Oxford Martin School academics past and present were among an audience of nearly 600 people who gathered to hear Lord Martin Rees deliver the School’s 10th Anniversary Lecture on Monday 23 November.
In the lecture Lord Rees, a member of the School’s Advisory Council since its foundation in 2005, focused on the theme of managing scientific and technological progress for the common good, covering advances in artificial intelligence, bio-technology, elaborate networks, the automation of jobs and gene editing.
“Technology brings with it great hopes, but also great fears,” he said. “The Martin School is uniquely well placed to assess which scenarios are pure science fiction, and which could conceivably become real; to consider how to enhance resilience against the more credible ones; and to warn against technological developments that could run out of control.”
Lord Rees also touched on a variety of other challenges presently facing humanity, from climate change to population growth, and reflected on the huge opportunities offered by advances in areas such as clean energy technology and even space travel.
He paid tribute to the School’s founder, Dr James Martin, saying: “Jim was a software pioneer and visionary. He was an evangelist for new technology – but anxious that it’s advancing so fast that we may not properly cope with it. And he was distressed by the immense gulf between the way the world could be and the way it actually is.”