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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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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3D Printing Revolution (2 June 2015)

CANCELLED

The New Industrial Revolution Goes Back to School: 3D printing in Education

With the recent disclosure that the Airbus A350 XWB aircraft uses more than 1000 3D printed flight parts, 3D printing technology has truly come of age, is no longer a hobbyist fad and enters the new industrial revolution with gusto.

The promise that 3D printing will change our lives in areas is coming to fruition with applications as a new digital manufacturing technology with uses in every industry; it is possible to design, build and test 3D structures that are un-makeable by any other technique.

However, with a current huge shortfall in recruits into engineering and a deeper decline in recruitment into Design and Technology who is going to become the Engineer 2.0 to create the future using this technology? And how will we encourage the creative spark needed?

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Government IT – Doomed to Eternal Disaster? (28 April 2015)

Government is too often associated with bad news stories of expensive IT disasters. However the period since 2010 has seen serious and deep reform of how technology is used in government, and for public services. Tariq will take us through the diagnosis of the problems that plagued technology in 2010, explain the strategies to remedy these, and give an honest appraisal of success and lessons learned, as well as propose ideas for further reform. Topics as wide as digital by default, agile development, contract disaggregation, firm spend controls, skills gaps, intellectual property, modernising security, the primacy of information over technology, transparency and incentivising change in a sector without competitive threats, will no doubt fuel a lively debate!

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