Social Philosophy

The Future isn't What it Used to Be

James Burke
11th September 2018, 7:00pm

Every institution and social process in the modern world is the end-product of some innovation that happened in history. This is why the present is different from the past. But why did those innovations occur in the first place? Why do we so often encourage innovation, when we know its effects will almost always be unexpected and disruptive?  Is there a technique, such as that illustrated by Burke's interdisciplinary ‘Knowledge Web,’ which will help us better prepare for innovation and the change it will likely bring? Could we use new tools like Big Data and predictive analytics to second-guess our future? Or do the probable effects of present on-going research in nanotechnology and computing render any such exercise futile?


What's coming down the road looks to be an entirely unprecedented, new kind of future, different from anything that has ever happened before. This is thanks to an innovation that will trigger the most fundamental social change since we left the caves. When that happens, about 40 years from now, how will we handle it?


About the Speaker

James Burke was educated at Jesus College, Oxford. He is the author of twelve books published in seventeen languages. He was a columnist for Scientific American and a contributor to New Scientist, Vogue, Time, and Encyclopaedia Britannica Online (he wrote the essay on Innovation). As a broadcaster (Royal Television Society Gold and Silver medals) he created and presented many BBC programmes, including coverage of the Apollo Moon missions, and his two 10-part television series ‘Connections’ and ‘The Day the Universe Changed’. He has been on the lecture circuit for over 30 years, speaking to such audiences as the Smithsonian, MIT, NASA, IBM, Microsoft, the European Parliament, and the US National Security Agency. The Washington Post called him: ‘One of the most intriguing minds in the Western world’. Mr Burke is also popularly known as a presenter on the BBC television programme ‘Tomorrow's World’.


Menu for Supper

Roast chicken with a Diane sauce served with roast potatoes and seasonal vegetables

Linguine pasta with halloumi, spinach, cherry tomatoes and pesto

Key lime pie

Fresh fruit salad

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