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The founding Editor-in-chief of WIRED’s UK edition travels the globe in search of the most exciting and pioneering start-ups building the future, meeting ambitious entrepreneurs disrupting businesses in almost every sector. And yet too often the companies think they can innovate through jargon; with talk of change agents and co-creation gurus, ideas portals and webinars, paradigm shifts and pilgrimages to Silicon Valley. It’s mostly pointless innovation theatre – corporate nonsense that has little to do with delivering real change. But during this quest he’s also discovered some genuinely exciting and transformative approaches to innovation, often in places you might least expect…
Today’s unprecedented pace of change leaves many people wondering what new technologies are doing to our lives. Are the decisions about our health, security and finances made by computer programs inexplicable and biased? Are robots going to take our jobs? And has our demand for energy driven the Earth’s climate to the edge of catastrophe? Browne argues that we need not and must not put the brakes on technological advance. Civilisation is founded on engineering innovation; all progress stems from the human urge to make things and to shape the world around us, resulting in greater freedom, health and wealth for all. Lord Browne trained as an engineer and was CEO of BP from 1995 to 2007. He is Chairman of the Crick Institute, a Fellow of the Royal Society, past President of the Royal Academy of Engineering and former Chairman of Tate. Kelly presents Click on BBC World News.
How do we counter fake news and can we inoculate public opinion against misinformation? Dr Van der Linden is Director of the Cambridge Social Decision-Making Lab and is investigating the psychological mechanisms behind the spread of misinformation.
Advances in biotechnology, cybertechnology, robotics, and artificial intelligence, if pursued and applied wisely, could empower us to boost the developing and developed world and overcome the threats humanity faces on earth, from climate change to nuclear war. At the same time, further advances in space science will allow humans to explore the solar system and beyond. But there is no ‘Plan B’ for Earth – no viable alternative within reach if we do not care for our home planet. Lord Rees is Astronomer Royal.
On the morning of 26 April 1986 Europe witnessed the worst nuclear disaster in history: the explosion of a reactor at the Chernobyl nuclear power plant in Soviet Ukraine. In the end, less than five per cent of the reactor’s fuel escaped, but that was enough to contaminate over half of Europe with radioactive fallout. Plokhy’s Baillie Gifford Prize-winning account recreates these events in all of their drama, telling the stories of the fire-fighters, scientists, engineers, workers, soldiers and policemen who found themselves caught in a nuclear Armageddon and succeeded in doing the seemingly impossible: extinguishing the nuclear inferno and putting the reactor to sleep. While it is clear that the immediate cause of the accident was a turbine test gone wrong, Plokhy shows how the deeper roots of Chernobyl lay in the nature of the Soviet political system and the flaws of its nuclear industry. Plokhy is Professor of History at Harvard University and a leading authority on Eastern Europe. Chaired by Nik Gowing.
From the genetics of insects and groundbreaking x-ray technology to measuring the world’s forests with lasers, three Royal Society Research Fellows discuss their work at the forefront of science with neuroscientist and broadcaster Hannah Critchlow.
After more than a hundred years of the internal combustion engine, a new automotive technology has arrived. Cleaner, quieter and fun to drive, electric cars are here, and they are here to stay. But how do we get from 2.6% of new car sales in 2018 to the numbers we need to make a real difference to air pollution, and climate change? The Government has set ambitious targets for the uptake of electric vehicles. If we are to meet them, a change in the way people drive and think about the technology is required. Join Robert Llewellyn, TV presenter, author and electric vehicle expert, Jesse Norman, Former Future of Mobility Minister and local Hereford MP, Fiona Howarth, CEO of Octopus Energy Electric Vehicles and Mike Hawes, Chief Executive of the Society of Motor Manufacturers, as well as panellists from the motor and energy industries, to discuss this transition. Chaired by TV presenter and author Kate Humble.
Adrian Weller is Programme Director for AI at The Alan Turing Institute, where he is also a Turing Fellow. In addition he is a senior research fellow in machine learning at the University of Cambridge, and at the Leverhulme Centre for the Future of Intelligence where he leads work on Trust and Transparency. He serves on the board of the Centre for Data Ethics and Innovation. Here he examines the implications of machine learning and artificial intelligence for society and the importance of ethics, trust and transparency.
Susskind confronts one of the most important questions of our time: how will digital technology transform politics and society? The great political debate of the last century was about how much of our collective life should be determined by the state and what should be left to the market and civil society. In the future, the question will be how far our lives should be directed and controlled by powerful digital systems - and on what terms? Those who control these technologies - usually big tech firms and the state - will increasingly control us. Their algorithms will resolve vital questions of social justice, allocating social goods and sorting us into hierarchies of status and esteem. They will decide the future of democracy, causing it to flourish or decay.
The night sky is an endless source of wonder and mystery. For thousands of years it has been at the heart of scientific and philosophical inquiry, from the first star catalogues etched into ancient Mesopotamian clay tablets to the metres-wide telescopes constructed in Chile’s Atacama Desert today. On a clear night it is hard not to look up and pick out familiar constellations, and to think of the visionary minds who pioneered our understanding of what lies beyond. The Princeton Professor of Astrophysics reveals how it only becomes more beautiful and exciting the more we discover. She takes us from the very basics – why Earth orbits the sun, and how our moon works – right up to massive, strange phenomena like superclusters, quasars and the geometry of spacetime.
McEwan’s new novel Machines Like Me takes place in an alternative 1980s London. Charlie, drifting through life and dodging full-time employment, is in love with Miranda, a bright student who lives with a terrible secret. When Charlie comes into money, he buys Adam, one of the first batch of synthetic humans. With Miranda’s assistance, he co-designs Adam’s personality. This near-perfect human is beautiful, strong and clever – a love triangle soon forms. These three beings will confront a profound moral dilemma. Ian McEwan’s subversive and entertaining new novel poses the fundamental question: what makes us human? Du Sautoy’s new book is The Creativity Code: How AI is learning to write, paint and think.
The mathematician examines the nature of creativity and provides an essential guide into how algorithms work, and the mathematical rules underpinning them. He asks how much of our emotional response to art is a product of our brains reacting to pattern and structure, and exactly what it is to be creative in mathematics, art, language and music. Du Sautoy finds out how long it might be before machines come up with something creative, and whether they might jolt us into being more imaginative in turn. The result is a fascinating and very different exploration into both AI and the essence of what it means to be human.
When Darwin set out to explain the origin of species, he made no attempt to answer the deeper question: what is life? For generations, scientists have struggled to make sense of this fundamental question. Life really does look like magic: even a humble bacterium accomplishes things so dazzling that no human engineer can match it. And yet, huge advances in molecular biology over the past few decades have served only to deepen the mystery. So can life be explained by known physics and chemistry, or do we need something fundamentally new? From life’s murky origins to the microscopic engines that run the cells of our bodies, Davies offers a breath-taking journey across the landscape of physics, biology, logic and computing. Weaving together cancer and consciousness, two-headed worms and bird navigation, Davies reveals how biological organisms garner and process information to conjure order out of chaos, opening a window on the secret of life itself. Chaired by Marcus du Sautoy.
Imagine a world where your phone is too big for your hand, where your doctor prescribes a drug that is wrong for your body, where in a car accident you are 47% more likely to be seriously injured, where every week the countless hours of work you do are not recognised or valued. If any of this sounds familiar, chances are that you’re a woman. The award-winning campaigner and writer shows us how, in a world largely built for and by men, we are systematically ignoring half the population. It exposes the gender data gap – a gap in our knowledge that is at the root of perpetual, systemic discrimination against women and that has created a pervasive but invisible bias with a profound effect on women’s lives.