Boris Tsang / Sun Assistant Photography Editor

Cornell debaters Brittany Garcia ’19 and Adnan Muttalib ’16 grad debated Harvard students Archie Hall and Danny DeBois at the event on Thursday evening at the State Theater.

April 27, 2018

Cornell and Harvard Debaters Argue the Social Impact of Technological Progress

Print More

The Cornell and Harvard debate teams went head to head in a Thursday debate to argue the question, “Is technology driving us in the wrong direction?”

The debate was moderated by S.E. Cupp ’01, CNN conservative political commentator and had three judges — Mayor Svante Myrick ’09, Prof. Sam Nelson, labor relations, law and history and director of the Cornell Speech and Debate Society, and Leah Salgado ’12, former CSDS president.

Myrick remarked before the debate that he was “thrilled” to judge an event that “celebrates civil discourse.”

“When I was invited to participate in this I was thrilled, and when they told me I did not have to debate any of these four people, I was even more thrilled because I was a member of this [debate] club, but I was not a very good member,” Myrick said as he opened the debate held at the State Theatre on Thursday evening.

Cornell debaters Brittany Garcia ’19, CSDS president-elect, and Adnan Muttalib ’16 grad, argued for the proposition that technology has a net negative impact on society, facing off against Harvard debaters Archie Hall and Danny DeBois, both winners of the 2018 World University Debating Championships.

Each debater first spoke for seven minutes, after which Cupp asked them a series of questions about their arguments. The debate finished with closing statements from Muttalib and Hall.

“While we can support some things like cancer research, technology as a whole has been damaging for our societal structure and our social views,” opened Muttalib, arguing that technology does not “increase human happiness.”

“Technology has done a great job at making people richer, making people happier, and making people feel safer and is most likely to continue to do so,” countered Hall. “One of the few problems that technology has not helped us surmount is how exactly a Cornell crowd might ever support a Harvard team,” he joked.

To Hall’s rebuttal, Garcia argued that technology “has been used to increase profit margins” rather than contribute to the “benefits for the common person.”

DeBois argued that despite jobs being lost in certain areas, technology has a net positive effect on employment as “many new populations are gaining jobs for the first time.”

In the end, with a split 2-1 decision the judges decided in favor of Cornell.

“They were really good at proving that a universal basic income was not a realistic alternative and I think that was the hardest thing for our side, showing what are workers going to do when jobs aren’t available to the same extent,” said DeBois after the debate.

Garcia remarked that she thought it was “particularly important” that many young girls found her confrontation with the Harvard debaters exciting.

“Right now, debate is very male dominated and so it meant a lot to me to be able to show other people that this is something that is ‘appropriate’ for girls to do,” she said.

Myrick lavished praise on both debaters, noting that he was particularly impressed by their “poise.”

“Throwing [them] in a crowd, full of 500 people and responding with grace and intelligence and quite often charm, was really impressive.”

Cupp, who hosts the CNN show S.E. Cupp: Unfiltered and writes a column in the New York Daily News, credited her experience as a former arts & entertainment editor at The Sun as the major reason that she decided to become a journalist.

“I got my best education at The Sun — about life, about working, about responsibility, about truth, about honesty, about being accountable to your friends and your editors and your bosses and then later to your staff. I just learned so much about so much.”

On the topic of making the transition from writing to hosting a television show, Cupp said “I had absolutely no ambitions on going in front of the camera. I just thought of it as I’m a writer who is just promoting her work on television, but over the years it sort of flipped.”