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Durham University

Institute of Advanced Study

Past Events

IAS Fellow's Public Lecture - Philosophy, Technology and the Future

23rd November 2010, 17:30, Dowrick Suite, Trevelyan College, Professor Barry Dainton (University of Liverpool)

It has been said - by A.N. Whitehead - that Western philosophy is no more than a series footnotes to Plato.  But while there is some truth in the claim that philosophers are still preoccupied by the same problems as Plato and his contemporaries, developments in science and technology have influenced philosophical debates in ways Plato could not have foreseen.  In this lecture I will be taking a look at some recent discussions concerning the implications of technological advances that are likely to be achieved in the near- to medium-term future.

Among the topics to be discussed are:

  • If we gain the ability to 're-engineer' our species, should we do so, and if so, what modifications should we consider?
  • It has been argued that we ourselves may well be simulated beings, inhabiting a virtual world generated by some future computer. Is this really possible, let alone probable?
  • It has been claimed that at some point over the next two or three decades it is very likely that an explosive growth in computer intelligence will occur - a so-called 'Singularity' - with human-kind quickly being left far behind. How seriously should we take this?

Professor Barry Dainton is a major figure in the current philosophical literature on time and time consciousness and is currently Professor of Philosophy at the University of Liverpool.  He is an IAS Fellow this term, hosted by Trevelyan College and engaged with the Institute's annual theme on 'Futures'.  For further information please visit:

Contact for more information about this event.