A year of The Exchange


There was a lively and varied programme for The Exchange series of discussions this year.

The events took place in the Library Reading Room at The Athenaeum, in central Liverpool. The club was founded in 1797 to provide a meeting place where ideas and information could be exchanged in pleasant surroundings. Early Proprietors (members) played a major part in the national movement to abolish slavery, and several Nobel Laureates have been Proprietors. The Exchange continues this long tradition of debate and enquiry in the twenty first century.

The aim of the Exchange is to host public conversations about the important issues of our age. We encourage debate and the sharing of opinions and experiences in a welcoming and respectful environment.

Our first event for 2023 was with Dr James Crossland talking about his latest book The Rise of Devils: Fear and the Origins of Modern Terrorism. Dr Crossland explained where our understandings of what constitutes a terrorist come from and why the role played by the media in shaping these understandings is as important today as it was over a century ago, when the first wave of terrorist attacks sent a wave of fear across Europe.

Dr James Crossland is a Reader in International History, whose present research interests lie in the history of terrorism, societal fear, intelligence and propaganda. He is Co-Director of Liverpool John Moores University’s Centre for Modern and Contemporary History and Postgraduate Coordinator for the School of Humanities and Social Science.

In May, financial analyst Susie Violet Ward argued the case for Bitcoin to foster a healthy economy, attract talent and investment, and create a country that is economically strong, financially inclusive and supports the ambitions of its citizens.

We also discussed how governments around the world are planning or piloting Central Bank Digital Currencies (CBDCs), and whether this could mean ultimate government control of our spending and decision making, leading to a social credit system and a loss of individual sovereignty.

Susie Violet Ward is Director, Head of Mining and Sustainability at Bitcoin Policy UK, and a financial analyst with a background in accounting with a strong interest in Bitcoin and the environment. She has authored several research articles on the benefits of Bitcoin Mining and its advantages for the future of renewable energy.

In September Professor Matt Goodwin examined the themes in his latest book, Values, Voice and Virtue: The New British Politics. Prof Goodwin argued that the reason for Britain’s current political upheaval is an increasingly liberalised, globalised ruling class that has lost touch with millions, who have found their values ignored, their voices unheard and their virtue denied.

Matthew Goodwin is Professor of Politics at the University of Kent. The author of four books, including the Sunday Times bestseller National Populism, he appears regularly in print and broadcast media including the Sunday Times and the BBC. Values, Voice and Virtue is a Sunday Times bestseller and a Financial Times 2023 ‘book to watch’.

In October, Laura Dodsworth and Patrick Fagan gave an eye-opening look at the world of manipulation, and what we can do to recognise and resist the daily attempts to control and influence our minds.

By exploring chapters in their co-authored book, Free Your Mind, they explained how today’s combination of technology, social media and AI, combined with marketing and behavioural science, means that manipulation of the public is new in its sophistication and scale. The talk covered powerful psychological principles like ‘nudging’, cutting-edge science and anonymous insider access.

Laura Dodsworth is an author, journalist, photographer and commentator. She is the author of the Sunday Times bestseller A State of Fear. Patrick Fagan is a behavioural scientist with 12 years’ experience of mind manipulation. Previously lead psychologist at Cambridge Analytica, he is now a part-time lecturer and runs several data consultancies.

Each of these events gave the audience ample opportunity to debate, discuss, agree and disagree with the points being made by our guest speakers. This led to an energetic and vibrant exchange of views that was stimulating, enjoyable and thought-provoking.

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