Intelligence Squared

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Intelligence Squared
Intelligence Squared logo
Founded2002; 16 years ago (2002)
HeadquartersNotting Hill, London
No. of locationsLondon, New York City, Sydney, Athens, Hong Kong, Tel Aviv, Santiago

Intelligence Squared is a media company that stages live debates and other thought leadership and cultural events around the world. It was founded in 2002 in London where its head office is based, and it now also operates in the US, Australia and Hong Kong. The debates are held in the traditional Oxford style, with as many as 2,500 people attending some events. It produces video and podcast versions of them on a regular basis on YouTube and other platforms.


Intelligence Squared was founded by two media entrepreneurs, Jeremy O'Grady and John Gordon, in 2002.[1] In 2012, the company was bought by art consultant Amelie von Wedel, CEO of Serpentine Galleries Yana Peel, and Commonwealth Bank of Australia Executive General Manager David Legg.[2] Hannah Kaye has been executive producer since 2006 and Matt McAllester became managing director in 2018.

Debate topics covered include “Freedom of Expression Must Include the License To Offend”, “The Catholic Church Is a Force for Good in the World”, “Putin Has Been Good for Russia”, “Let’s Legalise Cocaine”, and “The Trouble with this Country is the Daily Mail”.

As well as debates, Intelligence Squared also hosts talks and interviews with such figures as President Jimmy Carter, Eric Schmidt, Sheryl Sandberg, Malala Yousafzai, Patti Smith and Werner Herzog. It also stages discussions and panels.

In 2006, Intelligence Squared US was established by the philanthropist and CEO of Delphi Financial Group Robert Rosenkranz through his foundation. It has hosted hundreds of debates across the US. Other Intelligence Squared licensees operate in Sydney (since 2008) and Hong Kong (since 2009). The company has also had partnerships in Kiev (2008 – 2014), Athens (2010), Israel (2013) and Chile (2014).


Intelligence Squared uses the traditional Oxford-style debating format. A motion is proposed, with two speakers arguing in favour and two against. Opening speeches are around 10 minutes in length. This is followed by Q and A from the floor and a lively dialogue between the speakers and short closing remarks. The audience is polled on their opinion both before and after the debate in order to see which side has changed the most audience members' minds.

Themes covered by the debates include foreign affairs, politics, technology and the environment. Intelligence Squared has also staged history debates with motions such as “Britain Should not Have Fought in The First World War” and "Neville Chamberlain Did the Right Thing”.

Another strand is the “Cultural Combat” debates, in which two cultural figures are pitted against each other. These began in 2013 with “Verdi vs. Wagner”, which was staged at London’s Royal Opera House with a sixty-piece live orchestra, Stephen Fry in the chair, and John Tomlinson singing Wotan. This event was followed by “Jane Austen vs. Emily Bronte”, “Rembrandt vs. Vermeer”, “Ian Fleming vs. John Le Carré”, and “Dickens vs. Tolstoy”. Actors who have taken part in Intelligence Squared cultural events include Simon Russell Beale, Carey Mulligan, Tom Hiddleston, Harriet Walter, Dominic West, Helena Bonham Carter and Jeremy Irons.

Previous debaters include Stephen Fry, Terry Gilliam, Peter Singer, Richard Dawkins, Christopher Hitchens, Mary Beard and Germaine Greer.

Podcast and Video[edit]

All Intelligence Squared events are recorded and released on the company’s YouTube channel,[3] and as part of a weekly podcast series which has nearly half a million monthly listeners. The company also records standalone podcasts with notable authors and thinkers.

Intelligence Squared on TV[edit]

Intelligence Squared debates have also been broadcast globally on BBC World. These have included "The Future of [[Iraq]]", "The [[Catholic Church]] is a Force for Good in the World" and "Break up the Tech Giants". The company also hosted a televised debate with the BBC’s Newsnight on “Brexit Britain” in August 2016.

Intelligence Squared in the US[edit]

In September 2006, Intelligence Squared U.S., was launched by Robert Rosenkranz, an initiative of The Rosenkranz Foundation, a non-profit organization.[21] IQ2US debates have aired on the Bloomberg Television network. From 2006 to 2012, IQ2US was distributed by NPR,[4] and it is currently self-distributed through the Public Radio Exchange.[5] John Donvan of ABC News regularly moderates the debates.


Intelligence Squared has partnered with numerous organisations and companies. In 2012 the company produced the Versus debates with Google. The first debate, titled "It's Time to End the War on Drugs", was held on 13 March 2012 and featured Richard Branson, Russell Brand, Antonio Maria Costa, Eliot Spitzer, Geoffrey Robertson QC, Fernando Cardoso and Julian Assange. The second Versus event was "Hip-hop On Trial". Q-Tip, KRS-One, Jesse Jackson, Jason Whitlock, and dream hampton, among others, debated the politics of hip-hop to a live audience of 2,000 and an online audience of 80,000.

Intelligence Squared has also staged events in partnership with Shell on topics related to climate change and sustainable energy use. Other partnerships include The National Trust, Wellington College, Abbey Road Studios, Baker McKenzie in New York City, Investec, Christie's, the World Health Organization in New York, the United Nations in Geneva, and the University of Chicago.

See also[edit]


  1. ^ "About Intelligence Squared". Intelligence Squared. Retrieved 08/10/2018. Check date values in: |accessdate= (help)
  2. ^ "Who We Are : Intelligence Squared". Intelligence Squared.
  3. ^ "Intelligence Squared YouTube channel". YouTube.
  4. ^ "NPR ends distribution of 'Intelligence Squared U.S.'".
  5. ^ "PRX - Intelligence Squared U.S."

External links[edit]