Friday 17th Jan – Artificial Intelligence – Bazil Soloman

I will explore together with audience participation the Year 2020 contemporary uses of AI from chatbots, political campaigning, online support groups, driverless cars, to unmanned war drones. We will focus on AI linguistics and pattern recognition. I will try to explain the algorithms that use brilliant mathematical techniques and the powerful hardware which is involved in these machines. We will look at some of the challenging ethical questions generated and how a few talented programmers are changing the world to meet the needs of the many in the year 2020.

Fri 10th Jan – Geopolitics, Defence, and the Role of the UK – Dr Bence Nemeth


Dr Bence Nemeth

Research Interests 

• Multinational defence co-operation

• Central and Eastern European security and defence

• Transatlantic security

• Strategic management in defence institutions

MA Special Subject

UK Defence Reviews since 1945


Dr Bence Nemeth joined the Defence Studies Department as a teaching fellow in August 2017. Previously he had been working in various defence policy and defence planning related positions at the Hungarian Ministry of Defence for almost eight years, and also taught at the Advanced College for Security Policy of the National University of Public Service, Budapest, Hungary.

Dr Nemeth completed his PhD in Defence Studies at King’s College London in 2017. He holds an MBA in Defence Systems Management from the Naval Postgraduate School (Monterey, CA), and also has master’s degrees in security and defence studies (National Defence University, Budapest, Hungary), international relations and European studies (Central European University, Budapest, Hungary) and political science (Eotvos Lorand University, Budapest, Hungary).

The presentation highlights how countries organise their defence and how they prepare for military conflicts in general and what the dynamics are in the UK in this regard in particular. It also introduces certain geopolitical concepts and current international processes to describe the global environment where the UK has to find its role in the coming decade. 

Fri 13th Dec – Desert Island Books – Gerry Merrison

This week is Friday the Thirteenth – even more ominously, it’s the day after you-know-what.  Will you be celebrating, or drowning your sorrows?  Choose a better, politics-free way to spend your Friday evening, at the Philosophical Society’s final meeting before Christmas – the traditional “Desert Island Books” talk.

It’s been very difficult to choose 8 favourite books. I’ve picked a selection which I’d enjoy re-reading and would provide some intellectual stimulus while I’m in exile. As it turns out, they also reflect different periods and interests in my life, from ‘child bookworm’ haunting the library, through to today, when infinite reading material is available at the press of a button.  As for choosing a single piece of music…. well that’s been much harder”.

Friday 6th Dec – Disinterest in Politics – Patrick Herring

Politics influences all aspects of our lives. In a society which has never been more interlinked, been more democratic, or given people greater access to information about  current affairs and government, why do we seem to be losing the battle to get people involved in civic life? Even while political events and their effects on us reach an increasingly fevered pitch, an ever increasing number of people are turning their backs on politics; is this decline inevitable, or is it a crisis of our own making?

As a local councilor and political activist, in my talk I will attempt to paint a picture of the current crisis in political engagement, to discuss some of the possible causes, and to look at some of the solutions that have emerged from the big political movements of our time.


Friday 29th Nov – What are We Doing Here? – Book Club with Jill Sharp

A Book Club session of the Philosophy Society on 29 November 2019 (introduced by Jill Sharp) is What are We Doing Here by Pulitzer Price-winning novelist Marilynne RobinsonJill says:

Marilynne Robinson’s essays highlight what she believes are our false assumptions and flawed conclusions, notions leading to a slick cynicism that legitimises rapacious capitalism. She writes:

On this little ball of earth, where action and inaction, speech and silence all have consequences, we are… a special instance of cosmic time. We inhabit it differently from creatures who are without our strange efficacy. We exist in it differently from the wheeling constellations. In a remarkable degree, for the purposes of this planet, we create it. 

Robinson warns that current ‘selfish gene’ thinking may have dangerous consequences for our present and future.

Although she writes from a declared Christian perspective, Marilynne Robinson’s ideas offer a challenge to all of us, whatever our beliefs.

 Key quotations from the essays will be on a handout for discussion, so the session will be accessible whether or not you have read the book.  

Barack Obama says that Marilynne Robinson  ‘defines universal truths about what it means to be human’. 

Jill Sharp is one of our regular speakers, Jill was an Open University lecturer for many years and has an MA in English Studies from the Queen Mary University of London.

Jill Sharp 

Jill Sharp

Fri 22 Nov – The UN Sustainable Development Goals – Peter Von Lany

Are the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals a blueprint for transforming the world?

In 2015, the international community adopted the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development. World leaders“resolved to free humanity from poverty, secure a healthy planet for future generations, and build peaceful, inclusive societies as a foundation for ensuring lives of dignity for all. This collective journey has at its heart a promise to leave no one behind”[1].

My talk considers the ambitious and transformational aspects of the 17 integrated Sustainable Development Goals (SDG’s) brokered by the United Nations (UN). I will consider some of the objectives of the UN SDG’s; and from the perspective of my own work in the areas of water development and adapting to climate change, I will suggest actions we can take to help achieve them. In so doing, I will suggest some of the significant challenges we will need to address along the way.

The UN sustainable development  goals are here 

some info on Peter –