been invented and
implemented by people's and cultures who live in temperate and
colder climes, above and below the tropics of Cancer and
Capricorn, the Equatorial zones seemingly having the least in all
of the above.
Do climatic conditions affect the so called
advancement of the human species.? '" [Suzanne Moore] =
sub-Questions about Climate Vs Social Development @ http://thormay.net//unwiseideas/DiscussionTopics/QESUB-QUESTIONS/ClimateVsTechnoogyVsCountries-19March2017.html
3. “Let's question our current energy market. What are
it's discrepancies? Why are we having issues with It now?
5 March 2017
The American President has declared that journalists are "the
enemy of the people". Is this simply unhinged, or is there
an argument to be made here? What is the proper function of the
4th Estate in the 21st Century and how is that role to be
formally accommodated? [Thor] = sub-Questions about Journalism
How do we get new ideas? Ideas "come" to my mind at
times ... but do these ideas "come" from an external
source or do "I think" of those ideas? - because I
hardly ever sit down to say OK now I am going to sit down and
"think of an idea" but it usually just "comes"
while busy with something completely irrelevant. If it just
"comes" from somewhere then am I entitled to claim
ownership of it? [Amir] = sub-Questions about New Ideas
3. It is not long since President Donald Trump
signed an executive order formally withdrawing the United States
from the 12-nation Trans-Pacific Partnership trade deal. So lets’ discuss the Trans-Pacific Partnership with an unbiased approach.
= sub-Questions about New Ideas @
Do you think that America will be like Scandinavia, and reinvest
a portion of the profits reaped by greater access to Asian
markets on economic growth, unemployment benefits, worker
retraining and government programs? Or
b) Do you
think that America will call those things socialism, ignore the
problem, and allow large companies to reap the economic rewards
unmolested which would eventually be a failure of
4 How have we allowed our
democracy to be so partisan? There is virtually no debate simply
a statement of ideological position which instantly makes the
argument - I'm right, therefore you must wrong. Socrates'
associates understood the concept of 'statesmanship', the concept
of acting for the state, not themselves or individualistic
agendas. Is this why we see the dissatisfaction and frustration
with current politics leading to the simplistic extremes of Trump
and Hanson. I'm sure you all get my drift .. [Bryn] =
sub-Questions about New Ideas @
February 19 2017
The past year has been awful in the middle east with the
Syrian/ISIS etc conflicts. Can Islam (as a religion) overcome the
political extremist (Islamist) outworkings seen in this area and
carried abroad by terrorism? Will it be possible for Muslims to
be accepted into other cultures and societies as being seperate
from the extreme or is the hegemonic already fact? [Bryn] =
sub-Questions about confirmation bias @
America’s Trump is opinionated to the point of wanting to
be President, yet can/will only read single page bullet point
summaries on anything. This is not unusual among management, let
alone employees. The average reading age of a tabloid reader
(e.g. of Adelaide’s The Advertiser) is 11 years. Almost
half of Australians are functionally illiterate (can’t read
the stuff on a jam jar label). What are the consequences of low
literacy, and what (if anything) can be done about it? [Thor] =
sub-Questions about confirmation bias @ http://thormay.net/unwiseideas/DiscussionTopics/QESUB-QUESTIONS/Literacy.html
29 January 2017
1. "Accordion to scientific studies, 90% of the people do not
realize I replaced the beginning of the sentence with an
instrument" [stolen from a Facebook post :) ]. What are some
uses and abuses of perceptual error? - Note: perceptual error is
not just for party games. It is a major element in all kinds of
institutions and processes. [Thor] = sub-Questions about
confirmation bias @ http://thormay.net/unwiseideas/DiscussionTopics/QESUB-QUESTIONS/Perceptual-Error.html
To what extent does Confirmation Bias influence our lives? What
do we do with it? I have been reading some articles related to
this concept and finding it very interesting as to its nature of
interconnectedness to heaps of other subjects, such as decision
making, rigid and set ideas compassing your life path, and the
notion of getting out of your comfort zone and suchlike. [Sophie]
= sub-Questions about confirmation bias @
Does our apprehension of beauty have an objective foundation in
external reality, or is it purely subjective, i.e. all in the
mind? [Bernard] = sub-Questions about Beauty @
15 January 2017
What do you find funny? Where does that kind of humour place you
in the human zoo? [Thor] = sub-Questions about Humour
If there was any really serious conflict between USA and China
where would Russia sit? - I am always fascinated by the love/hate
- dependence/conflict avoidance relationship between China and
Russia and the twisted history those two nations have.
3. To what extent does Confirmation Bias
influence our lives? What do we do with it? I have been reading
some articles related to this concept and finding it very
interesting as to its nature of interconnectedness to heaps of
other subjects, such as decision making, rigid and set ideas
compassing your life path, and the notion of getting out of your
comfort zone and suchlike. [Sophie] - not yet discussed || =
sub-Questions about confirmation bias @
What lies beyond our observable universe? [Vee] = sub-Questions
about confirmation bias @
What does Universe mean...Mmmmm - UNI - meaning ONE
meaning SONG - Why was Space called One Song?
questions. .. [Enzo]
6. Does our apprehension of
beauty have an objective foundation in external reality, or is it
purely subjective, i.e. all in the mind? [Bernard] =
sub-Questions about Beauty @
7. "Is a big Australian population a good thing or not?" [John]
Discussion Topics, plus links for
the Active Thinking meetups, Adelaide and Brisbane, and Brisbane
Gentle Thinkers before those (most recent discussions at
with the topics already discussed below, I have added links
to articles and notes which
were intended to facilitate discussion. For most of these meetups
I prepare some personal notes, also linked here, and/or an actual
essay. A number of these essays have received wide subsequent
circulation through my Academia.edu repository at
do brains go wrong? Who decides?“All
the world is mad but you and me, and even you are a little
strange..” Unbalanced mental states range all the way from
depression to killer crazy. In Australia in any given year 4
million people will experience a mental illness, and 1 million
Australians have a disabling psychiatric disorder. The favoured
treatments of the age are mostly pharmaceutical. How smart is
Trust Problem. Some people and some countries have it. Some
do you trust? In a society, less trust = more laws. Signals of
trust change between cultures, and even social class. In some
countries public trust is almost zero. Also, can a “Facebook
friend” or a face from TV be really trusted? An Internet
romance? For some, religion signals trustworthiness. What is your
solution for building trust in a complicated world?
28 , 2016 Donald
Trump has won the US presidential election (imagine)! An
attempt to outline some scenarios, blow by blow, over the next
four years under a Trump presidential regime. [Australia may be
faced with some very tough choices]
14 , 2016 What
drives fashion – in clothes, ideas, behaviour, motor cars,
and all the rest. What forces work to disrupt it? How important
is fashion, and to whom?
31 , 2016 How
are children shaped ?
kind of world we live in, whether it be work or play or love or
even politics and the fate of communities, depends a lot on the
experiences we had as children. Can or should this be influenced
beyond the family? If so, how and by whom?
17 , 2016 Is
globalization a failure, or can something worthwhile be rescued?
a generation globalization has been sold as the yellow brick road
to prosperity. What exactly is globalization? Can its benefits be
cherry-picked? Where do we go from here?
3 , 2016 Count
your lucky starsWhat
part does luck play in the success of individuals, enterprises
and countries? Think of examples. From politics to careers to
finding the love of your life, there has never been more advice
available, yet at the end of the game, some people seem to have
been lucky and others not. Why is this so? Can you really do much
22 , 2016 What
is the best way to fund research, and what kinds of research
should be funded?
are many kinds of research and many kinds of people involved in
research. Sometimes what seems useless at the time can have huge
consequences a generation later (and sometimes not). Some
research results which seem a triumph at the time are show
useless by later developments. A career in research requires
dedication and talent, but is highly risky in terms of personal
and institutional success. How can all of these factors be
8 , 2016 A
Universal Basic Income. $400 per week indexed to the CPI
everyone $400 per week (current age pension), rich or poor,
indexed to the CPI. Governments print the money (they do now),
and the money goes around. You have an economy. Employers pay a
margin above the UBI to attract workers if they want them
(overall probably cheaper for them than now). A true market then
controls most working conditions, not the current blackmail.
Centrelink (now a failed organization) not needed. Tax system
simplified. Automation taking jobs doesn’t matter. Health
costs fall. People can choose to learn, grow and think. Free
university & tech (like Germany). Employment for
satisfaction, more money and/or career interest.
24, 2016 Prisons:
so what is to be done?
costs … taxpayers $109,782.60 a year – or $301.60
each day - to keep a prisoner "on the inside",
according to the Australian Productivity Commission.
it costs $49,700 – less than half - to provide that
prisoner with rent, food, a small four-cylinder car and money for
any degree in Australia for a year”. [Brisbane Times 28
10 , 2016 What
is right and what is wrong in the training of medical doctors?
somewhere out there in medical-land there is a useful answer for
many medical questions, but experience (mine at least) suggests
that odds of finding a GP who knows is often slim. For someone
with basic research skills, good answers tend to come better (and
more cheaply!) from “Dr Google”. Also Dr Google soon
shows up where the science is not settled (most issues), but
doctors rarely do. Nor will they debate the evidence.
27 , 2016 Questions
about Cities -
are a complicated and fascinating subject. They pose endless
questions. For example, as individuals, are our life
opportunities more defined by particular cities than particular
countries? How much loyalty and sweat should we invest in a
particular city? What makes a good city? How important is it for
a city to be well-known, and what can they do about it? The UN
lists 4,416 cities in the world with a population of over
150,000. The biggest (Tokyo and Jakarta) have over 30 million
people. Cities usually want to be “recognized” to
attract some kind of advantage, usually economic. Is this kind of
‘city exhibitionism’ a waste of time? .. and more
questions that you can think of.
13 , 2016 Narcissism
grew like an invasive plant throughout the 20th Century. Now it
is in full bloom
a lot (not all) of “modern” art and poetry and even
music stopped saying much about the societies which hosted them
and became purely self indulgent, often pompously “abstract”.
This mirrored a lot (not all) of what was happening in many areas
of academic work, and a lot (not all) of what was happening in
so-called high finance. When the digital camera democratized
imagery, “selfies” (or the ultimate self-indulgence,
sexting) became the dominant form of photography. Now Donald
Trump stands on top of the American political muck heap and asks
to be anointed as the emperor of self-love.
AP8-14 February 28, 2016 How much history should we expect most people to know, and what kind of history? It is often said that history is written by the winners. You might also say that popular history is written by Hollywood, or Facebook, or whatever political enclave you are living in .. Does any of this matter?
AP8-13 February 14, 2016 Politics and Politicians : a volatile mix?Politics is like medicine: sometimes useful, even necessary, in small amounts, but fatal if taken in an overdose. Politicians can be a useful species but are prone to going feral. Democracies often elect either mediocrities or confidence tricksters because large numbers of electors share similar qualities. In practical terms, is there a better way to manage national affairs?
31, 2016 Half
the jobs in Australia will disappear. What then?Australia
has over 600,000 not-for-profit organizations, and a quickly
expanding “sharing economy” (e.g. Uber, Airbnb,
eBay). Most of this is under the radar of news reports. What are
the signs that NFP’s and the sharing economy can become a
main career path for many when automation destroys half of normal
jobs Australia & America in the next few years?
17, 2016 What
is your understanding of “Active Thinking”?
other kinds of thinking (human or non-human) are found in the
140 people have now signed up to the Active Thinking meetup... So
let us know (actively!) what you expect to happen when you and a
7 other people get together in the State Library to think
actively about a chosen topic. How do you approach puzzling
topics over and above giving a simple unexamined opinion? (And
just for laughs, how might cyborgs think through things
differently?) Um, what topics are you ready to think about
3, 2016 Adelaide
seems to be a media-challenged cityThere
are road accident reporters, but there do not seem to be
investigative journalists and insightful commentators who
interpret the city to itself. What is to be done?
20, 2015 When
does security become insecurity?
6, 2015 The
Peculiar Interest of God(s) in Human Morality
22, 2015 What
are the limits of tolerance? -
we reconcile “live and let live” with “drawing
a line in the sand”?
8, 2015 What
is your best list of stupidities? What are your cures?
25, 2015 When
should collective interests (e.g. those of a state) override the
interests of individuals?
Many Americans see “the right to bear arms” as a
triumph of individual rights over the collective rights of the
11, 2015 Is
a modern culture without advertising possible or desirable?.
27, 2015 Why
have men (not women) made the most inventions?" (Support
12, 2015 Can
Change be Managed? If
so, How and Why? If not, well Bye-bye?
30, 2015 and
are for the obedience of fools and the guidance of wise men”.
can we interpret Bader’s idea?
25 , 2015 - Start
your own business – a mental experimentImagine
that you are starting a new business. What would it be? Why did
you choose it? Why would you choose a personal enterprise over
working for somebody else (or why wouldn’t you)? What
rewards would you be looking for? What personal costs would you
be prepared to tolerate? Would you attempt it alone, or would you
look for partner(s)? What are the ways you could fund such a
startup? Would it be local, or seek a wider market? .
11 , 2015 - Is
the “white noise” of daily media distraction
deliberate social control, or just modernity out of control?Everyone
has only 24 hours in a day. In many countries the sheer struggle
to survive occupies most waking hours. In some others, any “free
thinking time” is carefully manipulated by state directed
activities, propaganda and censorship. A possible third model is
that ruling elites and governments may prevent criticism by
distracting the main population with sports, entertainment and
endless trivial ‘news’.
28 , 2014 - Why
do people take up religions, persist with them, and abandon them
you think of religions personally, or any particular religion,
they seem to have been around forever amongst (most) humans, and
seem unlikely to go away entirely amongst the species as a whole.
Clearly though, particular cultures in various historical phases
have many members who are attracted to religions or substitute
ideologies, but tend to drift away from them in other phases. At
a different level, women seem to be the most persistent believers
by numbers, but religious hierarchies are almost always
controlled by (humourless old) men… What is it in
human psychology that generates these religious phenomena?
14 , 2014 - When
is censorship acceptable? Justify your argument
years ago the biggest social debates were about the acceptability
(or not) of censorship related to sexuality. Now the
preoccupation might be more with political censorship. There are
many kinds of censorship, including self-censorship. Who should
be drawing these invisible lines in the sand, and applied to
30 , 2014 - Should
University Education Be Free? If not, why not?
the rocketing prices of tertiary education and the availability
of free online open courses, will university education become
obsolete? What needs to change in the system to adapt to the new
realities of the workplace and technology?
2 , 2014 - How
can Australia best arrange its international relationships?
World War II Australia’s leaders have consciously
positioned Australia as a client state of the United States of
America. Defence forces are totally integrated, and foreign
policy rarely deviates from the American line. Australia’s
commercial culture is America writ small. Is this American
patterning the best option for Australia in the future?
19 , 2014 - Does
travel broaden the mind or just confirm prejudices?
5 , 2014 - DEBATE TOPIC BAT 6. The
most ordinary people, their job is not something that they enjoy
much. However, without formal work they lose focus, become
dependent on welfare, and become socially stigmatized. It seems
that increasing numbers of people will never be able to have
secure employment. What is a practical, long term national
solution to “the work problem” for ordinary people?
21 , 2014 - DEBATE TOPIC BAT 5. Fake
It ‘Till You Make It – A viable way to succeed?It’s
all around us. From face lifts to luxury cars on hire purchase,
from inflated CVs to exaggerated job titles, from company
publicity material to the spin that governments put on their
failures and deceptions. At what point does fakery become fraud?
Would the world be a duller place without it?
7 , 2014 - DEBATE TOPIC BAT4. Multiculturalism
is a Flawed DoctrineNote:
moderating this meetup topic, and has prepared a thorough set of
24, 2014 - DEBATE TOPIC BAT3. Property
and life choices .
does owning (or not owning) real estate, and mortgage debt,
influence the behaviour of individuals in their wider lives? What
are the consequences of these patterns for whole nations?
10, 2014 - DEBATE TOPIC BAT1. The
Purpose of EducationIs
education most commonly treated purely as an instrumental tool
(e.g. to get a job), or as a path to self-development, or both?
How can a balance between objectives be achieved in public
July , 2014 - DEBATE TOPIC BAT1. What
are some illusions that Australians live by?What
are some illusions Australians live by? .. and why would we want
to dispense with illusions?
Think of the imaginary countries
we live in. Do all those people you pass on the street every day
have their heads in the same place that you do? What are some
consequences of NOT sharing the same illusions?
April , 2014 - DEBATE TOPIC 75. When
do ends justify means?Sooner
or later everyone – individuals, governments, companies – has to make choices about whether to put aside certain values to
achieve a desired end. Michael Pascoe, an Australian financial
journalist, has recently discussed this at http://www.brisbanetimes.com.au/business/comment-and-analysis/abandon-principles-and-pay-the-price-20140331-35tz4.html
April , 2014 - DEBATE TOPIC 74. Learning “grit” is the best way to beat failure and succeed
have you managed your failures, and has failure made you a better
person? Everyone fails at something sooner or later. The
important thing is how they handle failure. A recent educational
fad in America is to teach students “grit” (http://www.npr.org/2014/03/17/290089998/does-teaching-kids-to-get-gritty-help-them-get-ahead
those who are unclear, here are a couple of definitions of "grit" from the Internet:
- "firmness of mind or spirit : unyielding courage in
the face of hardship or danger"
and passion for long-term goals"
March , 2014 - DEBATE TOPIC 54. Are
diet and exercise really personal choices?
human epidemic of obesity / near-obesity has correlated worldwide
with the spread of manufactured food & beverage, and
motorized transport. Diet & exercise though seem to be
intensely personal choices. How can this dilemma be solved?
March , 2014 - DEBATE TOPIC 72. How
Do We Judge Literary and Artistic Value? Are they entirely
February, 2014 - DEBATE TOPIC 42. Are
we too wealthy?
we demand an unsustainable and unrealistic quality of life? Does
our desire to be wealthy place too much pressure on the economy
and on the environment? Is it possible that we may have to think
about accepting less (proposed by Bill)
February, 2014 - DEBATE TOPIC 48. How
Can We Treat Refugees Humanely (proposed
January, 2014 - DEBATE TOPIC 50. People
should require a licence to become parents
January, 2014 - DEBATE TOPIC 70. What
will be the dominant ideologies of the 21st
by Bill [topic 12], modified by Thor)The
20th Century revolved politically around
competing interpretations of Capitalism, Communism, Socialism and
Fascism. These are all ways to organize the lives of people on a
large scale. Are real alternatives or new interpretations likely
to emerge in the challenging years ahead? What might they look
December, 2013 DEBATE TOPIC 64. How
far should we go in raising an indifferent public’s
awareness of important social, moral or political issues?
believe “ignorance is bliss”, and the more they know
the more they get worried. On the other hand we definitely can’t
be indifferent about many things. From a social perspective,
through which we try to manage our relationship with others in a
friendly manner, what is the borderline between legitimate worry
(which leads to taking action) and indifference (which preserve
peace of mind, at least in the short term)? Is it morally
permissible to encourage other people to worry about certain
issues, say global warming, human rights, animal rights, etc. to
precipitate effective action? Should we consider them selfish if
they are innately not concerned about such issues, or merely show
30 , 2013 DEBATE TOPIC 65.
Meaning in Life
have a short physical existence on a planet that will eventually
cease to support life at all. In this context, what strategies
should humans use to impart meaning to their own lives? Some
possibilities are listed. Which of these have you used, and how
effective have they been? Are different approaches appropriate to
different stages of life?
Compete with other humans (e.g. for status)
B. Care for
other humans (e.g. as a humanitarian)
C. Maximize close
connections with other humans (e.g. with a love partner)
Maximize positive subjective experiences (e.g. “be happy”)
E. Align yourself with what you believe to be a higher
purpose (e.g. politics)
F. Adhere to a set of
rules/standards (e.g. moral precepts)
G. Attempt to create
something that will outlive you (e.g. art)
H. Invest in the
next generation of humans (e.g. your biological offspring)
16 , 2013 DEBATE TOPIC 15.
the recent presidential debates in the USA the Republican party
expressed their wish to make abortion illegal once more, with an
exception for cases where pregnancy was the result of rape or
abuse. Do you think this line of reasoning makes sense? Is it
enforceable? Is this even an issue that warrants the government’s
3 , 2013 DEBATE TOPIC 45.
love an evolutionary instinct?
is it an innate, unconscious impulse that has been encoded into
our genes over millions of years as a mechanism to ensure the
survival of (the whole or individual members of) the species? Or
is there more to it? Is there another way to explain it? Do all
animals experience love?
19 , 2013 DEBATE TOPIC 46. Some
people consider themselves to be “spiritual”. What
does this really mean?
5 , 2013 DEBATE TOPIC 29. It
is OK to use animals in research if it benefits humans.
22, 2013 DEBATE TOPIC 22. Democratic
societies are less likely to make war than dictatorships. What is
8, 2013 DEBATE TOPIC 53.
is creativity? How can it be taught?
is it important? And should creative, arts and performance skills
be a compulsory part of the education curriculum? (proposed by
Bill & Thor; discussed 8 September 2013)Politicians
and management gurus tell us endlessly that innovation is
critical to national survival. Yet innovation requires
creativity, and creativity needs a mindset which does not usually
spring from accountants and process workers. In fact, the most
dynamic part of many economies worldwide is (and always has
been) found in arts, music, film, performance skills, inspired
writing (imaginative or non-fiction), and fine design of all
kinds. Should these activities be purely for an elite, or should
they be funded and nurtured for everyone within the national
24, 2013 DEBATE
TOPIC 34. Is
English the most important language in the world?
English the most important language in the world? Is all language
translatable? Which parts of which languages are incompatible
with other languages and how do different groups of individuals
deal with that? Will globalization accelerate the loss of certain
native languages? What are the consequences of focusing on
learning the dominant languages and not focusing on preserving
10, 2013 DEBATE TOPIC 23: Economies need a high level of
government interference. [.. expanded and posted on the Internet
Complexity and the Engine of Psychology
most economically successful societies have always depended upon
a high level of government collusion with commerce and industry,
if not control. This argument is a way of saying that the “invisible hand” of the market is not enough to
maintain an efficient market, at least beyond village level.
There has to be an independent umpire, or forced control
(dictator, mafia … )
27, 2013 DEBATE TOPIC: 30. Ethical
Behaviour is Harder for the Rich.
[.. expanded and posted on the Internet]
13, 2013 DEBATE TOPIC 33: Is there any alternative
government structure better than democracy? What’s beyond
democracy? Is it important to have everyone’s voice being
heard or is it the majority opinion that counts? Does the whole
voting system represent a nation? What if voting is not
compulsory in Australia? See The
Democracy Problem [posted
on the Internet]
29, 2013 DEBATE TOPIC 6: What is the purpose of dreaming?
(i.e. what evolutionary advantage would a dreaming creature have
over one that does not dream?) There are many existing theories,
such as emotional reboot, building neural networks for visual
processing, etc., but there is o genuine consensus on the issue.
For a personal perspective on nature of dreaming, see Comments
on Dreaming [notes
15, 2013 Debate topic 5: Is there intelligent life
elsewhere in the universe? Or was the development of life on
earth a complete fluke, a once only event, which happened against
all odds, and is never likely to occur again anywhere in the
universe? Is the search for life elsewhere in the universe a
waste of time, money and resources? Or is it an important
endeavour? For reference, see my summary notes on a lecture by
Stephen Hawking, online @ Life
in the Universe .
1, 2013 Debate topic 4: Are antidepressants
overprescribed by doctors? Are they masking a person’s true
problems? What about the serious side effects? Should they be
given to children as young as 5 years old? Can we trust
pharmaceutical companies to do their own trials? Why is it
governments are not providing more money to relationship
education, emotional intelligence, resilience, and counseling to
help prevent depression.
19, 2013 Debate topic 3: Western civilisation is
often held up as an example of having achieved gender equality.
Do you think we have reached that point as a nation? Is such an
ambition even a real possibility? If it is, what does it look
4, 2013 Debate topic 2: The line ‘No man is an
island’ from a John Donne poem has become famous largely
because so many recognise it to be true of the human experience.
Why is it that we gravitate towards being in relationship with
others? Why is ‘community’ so important to and for
us? What would society look like (would there in fact be a notion
we could call ‘society’) if each of us operated as
‘an island’? For some informal personal notes on this
topic, see No
Man is an Island online].
20, 2013 Debate topic 1: Are we
responsible for our actions in all circumstances. Is there any
time we are not. Do we have free will or is everything
predetermined? Does anything happen randomly? Some personal notes
on this topic are here.
(However the notes barely skim the topic, and contain a summary
of complexity theory which will not make much sense to anyone who
did not participate in the debate).
6, 2013 General discussion.
other websites by this author, Thor May, firstname.lastname@example.org :
Historical: This web page exists as a record of discussion topics. The discussions have occurred in a series of meetups. The origin was a meetup which still occurs bi-weekly in Brisbane, Australia, called Gentle Thinkers (http://www.meetup.com/Gentle-Thinkers/ ). The Gentle Thinkers Brisbane meetup is now not associated with this topic list, but the old topics, up to number 79, have been retained for reference. The Gentle Thinkers connection was followed by a new meetup, Brisbane Active Thinkers. The Brisbane chapter of Active Thinkers was closed when I transferred to Adelaide, but the topics discussed are retained here. Adelaide Active Thinkers followed the format of the Brisbane model, but I closed it after a year. I tried a couple of other experimental formats, Question Everything and Eh, Why Do You Think Like That? Questions from all the earlier formats are retained here. These previous meetups have now been succeeded in Adelaide by a new meetup, Adelaide Question & Answer. AQ&A offers a topic question each time, plus a set of about ten sub questions as a focusing mechanism. The hope is that people who come will at least Google the topic before arriving so that we can share their new knowledge.