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Now in its second year, the how to: Academy Conference on How To Change the World” will be held on the 1st December 2015 at the Royal Institution. Tickets are priced at £149 inc vat.

Themes covered will include: The Future in 15 years, Driverless Vehicles, Hunting for Alien Life, Fixing a Broken Heart , Quantum Materials, Psychedelic Drugs, Fusion Energy, Living to 100, Technology at Work:The Future of Employment, Bio-Inspired Quantum Technologies, Artificial Intelligence, Transhumanism, the Universe filled with Ghostly Particles, Perfect Information: Satellite Imaging, Cybersecurity, Reducing Humanity’s Water Footprint  and The Science and Ethics of Genome Editing.

Moderated by Matthew Taylor, the Chief Executive of the RSA, it will feature 16 world class scientists and technologists from the Oxford Martin School, Cambridge University, Imperial College, the Weizmann Institute and the Institute of Physics at the University of Amsterdam, with a keynote talk on the Future by Professor Ian Goldin from the Oxford Martin School.



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How To: change the world

1st Dec 2015, 9.30 am - 5.30 pm

Conference divided into four session blocks

The Future in 15 years: Keynote Talk

Professor Ian Goldin - University of Oxford

Driverless Vehicles

Christopher Choa - AECOM

Self-driving cars are just around the corner.  How will these disruptive innovations in remote sensing, artificial intelligence, and energy production change the form of our cities? Automated movement has profound implications for not only our regular patterns of work and leisure, but also on how we value commodity and experience, and what we define as public and private. This presentation will identify some of the emerging technologies and explore some of the potential consequences.

Fixing a broken heart: Lessons from the embryo

Prof. Eldad Tzahor- Weizmann Institute: Departement of Biological Regulation

Cardiovascular diseases are the leading cause of mortality mainly due to the fact that human hearts lacks regenerative potential.  This isn’t the case with fish as well as new born mice. This talk will explore how the adult heart in humans can be induced to regenerate in the same way as lower vertebrates or mice just after birth and how through the deployment of various experimental platforms we can create a bridge between development biology and the emerging field of regenerative medicine to advance current knowledge and methodologies for potential cardiac therapies.

New Generation Quantum Materials

Dr Suchitra Sebastian - University of Cambridge: Cavendish Laboratory

Quantum effects at a macro-level yield exotic properties in a class of materials known as quantum materials, which have the potential for revolutionary technological advances. Suchitra Sebastian will introduce examples of these materials which she researches, including superconducting materials that carry electricity with absolutely no loss, yielding significant implications for a transformed energy landscape.

Psychedelic drugs

Dr Robin Carhart-Harris - Imperial College

The neuroscience and psychology of the psychedelic state, as induced by drugs such as LSD,  focusing on potential applications of psychedelics, such as their role in psychiatry, their potential as novel nootropics, their ability to alter personality and outlook in an enduring way and how these things may impact on society.

Fusion Power – the Era of Burning Plasmas

Professor Steven Cowley - Director of Culham Centre for Fusion Energy

In a decade, the international fusion experiment ITER will start operating in the south of France.  This historic experiment will generate up to 500 megawatts of fusion power and provide a proof of principle for fusion energy.  Fusion has the potential to provide a large fraction of our energy for millions of years.  I will describe the scientific progress in fusion — from Sir Arthur Stanley Eddington’s prophetic predictions in 1920 to the remarkable results that have lead to ITER.  There are challenging problems that must be solved to make fusion power a commercial option.  I will outline these problems and worldwide efforts to find their solution.

Technology at Work: The Future of Employment

Dr Michael Osborne and Dr Carl Benedikt Frey - Co-Directors of the Oxford Martin Programme on Technology and Employment

Robots and computers are inexorably developing the skills to work in ways once considered quintessentially human. Think about self-driving cars, or Amazon’s product recommendations, or Google Translate. The real question is not whether these technologies will have employment implications, but rather: how much, and to whom. We provide some answers to these questions, using machine learning techniques to analyse data from both the US and UK. In particular, we find that 47% of current US employment is at high risk of computerisation by 2030

Ageing. Living to 100

Sarah Harper - Oxford Martin School

This talk will look at the impact at the global, societal and individual level of the shift from predominantly young to predominantly older societies and will address such questions as the implication in the widespread falls in fertility and growth in extreme longevity. What if we all live to 100?

Bio-inspired quantum technologies

Prof. Vlatko Vedral - Oxford Martin School

Most approaches to building quantum computers are “bottom up” starting from single quantum bits – qubits – and then proceeding to introduce more qubits, one by one. A growing body of evidence, however, suggests that biological systems, which are usually large in that they consist of many qubits, could be utilising quantum coherence, superpositions, and even, in some cases, quantum entanglement, to perform various tasks with higher efficiency. I will first briefly summarize the case for the existence of genuine quantum effects in biology, including two of the most famous examples of biological processes: photosynthesis and magneto-reception. I will then ask whether by understanding how nature achieves macroscopic quantum information processing we might be able to reverse engineer it to have a successful “top-down” way of building large scale quantum computers.

Artificial Intelligence and Transhumanism

Dr Anders Sandberg - Oxford Martin School

No longer the smartest species?Our species has been remarkably successful – humans can be found almost everywhere in the biosphere, we are the most common large animal, we reshape the global ecological and geological systems – and we took over the planet in a blink of the evolutionary eye. Intelligence, cooperation and technology have enormous power compared to most other biological adaptations. But now we are turning these powers to bear on machines and ourselves. Over the next decades it is possible that we will find ways of making ourselves smarter – or create artificial problem-solvers vastly more efficient than we are. What can we say about the consequences, and how do we respond to the possibility of no longer being the smartest on the planet?

The Universe filled with Ghostly Particles

Prof. Patrick Decowski - Institute of Physics, University of Amsterdam

About 700-thousand-billion subatomic neutrinos pass unnoticeably through each one of us every second. Although this number is astoundingly large, it took more than 25 years before the neutrino hypothesis, invoked to solve a puzzle in radioactivity, was experimentally proven.
Similarly, there is overwhelming astrophysical evidence that dark matter exists, matter that accounts for more than 85% of all mass in the Universe. Although we know dark matter must be very abundant, and all around us, we do not yet know what it consists of. We do know that its composition must be very different from the matter that we, and the World, are made of. One of the most plausible theories predicts that around one billion dark matter particles pass through us every second, but so far these particles have not been observed directly and remain elusive.
I will discuss how scientists build ultra-sensitive experiments to detect dark matter and solve one of the most fundamental questions in physics. 40 years after the initial hypothesis of the existence of dark matter, we may be on the verge of finally detecting it.

Perfect Information: Satellite Imaging

Sophie Hackford - Director, Wired Consulting and Wired Education

How satellites, drones, and sensors give us real time visibility into everything: construction activity in Shenzen, the cornfields of Iowa, the ships of the Persian Gulf. What does decision making look like in a world of perfect information?

The Science and Ethics of Genome Editing

Professor Julian Savulescu - Oxford Martin School

Human genetic modification has officially progressed from science fiction to science.  Earlier this year, in a world first, scientists have used the gene editing technique CRISPR to modify human embryos. While the study itself marks an important milestone, the reason it was truly extraordinary is the scientific community’s reaction to it. In refusing to publish this study partly on ethical grounds, the world’s two leading science journals Nature and Science, appeared to be demonstrate a lack of clear and consistent thinking on ethical issues. I will give an overview of the ethical issues, and argue that though there can be good reasons not to publish research for ethical reasons, in this case, far from being knowledge that is unethical to pursue, it is morally imperative to pursue this line of research.

Perceptual Neuroscience

Beau Lotto - Director of Lottolab

We all hate uncertainty. Indeed, your brain is programmed to do so. If in evolution your ancestors weren’t sure that was a predator in evolution … well … it was too late. Most of our mental health problems result … literally … from the fear of uncertainty. As a result, nearly every human behaviour – and even perception – is an attempt to reduce it. What is true for individuals is also true for businesses, cultures and communities. Which means understanding how the brain overcomes uncertainty has fundamental and intrinsic value personally and practically, since it’s only in stepping into uncertainty that enables us to live creatively. But how? Beau brings together the latest knowledge in perceptual neuroscience to offer a new way of seeing that has implications for the digital: how to be meaningful?


Professor Angela Sasse - Director of the RISCS

We have come to accept that data about us is increasingly collected and stored by the organisations with which we interact. Wherever data is stored, it is vulnerable to hacking. In this talk, Angela Sasse will describe the main threats to our cybersecurity in the present and near future, and explain how individuals and organisations can work to divert the threats of cyberattacks, and minimise the risks of data collection and storage.

Reducing Humanity's Water Footprint

Professor Arjen Y. Hoekstra - University of Twente

Freshwater is humanity’s most valuable resource – every human being on the planet depends on clean freshwater for survival. It is also the key element for economic development: virtually every production process, from agriculture to manufacturing and energy production relies on vast amounts of water. While many regions on earth are blessed with plenty of water to provide for life and growth, water scarcity affects over 2.7 billion people for at least one month per year. Regional climate conditions are obviously a key factor for water scarcity – and climate change may cause even more water security challenges in the future – but in order to understand the complex economy of water consumption, water shortages and pollution, the problem needs to be considered from a global perspective. Many countries have significantly externalised their “water footprint”, importing water-intensive goods from elsewhere. This puts pressure on the water resources in the exporting regions, where too often mechanisms for wise water governance and conservation are lacking. Many water problems are thus closely tied to the structure of the global economy. Fair allocation of limited water resources over competing demands is one of the great challenges of the coming century. Consumers, governments, companies and investors are all essential players to move in a direct of more sustainable use of our most precious resource. 


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