Science and Technology: Impacts on society in the 21st century

The annual Commonwealth Lecture is a keynote address by an internationally renowned public figure. Past lecturers have included Kofi Anan, Mary Robinson and Terry Waite.

This year, the address was given by Dr James Martin, the eminent scientist (ranked by Computerworld as fourth among the 25 individuals who have most influenced the world of computer science).

I don’t often use the word, but going to the Royal Institution was ‘awesome’. We sat in the lecture hall where Davey told of isolating chemical elements, where Faraday demonstrated the principles of electromagnetism and where Tyndall explained the principles of Infra-red radiation.

Dr Martin was affable and terrifying in equal measure, illustrating for us, the percentage chances of varying cataclysmic futures. He spoke of the impact of technology on emerging economies, of tipping points between resources and need, and about the singularity when computers will out think humans.

It was a rare treat to be invited; we felt very special to be there.

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