Public Lectures and Seminars from the Oxford Martin School, University of Oxford. The Oxford Martin School brings together the best minds from different fields to tackle the most pressing issues of the 21st century.
Greed is dead: politics after individualism
Economists Paul Collier and John Kay discuss their book, Greed is Dead, with Sir Charles Godfray Throughout history, successful societies have created institutions which channel both competition and co-operation to achieve complex goals of general benefit.
These institutions make the difference between societies that thrive and those paralysed by discord, the difference between prosperous and poor economies. In their 2020 book, Greed is Dead, the leading economists Paul Collier and John Kay argue that extreme individualism has today weakened co-operation and polarised our politics, and call for a reaffirmation of the values of mutuality across the social, political and business spheres.
In conversation with Charles Godfray, the authors will develop this argument and explore how the experience of the global pandemic may affect how societies and policymakers view the balance between individualism and mutuality.
Zero carbon energy systems
Join Nick Eyre and Steve Smith for a discussion on a renewable energy, energy efficiency and carbon emissions. The combustion of fossil fuels is responsible for the most greenhouse gas emissions, particularly in industrialised countries.
Systemic change in energy systems is therefore a critical component of any net-zero agenda. It is a huge global challenge, but recent developments give cause for optimism that a Green Industrial Revolution is possible.
Join Professor Nick Eyre, Lead Researcher, Oxford Martin Programme on Integrating Renewable Energy, where he will discuss with Dr Steve Smith, Executive Director of Oxford Net Zero, how the declining costs of renewable electricity mean they can provide cheap mitigation, as well as enabling major improvements in energy efficiency, so that the total amount of energy that will need to be decarbonised is much lower than often projected.
Net zero – why and how?
The first discussion in the Oxford Net Zero Series, hosted by the Oxford Martin School, hones in on the fundamental motivation of the research programme: ‘Why net zero? Join the Oxford Net Zero Initiative’s Research Director, Professor Sam Fankhauser; Director, Professor Myles Allen; Net Zero Policy Engagement Fellow, Kaya Axelsson as they discuss with the Chair, Executive Director. Dr Steve Smith, the meaning of the word ‘net’ in net zero, reviewing what is needed to mitigate global warming, as and before we fully phase out activities that generate greenhouse gas emissions.
The discussion will explore the framing opportunities and challenges that the term ‘net-zero’ offers for science, policy, and advocacy informing effective climate action, as well as the innovation required at scale to achieve the global goal.
Protein structure and AI: the excitement about the recent advance made by Google DeepMind’s AlphaFold Programme
Why is it important to understand the 3-D structures of protein, why are they difficult to construct, and what is the nature of AlphaFold’s advance? Why is this so exciting and what further advances in medicine and the other biosciences may result? On the 30th November it was announced that the Artificial Intelligence computer programme AlphaFold had made a decisive breakthrough in the determination of the 3-D structures of proteins.
The announcement was immediately hailed as one of the major scientific advances of the decade. To find out why, join a conversation between Yvonne Jones, Director, Cancer Research UK Receptor Structure Research Group, Professor Phil Biggin, Professor of Computational Biochemistry, and Charles Godfray, Director, Oxford Martin School, who will explore these fascinating issues.
Data work: the hidden talent and secret logic fuelling artificial intelligence
Professor Gina Neff discusses artificial intelligence and data work, and the ethical and social implications of integrating these tools into organisations. What happens when new artificial intelligence (AI) tools are integrated into organisations around the world?
For example, digital medicine promises to combine emerging and novel sources of data and new analysis techniques like AI and machine learning to improve diagnosis, care delivery and condition management. But healthcare workers find themselves at the frontlines of figuring out new ways to care for patients through, with - and sometimes despite - their data. Paradoxically, new data-intensive tasks required to make AI work are often seen as of secondary importance. Gina calls these tasks data work, and her team studied how data work is changing in Danish & US hospitals (Moller, Bossen, Pine, Nielsen and Neff, forthcoming ACM Interactions).
Based on critical data studies and organisational ethnography, this talk will argue that while advances in AI have sparked scholarly and public attention to the challenges of the ethical design of technologies, less attention has been focused on the requirements for their ethical use. Unfortunately, this means that the hidden talents and secret logics that fuel successful AI projects are undervalued and successful AI projects continue to be seen as technological, not social, accomplishments.
In this talk Professor Gina Neff, Oxford Internet Institute and Professor Ian Goldin, Oxford Martin School, will examine publicly known “failures” of AI systems to show how this gap between design and use creates dangerous oversights and to develop a framework to predict where and how these oversights emerge. The resulting framework can help scholars and practitioners to query AI tools to show who and whose goals are being achieved or promised through, what structured performance using what division of labour, under whose control and at whose expense. In this way, data work becomes an analytical lens on the power of social institutions for shaping technologies-in-practice.
Rethinking diet, weight and health policy in and after the COVID-19 pandemic
Prof Susan Jebb and Sir Charles Godfray discuss the possible implications of the pandemic on health policy and tackling obesity. The current covid-19 pandemic has focussed attention on the variability in personal risk of serious illness. After age and ethnicity, one of the most important factors associated with developing serious covid complications, requiring admission to hospital or ICU, is being overweight.
Excess weight has long been known to be a risk factor for ill-health, though governments have rarely encouraged weight loss, and have even been cautious about interventions which may help to prevent obesity developing, for fear of accusations of ‘nannying’ or because of opposition by the food industry. However covid-19 seems to have sparked a notable change. In the United Kingdom, the Prime Minister, who acknowledges he is overweight, suffered complications from covid-19, and since his recovery has launched a new government plan to tackle obesity. This offers more support to people trying to lose weight and promises much greater action to curb unhealthy eating habits.
Professor Susan Jebb is a nutrition scientist with a special interest in designing and testing public health interventions to prevent and treat obesity. In this conversation, we shall explore the policy options available to governments and other bodies to tackle obesity and ask whether, as we emerge from the pandemic, there will be a new focus on the benefits of a healthy body weight.