Previous Courses – Visions of the Future (2021/22)

Visions of the Future (2021/22)

Welcome to our “Visions of the Future” page from our 2021/22 programme. This course has now finished, but you can still access the articles, videos and podcasts associated with each class.

Swipe through the Course Introduction below:

Alternatively, click here to view the Course Introduction as a Transcript:

Although it may sound like a cliché, it certainly seems true to say that technology is advancing at an unprecedented pace, revolutionising the way that we live in the twenty-first century. The last couple of decades have seen huge progress in a number of areas of technology that are promising ever-greater changes to our lives. They are all of potentially enormous benefit to our wellbeing, but like many new technologies in the past, they also have the potential for unforeseen side effects. We are witnessing unprecedented leaps forward at the cutting-edge of science, and this programme will explore some of the key frontiers that stand out today, from artificial intelligence and nanotechnology, to gene-editing and solutions to the climate crisis.

But as with any major change, emerging technologies do not come without their challenges and controversies. Wide-ranging questions are beginning to be asked more loudly, and with greater urgency; this is fertile ground for debate, with few settled answers. These questions encompass such areas as ethics (for instance, the use of technologies in health), philosophy (questions of personhood, and the nature of progress), politics (how we organise ourselves in face of these profound changes), and more. As we’ll find throughout this programme, the study of the Humanities can help us grapple with the questions and challenges that new technology poses.

A study of the past, too, is essential to any understanding of what the future may bring. Through history, technological change has been a tremendous driver of change, and throughout this course we’ll be looking at some key examples of this, from the world of the Ancient Greeks and Romans right through to the present day, as well as exploring the historical origins of some of today’s most crucial technologies – including the surprisingly long history of computing.

Of course, it is impossible ever to know what the future will bring: the only certainty is that we cannot predict the future. But throughout this programme, we will be encouraging you to think critically and creatively about all of the topics we’ll be covering, reflecting on what you read, watch and listen to, as you formulate your own answers to the question: What is your Vision of the Future?

Visions of the Future – Class 1:

Subjects covered: Computer Science, Geography, Classics, Earth Sciences, Medicine, English

Click Here to Read the Class Description

In the first class, we’ll be looking at some of the ways in which the Covid-19 pandemic has affected our world and the technologies we use, from vaccine-development to diplomacy, international relations, and digital theatre. We’ll explore the technologies that lie behind some of the key areas of change in the 21st century such as Artificial Intelligence and new sources of clean energy. And, we’ll step back from the modern to get a historical perspective on ‘the future’, with articles on the ancient origins of computing, and on the notion of what it has meant throughout history to be ‘modern’ at all.

Download the Class PDF Here

Visions of the Future – Class 2:

Subjects covered: Psychology, Ancient History, Biology, Biomedical Sciences, History of Art

Click Here to Read the Class Description

In our second class, we’ll be continuing to dig deeper into some of the topics we’ve already explored in the first class. We’ll take a look at some ways in which computers and new technologies are continuing to revolutionise a wide variety of fields, from zoology and conservation, to medicine, psychology and genetics, including an examination of the exciting (but controversial) new technology of gene-editing. And in the humanities, we’ll continue our exploration of the ancient world and attitudes to the notion of ‘progress’ in Greece and Rome, as well as leaping forward to the 20th century to a pivotal moment in the history of modern art in post-war Britain.

Download the Class PDF Here

Visions of the Future – Class 3:

Subjects covered: Medicine, Biochemistry, Geography, Philosophy, Physics, Classics

Click Here to Read the Class Description

In the third class, we will continue our exploration of artificial intelligence, both in the context of its uses in the medical profession, and in the context of one of the core philosophical questions that AI raises: what, exactly, does it mean to be a person? We’ll also learn about two developments which have the potential to revolutionise modern science: quantum computing, and nanotechnology. We will also be turning to geography to examine the question of how technology has affected the way we see and represent the world, before returning once again to the ancient world, and a surprising relationship the Ancient Greeks’ scientific knowledge and their political development.

Download the Class PDF Here

Visions of the Future – Class 4:

Subjects covered: Earth Sciences, Ethics, History, Mathematics, Psychology, Ancient History

Click Here to Read the Class Description

In our fourth and final class, we’ll conclude our exploration of some of the key applications and issues around artificial intelligence: we’ll find out about how AI might help us tackle the climate crisis, and we’ll dig deeper into some of the ethical dilemmas raised by the use of AI in medicine. Then, turning back from our current era of rapid and radical change, we’ll step back in time to see how past societies have responded to periods of disruption, with a timely look at how medieval societies responded the Black Death pandemic of the 14th century. And finally, we will look further at how the use of computers can aid and enhance our knowledge and understanding in a number of fields, from mathematics and psychology, to the use of digital modelling in the Humanities.

Download the Class PDF Here

Challenge Submissions for Each Class: