Intelligence Squared

Intelligence Squared
Founded 2002 (2002)
Headquarters Notting Hill, London
No. of locations London, New York City, Sydney, Athens, Hong Kong, Tel Aviv, Santiago

Intelligence Squared is an organisation that stages debates around the world. It was founded in 2002 in London where its head office is based, but now also operates globally in the US, Australia, Hong Kong, Greece, Chile, and Israel. The debates are held in the traditional Oxford style, with as many as 2,500 people attending some events. It produces video and audio versions of them on a regular basis through their website as well as YouTube.


Intelligence Squared was founded by two media businessmen, Jeremy O'Grady and John Gordon, in 2002.[1] In 2012, the company passed into the new ownership of Amelie von Wedel, Yana Peel and David Legg.[2] Sara Sjölund has been Managing Director since 2012, whilst Hannah Kaye has been executive producer in London since 2006.

Topics covered include “Freedom of Expression Must Include the License to Offend”, “We Should Legalize the Market for Human Organs”, “Islam Is A Religion Of Peace”, “Don't Blame Teachers Unions For Our Failing Schools”, and “Too Many Kids Go To College”.[3] As well as debates, there have been festivals on subjects such as London / Paris, climate change, and technology.

Intelligence Squared is not strictly limited to hosting debates, but also hosts talks and interviews with such figures as Former US President Jimmy Carter, Author and Philosopher Sam Harris,[4] Google Chief Executive Eric Schmidt, Journalist and Author Matt Ridley,[5] Patti Smith and Werner Herzog.

In 2006, Intelligence Squared US was organized by Robert Rosenkranz through his foundation. As of 2015, the US division has hosted over 100 individual debates. Other Intelligence Squared licensees have begun to operate in Sydney (2008), Kiev in partnership with the Foundation for Effective Governance (2008 – 2014), Hong Kong (2009), Athens (2010), Israel (2013), and Chile (2014).

Debate format

The debates usually are broken into four rounds:

  1. Opening Statements
  2. Debaters Addressing Each Other Directly
  3. Questions From the Audience
  4. Closing Statements

Typically, the debate opens with the moderator introducing the debate at hand. In the US version, this is sometimes followed by a short discussion with Robert Rosenkranz, the philanthropist who sponsors Intelligence Squared US, who further discusses the context in which the debate is happening and a brief overview of the different viewpoints that may be presented by each side. Each debater is introduced to the audience and a vote is taken of those in the live audience of their pre-debate opinion on the motion, with the options of "For", "Against", and "Undecided".

  • In the first round, each debater presents their uninterrupted opening statements, which are strictly limited by time and typically set anywhere from 2 to 25 minutes for each speaker. After this round, the moderator gives a summary of the points each side made and introduces the next round.
  • In the second round, debaters from each side may address each other directly. The moderator may or may not interrupt this exchange and will frequently ask questions of either side themselves.
  • In the third round, the audience is allowed to ask questions of the debaters. These are regulated by the moderator, who often rewards the questions for clarity and declines questions if they appear to be irrelevant to the motion.
  • In the fourth round, each debater presents their uninterrupted closing statements, which, like opening statements, are strictly limited by time and typically set anywhere from two to seven minutes for each speaker.

After the final round, a vote is taken of those in the live audience of their current (post-debate) opinion on the motion once again. Both the pre-debate and post-debate vote counts are then tallied and presented to the audience. The winner is determined by counting which side has changed the most audience members' minds.

Previous speakers include Stephen Fry, Terry Gilliam, Jimmy Carter, Peter Singer,[6] Richard Dawkins,[7] Christopher Hitchens,[8] Ayaan Hirsi Ali,[9] Nick Gillespie,[10][11] and Lawrence Krauss.[12]


In 2012, Intelligence Squared started a partnership with Google producing the Versus Debates.[13]

The first, titled "It's time to end the War on Drugs", was on 13 March 2012, featuring Richard Branson, Russell Brand, Antonio Maria Costa, Eliot Spitzer, Geoffrey Robertson QC, Fernando Cardoso and Julian Assange.[14] The second Versus event was "Hip-hop doesn't enhance society, it degrades it". Q-Tip, KRS-One, Jesse Jackson, Jason Whitlock, dream hampton and more debated the politics of hip-hop to a hall of 2,000 and an online audience of 80,000.

Intelligence Squared on TV

Intelligence Squared debates have also been broadcast globally on BBC World. These have included "George W Bush is the worst American President for the past fifty years", "The Future of Iraq" and "The Catholic Church is a force for good in the world". Intelligence Squared also makes the videos of these debates available free of charge on YouTube[15][16][17]

Intelligence Squared in the US

External video
Preserve Net Neutrality: All Data Is Created Equal, 1:30:42, Intelligence Squared[18]
Bitcoin Is More Than a Bubble And Here To Stay, 1:39:01, Intelligence Squared[19][20]

In September 2006, Intelligence Squared U.S., was launched by Robert Rosenkranz, an initiative of The Rosenkranz Foundation, a non-profit organization.[21] IQ2US Intelligence Squared U.S. is a live debate series with the goal of raising the level of public discourse and promoting a realization that, on contentious issues, those who challenge the conventional wisdom have intellectually respectable and often persuasive viewpoints. Intelligence Squared U.S. encourages citizens to “Think Twice” about their opinions and participate in the conversation, and it provides a forum for balanced discussion that transcends emotion and ideology. Through an annual series of between 10 and 12 live Oxford-style debates,brings together experts and audience around public policy and cultural issues. IQ2US debates air on the Bloomberg Television network. From 2006 to 2012, Intelligence Squared U.S. was distributed by NPR; it is currently self-distributed through the Public Radio Exchange.[22][23] Intelligence Squared U.S. attracts top tier thinkers and the world's leading authorities debating the most pressing issues of the day. Dana Wolfe is the executive producer and John Donvan of ABC News is currently the moderator.

Intelligence Squared in Israel

In 2013, Intelligence Squared Israel was launched by Roxanne Horesh. The first live Oxford-style debate was held on April 2013 in Tel Aviv Museum of Art on the subject "If Israel continues on its current course, it cannot remain both a democratic and Jewish state".

See also


  1. "About Intelligence Squared : Intelligence Squared".
  2. "Who We Are : Intelligence Squared".
  3. "Past Debates". Archived from the original on 2015-03-21.
  4. "Sam Harris on the Templeton Prize - IQ2 interview". The World Lecture Project.
  5. The Telegraph Missing or empty |title= (help)
  6. "Peter Singer".
  7. "All Past Debates : Intelligence Squared".
  8. "Hitchens, Christopher".
  9. "Ali, Ayaan Hirsi".
  10. "Nick Gillespie".
  11. "Legalization Debate Turns to Other Drugs".
  12. "Lawrence Krauss".
  13. "It's Time to End the War on Drugs".
  14. "Google Wants You to Watch 'Versus' Hangout-Powered Debates".
  15. IntelligenceSquared Debates. YouTube.
  16. iqsquared. YouTube.
  17. Versus. YouTube.
  18. "Preserve Net Neutrality: All Data Is Created Equal". Intelligence Squared. April 19, 2018. Retrieved May 12, 2018.
  19. "Bitcoin Is More Than a Bubble And Here To Stay". Intelligence Squared. April 23, 2018. Retrieved May 12, 2018.
  20. Hankin, Aaron. "Business moguls beaten in 'bitcoin bubble' debate". Market Watch. Retrieved May 20, 2018.
  21. "Rosenkranz Foundation - Homepage".
  22. NPR ends distribution of ‘Intelligence Squared U.S.’
  23. PRX - Intelligence Squared U.S.
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