An obsession with the nature of death lies at the heart of the human experience. For most of our history religion has provided a clear explanation for life and the afterlife. But from the late 19th century new scientific ideas encouraged people to believe that their fate was in their own hands. In The Immortalization Commission, John Gray studies our delusional quest for immortality. From Victorian séances to the embalming of Lenin’s corpse to plans to upload our minds into cyberspace, there have been numerous attempts to defeat death, with science as the driving force.The Immortalization Commission
The Immortalization Commission: Science and the Strange Quest to Cheat Death is published by Allen Lane.
Arthur C Clarke dismissed the idea that science fiction writing was a form of escapism; it’s more “escape into reality… It’s a fiction which does concern itself with real issues: the origin of man; our future.” So how can creating new and alternative societies increase understanding of how we live? The former botanist Paul McAuley writes what’s called ‘hard’ science fiction, equally at home talking about nanotechnology as alternative reality and space travel. He’s taking part in a conference next month which explores how far imaginative fiction can help in the study of international relations. He will explore how the creation of utopian and dystopian worlds by science fiction writers, unconstrained by the restrictions of academia, can help the analysis of present-day social and political issues.Science Fiction and International Orders
Paul McAuley will be speaking at the 'Science Fiction and International Orders' event at the LSE on Thursday 17 February.
2011 is the 90th anniversary of the robot, first imagined as a character in a play. The Czech word ‘robota’ means ‘compulsory labour’ and Karel ?apek’s androids were created on an assembly line to serve humans. Since then the robot has become an iconic part of modern culture, and huge technological advances have created the possibility that art might become real. In laboratories around the world the robot as purely a machine has transformed into research on robots as carers and companions. The anthropologist Dr Kathleen Richardson studies the implications of the ‘social robot’ and argues that it raises questions about what it means to be human. She also studies the trend of scientists to re-model robots as children, to overcome any fears the public has for a thinking ‘man machine’.Will robots take over the world?
Kathleen Richardson is giving a talk entitled ‘Will robots take over the world?’ on 24 February at 1.15pm at UCL.
This is a time of much soul-searching in Wales as voters will have the chance at the beginning of March to decide in a referendum whether to increase the powers of the Welsh Assembly and accelerate the pace of devolution. The historian Dai Smith explores the social and cultural history of his native South Wales over the last century. From the Rhondda workers chasing the American dream, to the rioters of Tonypandy, and the tradition of non-conformism in both politics and religion, Dai Smith argues that the collective memory of its people has played a distinctive role in shaping its present-day values. And while in its heyday at the beginning of the twentieth century there was little impetus to promote Welsh identity, he believes there is now a much stronger sense of pride in being Welsh and a growing movement to protect it.In the Frame
In the Frame: Memory in Society, Wales 1910 – 2010 is published by Parthian Books.
Start The Week sets the cultural agenda for the week ahead, with high-profile guests discussing the…