Fri 1st Dec – Reconnecting Water, People and Wildlife – Mark Everard

Many of today’s major challenges are intractable because there is missing information, no obviously ‘right’ answer, conflicting outcomes from all management options, narrow governance frameworks and fiscal measures, and vested interests.  Catchment systems are as much socio-economic as ecological systems, highly interactive and best thought of complex ‘socio-ecological systems’ (SESs).  The intractability of problems in catchments is a microcosm of the inherent intractability of all sustainable development challenges.
This presentation and discussion will address efforts to reverse cycles of socio-ecological degradation in a major catchment system in semi-arid Rajasthan, India.  The inherently tight interdependence’s between the millions of rural, urban and irrigation beneficiaries of the Banas catchment, catchment ecosystems and the tourism and other dependent industries are largely overlooked.  These problems are tackled by taking a systemic view, which forms the basis for potential community and ecosystem-based solutions that can cumulatively rebuild foundational ecosystem processes driving socio-ecological regeneration.

Fri 24th Nov – What is Logic and Where Does It Come From? – Chris Eddy

We’ve recently come to understand that someone who was born “male” might declare that he was actually a “woman” or vice versa. We can’t assume that what were once regarded as the most basic words, “man” and “woman”, still mean what they used to. What this shows is that dictionaries, though useful, record only how words have been used historically, and have no authority over their future use. Using old words in new ways is one of the most fundamental forms of creativity, but words are of use in practical situations only if they enable us to agree on courses of action. Whoever wants to use old words in a new way needs to be able to explain what he means by them so that other people can understand well enough to be able to co-ordinate their actions with his and avoid conflict. In this perspective, which I want to explore, logic is a relation not between words, but between speakers who, merely by speaking, commit themselves to making practical sense of their sayings and doings.

Fri Nov 17th – Automation, Education and Work in the 21st Century – Neil Howard

There is a proliferation of articles in the media about how the accelerating technology of artificial intelligence and robotics will change the world of work radically in the next 30 years. “47% of current jobs are under threat”. “Self-driving vehicles will put millions of truck drivers out of work”. “We are seeing a hollowing out of middle-income jobs.”
Some say this Luddite fear is unwarranted. “Just because we can’t imagine what new jobs will come along doesn’t mean the next generation won’t”. “We just need to educate everyone for the future knowledge economy.”
Others say “This time it’s different”. “We cannot compete with the robots”. “Maybe we need to tax the robots and have Universal Basic Income.”
This talk will look beyond these articles, at how technological revolutions happen, what the new technology actually is, and how things may turn out differently from what we expect.

Fri 10 Nov – Security, Harm and Violence: a conceptual exploration – James Shires

Security is ubiquitous, and comes in many forms: economic, social, and national security are a few of the most frequent uses of the term. However, the relationship of security to harm and violence in all three of these cases is unclear, despite an intuitive association between the concepts. To clarify this link, I argue that we need to not only better define the meaning of security and the process by which something becomes a security issue – ‘securitization’ – but also the other side of the equation. Harm and violence are themselves elastic concepts, and have been extended outside the physical realm envisioned by Hobbes in several ways. This talk examines the case study of modern information technologies, where words suggesting harm and violence – such as attack, damage, and weapon – are common in cybersecurity. I compare this inflated language with the apparently inconsequential role played by information technologies in unarguable cases of violence across the world, and conclude that if we take seriously the conceptual relationship between security, harm and violence, this leads to a substantial reprioritization of security issues related to information technologies.