Progress: Human Destiny or Fool’s Errand?

The last City Symposium of 2016 is Wednesday, December 14 at 7pm (Chaucer’s Atrium)

The topic is Progress: Human Destiny or Fool’s Errand?

It is often taken as fact that humanity is in a constant state of progress and that it stands to reason that everything will culminate in a golden age. This reasoning informs public policy, provides context for art and religion and is a central tenet of Star Trek. But is it real? This discussion is to question the validity of the notion of progress. For example if we make strides in one field of endeavour, is there a counterbalancing negative impact somewhere else? Is progress still progress if it only applies to a fraction of the population? And where is my flying car?

Do you think human progress is a forgone conclusion? Watch John Grey’s lecture On Progress to challenge your assumptions. Alternatively, if you think humanity is pretty much doomed to run around the same circle over and over again, read the opening to Kenan Malik’s book The Quest for a Moral Compass.

We will also set aside a few minutes to talk about the future of the City Symposium discussions in 2017.

See you on December 14th!

Privacy in the Digital Age:real, perceived or a ‘notion of the past’?

The topic for the October 12 City Symposium discussion is digital privacy. This topic has been proposed by Jim Rule:

I have been interested in the concept of privacy for several years. My attention in this subject was further enhanced by the Snowdon affair, the hacking of cell phones of world leaders (Merkel) and the rapid demise of political candidates in the last federal election.
In my search, I found I two books for further exploration into this topic:
Is Privacy Dead? The Future of Privacy in the Digital Age by David Houle, 2013 IBSN 9781479010127

Intellectual Privacy: Rethinking Civil Liberties in the Digitsl Age by Neil Richards, 2015
IBSN 978019994614

To begin the discussion on this subject I chose the following questions from Richard’s book as follows:

What does it mean to have privacy in a Digital Age?

What kind of rights should we have…in the communication of information about us?

In a quote by Zadie Smith, an American novelist, ‘In the Anglo-American world we race ahead with technology and hope that the ideas will look after themselves’ In response to that quote,

Has the idea of privacy and the values inherent in this idea llagged behind our technological advancements?


…whether it’s your laptop, your IPhone, your tablet or your digital camera, be sure to smile because you never know who’s watching!

See you at Chaucers (Atrium) on Wednesday, October 12, at 7pm!

August 10th topic: ‘Mental Illness: is it a Gift or a Curse?’

At our next discussion, Shelley Carr will facilitate a conversation exploring our ideas and assumptions about mental health:

Coming from a family with both schizophrenia and bipolar disorder, and a sufferer of GAD I have seen the wonders of mental illness but also the suffering. If we could eliminate Mental illness totally, would our world be a better place?

August 10, 7pm, at the Atrium in Chaucer’s Pub. See you there!

(Also: now is a great time to pitch a topic for our October 12 discussion!)

Summer Update

There is no official City Symposium event scheduled for July. However…

…a few of us were chatting at the last symposium about the idea of getting together for an informal pint or two anyway. I (James) would like to propose that we meet up at Chaucers on Wednesday, July 20, at 7pm to have a drink and discuss … whatever comes up! No specific topic or facilitator — just a pub night to visit with interesting people. (Note: this informal evening will not take place in the Atrium; we will be in the main pub area.) If you are interested in coming, please hit reply and let me know!

The next actual/organized City Symposium event is scheduled for Wednesday, August 10th. You should jet over to to vote for a discussion topic or pitch a presentation idea.

City Symposium: Wednesday, June 8

The next City Symposium discussion is on Wednesday, June 8, at 7:00pm (Chaucers’ Atrium room)

The topic for this dialogue: Attention Deficit Disorder (ADD): Disorder or Superpower, as proposed by Matt Ross:

As someone who was diagnosed with ADD and took medication for many years, I’m fascinated by the tension between how ADD is perceived in our society, and how we deal with that perception. Now in my life, I see it as a super power, my greatest gift, years before this, I thought it was my greatest curse. I want to explore this tension, and how it plays out in our society.

Also: the poll for future discussion topics has been reset. Jump on over to the ideas page to pitch some ideas for upcoming meetings.

Can we understand the present without understanding the past?

The next City Symposium gathering is Wednesday, April 13 at 7pm at Chaucer’s Pub.

Here’s the topic proposal with the most votes for this event: Can we understand the present without understanding the past? by James Shelley

I have finished a rough draft of a book about the role that ancient literature plays in contemporary society. My thesis is straightforward: the papyrus, codices, and writings of the past teach us things about ourselves that we can learn in no other way. I’d like to take advantage of a room full of smart people (that’s you!) to pitch my thesis and get your critiques and input.

RSVP, learn more, and invite your friends at

This event is also on Facebook at