Fri 27th Apr – Towards a Post-work Future – Prof. Alan Winfield

The aim of this discussion paper is to explore ideas for new approaches to (corporate) governance within the context of technological unemployment, while looking (optimistically) toward a post-work future.

Alan Winfield is Professor of Robot Ethics at UWE and co-founder of the Bristol Robotics Laboratory.

He was recently the guest on Jim Al Khalili’s ‘A Life Scientific’.


Fri 20th Apr – Fundamentalism – Rahman Khatibi

 Nowadays we live in one world village and are used to human rights as a minimum standard of modernism. In this world village, the right to worship is recognised but not the right to religious fundamentalism, which is a relic of the past but very much alive and kicking if we are not careful. 
Give any religion half a chance and it is likely to want everything. Today Islamic fundamentalism rolls out before our eyes but it was not always like this. My talk will paint another possible picture and show that, in medieval times, Islam and other religions were on a par with one another – and still they are. History is not linear and modern ways of life are not a product of any religion but science. Curiously, science (evidence-based facts) arose because Christianity took mankind to the abyss in the 15th-16th Century, as Islamic fundamentalism is taking mankind to the abyss yet again. Christianity adapted to modernity, but can Islam do similar? My talk will present a historic context to the problem of fundamentalism with the focus on contemporary times.

Fri 13th Apr – Equitable Water Sharing in the Blue Nile – Peter Von Lany

Water is crucial to life and one of nature’s most valuable resources – how can it be allocated to meet competing national aspirations and managed for the benefit of all?  As Ethiopia nears completing the construction of the Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam (GERD) on the Blue Nile, the governments of Egypt and Sudan have expressed increasing levels of concern over how Ethiopia intends to use this dam – water in the Blue Nile is valuable to Ethiopia, contributes to the agricultural prosperity of Sudan and is crucial to the economic prosperity of Egypt. The GERD will be the largest hydro power dam in Africa, contributing towards Ethiopia’s economic growth through enabling energy security and potentially exporting electricity to neighbouring states. What will be Ethiopia’s near-term strategy for filling the reservoir (created by the dam), what will be the future pattern of water releases from the dam to generate hydro power, and how will these affect downstream neighbours?  

Fri 23rd March – Love, Marriage and Children – Paul Archer

This Friday, in a change to the advertised programme, Paul Archer will be speaking on ‘Love, Marriage and Children’.
I want to look carefully at the best social research and reflect on the collapse of lifelong marriage over the past half century.
How and why did this happen and what has it meant for children and for adults?
Is it a good thing or a bad thing and is there anything that governments can or should do about it?

Fri 16th March – The Secret of our Success – John Little

Joe Henrich is the new Steven Pinker. Young, handsome, Canadian, teaching at Harvard with a background in anthropology, psychology and economics he argues that humans are a puzzling species. On the one hand, we struggle to survive on our own in the wild, often failing to overcome even basic challenges, like obtaining food, building shelters, or avoiding predators. On the other hand, human groups have produced ingenious technologies, sophisticated languages, and complex institutions that have permitted us to successfully expand into a vast range of diverse environments. What has enabled us to dominate the globe, more than any other species, while remaining virtually helpless as lone individuals?    His book shows that the secret of our success lies not in our innate intelligence, but in our collective brains―on the ability of human groups to socially interconnect and learn from one another over generations.

Talk Postponed – What’s Love Got To Do With It? – Juliet Platt

Sentimental irrelevance or powerful, creative force for good – what do we think about love?  In a divided world what might Love help us achieve?  If it could help us heal divisions then what is needed to recruit it?  Where do we begin?
I’m very interested in why we don’t talk about love in such esteemed company as the Philosophical Society.  My talk will be an invitation to get curious about how the contemplation of love makes us feel – and why.

Fri 9th Mar – Will the Rise of China Lead to War with the United States? – Prof. Yongjin Zhang

The rise of China has profoundly changed the relationship between China, a rising power, and the United States, the hegemonic power in 21st century world politics. It has been claimed more recently by Graham Allison, a Harvard Professor, that the United States and China are destined for war. My talk considers the global power shift triggered by the rise of China, examines ongoing regional security competition between China and the United States in East Asia, and critically engages with Allison’s claim. It also discusses a wide range of strategic cooperation between China and the United States and Chinese perspectives on the future of Sino-US relations. In so doing, I contend, following Henry Kissinger, that conflict is a choice, not a necessity.

Yongjin Zhang is Professor of International Politics at the University of Bristol.