This summer I was fortunate enough to be invited to the Science in Public 2017 conference as a panel member on Science and Science Fiction – the role of fiction in imagining the future, understanding public attitudes to technology, and engaging with scientific researchers.
I find it interesting to be at conferences that are for a specific set of people whose discipline is new to me; there’s so much that’s familiar about all conferences and yet there’s so much that’s new and different about each one.
The theme of this conference was: how do science and technology affect what it means to be human?
“Science and technology are essential ingredients of our humanity. The emergence of fruitful and diverse scholarly perspectives on the history, practice, communication, governance and impacts of scientific knowledge reflects this fact.
Yet rapid scientific and technological change has also unsettled the idea of what it means to be human; for example, through new frontiers in physical and cognitive enhancement, shift to knowledge economies, and potential threats to employment from mass automation. These changes take place in a context of broader challenges to expertise and evidence, dramatically illustrated by the EU referendum and the election of Donald Trump.
Taking these matters seriously calls for a renewed focus on compassion, benevolence and civilization.”
I attended an afternoon of sessions loosely dedicated to science fiction, including a presentation on the history and influence of Wired Magazine. They were fascinating sessions with plenty of intelligent questions being asked of the presenters, and of course equally intelligent answers.
To top it all I got to read Eating Robots to an appreciative audience as well as answer questions about what it’s like to collaborate with scientists.