Daniel Dennett on information, evolution, & intelligent design (hosted by BMF, RTC and RI, 25 March 2015)

The Brain Mind Forum, one of the Real Time Club’s successful special-interest spin-offs, organises a talk by Prof. Daniel Dennett at the Royal Institution on 25th March.

Dan is a philosopher, writer, and cognitive scientist and one of the highest profile speakers in cognitive neuroscience. His writings bring together cognitive science, neuroscience, linguistics, artificial intelligence, computer science, psychology and philosophy. (The New Statesman referred to him as on of the “Four Horsemen of New Atheism” together with Christopher Hitchens, Richard Dawkins and Sam Harris.) Usually based in the US, this a great chance to see Dan here in the UK. He will talk on the Convergence of Biogenetics, Cognitive Neuroscience and Computing.

Full details and tickets are available on the Royal Institution’s website.

As this talk is co-hosted by the Royal Institution and the Brain Mind Forum / Real Time Club, we are arranging a small meet-up with Dan from 6 pm before his talk at 7 pm. If you want to come along, please e-mail me when you have booked your ticket and I will send you more details.

Digital Technology: Decoded (House of Lords, 12 March 2015)

Decoded, founded in 2011, is an experience that has redefined digital education, bringing vital digital knowledge to everyone.

Their philosophy is that ‘Digital Enlightenment‘ transforms individuals and organisations, empowering people and giving them a fundamental understanding of the technologies behind the screen.

Decoded believe that in business the freedom created by Digital Enlightenment cultivates an environment rich with constructive & creative discussions about technology which in turn leads to increased efficiency across the whole business.

Digital Enlightenment is a strategy that, when adopted, can transform a whole company.

On a personal level, this freedom empowers individuals to question technology, disrupt it and dismantle it. It equips them and their children with the tools needed to interrogate and exploit the technological advancements that are being made every day, turning them from consumers to creators.

Decoded believe that Digital Enlightenment is attainable for everyone and anyone.

They have a unique methodology that allows individuals to reach Digital Enlightenment quickly and effectively, taking people from zero skills to Digital Enlightenment in a single day.

Decoded call this unique process ‘Digital Transformation‘.

Come and hear two founders of Decoded tell their story and describe how they believe ‘Digital Transformation‘ – developing a digital mindset – can help entrepreneurs and, in fact, anyone from technophobes to teachers to live better in our digital world.


Kathryn Parsons
Ali Blackwell
— ‘Decoded’ Co-Founders

See more about Kathryn at: https://www.linkedin.com/in/kathrynparsonsdecoded and about Ali at: https://www.linkedin.com/in/aliblackwell

The dress code for this event at the House of Lord is business attire.

Let IT Be? A debate on computer education (3 February 2015)

A Real Time Club dinner in collaboration with the WCIT Education & Training Committee.

Debate: Computer Education — The new school curriculum misses the mark. Again.

Join the great debate of 2015 – After all the intense battling to bring real computer science back into the classroom, is the newly launched Computing Curriculum still not fit for purpose? Have we missed THE golden opportunity or are we now on the road to creating a generation of world beating computer experts?

With a future set to be increasingly defined by technological advancement are we going about educating our children in the right way? Are we giving them the right tools to ensure the UK can compete with the likes of China and India in the 21st Century?

We must continue to discuss and influence the direction of computing education in our schools because it will inevitably impact us all.

An introduction to the argument FOR the motion:

Computing creates the most complex, versatile and innovative designed artefacts in the known universe. It’s made the world a very small place, a probe land on a comet, a car that drives itself, and everyone’s personal assistant. And yet, stick your head into a school’s computing classroom and you’ll see a backwater of inspiration. We are failing to inspire the next generation because what we teach as computing doesn’t combine its mathematical past with its engineering future. The tools that bring computing into tomorrow’s real-world – architectures, sophisticated development processes, object orientation, for instance – at best languish at the end of the curriculum, crushed into too little intellectual space.

Computing in schools should fill our children’s heads with dreams of world-changing computing solutions; I argue that the current curriculum needs a rethink and reworking to make it fit for the 21st century.

Proposer: Dr Jon Hall, Open University

Dr Jon Hall is a Senior Lecturer in Computing and Communications at the Open University. His research portfolio includes some very well-known organisations including Siemens, The United Nations Food and Agriculture Organisation, General Dynamics UK, and BAE Systems. Until recently, he was a governor of his son’s school, and still works closely with the Computing Department there developing teaching materials to complement the AS and A-level curriculum. He chairs the BCS Effective Leadership in IT group, a lively group of industry and academic IT thought leaders, is a Fellow of BCS, a Fellow of IARIA, a Chartered Information Technology Professional (with Certificate of Current Competence), a Chartered Engineer, a Chartered Scientist and a Freeman of the WCIT.

An introduction to the argument AGAINST the motion:

Computing is the underlying discipline that has allowed the modern world to create all of the wonderful technology that we now depend on for every facet of our lives – from smartphones to Google; autonomous vehicles to Facebook. We need to ensure that we properly inspire the next generation of creative thinkers to push the boundaries further. You don’t do that by teaching them to use the latest spanner in the toolbox – especially since that spanner will be replaced by something different by the time they’d get to use it in anger – but rather by ensuring that they are properly exposed to the fundamental concepts that help shape, inform and liberate their minds. We don’t teach great writers to use word processors; we teach them the fundamentals of language, followed by comprehension and critique. The current computing curriculum has been designed to enable thinkers to go beyond the boundaries of current practice and to truly understand the fundamentals of the 4th R (Reading, wRiting, aRithmetic and pRogramming). Computational thinkers add value to the world and that is what the computing curriculum is intended to produce.

I argue that the new computing curriculum is entirely fit for purpose and we should leave well alone.

Opposer: Prof. Kevin Jones, Plymouth University

Prof Kevin Jones is Professor of Computing Science and Executive Dean of Science and Environment at Plymouth University. He is actively involved in research and education in the areas of Computer Security and Systems Development. Previously, he was Head of Computer Science at City University London. He’s spent his career in both academia and industry, including more than 20 years in research labs, large companies and SMEs, in Silicon Valley, giving him a novel view of both sides of the world and the industry/academia divide. Educated at Reading, Oxford and Manchester, he holds a PhD in Computing Science. He is a Fellow of the IET, a Fellow of the BCS, a Chartered Engineer, a Chartered Scientist, a Chartered IT Professional and a Freeman of the WCIT.

A Computer Platform for Managing Catastrophes (16 December 2014)

We live on a planet prone to catastrophes. Natural hazards such as earthquakes, tsunamis, hurricanes, floods and volcanic eruptions are a persistent threat to the lives and livelihoods of people across the globe. Beyond the force of Nature, other catastrophic events such as pandemics, acts of political violence, and industrial disasters blight the human environment. The massive scale of catastrophes, both natural and man-made, made risk management very difficult before the computer desktop revolution. Since then, quantitative catastrophe models have been constructed to assist insurers and government agencies in managing the extreme risks to which they are exposed. A quarter of a century after catastrophe risk modelling began, a new revolution beckons with the development of an integrated cloud-based computer platform for running all catastrophe models.

Gordon Woo

Dr Gordon Woo is a Catastrophist at Risk Management Solutions (RMS), specializing in the quantitative analysis of a broad spectrum of catastrophe risks, both natural and man-made. In his fourteen years at RMS, he has designed computer models for numerous catastrophes, including terrorism and pandemics. For his work on catastrophe insurance, he was named by Treasury and Risk magazine as one of the hundred most influential people in finance. As a noted expert in many fields of disaster management, he has served on the Blackett Committee reviewing extreme events for the UK government chief scientist.

He is the author of the two books, ‘The Mathematics of Natural Catastrophes’, published by Imperial College Press in 1999, and ‘Calculating Catastrophe‘, published also by Imperial College Press in 2011. Dr. Woo graduated as the best mathematician of his year at Cambridge University, completed his PhD at MIT as a Kennedy Scholar, and was a member of the Harvard Society of Fellows. He is a visiting professor at University College London, and an adjunct professor at Nanyang Technological University, Singapore.

Reception at Science Museum Lates “Information Age” (26 November 2014)

Join Real Time Club members at a private Science Museum ‘Lates’ reception. The Science Museum’s November ‘Lates’ celebrates the opening of the brand-new gallery “Information Age: Six Networks That Changed Our World”. The exhibition tells the story of how life has been transformed by information and communication technologies over the last 200 years.

We have arranged drinks and snacks at the Science Museum’s Dana Centre from 6 pm to 7 pm on Wednesday 26th November 2014. After the reception we will move into the Science Museum to enjoy a host of talks, workshops and demos based around the content of the gallery.

Come along to enjoy:

  • Queue jump entry to the Lates, giving you the opportunity to be one of the first into the Information Age gallery on the night.
  • Early opportunity to attend the specialist guest speakers talks and network with leading industry figures and technology experts
  • Complimentary simulator passes, retail discount and other paid exhibition tickets as well as discounted IMAX tickets to be used on the night or before end of year

Join us to see further, to stretch your thinking, to extend your network and to explore “The Information Age” exhibition at the Real Time Club event on Wednesday 26th November 2014.

About the exhibition

More than 200 years of innovation in communication and information technologies are celebrated in “Information Age: Six Networks That Changed Our World“, the Science Museum’s biggest and most ambitious gallery to date.

Information Age is divided into six zones, each representing a different information and communication technology network: The Cable, The Telephone Exchange, Broadcast, The Constellation, The Cell and The Web.

The gallery explores the important events which shaped the development of these networks, from the dramatic stories behind the growth of the worldwide telegraph network in the 19th century, to the influence of mobile phones on our lives today.

Re-live remarkable moments in history, told through the eyes of those who invented, operated or were affected by the new wave of technology, from the first BBC radio broadcast in 1922 to the dawn of digital TV. Discover how wireless technology enabled lives to be saved and news of the Titanic disaster to be spread to the world within hours of the event, and hear the personal stories of the operators who worked on the Enfield Telephone Exchange, the last manual exchange which marked the end of an era in communication history.

The Dark Net: Inside the Digital Underworld (20 October 2014)

Ever been in the dark and afraid to switch on the light because of what you might see? We live in a world of the internet where all most of us ever see is the light and enlightenment; but there’s a dark side to the internet – a very dark side indeed. And it’s growing. And growing. What should we do? And what can we do?

“The Dark Net. It sounds quite terrifying – and, having written a book on the subject, I can tell you that it often is. It’s shorthand to describe the hidden and encrypted part of the internet beyond the reach of normal browsers, accessible using an anonymous browser called Tor. It’s protected by a clever traffic encryption system which makes it very difficult to locate the servers which host sites – called Tor Hidden Services – and the IP addresses of the people the visit them.

“Even through Tor was originally a US government research project created to help protect the anonymity of its agents, it soon became an open-source tool for dissidents and journalists. Crooks and criminals were also early adopters.”

— Jamie Bartlett, 4 October 2014

As we begin our ‘If I see further…’ series of talks, discussions and debates, Jamie Bartlett, author of the recent book on the dark net ‘The Dark Net: Inside the Digital Underworld’ examines and gives evidence of the most recent human technology depravity that is The Dark Net.

Join us to see further, to stretch your thinking, to extend your network and to ask very difficult questions – perhaps of yourselves – in the anonymity and safe-to-consider-very-difficult-questions environment that is the Real Time Club dinner on Monday 20th October 2014.

Jamie Bartlett

Jamie Bartlett is the Director of the Centre for the Analysis of Social Media at the think tank Demos, where he specialises in online social movements and the impact of technology on society.

His recent book ‘The Dark Net: Inside the Digital Underworld’ was published in August 2014.

‘In his author’s note, Bartlett admits “readers may question the wisdom of writing about this subject at all, and express concern at the information”. But he shines an invaluable light on a world that remains determinedly opaque.’

— The Independent, 4 October 2014

In Conversation with former Anonymous and Lulzsec hacktivists (29 September 2014)

Former Anonymous and LulzSec hacktivists Mustafa Al-Bassam, Jake Davis, Darren Martyn and Ryan Ackroyd will appear together publically for first time since being convicted for computer hacking on the Royal Court Theatre stage, in conversation with Academic and Anthropologist Gabriella Coleman.

A ban forbidding communications between the pair, or any of the wider Anonymous collective was lifted in June this year, following a two year internet ban. This will be the very first time they have spoken since the day of the court case in 2011.

Drinks and discussion in the bar downstairs afterwards.

The panelists

Gabriella Coleman trained as an anthropologist and now teaches, researches, and writes on computer hackers. Her work examines the ethics of online collaboration/institutions as well as the role of the law and digital media in sustaining various forms of political activism. Her first book,Coding Freedom: The Aesthetics and the Ethics of Hacking is published by Princeton University Press and she is currently working on a new book on Anonymous and digital activism.

Mustafa Al-Bassam, Jake Davis,Darren Martyn and Ryan Ackroyd are all former computer hackers, who were part of a core group arrested in 2011 for their parts in Anonymous and LulzSec and banned from the internet for two years. Jake currently works on various film, theatrical and arts projects and offers script consultancy and technical advice around the subjects of hacking, the “deep web” and online culture. Mustafa is a student, studying Computer Science.

The Edge of Uncertainty (24 June 2014)

If you’re working at the frontiers of knowledge, timing is everything…

You can have great ideas, brilliant people and all the funding you need, but if you’re too far ahead of your time, the project won’t give you the pay-off you seek.

Epigenetics, quantum biology, psychoneuroimmunology and computational cosmology are just some of the scientific fields taking off in the 21st century, but they have all at some time in the past been championed by people now lost to history.

The burden of bad timing is sometimes hard to bear: in science it has resulted in lost fortunes, public opprobrium, irredeemably tarnished reputations, depression and even suicide. Get your timing right, though, and the prize can be immortality.

So, how do you survive the dangers of working at the edge of uncertainty?

As we continue with our ‘Charting Extraordinary Futures’ series of talks, discussions and debates, Michael Brooks, author of the forthcoming “At The Edge of Uncertainty: 11 Discoveries Taking Science By Surprise” looks for the answers offered in his new survey of the modern scientific endeavour.

Join us to look beyond the edge of uncertainty, to stretch your thinking, to extend your network and to ask very difficult questions at the Real Time Club dinner on Tuesday 24th June 2014.

Michael Brooks

“Michael Brooks is the canniest science writer around. He writes, above all, with attitude.”

— The Independent

Michael Brooks, who holds a PhD in quantum physics, is an author, journalist and broadcaster. He is a consultant at New Scientist, a magazine with over three quarters of a million readers worldwide, has a weekly column for the New Statesman and is a Huffington Post UK blogger. He is the author of ‘Free Radicals: The Secret Anarchy of Science’ and the bestselling non-fiction title ’13 Things That Don’t Make Sense’.

His writing has also appeared in the Guardian, the Independent, the Observer, the Times Higher Education, the Philadelphia Inquirer and many other newspapers and magazines. He has lectured at various places, including New York University, The American Museum of Natural History and Cambridge University.

Charting Extraordinary Futures: James Martin and The Oxford Martin School (18 March 2014)

“We are at an extraordinary crossroads of human history. Our actions, or failure to act, during the next 20 years will determine the fate of the Earth and human civilization for centuries to come. This is a make-or-break century.”

— Dr James Martin, from ‘The Meaning of the 21st Century’ (2009).

Dr James Martin was a unique combination of extraordinary intellect, vision and drive; he authored more than 100 books on computer technology, and later made the largest single benefaction to Oxford University in its 900-year history to found the Oxford Martin School. He is considered to be one of the World’s great futurists, predicting the rise of computing, the internet and countless other technology advances well ahead of their much later reality.

Reflecting Jim’s remarkable intellectual reach, the Oxford Martin School’s remit is wide-ranging and includes research into new forms of energy, new cures for cancer, protecting biodiversity, limiting climate change, stopping pandemics and financial crises, enhancing cybersecurity, and considering the impacts of quantum technologies – to name but a few of their 35 programmes.

The School stands as James Martin’s permanent legacy: a unique interdisciplinary community of more than 300 scholars working collaboratively to address the biggest challenges and opportunities faced by humankind in the 21st Century.

Join us for this evening in memory of James Martin and to hear from Professor Ian Goldin, Director of the Oxford Martin School, who will provide a stimulating introduction to the major changes in society and technology that are likely to take place over coming decades, looking at the implications for businesses and individual choice, highlighting the hazards associated with prediction and the need to understand underlying trends and whether these trends will continue.

Professor Ian Goldin, Professor of Globalisation and Development and Director of the Oxford Martin School at the University of Oxford

Ian Goldin was Vice President of the World Bank (2003-2006) and prior to that the Bank’s Director of Development Policy (2001-2003).

From 1996 to 2001 he was Chief Executive and Managing Director of the Development Bank of Southern Africa and served as an advisor to President Nelson Mandela.

Previously, Ian was Principal Economist at the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development (EBRD) in London, and Program Director at the OECD Development Centre in Paris.

In addition to being Director of the School, Goldin is the University of Oxford Professor of Globalisation and Development and a Professorial Fellow at Balliol College, Oxford.

Debate on Cyber Security (18 February 2014)

“Nobody is telling the truth about cyber security – not even when they think they know what the truth is!”

As far as cyber security is concerned a large part of the problem is ‘Nobody is telling the truth about cyber security – not even when they think they know what the truth is!’ according to our debate proposer, Philip Virgo.

The growth of the internet has transformed our lives and is an important part of our economy; the internet-related market in the UK is now estimated to be worth £82 billion a year while British businesses earn £1 in every £5 from the internet.

But with greater openness, interconnection and dependency comes greater vulnerability. The UK National Security Strategy categorised cyber-attacks as a Tier One threat to our national security, alongside international terrorism.

With the cost for a cyber-security breach estimated between £450,000 to £850,000 for large businesses and £35,000 to £65,000 for smaller ones, we – and the government – must look at new ways to protect businesses and make the UK more resilient to cyber-attacks and crime.

But is anybody telling the truth about cyber security? And are those who are honest about what they think the truth is even more dangerous than those who consciously lie about it?

Join the debate, examine what cyber security really is, gain further insight into how cyber security can be used to all our advantage – and perhaps disadvantage – and to ask very difficult questions at the Real Time Club dinner and debate on Tuesday 18th February 2014.

The Proposer: Philip Virgo, Chairman at Conservative Technology Forum

Philip Virgo is currently Chairman of the Conservative Technology Forum, a group which he founded in 1978, organising policy teams to cover technology related issues and sub-groups on e-Crime and Cyber Security, and many other IT related areas.

Philip is also advisor to e-skills UK, Chairman of the WCIT Security Panel, was from 1993-2011 Secretary General of EURIM and is a Director of two technology-related companies.

Opposed by: Dominic Connor, Journalist and Quant Recruitment Expert

Dominic Connor is currently a quant recruiter in financial markets and a columnist at The Register, one of the most widely read online IT industry news and opinion websites.

Dominic is also a lecturer in quant finance for 7City Learning and is a former head of IT at Old Mutual.