When Bits Hit the Fan (18 October 2016)

The UK government’s Computer Emergency Response Team (CERT) was built by Chris Gibson to coordinate the vast horde of suppliers, old and new technologies in critical infrastructure across government departments both high profile and deniable.

We are delighted to welcome Chris as our speaker for the second of our “Autumn of Discontent” Real Time Club dinners held in the National Liberal Club in Whitehall.

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30 Years a Hacker (20 September 2016)

What’s changed and what hasn’t

“When I was part of a hacking group in London in 1985, our main way of acquiring passwords to read Post-It notes that users had stuck to their monitors! If that didn’t work, we tried common combinations of numbers and words; in way-too-many instances we were successful. As a result, I was arrested and became the defendant in the world’s first hacking-related jury trial.”

Next year, 2017, will mark the 30th anniversary of Schifreen’s and his co-defendant Stephen Gold’s acquittal on all charges, which led to the introduction of the Computer Misuse Act 1990.

Although hacking is now illegal, and the internet has changed the way we live our lives, many things haven’t changed; people are still the weakest link. Post-It notes are still the easiest way to remember a password. Social engineering still works. Where once we lost floppy disks down the back seat of a taxi, now it’s mobile phones that contain tens of gigabytes of our employer’s data.

In this talk Robert Schifreen will discuss some more about what he did back in 1985, how he manged to do it, and what’s changed in the intervening 3 decades. As well as lots about what hasn’t.

Our Speaker: Robert J. Schifreen

Robert is a former UK-based computer hacker and magazine editor, and the founder of IT security awareness training programme SecuritySmart.co.uk. He was the first person charged with illegally accessing a computer system, but was acquitted because there was no such specific criminal offence at the time. Later in life he became a computer security consultant, speaking at many conferences on information security and training banks, large companies and universities in the UK on IT security. In 2014 he began developing the software on which SecuritySmart runs from scratch which reached completion and product launch in June 2016.

Biology is Technology (24 May 2016)

Engineering Biology and the Rise of Biological Computing

After 4 billion years of life on Earth, biology has finally entered the digital age and digital biomanufacturing is a reality.

Now that we have begun to decode the building blocks of living organisms by reading their DNA, we can convert biology into data that can be manipulated and then ‘written’. We can recombine DNA in novel ways to recreate natural materials and build complex biological systems with novel properties and capable of impressive computation.

No longer will computers be simply a tool for decoding DNA: soon, your computer itself could be made of DNA.

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Network Data Integration in Medicine (19 April 2016)

Data mining can find cancer cures

A flood of molecular and clinical data is now available describing how biomolecules interact in a cell to perform biological functions, in large, complex systems. Our challenge is how to mine the enormous data bases describing molecular systems to answer fundamental questions, gain new insight into diseases and improve therapeutics.

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Computers and the power of understanding (15 March 2016)

How computers can help us extend our individual human powers of understanding

Using computers as sophisticated tools provides us with immense resources, but does not enhance our individual capabilities. However, communicating directly with our computers as partners – symbiosis – can extend everyone’s ability to learn, understand, master complex topics, and even be more intelligent.

Could advances in neural prosthetics potentially herald Prosthetic Brains?

Our speaker: Dan Dennett

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Privacy and Security Law (16 February 2016)

There’s a lot more heat than light in the debate on security, privacy and how we form laws that actually work. Last month Adrian Kennard gave a barnstorming critique of the issues facing ISPs and so on the 16th of February, Duncan Campbell is going to put the current debate into some sort of historical context. Our ideas on privacy and the rights of the government to search based on Georgian ideas of liberty may not make sense in the mid 21st century or we might be giving up a little freedom for an illusion of security?

In essence, is there a way we can have a rational balance between competing concerns?

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Surveillance and AI (24 November 2015)

Future near, Future far: Surveillance and AI

The future will be different. A trivial truism, that conceals our inability to successfully predict much about the times to come.

Our speaker, Dr Stuart Armstrong will look at two futures:

Firstly, the very likely and near term rise of universal surveillance, and the great changes (and the great similarities) it could cause.

Secondly the very uncertain impact of artificial intelligence, and the far greater transformations it would trail in it’s wake, either starkly terrible or wondrous.

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Can Computers Be Creative? (26 October 2015)

What is creativity? Historically, human creativity has been a neglected topic in psychology in general and intelligence testing in particular. Despite this, creativity is considered by most to be an essential component of human intelligence and of thinking.

Consequently, in attempting to answer the question of whether computers can be creative we must first ask if they can think and then it is only natural to ask whether computers can think creatively.

Many feel, in fact, that whereas computers can excel in well-structured areas of problem solving – e.g. logic, algebra, etc. – they have little hope of ever producing truly creative work. For a work to be creative it must be novel and useful – this represents an enormous challenge.

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The Future of Artificial Intelligence (29 September 2015)

Artificial intelligence – is it an existential threat to humanity? Is it all hype? Or is it the shape of things to come?

Artificial Intelligence is currently a hot topic. In the past year or so it has been the subject of a number of films, and has received substantial industrial investment.

At the same time, a number of prominent thinkers have issued grave warnings of its existential threat to humanity. Is artificial intelligence all hype? Or is it really a transformative technology? And should we be afraid?

In this talk Prof Shanahan will go beyond the media soundbites and discuss some of the real technological and philosophical challenges of AI.

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