UNSW Centre for Ideas
UNSW Centre for Ideas
About UNSW Centre for Ideas
An initiative of UNSW Sydney, the Centre for Ideas is a thought-provoking program of events and digital content from the globe's leading thinkers, authors and artists.
Good theatre holds a mirror up to society, forcing audiences to shine a light on the darkest corners and recesses of society. In these tumultuous times, it’s easy to wonder where is our world headed, and how we might navigate the new obstacles that arise when we get there? Fortunately, British playwright Sir David Hare, is no stranger to pondering these mind bending questions. During his illustrious career he has written over 30 plays often examining the machinations of British politics and institutions, and its these plays that have seen him named, “the premier political dramatist writing in English” by The Washington Post. So how has writing shaped Sir David Hare’s vision for where society is headed? And how might creativity unlock a way to adapt to what the future holds? In discussion with theatre producer Jo Dyer, David Hare speaks about his remarkable career as a playwright, and his creative plans for the future. This event is presented by the UNSW Centre for Ideas and supported by the Faculty of Arts, Design & Architecture and Adelaide Writers’ Week. See omnystudio.com/listener for privacy information.
The human brain is the most complicated computer in the world, but we tend to take it for granted. By linking neuroscience and computer technologies, engineers and scientists are creating neural implants to unlock better pain management strategies, accessibility tools for people living with disabilities, and potential human enhancements. As we move into the most connected and information rich age in human history, how can we ensure that we keep our focus on this kind of big picture science so that those most vulnerable are receiving the help they need? Neuroscientist Felix Aplin has some answers. For more information, visit unsw.to/FelixAplinFODI This talk was a part of Unthinkable, an event of short talks in the 2022 Festival of Dangerous Ideas. See omnystudio.com/listener for privacy information.
Rates of almost all crime in Australia have declined dramatically in recent decades, as they have in much of the rest of the world, with sexual assault a notable exception to this decline. But as crime has declined, the number of people in prison has increased alarmingly. Meanwhile in the world of popular culture, crime is everywhere. We are obsessed with crime stories making them major box office in every medium from the page to podcast to the big screen. What is going on? For more information, visit unsw.to/CrimeParadox. This talk was a part of the 2022 Festival of Dangerous Ideas. See omnystudio.com/listener for privacy information.
Imagine if medical side effects were all in your head… turns out more than half of them might be. A lot of people have heard of the placebo effect; where taking a sugar pill can cause healing or health improvements, but far fewer are familiar with the nocebo effect – the dark side of placebo – where an innocent sugar pill can cause serious negative side effects. Research shows most medical side effects are likely to be caused by the nocebo effect, so if the majority of these feelings could be overcome by the simple power of thought, how can medical researchers break this cycle? Health psychologist Kate Faasse’s work explores how to ensure nocebo effects don’t prevent us from getting the right medical treatment. For more information, visit unsw.to/KateFaasseFODI This talk was a part of Unthinkable, an event of short talks in the 2022 Festival of Dangerous Ideas. See omnystudio.com/listener for privacy information.
Curious about the latest developments in the world of Artificial Intelligence? Join four UNSW experts as they explore the implications of ChatGPT and artificial intelligence on our society, and as they discuss how these emerging technologies are shaping the future of the education sector. This panel discussion will feature Professor Toby Walsh from UNSW Engineering, Professor Lyria Bennett Moses from UNSW Law & Justice, Associate Professor Sam Kirshner from UNSW Business, and Professor Cath Ellis from UNSW Arts, Design & Architecture. See omnystudio.com/listener for privacy information.
In a world where the internet saturates everything, where does the internet stop, and our human selves begin? Nudged and pushed by an endless stream of alerts, notifications and recommendations, our attention and money are pulled in directions that serve the interests of the platforms. The New York Times tech columnist Kevin Roose asks, are our personalities and thoughts our own, or are we becoming what the algorithms make us? Roose’s keynote talk is followed by a conversation with UNSW Scientia Professor of AI, Toby Walsh. For more information, visit unsw.to/CaughtWeb This talk was a part of the 2022 Festival of Dangerous Ideas. See omnystudio.com/listener for privacy information.
The dark forest of cryptocurrency is certainly mysterious, and the appeal is undeniable. The internet is bursting with success stories of those who became overnight millionaires, so it makes sense that investors are willing to gamble on it… a lot. But it’s not all tech bros and Doge coins – cryptocurrency is the next big step in technology. The tricky part, however, is avoiding the fraudsters and thieves who prey on the first-time investors entering the market. As the vast crypto forest grows rapidly and becomes more dangerous and volatile (in 2021 over $7.7 billion worth of cryptocurrency was stolen from victims worldwide), how can we better equip those investors looking to buy in? Tony Song Tony Song is a research fellow for the NSW Law Society’s Future of Law and Innovation (FLIP) research stream in the School of Private and Commercial Law, Faculty of Law and Justice, UNSW Sydney. Song’s research explores the impact of technology on the legal profession and society, with a particular focus on artificial intelligence, online courts, drones, and managing trust in an online world. Tony is most passionate about all things web3, whether it be trading the volatility of the markets, delving into the latent world of smart legal contracts, cheering on the surreal hilarity of the metaverse, or just tending to his humble defi yields – there's never a boring day in crypto. For more information, visit unsw.to/TonySong See omnystudio.com/listener for privacy information.
In theory, synchronous hybrid learning is a fantastic idea: students and teachers have increased flexibility, and universities can benefit from increased enrolments. But in reality, hybrid learning is not everything it is cracked up to be. Over the past two years of the pandemic, a mixed learning and teaching mode has developed – part in person and part online – bringing to the fore a multitude of problems. Technical challenges, enhanced cognitive load for both students and teachers, a lack of social presence, and wrangling a cohort spread across multiple locations and time zones are just a few. But how can we combat some of the larger issues? Is it possible to create positive experiences for both the teachers and the students in this brave new world of hybrid education? Sasha Vassar Dr Sasha Vassar has a cross-disciplinary background in Computer Engineering, Biomedical Engineering and a PhD in Education from UNSW Sydney. She has spent a number of years working in the engineering industry improving problem solving and design processes, before her passion for education and teaching brought her back to UNSW to join the School of Computer Science and Engineering, in the Faculty of Engineering. Her interests include the role of human computer interaction, UX and UI in the design of engineering solutions; the role of design thinking in engineering problem solving and the application of cognitive load theory concepts to improve pedagogy. For more information, visit unsw.to/SashaVassar See omnystudio.com/listener for privacy information.
In Australia, solar power has become cheaper and more reliable than ever. The solar industry has expanded so rapidly that these days it’s not uncommon to see every house on a street clad with rooftop solar panels. Today, there is no cheaper method to produce energy than that offered by solar panels, and they’re fast becoming even more economical to install. Australia is well known as the sunburnt country, so why aren’t we taking more advantage of our limitless solar potential and working out how to use solar in new ways? Cheap, clean and reliable energy is now undeniably here, so what is next? Ivan Perez Wurfl Ivan Perez Wurfl is a senior lecturer and researcher in the School of Photovoltaic and Renewable Energy, Faculty of Engineering at UNSW Sydney. Ivan’s main areas of expertise are solar cell design, fabrication and characterisation. In particular, he has extensively studied and developed silicon quantum dot solar cells and multijunction SiGe/GaAsP tandem solar cells. Before moving to Australia he worked as a device scientist at Power Sicel Inc (now part of Microsemi Corporation), developing SiC High Power RF devices. He was a Fulbright fellow from at the University of Colorado where he obtained his PhD in Electrical Engineering. Ivan has authored 100+ journal articles and conference papers in the areas of solar cells and high power and high frequency solid state devices. For more information, visit unsw.to/IvanPerezWurfl See omnystudio.com/listener for privacy information.
In the first few months of 2022, Twitch viewers watched a total of 6.13 billion hours of livestreamed content and fans are showing no sign of slowing down. Over the last decade, video game streaming has become big business. This success is due in part to the fact that streaming sites have become about so much more than just playing video games. They provide a sense of community, a social and cultural hub for people to come together and share their stories. But these platforms are also subject to the commercial whims of the corporations that own them. What do the video game services of the future look like? How do they profit from users without compromising relationships with them? And how can we make sure social justice and equity are keystones of this conversation? Nathan J Jackson Nathan J Jackson is a PhD candidate in the School of the Arts and Media, Faculty of Arts, Design & Architecture at UNSW Sydney. His ethnographic study of the platform Twitch combines performance, media, and games lenses to examine the construction and performance of persona in video game livestreaming. He is interested in the ways that streamers and spectators perform for and with each other, and the emergent social, cultural, and political value systems that accompany these performances. He has been published in Persona Studies and Convergence journals, with a forthcoming contribution in the first edited collection on livestreaming culture. For more information, visit unsw.to/NathanJJackson See omnystudio.com/listener for privacy information.
Kurdish-Iranian refugee and award-winning writer Behrouz Boochani delivered the 2022 Wallace Wurth Lecture at UNSW Sydney on Tuesday 13 December, sharing why a human narrative is integral to fighting Australia’s current refugee policies. Boochani, who is an adjunct associate professor at UNSW, spent over six years in offshore immigration detention in Manus Detention Centre, where he and his fellow asylum seekers endured conditions that violated international refugee law. His new book, Freedom, Only Freedom, is a collection of his prison writings, translated and edited by his long-time translators and collaborators Omid Tofighian and Moones Mansoubi. Mr Boochani's work is combined with essays from experts on migration, refugee rights, politics, and literature. Following an introduction by Sarah Dale (RACS), Omid Tofighian and Moones Mansoubi, Boochani is in conversation with human rights lawyer Madeline Gleeson sharing his stories of resilience and shed light on the shameful refugee policies that the Australian government continues to endorse. Freedom, Only Freedom can be purchased here. See omnystudio.com/listener for privacy information.
More than 264 million people worldwide have depression. But for many people struggling with severe or treatment-resistant depression, standard therapies may not work. So what if there are new treatments that could be effective? Recently there has been a renaissance of interest in psychedelics as possible treatments for mental disorders – everything from ketamine, to MDMA and psilocybin – the psychoactive ingredient in ‘magic’ mushrooms. These medicines have powerful mind-altering properties with the potential to treat severe mental disorders when combined with psychological therapy. Some early studies have returned positive results, but there remain large gaps in our knowledge regarding effectiveness and safety… But where to from here? Could psychedelics play a role in managing mental health? Adam Bayes Dr Adam Bayes is a psychiatrist who works as a clinician-scientist with a focus on mood disorders (depression and bipolar conditions). His research interests include diagnosis, classification and novel treatments for severe depression including ketamine and psychedelics. Bayes holds a Bachelor of Medicine and Surgery (Hons), Bachelor of Advanced Science, Master of Psychiatry, and a PhD. He is a Fellow of the Royal Australian and New Zealand College of Psychiatrists, is a senior research fellow and VMO psychiatrist at the Black Dog Institute and the Discipline of Psychiatry and Mental Health, at UNSW Sydney. For more information, visit unsw.to/AdamBayes See omnystudio.com/listener for privacy information.
The population of our capital cities is going to increase rapidly over the next decades. But right now, our cities are bloated, congested, and many urban design choices are no longer fit for purpose. Enter algorithms: those codes that know what we like to eat, how we like to spend our time, and what we secretly want to buy online. But once we lift the veil of mathematical objectivity, we can see that the way these algorithms are used in city planning needs to be more of an art than a science. If algorithms know us better than our friends, is it time we let them help us build the cities of the future? Claire Daniel Claire Daniel is a Scientia PhD candidate in the School of Built Environment, Faculty of Arts, Design & Architecture at UNSW Sydney. They are both an urban planner and a computer programmer researching how data and digital technologies are used by planners, and how this is set to change the way cities are governed. In 2015, Claire was awarded the John Monash Scholarship to study the MSc in Smart Cities and Urban Analytics at University College London. In addition to their academic work, Claire has professional experience in local government and consulting, and is a member of the Planning Institute of Australia’s PlanTech advisory committee. For more information, visit unsw.to/ClaireDaniel See omnystudio.com/listener for privacy information.
Australian voters ousting a nine-year-old Coalition government. A step towards instituting a First Nations Voice to Parliament. Grace Tame. Entrenched structures of authority have been challenged at home and around the world this year. But what will the impact of these momentous events be on the way we live, and the way our domestic and international parliaments govern? The Conversation’s latest collection of insightful essays from leading thinkers, 2022: Reckoning with Power and Privilege, unpacks this very question. Hear Tim Soutphommasane, Professor of Practice at University of Sydney and Michelle Arrow, Professor of Modern History at Macquarie University as they explore the potent forces that continue to shape our world and how those with the privilege of power don’t always prevail in a panel discussion chaired by The Conversation’s Senior Editor, Sunanda Creagh. To access a transcript of this podcast please head here. This event was presented by the UNSW Centre for Ideas and The Conversation. See omnystudio.com/listener for privacy information.
For a lot of us, the pandemic years were characterised with the rise of working from home. We’ve become all too familiar with Zoom fatigue… one of the many new words we have added to our vocabulary over the past two years of the pandemic along with social distancing, doom scrolling and hybrid working. And while many of us are looking forward to socialising IRL (in real life) again, for those of us who are critically ill, these rapid developments in digital technology have meant an end to social isolation. So as these technologies continue to advance and innovate, but we as a society return to face-to-face life, will digital technology completely replace in person supportive care for young people impacted by critical illness? Jennifer Cohen Dr Jennifer Cohen is a senior research fellow in the School of Clinical Medicine, Faculty of Medicine & Health at UNSW Sydney, and the Evaluation Manger at Canteen, Australia. Cohen has over 18 years experience as a clinical dietitian and researcher and her numerous professional publications focus on her research and clinical interests in the supportive care needs of children and young people with cancer, both during and after treatment. Dr Cohen was named the Australian Dietitian of the Year at the 2019 and Staff Member of the Year for the Sydney Children’s Hospitals Network in 2018. For more information, visit unsw.to/JenniferCohen See omnystudio.com/listener for privacy information.
Nearly 400 years ago, scientists made the groundbreaking discovery that fungi were all around us, on us, and inside us too. The development of germ theory – the understanding that microbes like bacteria, viruses, and fungi are responsible for infectious diseases – has since revolutionised almost every aspect of human behaviour. But when it comes to treating infections caused by fungi, we haven’t actually made a whole lot of progress. Even with the handful of anti-fungal drugs we have developed, nearly 50% of all people who develop a systemic fungal infection will die. So why is our current arsenal against fungal infection so limited? And how might we better arm ourselves in the war against fungus? Bianca Briscas Bianca Briscas is a PhD Candidate in the School of Biotechnology and Biomolecular Sciences, Faculty of Science at UNSW Sydney. She completed a Bachelor of Medical Science (Distinction) in 2020, and received First Class Honours in 2021. Her PhD research centres on the human microbiome, with a focus on exploring the complex interactions between bacteria and fungi, to inform novel approaches to managing infections caused by Candida albicans, an opportunistic fungal pathogen of humans. For more information, visit unsw.to/BiancaBriscas See omnystudio.com/listener for privacy information.
Our news feeds are inundated with success stories of people who got rich quick, who climbed the career ladder to the top, even people who became overnight viral sensations. But how much of these people’s success comes down to hard work, versus being in the right place at the right time and having a little good luck on their side? When it comes to being successful is there really any difference between someone who won the lottery and someone who founded a billion dollar tech startup? Wealthy people overwhelmingly attribute their success to hard work rather than to factors like being in the right place at the right time, but what if lottery winners and successful entrepreneurs have more in common than you think? If we know how this game of chance works - why do we keep clicking on those stories about successful business people in our newsfeeds? Whatever your definition is of success, there seems to be no shortage of advice out there about how you can get a taste of it. In under ten minutes, or roughly the same amount of time it takes to make an elevator pitch to a venture capitalist, Frederik Anseel explains how you can increase your chances of becoming successful. 10 Minute Genius 10 Minute Genius is a programme designed to create a space in which you can engage with new ideas. It is a curated collection of UNSW Sydney's thinkers, dreamers, and envelope pushers to help you make some sense of this relentless information vortex. And because you’re busy, all we ask of you is less than 10 minutes. For more information visit unsw.to/FrederikAnseel See omnystudio.com/listener for privacy information.
Throughout Australia, people want our cities to be more affordable, to have more vibrant social and green spaces, and to be better environmentally suited. And yet our sprawling cities typically fail to meet these goals – often because they have been designed for the convenience of real estate developers, and exclude life sustaining processes and community from them. Even though the ways we work and live have shifted, and we’ve made leaps and bounds in technology, transport, architecture, and infrastructure, our blueprint for a city has not changed since the Second World War. Given our ability to create cities that are socially vibrant, economical, and in harmony with the land and climate of Australia, isn’t it about time we reimagined our cities to reflect the lifestyles we want for the future? John Carr John Carr is an urban and legal geographer whose work focuses on the intersections of urban form, law, planning, and human and non-human environments. His research seeks to address how knowledge from across disciplinary boundaries can be mobilised to make human-built environments more environmentally and socially regenerative. Carr is a senior lecturer with the Environment and Society Group at UNSW Sydney, and teaches in the School of Humanities and Languages, Faculty of Arts, Design & Architecture. For more than a decade, he practiced law in the areas of civil rights, complex litigation, and construction law before entering academia. For more information, visit unsw.to/JohnCarr See omnystudio.com/listener for privacy information.
By 2062, experts estimate that we will have created machines as intelligent as humans. Already AI has become so integrated into our everyday lives that it’s often hard to detect… from home robots to smartphones telling you the fastest route home at the press of a button. So what happens when those algorithms go wrong? Can AI be devious? And how can we be sure that we don’t lose the human touch when we get zeros and ones to do the work for us? Computers can be frighteningly smart in some ways, but dangerously dim in other ways. We’ve seen plenty of examples in the news of algorithms exacerbating racial profiling, swaying election results, or increasing the spread of misinformation. The success of AI means we can and should hand over many routine decisions to machines, but we must ensure we are vigilant in preventing unconscious bias and unintended consequences that creep unnoticed into the algorithms we create. In less than 10 minutes, or roughly the same amount of time it takes a computer to win a million games of chess, Scientia Professor of Artificial Intelligence Toby Walsh will explore how we can make sure mutant algorithms don’t go too far. 10 Minute Genius 10 Minute Genius is a programme designed to create a space in which you can engage with new ideas. It is a curated collection of UNSW Sydney's thinkers, dreamers, and envelope pushers to help you make some sense of this relentless information vortex. And because you’re busy, all we ask of you is less than 10 minutes. For more information visit unsw.to/TobyWalsh See omnystudio.com/listener for privacy information.
In 2017 on the lands of the Anangu, Cobble Cobble woman Megan Davis stepped out from the shadow of Uluru and delivered the Uluru Statement from the Heart for the very first time. It was the first time anyone would hear it, and was a process that showed the power of First Nation Voices. Before this momentous day, Megan Davis had embarked upon a deliberative process bringing together the 13 regional dialogues around Australia, asking First Nations people for the first time: what does recognition mean to you? The answer: “Voice and a Makarrata Commission to supervise a process of agreement making between governments and First Nations and truth-telling about our history”. Since then the call for an Indigenous Voice to Parliament has not been taken up by the Federal Government, but it’s time to face some hard truths. Why can’t Australian political leaders engage with the wishes of Australia’s First Nations People? Will white Australia ever accept the truth about our history? Would the scandalous policy failure of ‘closing the gap’ bring down governments if it was related to any other issue? Underlying all of these questions lie the uncomfortable conversations about sovereignty, treaty and reparations that we need to tackle now. In just 10 minutes, Professor Megan Davis will take you through time. Unsettle you. And open your eyes to how we can create a better future for all Australians through constitutional reform. 10 Minute Genius 10 Minute Genius is a programme designed to create a space in which you can engage with new ideas. It is a curated collection of UNSW Sydney's thinkers, dreamers, and envelope pushers to help you make some sense of this relentless information vortex. And because you’re busy, all we ask of you is less than 10 minutes. For more information visit unsw.to/MeganDavis See omnystudio.com/listener for privacy information.
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