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A theologian and a neuroscientist explore the concept of consciousness: is it unique to humans? Are we all simply machines? Do we have free will? Can we invoke an enhanced collective consciousness? Bringing together findings from science and insights from religion they unpick what it means to be conscious. Williams is Master of Magdalene College, Cambridge and a former Archbishop of Canterbury. Critchlow is named as a British Council's Top 100 UK Scientists for her work in communication and author of Consciousness: A LadyBird Expert book, which will be launched at Hay.
AI is going to transform society over the next couple of decades, and we can’t wish it away. But can we ride the robot tiger and make it serve, rather than enslave, us? Can AI be a tool of liberation and sustainability, not just a scarily efficient way of making rich corporations richer, while robbing us of all our privacy? Do we need an ethical code for computers – a Hippocratic Oath for the algorithms? And if so, how do we go about creating one – and getting it adopted? Chaired by Writer and Green Futurist, Martin Wright.
In troubling times, it’s tempting to retreat to our comfort zones, to be with people just like us. But what if actively seeking the unfamiliar was proven to be the key to a brighter future – both personally and for society at large? In this fierce, empowering call to arms, Sarpong uncovers how a new approach to how we work, learn and live can help us reach our maximum potential, lessen the pressure on the State and solve some of the most stubborn challenges we face.
"Stop acting so small. You are the universe in ecstatic motion" – Rumi. Jalaluddin Rumi is one of the foremost poets of the Sufi tradition, with a lasting influence that transcends nationality, religion and literary genre. His poetry distils the purest experience of love, life and God into some of the most haunting, beautiful and profound verse ever written. The acclaimed Turkish novelist celebrates Rumi’s philosophy of love and life and reflects on her own experience of Sufism, and its impact on her work. Chaired by William Sieghart.
Aristotle was an extraordinary thinker, perhaps the greatest in history. Yet he was preoccupied by an ordinary question: how to be happy. His deepest belief was that we can all be happy in a meaningful, sustained way – and he led by example. Life deals the same challenges in ancient Greece or the modern world. Aristotle’s way is not to apply rules, it’s about engaging with the texture of existence, and striding purposefully towards a life well lived. Chaired by Charlotte Higgins.
A conversation about how her Quaker faith has informed the life and work of one of the world’s greatest scientists, celebrated for her discovery of pulsars when she was a postgraduate student in 1967, and now the Oxford Professor of Astrophysics.
The award-winning blogger/social media editor/podcast creator teaches that it doesn’t matter if you're a part-time PA with a blog, or a nurse who runs an online store in the evenings – whatever your ratio, whatever your mixture, we can all channel our own entrepreneurial spirit to live more fulfilled and financially healthy lives. The internet and our phones mean we can work wherever, whenever, and allows us to design our own working lives. Forget the outdated stigma of being a jack of all trades, because having many strings to your bow is essential to get ahead in the modern working world. We all have the skills necessary to work less and create more, and here’s the source of inspiration you need to help you navigate your way towards your own definition of success.
Comedian, writer and performer Ruby Wax, with some help from monk Gelong Thubten and neuroscientist Ash Ranpura, has delved deeply into what it means to be human in an age obsessed with the latest technology. She now provides a manual to upgrade our minds so that they don’t get left behind. In this event Ruby, Ash and Thubten talk about brains, bodies and mindfulness.
The literary critic, famed for his wit and acute interpretations, explores the themes of his two spring publications. Radical Sacrifice revaluates the idea of sacrifice as purposed in theology and philosophy, reclaiming the act as radical politics. The re-publication of Why Marx Was Right examines the philosopher’s core ideas in the context of capitalism’s crises and communism’s collapse. Chaired by Dai Smith.
Sue Black confronts death every day. As Professor of Anatomy and Forensic Anthropology, she focuses on mortal remains in her lab, at burial sites, at scenes of violence, murder and criminal dismemberment, and when investigating mass fatalities due to war, accident or natural disaster. She reveals the many faces of death she has come to know, using key cases to explore how forensic science has developed, and what her work has taught her. There is tragedy, but there is also humour in stories as gripping as the best crime novel. Our own death will remain a great unknown. But as an expert witness from the final frontier, Sue Black is the wisest, most reassuring, most compelling of guides. Chaired by Hannah MacInnes.
The uncompromising and passionate rationalist calls on us to insist that reason take centre stage and that gut feelings, even when they don’t represent the stirred, dark waters of xenophobia, misogyny, or other blind prejudice, should stay out of the voting booth. He investigates a number of issues, including the importance of empirical evidence, and decries bad science, religion in the schools, and climate-change deniers. Dawkins has equal ardour for ‘the sacred truth of nature’ and renders with typical virtuosity the glories and complexities of the natural world. When so many highly placed people still question the fact of evolution, Dawkins asks what Darwin would make of his own legacy - 'a mixture of exhilaration and exasperation'– and celebrates science as possessing many of religion’s virtues – 'explanation, consolation, and uplift' – without its detriments of superstition and prejudice. Chaired by LBC's Matt Stadlen.
Bullmore reveals the breakthrough new science on the link between depression and inflammation of the body and brain. He explains how and why we now know that mental disorders can have their root cause in the immune system, and outlines a future revolution in which treatments could be specifically targeted to break the vicious cycle of stress, inflammation and depression. The Inflamed Mind goes far beyond the clinic and the lab, representing a whole new way of looking at how mind, brain and body all work together in a sometimes-misguided effort to help us survive in a hostile world. Bullmore is currently Co-Chair of Cambridge Neuroscience, Scientific Director of the Wolfson Brain Imaging Centre, and Head of the Department of Psychiatry.
The philosopher investigates why the institutions of representative democracy seem unable to hold up against forces they were designed to manage, and why it matters. He considers those moments in history when the challenges we face today were first encountered and what solutions were found. Then he lays bare the specific threats facing democracy today.
During a three-year, eight-nation journey, Ignatieff found that while human rights is the language of states and liberal elites, the moral language that resonates with most people is one of everyday virtues: tolerance, forgiveness, trust and resilience. These ordinary virtues are the moral system of global cities and obscure shantytowns alike. A novelist and historian, Ignatieff is Rector and President of Central European University in Budapest.
Chaired by Rosie Boycott.
Bryony Gordon was not a runner. A loafer, a dawdler, a drinker, a smoker, yes. A runner, no. Yet somehow, as she began to recover from the emotional rollercoaster of laying her life bare in her mental health memoir Mad Girl, she started to realise that getting outside, moving her body and talking to others for whom life was also an occasional challenge, might actually help her. Going for a run might not banish her sadness but at least it might show that she was damn well trying to beat it, which is sometimes half the battle. As she began to run further she started to see the limitations she had imposed on her life more clearly. Why couldn’t she be a runner? Or a bungee jumper? Or a deep-sea diver? Maybe rather than sitting on the sofa watching the world go by, fulfilling your dreams was just about standing up and taking that first step.
Now in his ninth decade, former Bishop of Edinburgh Richard Holloway has spent a lifetime at the bedsides of the dying, guiding countless men and women towards peaceful deaths. In Waiting for the Last Bus, he presents a positive, meditative and profound exploration of the many important lessons we can learn from death: facing up to the limitations of our bodies as they falter, reflecting on our failings, and forgiving ourselves and others. Holloway’s previous books include Leaving Alexandria and Looking in the Distance.
Two of the most creative innovators in Britain discuss the impacts and opportunities of new technologies. Mulgan, CEO of NESTA, is the author of Big Mind: How Collective Intelligence can Change our World, which posits that this “bigger mind” – human and machine capabilities working together – has the potential to solve the great challenges of our time. Seldon is Vice-Chancellor of the University of Buckingham and the author of The Fourth Education Revolution: How Artificial Intelligence is Changing the Face of Learning.