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Salisbury Conversations return for 2020

Should you be teaching your children to be polite and kind to robots like Alexa? Should you discipline them if they...

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Salisbury Conversations return for 2020

Posted By : Roz Mitchell Tuesday 25th February 2020

Should you be teaching your children to be polite and kind to robots like Alexa? Should you discipline them if they attempt to bully it? If an intelligent algorithm can bring you comfort, care, companionship in a care home… does it matter if you don’t actually realise the thing you’re interacting with is a robot? And with this in mind, ultimately what does it actually mean to be human?

As part of Salisbury 2020: City on the move, a year-long initiative to mark the spirit, skill and endeavour that led to Salisbury Cathedral’s move from Old Sarum to its present site and the development of modern Salisbury, the Cathedral and BBC Wiltshire are working together on Salisbury Conversations 2020, three one-hour panel discussions that will take place in front of a live audience inside the Cathedral.

This coming Tuesday 10 March - Are algorithms controlling your life?

Four experts guided by a facilitator will explore technology, the challenge of climate change and the role of feminism in our society. Each programme take place between 19.00-20.00 in the Cathedral and will be transmitted later on BBC Wiltshire, as well as being uploaded to BBC Sounds. 

Audience members are welcome to join us for 17.30 Evensong before the recording or Compline in the Chapter House afterwards.

Are algorithms controlling your life?
How do you feel about a machine determining your future? Would you trust a robot? Algorithms are behind the technology we rely on to shape our decisions and our lives.  From Woebot, a CBT app created to combat anxiety and depression to big data used to tackle national emergencies, the coder can help - but how far should we take it?

Geoff White, investigative journalist and reporter on technology for Channel 4 News and the BBC 
  • Professor John Wyatt, medical ethicist and Emeritus Professor of Neonatal Paediatrics, Ethics and Perinatology at UCL
  • Dr Karen O’Donnell, practical theologian and author of Digital Theology: Constructing Theology for a Digital Age (to be published in 2021). Karen is the Coordinator for the Centre for Contemporary Spirituality at Sarum College
  • Professor Sarvapali Ramchurn, Professor of Artificial Intelligence at the University of Southampton
  • Dr Michael Veale, Lecturer in Digital Rights and Regulation at University College London and author of Slave to the Algorithm (with Professor Lilian Edwards).

19:00 TUESDAY 17 March
How are you going to save the world?
We know the climate is in peril and many of us experience daily climate anxiety – but what can we or what will we do to make a difference? How can the climate conundrum be solved and who are the people to do it?

Clare Nasir, meteorologist and weather presenter on Channel 5 facilitates. Well qualified to talk about climate issues, Clare has a BSc in Mathematics and MSc in Marine Science, and is Met Office trained, weather forecaster.
  • Professor Hugh Montgomery, Director of the UCL Institute for Human Health and Performance and a founding member of the UK Climate and Health Council
  • Dr Ruth Valerio, social activist, environmentalist and theologian
  • Professor Katherine Willis, Professor of Biodiversity at Oxford and former Director of Science at Kew Gardens
  • Professor Myles Allen, Professor of Geosystem Science, Oxford and Head of the Climate Dynamics Group in the University's Department of Physics. Professor Allen also leads the project.

Tickets are £5 (£3 for students and U/16's) and are available here and on the door on the night.


The first live event is over -  you can listen to the recording here.
What has feminism done for you?
From the right to vote to #MeToo, feminism in various guises has been around for well over a century. Where has it got us and what’s the plan for the future? Fifty years on from the first Women’s Liberation conference in the UK, we discuss whether feminism is essential to a healthy society – and if there is a way forward on which we can all agree?

Alison Martin, TV producer and journalist is joined by a panel of women who have been at the cutting edge of the feminist debate including:
  • The Bishop of London, The Rt Hon and Rt Revd Dame Sarah Mullally DBE
  • Ella Whelan, journalist and author of What Women Want: Fun, Freedom and an End to Feminism
  • Zelda Perkins, campaigner fighting for changes to the way NDA’s (non-disclosure agreements) are used to abuse power. In 1998, Zelda signed a nondisclosure agreement with Harvey Weinstein, which she publicly broken in 2017 to highlight the “unethical” nature of these type of agreements
  • Aisha Thomas, VIce Principal of Bristol City Academy