Audience at Sydney Ideas event

2019 events

Panels, forums, talks and more
Sydney's most diverse range of free talks, forums, lectures, panels and debates.

The full program

Wild AI and tame humans

  • Belgian philosopher of technology Professor Mark Coeckelbergh shifts the conversation away from science fiction fantasies about AI and into the realms of real ethical issues and urgent policy challenges for development and use of artificial intelligence and robotics in society. Listen to the podcast

The power of inclusive filmmaking

  • Genevieve Clay-Smith has channelled her passion for social justice and desire to equitise the film industry into the practice of inclusive filmmaking. Hear about Genevieve's creative approaches and her innovative work with Bus Stop Films. Listen to the podcast

Sydney Ideas in India: Re-imagining the future – together

  • Australia and India have much to learn from each other. While our economies are quite different, we face similar problems, particularly around energy and the design of our cities. Three of the University of Sydney’s leading researchers from Business, Urban Studies and Chemistry share their insights. Listen to the podcast 

Who should govern environmental disasters, and how?

  • As global warming rapidly heats up our planet, the likelihood and frequency of environmental disasters caused by extreme weather events - from bushfires to floods - rises substantially. But are we equipped to manage these disasters? Listen to the podcast

After the Apology: Sorry means you don't do it again

  • Indigenous children are still being removed from their families at increasing rates, despite the clear links to negative child health and education outcomes. Why and how is this still happening? Listen to the podcast

Can calculus cure cancer? 

  • Oxford professor and mathematician Helen Byrne highlights the exciting applications of maths to model, predict and ultimately improve the effectiveness and development of cancer treatments. Listen to the podcast

Hope vs fear: Climate change as a security issue

  • What does it mean to call a climate emergency? Military and security experts have warned that as temperatures continue to rise, so too will security risks, including in extreme cases, the risk of armed conflict. Listen to the podcast

From Bathurst to Bhutan and beyond: meet Andrew Denton and Kinley Dorji

  • Andrew Denton and Dasho Kinley Dorji studied journalism together at Bathurst in NSW in the 1980s and have since made enormous contributions to the media and democracy landscapes in Australia and Dorji's home country of Bhutan. Hear them swap remarkable stories in this special Sydney Ideas event. Listen to the podcast

The future is Asian

  • The world has gotten used to hearing 'America First', but is it ready for 'Asia First'? Leading global strategy adviser and international bestselling author Parag Khanna makes a case for why we need to start looking at the world, and future, from the Asian point of view. Listen to the podcast

How the waterfront dispute changed industrial relations in Australia

  • Labour expert Professor Shae McCrystal, and Walkley Award-winning journalists Pamela Williams and Quentin Dempster, discuss the shifting and precarious nature of work in Australia, 20 years on since the waterfront dispute. Listen to the podcast

Arts, health and healing

  • Creative practices have transformative effects on public health. How can we embed the arts to provide better healthcare? Listen to the podcast

Drawing the lines: music copyright, cultures and creativity

  • What musical traditions do copyright laws protect and threaten? Do all musical cultures hold equal status in the eyes of the law? Hear from noted Harvard professor Ingrid Monson, who specialises in jazz and African American music. Listen to the podcast

Precision medicine: Can it live up to the hype?

  • World-renowned researchers delve into key issues around precision medicine, such as the realities of disease prediction, economics, ethics, clinical applications and the balance between the personal and the public benefit. Listen to the podcast

A new light on quantum computing

  • Professor Chris Monroe is one of the world's foremost quantum technologists and he explains the rise of what promises to be a revolutionary technology of the 21st century. Listen to the podcast

Understanding neurodiverisity and living with autism

  • Hear experts, including the Brain and Mind Centre's Professor Adam Guastella, explore how we might create cultures and environments that support neurodiversity, and recognise the varying levels of communication and experiences that can exist for people with autism. Listen to the podcast

Public interest and toxic chemicals

  • Public health expert Professor Tim Driscoll and Walkley Award-winning journalists Kerry O'Brien and Carrie Fellner discuss the role of scientific research and journalism to uncover the dangers of widely used chemicals. Listen to the podcast

When (and why) children are smarter than adults, and AI too 

  • Young children are actually better at learning unusual or unlikely principles than adults. Professor Alison Gopnik's research relates this pattern to computational ideas about search and sampling, evolutionary ideas about human life history, and neuroscience findings about plasticity. Listen to the podcast

The political economy of inequality

  • How can we close the widening gap between rich and poor? Political economist Frank Stilwell will discuss economic inequality, expose the scale of the problem and provide alternative strategies for a fairer society. Listen to the podcast

Room for improvement: cities, housing and health

  • Improving our cities and housing conditions can increase our quality of life, prevent disease, and help mitigate climate change. What does this look like in practice, and how might we get to this place? Let's get (urban) planning. Listen to the podcast

Kevin Rudd: Bold new ideas for Australia's future

  • Australian politics has been systematically disrupted by leadership changes, the rise of populism and shifting geopolitical realities. What now for Australia’s future? Former Prime Minister Kevin Rudd joins political adviser Marc Stears to discuss. Listen to the podcast

Animal welfare, human wellbeing and planetary health

  • Hear a discussion about how the choices we make when we feed our animal companions affects other animals, the environment and even our own wellbeing. Listen to the podcast

Living longer: Why, and how?

  • Ageing is the main cause of chronic diseases such as Alzheimer's, cancer and cardiovascular disease. Given this inexorable link, can we extend our lifespan without risking our health and quality of life? Listen to the podcast

Breaking news: on the decline of press freedom and democracy

  • What does national security, data security and the changing face of legislation mean for free speech and our right to know? A reporter, satirist and political theorist examine the state of affairs. Listen to the podcast

Seeing the unseen: from brains to black holes

  • How does the mind conjure an idea of something that doesn't exist, or that we haven't experienced? A physicist, philosopher, neurologist and mechanical engineer discuss. Listen to the podcast

Who controls the Internet?

  • As the online world increasingly spills into the real world, urgent questions are being asked, such as: how do we govern and enforce Internet controls? Where is the cyber frontier, and how is it being weaponised? Listen to the podcast

How we spend time

  • How does our identity determine how we use our time? Economist Daniel Hamermesh will discuss the role of income inequality and how it affects the things we buy and do. He presents a radical proposal to reassess what we value with our time. Listen to the podcast

Polar extremes

  • The future of Arctic and Antarctic poles under irreversible threat. Our panel explore how our relationship with the polar regions has changed in the 21st century and what the polar regions reveal about the broader environmental challenges facing the world today, as we collectively combat climate change and unpack its deeper implications. Listen to the podcast

When will the military have its #MeToo moment?

  • The rise of #MeToo and #TimesUp has had little impact on rates of sexual assault in the military. Can it be prevented? Hear our world-renowned panel of experts to answer this critical question, and others. Listen to the podcast

Jocelyn Bell Burnell: Pulsars and the universe

  • Hear from one of the greatest astrophysicists and role models of our time. Best known for her discovery of pulsars, Jocelyn Bell Burnell has paved a path for furthering scientific knowledge and education. Listen to the podcast

Can we make food security failsafe in the age of climate change?

  • As the world's population steadily rises and we combat the omnipresent threat of climate change, global food security is on borrowed time. But how can we achieve a sustainable diet? Listen to the podcast

Biodiversity and extinction: can we achieve justice for all?

  • Our panel will explore climate change, resource extraction and increasing levels of extinction present unprecedented challenges. What does justice mean if humans, non-human animals and the environment are all taken seriously as subjects of justice? Listen to the podcast. 

Economic and social justice in a climate changed world

  • This event brings together four internationally renowned scholars to explore climate justice and economic justice within the context of a climate changed world and their broader implications for the wider world. Listen to the podcast.

Cultural power in the online world: are we being skewed?

  • As the online realm increasingly converges with our offline experiences, it raises an important question: whose knowledge dominates these new spaces? Whose voices are missing, and what are the consequences of these inequities? Listen to the podcast.

Why should the perfect robot look and think just like a human?

  • The popular notion that the perfect robot will be just like a human closes our eyes to the genuine possibilities and risks of AI and robotics. There is no podcast for this event.

Does language control us?

  • Language is sometimes viewed as a window on the mind, but it is equally a tool, a weapon, or perhaps most accurately: a remote control device. What do a linguist, psychologist and political thinker have to say about this? Listen to the podcast.

How archaeology can help future proof against natural disasters

  • Archaeology can help us understand how climate and environmental change in our recent and distant past shapes our future. Join us as we delve into the little-known world of environmental archaeology, during National Archaeology Week. Listen to the podcast.

Made to Measure: Art, science and the obesity epidemic

  • As part of Seymour's Centre's premiere season of Made to Measure by Alana Valentine, this special Sydney Ideas event explores the role the arts has to play in investigating major public health issues. Listen to the podcast.

How an Australian researcher is changing the genetics game

  • When a rare medical condition (limb girdle muscular dystrophy) struck Monkol Lek in his early twenties, he took matters into his own hands. Monkol is now at the cutting-edge of genetic research at Yale and the findings so far have the potential to be game changing for a number of diseases. Listen to the podcast.

A century of student activism in China

  • Student activism in China dates back 100 years, but since their emergence as a political force in 1919, students have influenced and inspired landmark protests across the 20th century and beyond. Our speakers will re-assess the legacy of China's original activists and its implication for today's generation. Listen to the podcast.

Rachel Kushner: What it means to be free

  • Join Rachel Kushner, Man Booker finalist and author of The Mars Room, in conversation with novelist and queer feminist scholar Professor Annamarie Jagose on writing today and a body of work that spans eras, borders and inner lives. There is no podcast for this event.

Understanding carbon in the air: can we avert a climate catastrophe?

  • University of Cambridge Professor Herbert Huppert leads this insightful conversation on how global temperatures in the earth's atmosphere has increased over time and what we can do to stop potential calamity. Listen to the podcast.

Why there's more to learn from Mahatma Gandhi's activism

  • In the face of civil unrest, political upheaval and violence, how can peaceful actions be effective? Join us for this conversation about the transformational leadership of Mahatma Gandhi and its ongoing relevance. Listen to the podcast. 

The road to Indigenous repatriation

  • For more than 60 years the Smithsonian Institution in Washington DC had stolen ancestral remains in its collection. It was only recently that the bones were repatriated. How can we better understand the conflict between scientific and Indigenous knowledge? Listen to the podcast.

Can we prevent diabetes?

  • Diabetes is arguably one of Australia's greatest health challenges and fastest-growing chronic conditions. But landmark research shows that we can stop type 2 diabetes before it starts. Listen to the podcast.

Nano 3D printing: materials beyond imagination

  • What is nano 3D printing, and how will it transform our lives? Professor Martin Wegener from Karlsruhe Institute of Technology will deliver the inaugural University of Sydney Nano Institute public lecture. Listen to the podcast.

The 2030 agenda: Is Australia on track? 

  • Our panel featuring John McArthur, UN Foundation senior advisor and Brookings Institution senior fellow, leading sustainability adviser Sam Mostyn and more, discuss global efforts towards the Sustainable Development Goals and what it will take for Australia to rise to a leading role. Listen to the podcast

Moving to a gender-equal world

  • Vice-Chancellor Dr Michael Spence, leading gender equality advocate Elizabeth Broderick and ABC journalist Sarah Ferguson share insights into how society can successfully embed cultural change into our daily lives and workplaces. Listen to the podcast and view transcript to the event. 

On hate and race politics

  • How is hate shaping society? And what must we do about it? Political philosopher Tim Soutphommasane reflects on race relations and multiculturalism in Australia and beyond, and what it means for democracy worldwide. Listen to the podcast.

Why surveillance capitalism has crept up on us

  • In the 21st century, surveillance has not only become an unavoidable presence in our everyday lives - it's embedded in our culture. What is the cost of cashing in on global surveillance? Listen to the podcast.

While you were asleep: how sleep boosts your brain health

  • Are brain and mind conditions such as dementia a case of luck of the draw, or are our body clocks and sleep cycle integral for keeping our brains healthy? Join us for this Sydney Ideas event in Canberra. Listen to the podcast.

The Xinjiang crackdown

  • Why has China detained as many as one million Muslim minorities in "re-education camps", and what are the political ramifications for us all as state policy becomes more aggressive? Listen to the podcast.

Truth, bullsh*t and weasel words

  • Hear from Don Watson, award-winning author and former speechwriter for Paul Keating, as he decodes political language and reveals its influence on democracy and civil debate. Listen to the podcast.

Tracking digital espionage

  • How much do governments know about our online history? Join Ron Deibert, digital detective and founder of Citizen Lab, as he reveals the hidden surveillance systems used to spy on civil society. Listen to the podcast.

Sign up for our newsletter

Each month we'll send you details about upcoming events, and a selection of podcasts.