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Edward Snowden, Roxane Gay and Jon Ronson Headline 2020's Festival of Dangerous Ideas

FODI heads to Sydney Town Hall for three days of discussions on deep fakes, porn, Russia's role in the US election and the surveillance state.
By Sarah Ward
January 29, 2020
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Edward Snowden, Roxane Gay and Jon Ronson Headline 2020's Festival of Dangerous Ideas

FODI heads to Sydney Town Hall for three days of discussions on deep fakes, porn, Russia's role in the US election and the surveillance state.
By Sarah Ward
January 29, 2020
  shares

Established in 2009 to discuss difficult issues, push boundaries and inspire debate, Sydney's Festival of Dangerous Ideas has spent a decade exploring provocative topics — and it's celebrating its tenth anniversary in the same fashion. Returning in 2020 after sitting out 2019, this year's event will tackle the theme 'dangerous realities' with help from Edward Snowden, Jon Ronson, Roxane Gay and Lindy Chamberlain-Creighton.

Presented by The Ethics Centre — who co-founded the fest with the Sydney Opera House, then partnered with UNSW for the 2018 version of the event on Cockatoo Island — the 2020 event will fill Sydney Town Hall with discussions about a wide range of subjects between Friday, April 3–Sunday, April 5. When you're not listening to speakers examine the reality of mass surveillance or dissect one of Australia's most famous criminal cases, you'll be absorbed in chats about deep fakes, porn, the commercial side of surrogate pregnancy, gene editing and nuclear weapons.

Obviously, headliner Snowden will be delving into government surveillance systems — and, just as obviously, the whistleblower will be appearing via live stream rather than in person. Fellow high-profile speaker Ronson will be in Sydney in the flesh, so that he can talk about flesh, with the So You've Been Publicly Shamed author and Frank and Okja screenwriter chatting about his experiences exploring the world of pornography.

Jon Ronson

As for Gay, she'll be presenting the festival's annual keynote speech, which it introduced in 2018. Called 'The Hitch' after FODI inaugural speaker Christopher Hitchens, the centrepiece discussion will hone in on the fest's overall theme — and why professor, commentator and Bad Feminist writer Gay is happy to discuss the dangerous realities around her.

Elsewhere, Lindy Chamberlain-Creighton will speak about her wrongful murder conviction and decades-long fight to get a court to rule that a dingo took her baby Azaria. A session called 'Unforgivable' will bring five Aussie youth activists to the stage, chatting about their hopes for the country's future and pairing their talks with a performance by 18-person all-female Indigenous vocal ensemble Marliya — with attendees choosing how much they're willing to pay to listen to the nation's next generation. Still keeping things local, Aboriginal Australian activist and human rights lawyer Megan Davis will examine a topic of continuing relevance: the country's struggle to face the truth about our First Nations history.

Also on the agenda: Russia's role in this year's US election, Australia's relationship with China, and the inescapable fact that big technology companies have been digitising (and monetising) our entire lives. In a subject that's no less important, but will be treated in a far more lively manner, you can also attend a science and song-fuelled session about menstruation. Or, Sydneysiders can take part in an interactive social experiment, with the FODI audience helping philosopher Matt Beard decide which worthy charity should receive a — very real — cash donation.

The 2020 Festival of Dangerous Ideas runs from Friday, April 3–Sunday April 5 at Sydney Town Hall. To peruse the full program — and to buy festival passes from 8am on Thursday, January 30 — visit the festival website.

Top images: Jodie Barker

Published on January 29, 2020 by Sarah Ward

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