Index of Discussion Topics


Topics proposed and discussed by participants in Adelaide Active Thinking meetup from 2017
+ topics from earlier meetup series back to 2011

( )

<> Another set of discussion questions for people learning English can be seen at


Active Thinking Topic 80 - 14 April 2024 - Should Higher Education Be Free?


Active Thinking Topic 79 - 31 March 2024 - Is There Such A Creature As An Australian?


Active Thinking Topic 78 - 17 March 2024 - Do We Need Culture Wars?


Active Thinking Topic 77 - 5 March 2024 - Everyone is a Useful Idiot


Active Thinking Topic 76 - 20 February 2024 - The Age of Cowardice


Active Thinking Topic 75 - 6 February 2024 - What is Progress?


Active Thinking Topic 74 - 23 January 2024 - True or False: Everyone Wants Power?


Active Thinking Topic 73 - 9 January 2024 - Healthcare Vs Sickcare - Are Paients & Doctors Clueless?


Active Thinking Topic 72 - December 12 2023 - Conflict or Harmony? Which is the Spice of Life?


Active Thinking Topic 71 - November 28 2023 - Whatever Happened to Irony?


Active Thinking Topic 70 - November 14 2023 - How Random is Your Life, & Nature Itself?


Active Thinking Topic 69 - October 31 2023 - Are Houses Just for Living In?


Active Thinking Topic 68 - 17 October 2023 - Magical Thinking - What Drives It?


Active Thinking Topic 67 - 3 October 2023 - New Research: You Can Live Forever (Prof. D Sinclair, Harvard). Great Idea?


Active Thinking Topic 66 - 14 September 2023 - What Does It Take To Think Creatively?


Active Thinking Topic 65 - 30 August 2023 - For & Against Being a Stoic


Active Thinking Topic 64 - 16 August 2023 - Bullshit Jobs, Gig Jobs, Consequences


Active Thinking Topic 63 - 2 August 2023 - How Many Children Does A Person, A Country Need?


Active Thinking Topic 62 - 22 July 2023 - Collective Intelligence Vs Collective Stupidity

Active Thinking Topic 61 - 8 July 2023 - Nationalism - A Good or Bad Idea?


Active Thinking Topic 60 - 24 June 2023 - The Benefits of Being Second Best


Active Thinking Topic 59 - 10 June 2023 - The Age of Anxiety OR The Age of Opportunity?


Active Thinking Topic 58  - 27 May 2023 - Exit Doctors & Teachers, Enter Chat GPT? AI In Your Life

Active Thinking Topic 57  - 13 May 2023 - There Are Two Kinds of People in the World (??)

Active Thinking Topic 56  - 29 April 2023 - When Is Reason Not Rational?

Active Thinking Topic 55  - April 15 2023 - When is Force Necessary?

Active Thinking Topic 54  - April 1 2023 - The 4th Industrial Revolution

Active Thinking Topic 53  - 18 March 2023 - Believe It Or Not - What is True Anymore?

Active Thinking Topic 52  - 4 March 2023 - Everything is Better Than It Used to Be - Right?

Active Thinking Topic 51  - 18 February 2023 - You Can't Ask That!

Active Thinking Topic 50  - 4 February 2023 - Natural and Unnatural Abilities


Active Thinking Topic 49  -  21 January 2023 -  Is It Worth Knowing How Stuff Works?

Active Thinking Topic 48  -  7 January 2023 - Random - Think Deeply About Simple Things

Active Thinking Topic 47  - 19 December 2022 - What is a Fair Wage?

>>> Essay  generated by Artificial Intelligence (ChatGPT) on the topic, "What is a fair wage in Australia"


Active Thinking Topic 46   - 5 December 2022 - Self Education


Active Thinking Topic 45   - 21 November 2022 - Your Body Parts Replaced & Modified - Any Limits?


Active Thinking Topic 44   - 7 November 2022 - Low Challenge Vs High Challenge


Active Thinking Topic 43   - 24 October 2022 - Everyone Wants Your Attention, Nobody Gets It


Active Thinking Topic 42  - 11 October 2022 - Can Science Be Trusted?


Active Thinking Topic 41   - 27 September 2022 - Are We All A Little Mad?


Active Thinking Topic 40   - 13 September 2022 - Migration is Destiny


Active Thinking Topic 39   - 30 August 2022 - Givers, Takers & Matchers


Active Thinking Topic 38   - 16 August 2022 - Not Quite Perfect Individuals & Cultures - Flaws In The Glass


Active Thinking Topic 37   - 02 August 2022 - The Price of Freedom


Active Thinking Topic 36   - 19 July 2022 - What is the Use of God(s)?


Active Thinking Topic 35   - 05 July 2022 - Intuition - When Does It Work?


Active Thinking Topic 34   - 21 June 2022 - Scammers of the World Unite !


Active Thinking Topic 33   - 07 June 2022 - The Best Questions Start a Journey


Active Thinking Topic 32   - 24 May 2022 - Status Games - What's the Big Attraction?


Active Thinking Topic 31   - 10 May 2022 - What's Wrong With Democracy?


Active Thinking Topic 30   - 26 April 2022 - The more things change the more they stay the same


Active Thinking Topic 29  - 12 April 2022 - Lazy People Are Essential


Active Thinking Topic 28  - 29 March 2022 - Wars Are Inevitable. Yes or No?


Active Thinking Topic 27  - 15 March 2022 - Fantasy Is Both Necessary and Dangerous


Active Thinking Topic 26  - 1 March 2022 - Things That Don't Make Any Sense


Active Thinking Topic 25  - 15 February 2022 - Everyone is a Hero in Their Own Movie


Active Thinking Topic 24  - 1 February 2022 - The Limits of Competence - Are We Just Monkeys with Screwdrivers?


Active Thinking Topic 23  - 18 January 2022 - Your Letter to Santa's Mailbox


Active Thinking Topic 22  - 4 January 2022 - Unknown Unknowns


Active Thinking Topic 21  - 21 December 2021 - How Safe Do You Need To Be?


Active Thinking Topic 20  - 7 December 2021 - Yes/No/Neither? - Brainwash Test


Active Thinking Topic 19  - 22 November 2021 - What Is Australia's Big Plan? Yours?


Active Thinking Topic 18  - 8 November 2021 - Fake It 'Till You Make It


Active Thinking Topic 17  - 25 October 2021 - The Road to Hell is Paved with Good Intentions


Active Thinking Topic 16  - 11 October 2021 - Clutter! What & Who is Worth Keeping?


Active Thinking Topic 15  - 27 September 2021 - Does Debt Matter?


Active Thinking Topic 14  - 13 September 2021 - When Does Free Mean Selfish?


Active Thinking Topic 13  - 30 August 2021 -  Will Big Data Eat You for Breakfast?


Active Thinking Topic 12  - 16 August 2021 - Woman Trouble. Man Trouble. Is a Truce in Sight?


Active Thinking Topic 11  - 2 August 2021  - Effective Democracy With Stupid Voters


Active Thinking Topic 10  - 19 July 2021  - Everyone Has a Plan Until They Get Punched in the Face


Active Thinking Topic 09  - 5 July 2021  - Who Should Pay Tax? Who Does Not Pay Tax? Why?


Active Thinking Topic 08  - 21 June2021 - A Sense of Proportion


Active Thinking Topic 07  - 7 June2021 - Inventions We Need - Real & Imaginary


Active Thinking Topic 06  - 24 May 2021 - Best Ways to Herd the Human Herd?


Active Thinking Topic 05  - 10 May 2021 - Truth & Propaganda in Public & Private Life


Active Thinking Topic 04  - 26 April 2021 - Life Lessons?


Active Thinking Topic 03  - 12 April 2021 - So What Is Your Culture Anyway?


Active Thinking Topic 02  - 22 March 2021 - Imagine That!-Is Imagination a Friend or Enemy?


Active Thinking Topic 01  - 8 March 2021 Dilemma - The Politics of Climate Change


DiscussionX8 Topic 17 - 22 February 2021 How Does Science Differ from Religions and Ideologies?


DiscussionX8 Topic 16  8 February 2021 -  Life is Unfair. So What?


DiscussionX8 Topic 15 Date:  25 January 2021 - The Human Spirit - Inspiration, Perspiration or Lucky Gamble?


DiscussionX8 Topic 14   Date: 11 January 2021 - Risk and Original Thinking


DiscussionX8 Topic 13  Date: 28 December 2020 - How independent should Australians and Australia be?


DiscussionX8 Topic 12 Date: 14 December 2020 - Food Wars - Vegan or Carnivore?


DiscussionX8 Topic 11  Date: 30 November 2020 - So What is Creativity Anyway?


DiscussionX8 Topic 10 Date: 9 November 2020 - What Level of Social Control is OK ?


DiscussionX8 Topic 9 Date: 26 October 2020 - Smart Phones Changed Us


DiscussionX8 Topic 8 Date: 10 October 2020 - Too Big to Care


DiscussionX4 Topic 7 Date: 26 September 2020 - Is There Life After Food, Drink and Sex?


DiscussionX4 Topic 6 Date: 12 September 2020 - Conspiracy Beliefs & Cults - What's the Overlap?


DiscussionX4 Topic 5 Date: 29 August 2020 - The Average Quality of Leadership Never Improves - Why?


DiscussionX4 Topic 4 Date: 15 August 2020 - Do you get what you pay for in life?


DiscussionX4 Topic 3 Date: 1 August 2020 - Everything You Believe About #?@$ Is Wrong [macro economics]


DiscussionX4 Topic 2 Date: 18 July 2020 - No Escape - You sink or swim with friends & enemies - Australia too


DiscussionX4 Topic 1 Date: 4 July 2020 - The Disaster of Knowing Too Much



Adelaide Lunchtime Seminar Topic 62 Date: 20 June 2020 - ONLINE A Life of Unintended Consequences


Adelaide Lunchtime Seminar Topic 61 Date: 6 June 2020 - ONLINE - Everything Online? - How Wide and Deep Can We Go?


Adelaide Lunchtime Seminar Topic 60 Date: 23 May 2020 - ONLINE - Too Risky! .. or Who Dares Wins?


Adelaide Lunchtime Seminar Topic 59 Date: 9 May 2020 - ONLINE - Stupidity is Kind of Interesting


Adelaide Lunchtime Seminar Topic 58 Date:  25 April 2020  ONLINE - The New Australia - After Covid-19


Adelaide Lunchtime Seminar Topic 57 Date:  11 April 2020 ONLINE -  Attitudes to Religion: Moral Argument Vs 'Is There a Market for It?


Adelaide Lunchtime Seminar Topic 56 Date: 14 March 2020  Climate Change and Energy Choices - Nuclear ...?


Adelaide Lunchtime Seminar Topic 55 Date: 29 February 2020  Could You Be A Surprising Success as an Online Learner?


Adelaide Lunchtime Seminar Topic 54 Date: 15 February 2020  Routines of Creation & Destruction - The Sorcerer's Apprentice


Adelaide Lunchtime Seminar Topic 53 Date: 1 February 2020 We Need Hopeless Situations, Don't You Agree?


Adelaide Lunchtime Seminar Topic 52 Date: January 18 2020  Race, Culture, Privilege


Adelaide Lunchtime Seminar Topic 51 Date: 4 January 2020  How Spaces Shape Us


Adelaide Lunchtime Seminar Topic 50 Date:  21 December 2019  Question Everything - The Key to Creative Change


Adelaide Lunchtime Seminar Topic 49 Date:  7 December 2019 Are you for rent? What are your terms?


Adelaide Lunchtime Seminar Topic 48 Date:  23 November 2019  Is Australia For Sale?


Adelaide Lunchtime Seminar Topic 47 Date:  9 November 2019 Social Class - What is it? Do you need it? Can you avoid it?


Adelaide Lunchtime Seminar Topic 46 Date:  26 October 2019 Competently Incompetent - Being good at doing things badly


Adelaide Lunchtime Seminar Topic 45 Date:  12 October 2019 What is smart & what is crazy? Part 2 Organizations


Adelaide Lunchtime Seminar Topic 44 Date:  28 September 2019  What is smart & what is crazy? Part 1: Individuals


Adelaide Lunchtime Seminar Topic 43 Date:  14 September 2019  Everyone needs to cheat a little


Adelaide Lunchtime Seminar Topic 42 Date:  31 August 2019  Is Privacy Worth Having?


Adelaide Lunchtime Seminar Topic 41 Date:  17 August 2019  What are we humans evolving into? What's the competition?


Adelaide Lunchtime Seminar Topic 40 Date:  10 August 2019  Memory - Builder, Guide, Trickster, Demon of Passions, or Best Forgotten?


Adelaide Lunchtime Seminar Topic 39 Date:  20 July 2019  Destinations Shape Us. What's Yours?


Adelaide Lunchtime Seminar Topic 38 Date:  6 July 2019  What If .... (.. and what could possibly go wrong)?


Adelaide Lunchtime Seminar Topic 37 Date:  22 June 2019  Is Australia a Significant Country? Does it Matter?


Adelaide Lunchtime Seminar Topic 36 Date:  8 June 2019  Play is the Engine of Creation


Adelaide Lunchtime Seminar Topic 35 Date:  25 May 2019  Boundary Players, Boundary Breakers, Navigators and Drifters


Adelaide Lunchtime Seminar Topic 34 Date: 11 May 2019  Money Exists to Make Friends Out Of Enemies


Adelaide Lunchtime Seminar Topic 33 Date:  27 April 2019 You can't fool all of the people all of the time


Adelaide Lunchtime Seminar Topic 32 Date:  12 April 2019: It's All Too Complicated


Adelaide Lunchtime Seminar Topic 31  Date:  30 March 2019: Viral Ideas, Viral Emotions, Psychological & Social Contagion


Adelaide Lunchtime Seminar Topic 30  Date:  16 March 2019: Tax What? Tax Who? Why?


Adelaide Lunchtime Seminar Topic 29  Date:  2 March 2019: Do You Work for Love or Money? - The Mercenary's Tale


Adelaide Lunchtime Seminar Topic 28  Date:  16 January 2019: Folk Tales In Disguise - What We Hear and Tell


Adelaide Lunchtime Seminar Topic 27  Date:  2 February 2019: The World in 2054 - Your Predictions


Adelaide Lunchtime Seminar Topic 26  Date:  19 January 2019: Change only happens when people change their minds. (Doesn't it..?)


Adelaide Lunchtime Seminar Topic 25  Date:  5 January 2019: Global culture Vs local cultures - love or war?


Adelaide Lunchtime Seminar Topic 24  Date:  22 December 2018: Is it possible to go back to where we came from?


Adelaide Lunchtime Seminar Topic 23  Date:  8 December 2018: Individualist cultures Vs collectivist cultures


Adelaide Lunchtime Seminar Topic 22  Date:  24 November 2018: How free should free speech be?


Adelaide Lunchtime Seminar Topic 21  Date:  10 November 2018: So what do you think you should do about climate change (if anything)?


Adelaide Lunchtime Seminar Topic 20  Date:  27 October 2018: The Best Model? => Education = Procedures + Stories to Justify +... = Job (???)


Adelaide Lunchtime Seminar Topic 19  Date:  13 October 2018: How real is the 4th Industrial Revolution to you?


Adelaide Lunchtime Seminar Topic 18  Date:  29 September 2018: Which way is the (human) herd running?


Adelaide Lunchtime Seminar Topic 17  Date:  15 September 2018: What is the best way to give stuff away?


Adelaide Lunchtime Seminar Topic 16  Date:  1 September 2018: Is Australia Doomed to Become a Dictatorship?


Adelaide Lunchtime Seminar Topic 15  Date:  18 August 2018 : - The Gentle Art & Science of Being a Better Second Best


Adelaide Lunchtime Seminar Topic 14  Date:  4 August 2018 : Trump says that Americans (and everyone else) are stupid. Is he right?


Adelaide Lunchtime Seminar Topic 13  Date:  21 July 2018 : Is Artificial Intelligence Good for Us?


Adelaide Lunchtime Seminar Topic 12  Date:  7 July 2018 : All men are not created equal, neither are all women


Adelaide Lunchtime Seminar Topic 11  Date:  23 June 2018 : Magic is always popular


Adelaide Lunchtime Seminar Topic 10  Date:  9 June 2018 : History is written by the literate, and lived by the nameless


Adelaide Lunchtime Seminar Topic 9  Date:  26 May 2018 : The End of Trust - So who is left to believe in?


Adelaide Lunchtime Seminar Topic 8  Date:  14 May 2018 : Do Australians have it too easy?


Adelaide Lunchtime Seminar Topic 7  Date:  29 April 2018 : Why do people stop learning? (... Do they?)

Adelaide Lunchtime Seminar Topic 6  Date:  16 April 2018 :
$1m now, or $1,000 a week for the rest of your life - both tax free?


Adelaide Lunchtime Seminar Topic 5  Date:  2 April 2018 : Plan, take a risk, or just let it flow?


Adelaide Lunchtime Seminar Topic 4  Date:  19 March 2018 :  Common Values - inherited, acquired, bought, made .. or a myth?


Adelaide Lunchtime Seminar Topic 3  Date:  5 March 2018 : Simplicity  from Complexity - change yourself (and the world)


Adelaide Lunchtime Seminar Topic 2  Date:  19 February 2018 : Imagination exercise: What Startup would you like to start up?


Adelaide Lunchtime Seminar Topic 1  Date:  5 February 2018 : No hiding place: Have you been milkshake-ducked?



AQ&A Topic 13  Date:  22 January 2018 : Money has made us human(e). Disagree if you dare


AQ&A Topic 12  Date 8 January 2018 : Have You Been Socially Engineered by Governments & Companies?


AQ&A Topic 11 Date: 27 December 2017 : Lazy and Stupid Saves Us All


AQ&A Topic 10 Date: 11 December 2017 : A Short History of the Future


AQ&A Topic 9 Date: 27 November 2017 : The Blowback from Punishment


AQ&A Topic 8 Date: 13 November 2017 : Outsiders and Ritual Followers


AQ&A Topic 7 Date: 30 October 2017 : Humans as Predators - a net plus or a minus?


AQ&A Topic 6 Date: 16 October 2017 : Is Time Wasting a Waste of Time?


AQ&A Topic 5 Date: 1 October 2017 : China - Friend or Enemy? Neither or Both?


AQ&A Topic 4 Date: 17 September 2017 : A citizen of the world? .. of a country, a town? So what is a citizen anyway?


AQ&A Topic 3 Date: 3 September 2017 : Maybe "God" is a brain bot for avoiding responsibility ..


AQ&A2 DATE: August 20 2017 Topic: The War on Terror - does it make sense?


AQ&A1 DATE: August 6 2017 Topic: The Contest for Competence



EH6 DATE: July 23 2017 Topic: Bamboozled ! Finding a way through double talk

Let's explore the infinitely deceptive and confusing answers that can be given to the most innocent of questions.


EH5  DATE: 9 July  2017

Topic: Creatively destroy a short talk by Thor: “The holiday business – do holidays actually change people?”


EH4  DATE: 25 June   2017


Topic : History shows that humans have never found a way to choose the best leaders for anything, or even the best partners. ( .. the aim is for those who come to the meetup to formulate ten questions which will throw light on the topic before allowing themselves to debate, express opinions and discuss. The underlying objective is to foster skills in framing interesting questions)


EH3  DATE: 11 June   2017

Topic : There are so many competing sources of information and distraction now that the idea of a “common culture” is nonsense. ( .. the aim is for those who come to the meetup to formulate ten questions which will throw light on the topic before allowing themselves to debate, express opinions and discuss. The underlying objective is to foster skills in framing interesting questions). [Post-meetup sub-questions by Thor on Common Culture]


EH2  DATE: 4 June   2017

Topic : Equality is a myth ( .. the aim is for those who come to the meetup to formulate ten questions which will throw light on the topic before allowing themselves to debate, express opinions and discuss. The underlying objective is to foster skills in framing interesting questions). [Post-meetup sub-questions by Thor on Equality]


EH1  DATE: 21 May  2017

Topic : Money - past, present & future ( .. the aim is for those who come to the meetup to formulate ten questions which will throw light on the topic before allowing themselves to debate, express opinions and discuss. The underlying objective is to foster skills in framing interesting questions). [Post-meetup sub-questions by Thor on Money]



QE8  DATE: 14 May  2017

1. How can people, projects, organizations, countries .. be both a success and failure at the same time? Think of examples, and what can be done about failure as a partner of success? [Thor] = sub-Questions & references about simultaneous success and failure @

2. Where will we go after we achieve all we want (at this moment) in our life? [Min, Thor] = sub-Questions & references about success @

My background for this question is that I have a Chinese supervisor. He immigrated in Australia in 1989. Now he is a professor in Uni. He is a typical successful migrant here. He came here with nothing, owns his own gorgeous house in Adelaide, has 2 lovely daughters, a well-paid job in university, high status and a good reputation...

Everything he has is all I'm chasing now. I'm trying so hard to graduate, to find a great job, to have beautiful children, to be a successful person. [But] I have never thought about what I'm going to do if I achieve everything. 

QE8  DATE: 30 April 2017

1. What is the best way to ask interesting questions, and why bother anyway? [Thor] = sub-Questions about Reasons for Asking Questions @

2. What is the meaning of universities apart from learning knowledge, which may never be used in your life? [Min, Thor] = sub-Questions & references about the meaning of universities @

QE7  DATE: 23 April 2017 [nil attendance - cancelled]

QE6  DATE: 3 April 2017 [nil attendance - cancelled]

1. Is personal threat (or its disappearance) usually the main driver of action or belief? … or stated in a more colourful way: "Knowing that you will be shot at dawn concentrates the mind wonderfully" - How useful is this idiom as a guide to management and self-management? [Thor] = sub-Questions about Threat driving behaviour @

Here are some example propositions that flow from it (they might or might not be true):

a) "The great handicap of the welfare state is that it takes pressure off individuals to exercise initiative".

b) "Australian's are basically lazy because there is always a way to get by in this country".

c) "Traditional religion has been fading for 300 years because the fear of early death has lost reality for the young (with increasing lifespans )."

d) "Trumpism's assault on democracy and truth-telling is leading to an urgent rebirth of democracy and truth-telling".

2.  ....


QE5  DATE: 19 March 2017

1. Are humans too successful as a species? Without war and disease, will we simply breed ourselves out of a food supply? Can/should populations be controlled locally and/or globally? [Thor] = sub-Questions about Human Futures @

2. "Why is it that the worlds greatest advances in technology, social welfare and human rights have been invented and implemented by people's and cultures who live in temperate and colder climes, above and below the tropics of Cancer and Capricorn, the Equatorial zones seemingly having the least in all of the above.
Do climatic conditions affect the so called advancement of the human species.? '" [Suzanne Moore] = sub-Questions about Climate Vs Social Development @

3. “Let's question our current energy market. What are it's discrepancies? Why are we having issues with It now?

How did we end up in this current situation? What are the best available options to overcome this issue? Why federal government's policy differs on it.” [Vishal] = sub-Questions about the Energy Market @

QE4  DATE: 5 March 2017

1. The American President has declared that journalists are "the enemy of the people". Is this simply unhinged, or is there an argument to be made here? What is the proper function of the 4th Estate in the 21st Century and how is that role to be formally accommodated? [Thor] = sub-Questions about Journalism

2. How do we get new ideas? Ideas "come" to my mind at times ... but do these ideas "come" from an external source or do "I think" of those ideas? - because I hardly ever sit down to say OK now I am going to sit down and "think of an idea" but it usually just "comes" while busy with something completely irrelevant. If it just "comes" from somewhere then am I entitled to claim ownership of it? [Amir] = sub-Questions about New Ideas

3. It is not long since President Donald Trump signed an executive order formally withdrawing the United States from the 12-nation Trans-Pacific Partnership trade deal. So lets’ discuss the Trans-Pacific Partnership with an unbiased approach. = sub-Questions about New Ideas

a) Do you think that America will be like Scandinavia, and reinvest a portion of the profits reaped by greater access to Asian markets on economic growth, unemployment benefits, worker retraining and government programs? Or

b) Do you think that America will call those things socialism, ignore the problem, and allow large companies to reap the economic rewards unmolested which would eventually be a failure of TPP?"

4 How have we allowed our democracy to be so partisan? There is virtually no debate simply a statement of ideological position which instantly makes the argument - I'm right, therefore you must wrong. Socrates' associates understood the concept of 'statesmanship', the concept of acting for the state, not themselves or individualistic agendas. Is this why we see the dissatisfaction and frustration with current politics leading to the simplistic extremes of Trump and Hanson. I'm sure you all get my drift .. [Bryn] = sub-Questions about New Ideas

QE3  DATE: February 19 2017

1. The past year has been awful in the middle east with the Syrian/ISIS etc conflicts. Can Islam (as a religion) overcome the political extremist (Islamist) outworkings seen in this area and carried abroad by terrorism? Will it be possible for Muslims to be accepted into other cultures and societies as being seperate from the extreme or is the hegemonic already fact? [Bryn] = sub-Questions about confirmation bias @

2. America’s Trump is opinionated to the point of wanting to be President, yet can/will only read single page bullet point summaries on anything. This is not unusual among management, let alone employees. The average reading age of a tabloid reader (e.g. of Adelaide’s The Advertiser) is 11 years. Almost half of Australians are functionally illiterate (can’t read the stuff on a jam jar label). What are the consequences of low literacy, and what (if anything) can be done about it? [Thor] = sub-Questions about confirmation bias @

QE2  DATE 29 January 2017

1. "Accordion to scientific studies, 90% of the people do not realize I replaced the beginning of the sentence with an instrument" [stolen from a Facebook post :) ]. What are some uses and abuses of perceptual error? - Note: perceptual error is not just for party games. It is a major element in all kinds of institutions and processes. [Thor] = sub-Questions about confirmation bias @

2. To what extent does Confirmation Bias influence our lives? What do we do with it? I have been reading some articles related to this concept and finding it very interesting as to its nature of interconnectedness to heaps of other subjects, such as decision making, rigid and set ideas compassing your life path, and the notion of getting out of your comfort zone and suchlike. [Sophie] = sub-Questions about confirmation bias @

3. Does our apprehension of beauty have an objective foundation in external reality, or is it purely subjective, i.e. all in the mind? [Bernard] = sub-Questions about Beauty @

QE1  DATE 15 January 2017

1. What do you find funny? Where does that kind of humour place you in the human zoo? [Thor] = sub-Questions about Humour

2. If there was any really serious conflict between USA and China where would Russia sit? - I am always fascinated by the love/hate - dependence/conflict avoidance relationship between China and Russia and the twisted history those two nations have. [Gerard]

3. To what extent does Confirmation Bias influence our lives? What do we do with it? I have been reading some articles related to this concept and finding it very interesting as to its nature of interconnectedness to heaps of other subjects, such as decision making, rigid and set ideas compassing your life path, and the notion of getting out of your comfort zone and suchlike. [Sophie] - not yet discussed || = sub-Questions about confirmation bias @

4. What lies beyond our observable universe? [Vee] = sub-Questions about confirmation bias @

5. What does Universe mean...Mmmmm - UNI - meaning ONE
VERSE - meaning SONG - Why was Space called One Song?
So many questions. .. [Enzo]

6. Does our apprehension of beauty have an objective foundation in external reality, or is it purely subjective, i.e. all in the mind? [Bernard] = sub-Questions about Beauty @

7. "Is a big Australian population a good thing or not?" [John]



Past Discussion Topics, plus links for the Active Thinking meetups, Adelaide and Brisbane, and Brisbane Gentle Thinkers before those  (most recent discussions at the top) Note: Together with the topics already discussed below, I have added links to articles and notes which were intended to facilitate discussion. For most of these meetups I prepare some personal notes, also linked here, and/or an actual essay. A number of these essays have received wide subsequent circulation through my repository at

September 25 , 2016    Why do brains go wrong? Who decides?All the world is mad but you and me, and even you are a little strange..” Unbalanced mental states range all the way from depression to killer crazy. In Australia in any given year 4 million people will experience a mental illness, and 1 million Australians have a disabling psychiatric disorder. The favoured treatments of the age are mostly pharmaceutical. How smart is this?

AP8-26 September 9 , 2016  The Trust Problem. Some people and some countries have it. Some don't. Why? Whom do you trust? In a society, less trust = more laws. Signals of trust change between cultures, and even social class. In some countries public trust is almost zero. Also, can a “Facebook friend” or a face from TV be really trusted? An Internet romance? For some, religion signals trustworthiness. What is your solution for building trust in a complicated world?

AP8-25 August 28 , 2016  Donald Trump has won the US presidential election (imagine)!  An attempt to outline some scenarios, blow by blow, over the next four years under a Trump presidential regime. [Australia may be faced with some very  tough choices]

AP8-24 August 14 , 2016  What is fashionable? What drives fashion – in clothes, ideas, behaviour, motor cars, and all the rest. What forces work to disrupt it? How important is fashion, and to whom?

AP8-23 July 31 , 2016  How are children shaped ? The kind of world we live in, whether it be work or play or love or even politics and the fate of communities, depends a lot on the experiences we had as children. Can or should this be influenced beyond the family? If so, how and by whom?

AP8-22 July 17 , 2016  Is globalization a failure, or can something worthwhile be rescued? For a generation globalization has been sold as the yellow brick road to prosperity. What exactly is globalization? Can its benefits be cherry-picked? Where do we go from here?

AP8-21 July 3 , 2016  Count your lucky starsWhat part does luck play in the success of individuals, enterprises and countries? Think of examples. From politics to careers to finding the love of your life, there has never been more advice available, yet at the end of the game, some people seem to have been lucky and others not. Why is this so? Can you really do much about it?

AP8-20 May 22 , 2016  What is the best way to fund research, and what kinds of research should be funded? There are many kinds of research and many kinds of people involved in research. Sometimes what seems useless at the time can have huge consequences a generation later (and sometimes not). Some research results which seem a triumph at the time are show useless by later developments. A career in research requires dedication and talent, but is highly risky in terms of personal and institutional success. How can all of these factors be balanced?

AP8-19 May 8 , 2016  A Universal Basic Income. $400 per week indexed to the CPI Pay everyone $400 per week (current age pension), rich or poor, indexed to the CPI. Governments print the money (they do now), and the money goes around. You have an economy. Employers pay a margin above the UBI to attract workers if they want them (overall probably cheaper for them than now). A true market then controls most working conditions, not the current blackmail. Centrelink (now a failed organization) not needed. Tax system simplified. Automation taking jobs doesn’t matter. Health costs fall. People can choose to learn, grow and think. Free university & tech (like Germany). Employment for satisfaction, more money and/or career interest.

AP8-18 April 24, 2016  Prisons: so what is to be done? It costs … taxpayers $109,782.60 a year – or $301.60 each day - to keep a prisoner "on the inside", according to the Australian Productivity Commission. Alternatively it costs $49,700 – less than half - to provide that prisoner with rent, food, a small four-cylinder car and money for any degree in Australia for a year”. [Brisbane Times 28 Febuary 2016]

AP8-17 April 10 , 2016  What is right and what is wrong in the training of medical doctors? Comment: somewhere out there in medical-land there is a useful answer for many medical questions, but experience (mine at least) suggests that odds of finding a GP who knows is often slim. For someone with basic research skills, good answers tend to come better (and more cheaply!) from “Dr Google”. Also Dr Google soon shows up where the science is not settled (most issues), but doctors rarely do. Nor will they debate the evidence.

AP8-16 March 27 , 2016  Questions about Cities - Cities are a complicated and fascinating subject. They pose endless questions. For example, as individuals, are our life opportunities more defined by particular cities than particular countries? How much loyalty and sweat should we invest in a particular city? What makes a good city? How important is it for a city to be well-known, and what can they do about it? The UN lists 4,416 cities in the world with a population of over 150,000. The biggest (Tokyo and Jakarta) have over 30 million people. Cities usually want to be “recognized” to attract some kind of advantage, usually economic. Is this kind of ‘city exhibitionism’ a waste of time? .. and more questions that you can think of.

AP8-15 March 13 , 2016 Narcissism grew like an invasive plant throughout the 20th Century. Now it is in full bloom

Firstly a lot (not all) of “modern” art and poetry and even music stopped saying much about the societies which hosted them and became purely self indulgent, often pompously “abstract”. This mirrored a lot (not all) of what was happening in many areas of academic work, and a lot (not all) of what was happening in so-called high finance. When the digital camera democratized imagery, “selfies” (or the ultimate self-indulgence, sexting) became the dominant form of photography. Now Donald Trump stands on top of the American political muck heap and asks to be anointed as the emperor of self-love.

AP8-14 February 28, 2016 How much history should we expect most people to know, and what kind of history? It is often said that history is written by the winners. You might also say that popular history is written by Hollywood, or Facebook, or whatever political enclave you are living in .. Does any of this matter?

AP8-13 February 14, 2016  Politics and Politicians : a volatile mix?Politics is like medicine: sometimes useful, even necessary, in small amounts, but fatal if taken in an overdose. Politicians can be a useful species but are prone to going feral. Democracies often elect either mediocrities or confidence tricksters because large numbers of electors share similar qualities. In practical terms, is there a better way to manage national affairs?

AP8-12 January 31, 2016  Half the jobs in Australia will disappear. What then?Australia has over 600,000 not-for-profit organizations, and a quickly expanding “sharing economy” (e.g. Uber, Airbnb, eBay). Most of this is under the radar of news reports. What are the signs that NFP’s and the sharing economy can become a main career path for many when automation destroys half of normal jobs Australia & America in the next few years?

AP8-11 January 17, 2016  What is your understanding of “Active Thinking”?  What other kinds of thinking (human or non-human) are found in the known universe?Over 140 people have now signed up to the Active Thinking meetup... So let us know (actively!) what you expect to happen when you and a 7 other people get together in the State Library to think actively about a chosen topic. How do you approach puzzling topics over and above giving a simple unexamined opinion? (And just for  laughs, how might cyborgs think through things differently?)  Um, what topics are you ready to think about actively?

AP8-10 January 3, 2016  Adelaide seems to be a media-challenged cityThere are road accident reporters, but there do not seem to be investigative journalists and insightful commentators who interpret the city to itself. What is to be done?

AP8-9 December 20, 2015  When does security become insecurity?

AP8-8 December 6, 2015  The Peculiar Interest of God(s) in Human Morality

AP8-7 November 22, 2015  What are the limits of tolerance? - Can we reconcile “live and let live” with “drawing a line in the sand”?

AP8-6 November 8, 2015 What is your best list of stupidities? What are your cures?

AP8-5 October 25, 2015 When should collective interests (e.g. those of a state) override the interests of individuals? Example: Many Americans see “the right to bear arms” as a triumph of individual rights over the collective rights of the state.

AP8-4 October 11, 2015 Is a modern culture without advertising possible or desirable?.

AP8-3 September 27, 2015 Why have men (not women) made the most inventions?" (Support your case).

AP8-2 September 12, 2015 Can Change be Managed? If so, How and Why? If not, well Bye-bye?

AP8-1a August 30, 2015 and  

AP8-1b September 7, 2015 Rules are for the obedience of fools and the guidance of wise men. [Douglas Bader] How can we interpret Bader’s idea?


BAT13 January 25 , 2015 -  Start your own business – a mental experimentImagine that you are starting a new business. What would it be? Why did you choose it? Why would you choose a personal enterprise over working for somebody else (or why wouldn’t you)? What rewards would you be looking for? What personal costs would you be prepared to tolerate? Would you attempt it alone, or would you look for partner(s)? What are the ways you could fund such a startup? Would it be local, or seek a wider market? .

BAT12 January 11 , 2015 -  Is the “white noise” of daily media distraction deliberate social control, or just modernity out of control?Everyone has only 24 hours in a day. In many countries  the sheer struggle to survive occupies most waking hours. In some others, any “free thinking time” is carefully manipulated by state directed activities, propaganda and censorship. A possible third model is that ruling elites and governments may prevent criticism by distracting the main population with sports, entertainment and endless trivial ‘news’.

BAT11 December 28 , 2014 -  Why do people take up religions, persist with them, and abandon them ? Whatever you think of religions personally, or any particular religion, they seem to have been around forever amongst (most) humans, and seem unlikely to go away entirely amongst the species as a whole. Clearly though, particular cultures in various historical phases have many members who are attracted to religions or substitute ideologies, but tend to drift away from them in other phases. At a different level, women seem to be the most persistent believers by numbers, but religious  hierarchies are almost always controlled by (humourless old) men…  What is it in human psychology that generates these religious phenomena?

BAT10 December 14 , 2014 -  When is censorship acceptable? Justify your argument Forty years ago the biggest social debates were about the acceptability (or not) of censorship related to sexuality. Now the preoccupation might be more with political censorship. There are many kinds of censorship, including self-censorship. Who should be drawing these invisible lines in the sand, and applied to what?

BAT9 November 30 , 2014 -  Should University Education Be Free? If not, why not? With the rocketing prices of tertiary education and the availability of free online open courses, will university education become obsolete? What needs to change in the system to adapt to the new realities of  the workplace and technology?

BAT8 November 2 , 2014 -  How can Australia best arrange its international relationships? Since World War II Australia’s leaders have consciously positioned Australia as a client state of the United States of America. Defence forces are totally integrated, and foreign policy rarely deviates from the American line. Australia’s commercial culture is America writ small. Is this American patterning the best option for Australia in the future?

BAT7 October 19 , 2014 -  Does travel broaden the mind or just confirm prejudices?

BAT6 October 5 , 2014 -  DEBATE TOPIC BAT 6. The Work ProblemFor most ordinary people, their job is not something that they enjoy much. However, without formal work they lose focus, become dependent on welfare, and become socially stigmatized. It seems that increasing numbers of people will never be able to have secure employment. What is a practical, long term national solution to “the work problem” for ordinary people?

BAT5 September 21 , 2014 -  DEBATE TOPIC BAT 5. Fake It ‘Till You Make It – A viable way to succeed?It’s all around us. From face lifts to luxury cars on hire purchase, from inflated CVs to exaggerated job titles, from company publicity material to the spin that governments put on their failures and deceptions. At what point does fakery become fraud? Would the world be a duller place without it?  

BAT4 September 7 , 2014 -  DEBATE TOPIC BAT4. Multiculturalism is a Flawed DoctrineNote: Matthew McLean is moderating this meetup topic, and has prepared a thorough set of notes. Please read at

BAT3 August 24, 2014 -  DEBATE TOPIC BAT3. Property and life choices . How does owning (or not owning) real estate, and mortgage debt, influence the behaviour of individuals in their wider lives? What are the consequences of these patterns for whole nations?

BAT2 August 10, 2014 -  DEBATE TOPIC BAT1. The Purpose of EducationIs education most commonly treated purely as an instrumental tool (e.g. to get a job), or as a path to self-development, or both? How can a balance between objectives be achieved in public education?

BAT1 19 July , 2014 -  DEBATE TOPIC BAT1. What are some illusions that Australians live by?What are some illusions Australians live by? .. and why would we want to dispense with illusions?
Think of the imaginary countries we live in. Do all those people you pass on the street every day have their heads in the same place that you do? What are some consequences of NOT sharing the  same illusions?


D27 5 April , 2014 -  DEBATE TOPIC 75. When do ends justify means?Sooner or later everyone – individuals, governments, companies – has to make choices about whether to put aside certain values to achieve a desired end. Michael Pascoe, an Australian financial journalist, has recently discussed this at

D26 5 April , 2014 -  DEBATE TOPIC 74. Learning “grit” is the best way to beat failure and succeed (proposed by Thor) How have you managed your failures, and has failure made you a better person? Everyone fails at something sooner or later. The important thing is how they handle failure. A recent educational fad in America is to teach students “grit” (  ).For those who are unclear, here are a couple of definitions of "grit" from the Internet:
- "firmness of mind or spirit :  unyielding courage in the face of hardship or danger"
- "perseverance and passion for long-term goals"

D25 22 March , 2014 -  DEBATE TOPIC 54. Are diet and exercise really personal choices? (proposed by Thor) A human epidemic of obesity / near-obesity has correlated worldwide with the spread of manufactured food & beverage, and motorized transport. Diet & exercise though seem to be intensely personal choices. How can this dilemma be solved?

D24 8 March , 2014 -  DEBATE TOPIC 72. How Do We Judge Literary and Artistic Value? Are they entirely subjective? (proposed by Bill)

D23 22 February, 2014 -  DEBATE TOPIC 42. Are we too wealthy? Do we demand an unsustainable and unrealistic quality of life? Does our desire to be wealthy place too much pressure on the economy and on the environment? Is it possible that we may have to think about accepting less (proposed by Bill)

D22 9 February, 2014 -  DEBATE TOPIC 48. How Can We Treat Refugees Humanely (proposed by Stephen)

D21 25 January, 2014 -  DEBATE TOPIC 50. People should require a licence to become parents (proposed by Dominicus)D20 11 January, 2014 -  DEBATE TOPIC 70. What will be the dominant  ideologies of the 21st Century? (proposed by Bill [topic 12], modified by Thor)The 20th Century revolved politically around competing interpretations of Capitalism, Communism, Socialism and Fascism. These are all ways to organize the lives of people on a large scale. Are real alternatives or new interpretations likely to emerge in the challenging years ahead? What might they look like?

D19 14 December, 2013  DEBATE TOPIC 64. How far should we go in raising an indifferent public’s awareness of important social, moral or political issues? (proposed by Mehdi)Some believe “ignorance is bliss”, and the more they know the more they get worried. On the other hand we definitely can’t be indifferent about many things. From a social perspective, through which we try to manage our relationship with others in a friendly manner, what is the borderline between legitimate worry (which leads to taking action) and indifference (which preserve peace of mind, at least in the  short term)? Is it morally permissible to encourage other people to worry about certain issues, say global warming, human rights, animal rights, etc. to precipitate effective action? Should we consider them selfish if they are innately not concerned about such issues, or merely show token agreement?

D18 November 30 , 2013  DEBATE TOPIC 65. Creating Meaning in Life Humans have a short physical existence on a planet that will eventually cease to support life at all. In this context, what strategies should humans use to impart meaning to their own lives? Some possibilities are listed. Which of these have you used, and how effective have they been? Are different approaches appropriate to different stages of life? A. Compete with other humans (e.g. for status)
B. Care for other humans (e.g. as a humanitarian)
C. Maximize close connections with other humans (e.g. with a love partner)
D. Maximize positive subjective experiences (e.g. “be happy”)
E. Align yourself with what you believe to be a higher purpose (e.g. politics)
F. Adhere to a set of rules/standards (e.g. moral precepts)
G. Attempt to create something that will outlive you (e.g. art)
H. Invest in the next generation of humans (e.g. your biological offspring)
I. Other approaches?

D17 November 16 , 2013  DEBATE TOPIC 15. Abortion In the recent presidential debates in the USA the Republican party expressed their wish to make abortion illegal once more, with an exception for cases where pregnancy was the result of rape or abuse. Do you think this line of reasoning makes sense? Is it enforceable? Is this even an issue that warrants the government’s involvement?  

D16 November 3 , 2013  DEBATE TOPIC 45. Is love an evolutionary instinct? I.e., is it an innate, unconscious impulse that has been encoded into our genes over millions of years as a mechanism to ensure the survival of (the whole or individual members of) the species? Or is there more to it? Is there another way to explain it? Do all animals experience love?

D15 October 19 , 2013  DEBATE TOPIC 46. Some people consider themselves to be “spiritual”. What does this really mean?

D14 October 5 , 2013  DEBATE TOPIC 29. It is OK to use animals in research if it benefits humans.  

D13 September 22, 2013  DEBATE TOPIC 22. Democratic societies are less likely to make war than dictatorships. What is the evidence?

D12  September 8, 2013  DEBATE TOPIC 53. What is creativity? How can it be taught? How is it important? And should creative, arts and performance skills be a compulsory part of the education curriculum? (proposed by Bill & Thor;  discussed 8 September 2013)Politicians and management gurus tell us endlessly that innovation is critical to national survival. Yet innovation requires creativity, and creativity needs a mindset which does not usually spring from accountants and process workers. In fact, the most dynamic part of many economies  worldwide is (and always has been) found in arts, music, film, performance skills, inspired writing (imaginative or non-fiction), and fine design of all kinds. Should these activities be purely for an elite, or should they be funded and nurtured for everyone within the national education framework?

D11 August 24, 2013   DEBATE TOPIC 34. Is English the most important language in the world? Is English the most important language in the world? Is all language translatable? Which parts of which languages are incompatible with other languages and how do different groups of individuals deal with that? Will globalization accelerate the loss of certain native languages? What are the consequences of focusing on learning the dominant languages and not focusing on preserving native languages?

D10 August 10, 2013 DEBATE TOPIC 23: Economies need a high level of government interference. [.. expanded and posted on the Internet as "Economic Complexity and the Engine of Psychology ] The most economically successful societies have always depended upon a high level of government collusion with commerce and industry, if not control. This argument is a way of saying that the “invisible hand” of the market is not enough to maintain an efficient market, at least beyond village level. There has to be an independent umpire, or forced control (dictator, mafia … )

D9  July 27, 2013  DEBATE TOPIC: 30. Ethical Behaviour is Harder for the Rich. [.. expanded and posted on the Internet]

D8  July 13, 2013  DEBATE TOPIC 33:  Is there any alternative government structure better than democracy? What’s beyond democracy? Is it important to have everyone’s voice being heard or is it the majority opinion that counts? Does the whole voting system represent a nation? What if voting  is not compulsory in Australia? See The Democracy Problem [posted on the Internet]

D7  June 29, 2013 DEBATE TOPIC 6: What is the purpose of dreaming? (i.e. what evolutionary advantage would a dreaming creature have over one that does not dream?) There are many existing theories, such as emotional reboot, building neural networks for visual processing, etc., but there is o genuine consensus on the issue. For a personal perspective on nature of dreaming, see Comments on Dreaming [notes posted online]

D6  June 15, 2013  Debate topic 5: Is there intelligent life elsewhere in the universe? Or was the development of life on earth a complete fluke, a once only event, which happened against all odds, and is never likely to occur again anywhere in the universe? Is the search for life elsewhere in the universe a waste of time, money and resources? Or is it an important endeavour? For reference, see my summary notes on a lecture by Stephen Hawking, online @ Life in the Universe .

D5  June 1, 2013   Debate topic 4: Are antidepressants overprescribed by doctors? Are they masking a person’s true problems? What about the serious side effects? Should they be given to children as young as 5 years old? Can we trust pharmaceutical companies to do their own trials? Why is it governments are not providing more money to relationship education, emotional intelligence, resilience, and counseling to help prevent depression.

D4  May 19, 2013   Debate topic 3: Western civilisation is often held up as an example of having achieved gender equality. Do you think we have reached that point as a nation? Is such an ambition even a real possibility? If it is, what does it look like?

D3  May 4, 2013   Debate topic 2: The line ‘No man is an island’ from a John Donne poem has become famous largely because so many recognise it to be true of the human experience. Why is it that we gravitate towards being in relationship with others? Why is ‘community’ so important to and for us? What would society look like (would there in fact be a notion we could call ‘society’) if each of us operated as ‘an island’? For some informal personal notes on this topic, see No Man is an Island online].

D2  April 20, 2013      Debate topic 1: Are we responsible for our actions in all circumstances. Is there any time we are not. Do we have free will or is everything predetermined? Does anything happen randomly? Some personal notes on this topic are here. (However the notes barely skim the topic, and contain a summary of complexity theory which will not make much sense to anyone who did not participate in the debate). 

D1  April 6, 2013   General discussion.   





other links from this author, Thor May, :

Historical: This web page exists as a record of discussion topics.  The discussions have occurred in a series of meetups. The origin was a meetup which still occurs bi-weekly in Brisbane, Australia, called Gentle Thinkers
( ). The Gentle Thinkers Brisbane meetup is now not associated with this topic list, but the old topics, up to number 79, have been retained for reference. The Gentle Thinkers connection was followed by a new meetup,  Brisbane Active Thinkers. The Brisbane chapter of Active Thinkers was closed when I transferred to Adelaide in 2015, but the topics discussed are retained here. Adelaide Active Thinkers followed the format of the Brisbane model, but I closed it  after a year. I tried a couple of other experimental formats, mostly (failed) attempts to provoke more original contributions from other participants: Question Everything and Eh, Why Do You Think Like That? Questions from all the earlier formats are retained here. These previous meetups were succeeded in Adelaide by a new meetup, Adelaide Question & Answer. AQ&A adopted a pattern of offering a topic question each time, plus a set of about ten sub questions as a focusing mechanism. The hope was that people who came would at least Google the topic before arriving so that we could share their new knowledge. Adelaide Lunchtime Seminar has retained the format of AQ&A, but transferred the venue from a pub on weekdays to a cafe on Saturdays, to (hopefully) appeal to a wider demographic. Most  ALS topics now also have a recommended list of reading links, often with added comments by Thor.



Index of Discussion Topics (c) Thor May 2019

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