Debate

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Debating the Constitution: Technology and Privacy

by robertrosenkranz on October 11, 2017

Robert Rosenkranz presents Debating the Constitution: Technology and Privacy.

These days, there is little that occurs without leaving some type of electronic trail. Cameras appear in buildings and on street corners, catching every move of passersby, and emails, text messages and other forms of electronic communication carry critical messages, and in some cases, details about wrongdoings, threats and crimes.

Most Americans enjoy a sense of safety and privacy when communicating via their home computers and personal cellphones, but what happens when the information contained in such communications has the capacity to cause harm to the general public? Should tech companies have to help law enforcement execute search warrants to access customer data as a matter of public safety and national security, or would doing so infringe upon the very freedoms upon which this nation is based?

Yes, tech companies should be required to help law enforcement execute search warrants to access customer data.

Arguing in favor of the motion are Stewart Baker, an attorney and former assistant secretary for policy with the U.S. Department of Homeland Security, and John Yoo, a law professor at the University of California, Berkeley, and a former attorney with the U.S. Department of Justice.

Arguments Made in Favor of the Motion

Those in favor of the motion argued that the 4th Amendment technically already authorizes law enforcement access to private data by allowing judges to grant search warrants to authorities when warranted. They noted that encrypting such data would essentially undermine the provisions of the Constitution and equated encrypted data to a “safe that can’t be cracked,” noting that it could hinder the nation’s ability to identify and prosecute criminals, exonerate those falsely accused and protect itself from potential attacks. Supporters also noted that accessing devices could allow law enforcement to gain information that would not be available through any other method and referenced the All Writs Act, which gives courts the ability to “issue orders to compel people to do things within the limits of the law.”

No, tech companies should not be required to help law enforcement execute search warrants to access customer data.

Arguing against the motion are Michael Chertoff, the executive chairman of the Chertoff Group, and the former secretary of the U.S. Department of Homeland Security, and Catherine Crump, the acting director of the Samuelson Law, Technology and Public Policy Clinic and a professor at the University of California, Berkeley, School of Law.

Arguments Made Against the Motion

Those against the motion argued that supporters’ interpretation of the All Writs Act was a violation of the 4th Amendment, noting that allowing law enforcement to access customer data would set a dangerous precedent that could have critical repercussions when it comes to consumer privacy. Opponents also argued that creating loopholes and compromising encryption to allow law enforcement to access encrypted data would also make it more vulnerable to hackers and more significant security threats and therefore prove counterproductive. Furthermore, they noted, law enforcement accessing customer data on cellphones and similar devices would violate Americans’ free expression and 1st Amendment rights.

Pre-Debate Poll Results

Prior to the debate, 26 percent of audience members were in favor of the motion, while 47 percent were against it and 27 percent were undecided.

Post-Debate Poll Results

After the debate, 36 percent of audience members were in favor of the motion, while 58 percent were against it and 6 percent were undecided.

 

 

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robertrosenkranzDebating the Constitution: Technology and Privacy

Video Games Will Make Us Smarter

by robertrosenkranz on June 16, 2017

Robert Rosenkranz introduces the Intelligence Squared U.S. Debate Video Games Will Make Us Smarter

Video games have long received blame in the media for promoting violence and desensitizing players to it, but in recent years, many video game creators have begun developing games that focus on critical social issues facing mankind, such as climate change, poverty and so on. The video game industry continues to experience considerable growth, but is this growth benefiting players and making them more in-tune with the modern social plights of humankind, or is this growth contributing to antisocial behavior among players while making them increasingly numb to extreme violence?

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Universal Basic Income Is the Safety Net of the Future

by robertrosenkranz on June 10, 2017

Robert Rosenkranz introduces the debate Universal Basic Income Is the Safety Net of the Future.

The phrase “universal basic income” is becoming increasingly well-known among Americans, thanks in large part to Facebook Founder and Chief Executive Officer Mark Zuckerberg expressing his support for the concept during his recent commencement speech at Harvard University. Essentially, universal basic income involves a country giving a set amount to its citizens each month – say, $600 – to help offset the struggles many experience because of diminishing job opportunities, a growing reliance on technology and automation and increasingly widespread poverty.

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The Neuroscience of Open-Mindedness Related to Political Views

by robertrosenkranz on February 9, 2017

Sourced from iq2us.org and Scientific Reports

Most people like to think of themselves as open-minded and rational, but a new and fascinating study reveals that the brain is neurologically hard-wired to defend political beliefs – and feels severely threatened when opposed.

In this USC-led study, neuroscientists have determined that when people’s political beliefs are challenged, our brains respond in a similar manner to personal threats. Basically, it cues the “fight or flight” survival instinct: the brain’s areas involved in personal identity and emotion senses activate in a similar manner to an attack on a deeply personal and emotional level.  How did they measure participant responses?

“In this study, we performed functional MRI to measure the brain activity of 40 individuals with strong political views as they encountered arguments against their beliefs. All the subjects were self-identified as political liberals of deep conviction. Inside the fMRI scanner, participants saw a series of statements they previously indicated strongly believing, followed by several challenging counterarguments. After participants read all five counterarguments, the original statement was shown again and they reported their post-challenge belief strength. The difference between pre-scan and post-challenge ratings was used as a measure of belief change. In order to compare high belief persistence to low belief persistence, in one condition we challenged strongly held political beliefs, and in another condition we challenged strongly-held non-political beliefs. While the non-political beliefs were just as strongly held according to the participants who held them, we did not expect these beliefs to be defended with the same vigor.”

When challenged, participants often shut down, disregarding any rational evidence that is contrary to their beliefs. Political beliefs are often so entrenched that they become unmovable, or as lead author of the study Jonas Kaplan puts it, “to consider an alternative view, you would have to consider an alternative version of yourself.”

As the study’s authors note, this shutdown of dialogue poses a serious problem for our shared future.

“The inability to change another person’s mind through evidence and argument, or to have one’s own mind changed in turn, stands out as a problem of great societal importance,” the researchers wrote. “Both human knowledge and human cooperation depend upon such feats of cognitive and emotional flexibility.”

Just look at the data from the MRI scans of brain activity:

Nueroscience Post Robert Rosenkranz

Understanding the root causes of the growing hyper-partisanship in the U.S. is the first step towards a more conscientious, participatory, and effective political discourse. In order to combat a predilection towards bickering and misunderstanding, we have to actively fight against that, keeping lines of communication open, and always focusing on civility and respect.

Thankfully, there are more than 130 debates in the Intelligence Squared U.S. Debate archive that are designed to challenge your point of view – in a way your brain will welcome. Hear both sides engage in a thoughtful, considerate and open-minded dialogue on even the most polarizing topics. We know the debate format works: more than 50% of our listeners change their minds when exposed to the other side.  Get started here.

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robertrosenkranzThe Neuroscience of Open-Mindedness Related to Political Views