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Twelve questions that need you

Does your research explore any aspects of the following questions?

If you're a current or former Royal Society Research Fellow we’d love you to take part in a series of public talks and conversations we’ll be hosting throughout 2019 at the Barbican Centre.  

Please contact James Upton on if you’d like to know more.

Woman in VR
Credit: Paul Blakemore

1. When does machine learning become machine understanding?
Themes we’d like to explore: neural networks and large-scale datasets; the difference between the way humans and machines process information; the internet of things.

2. What do we want the internet to look like in 10 years’ time?
Themes we’d like to explore: net neutrality; threats; governance of digital spaces; walled gardens; access to free internet; piracy.

3. How can we use data to build fairer democracy?
Themes we’d like to explore: surveillance; political and state exploitation of citizen data; citizen ‘scoring’; how elections function; media and news; surveillance vs. freedom.

4. What price should we put on our data?
Themes we’d like to explore: commodifying data and advertising; tracking; profiling; the right to be forgotten; insurance and risk; shadow profiles; the implications of every movement being tracked.

5. Can an algorithm be fairer than the society it’s modelled on?
Themes we’d like to explore: algorithmic bias - issues of race, gender, and bias in training datasets; tagging, metadata, what are we telling the machines?

6. How should we rewrite our genomes?
Themes we’d like to explore: applications of biological and genetic editing in agriculture, healthcare and disease eradication; moral and ethical implications.

7. What is the future of fertility?
Themes we’d like to explore: reproductive sciences; IVF; fertility rates; age distribution in population; health and social care.

8. Can we get older without being elderly?
Themes we’d like to explore: societal narratives about ageing; cultural differences in family relations and care; the implications of physical capacity outlasting mental capacity; prioritising research and healthcare investment; the future of social care; intergenerational wealth transfer.

9. Will we all become cyborgs?
Themes we’d like to explore: body-modification and nanotechnology; potential human ‘enhancement’ through implanted technology such as lens cameras, bloodstream robots, and neural interfaces.

10. What technological approaches can we use to modernise our financial system?
Themes we’d like to explore: automation and high-frequency trading; over-the-counter markets in derivatives; global income inequality; hidden assets; redistribution.

11. Do we need to “disrupt” environmentalism?
Themes we’d like to explore: new approaches to sustainability; geo-engineering; clean energy innovation and investment; scientific breakthroughs such as plastic-eating enzymes; financial viability of clean energy.

12. What does the work-life balance of the future look like?
Themes we’d like to explore: automated professions; universal basic income; balance between work and leisure; gig economy; migration.

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