Question time and cyborgs: BCS in action

Having joined BCS in September 2014, I've now had a chance to see BCS in action. I've seen plenty of good things that we can build on.

Just last week BCS was involved in Digital Question Time - a roundtable debate with three MPs: Ed Vaizey (Minister), Chi Onwurah and Julian Huppert.

The debate was lively and wide ranging, covering topics like data protection (and the confusion that exists between anonymity, privacy and secrecy), digital skills, availability of infrastructure (broadband), the development of digital public services and the UK as an incubator for technology start-ups and innovation.

In the audience were senior figures from industry and government as well as a good range of journalists. It resulted in some excellent press coverage. There were pieces published in The Guardian and Computer Weekly

It’s important we continue to be at the heart of digital policy in the UK and have an opinion on the big technology topics of the day. It’s how we fulfil our charter and demonstrates how we are making IT good for society.

Another aspect of BCS’s work was exemplified with the recent President’s dinner and lecture.

Liz Bacon's lecture was entitled ‘Cyborg versus Avatar’ - perhaps not a good start if, like me, you don't care for sci-fi movies. However, I really enjoyed Liz' s lecture which plotted a path from the early avatars (can you remember that awful Microsoft paperclip that used to ask inane questions like ‘it looks like you are writing a letter’?) through to MARC, a ‘multi actuated robotic companion’ that can be produced on a 3D printer for about a thousand pounds.

Liz did a great job of combining the technological progress with the social, moral and ethical considerations of increased automation. As you probably know, driverless cars are technically ready, for example, but the laws and regulations to govern their use are not. Liz nailed the messages, but in a very accessible way for the audience.

A few things that came out during the talk that I found interesting; the tech in an iPhone would have weighed one whole tonne in 1990; the US Dept of Labor predicts that current children, by the time they are 38, will have had between 10 and 14 jobs (it's a much more transient world). One thing that scared the pants off me (metaphorically) was Stephen Hawking's view that cyborgs will ultimately take over the human race as we are ‘limited by slow evolution’. I guess time will tell if he is as smart as we all think he is!

It is undeniable, whether in the public or private sectors, that technology is pervasive and that its impact on society is increasing. At BCS, as The Chartered Institute for IT, we have a key role to play in facilitating the debate and affecting appropriate change.

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About the author
Paul Fletcher is the Group Chief Executive Officer of BCS, The Chartered Institute for IT. Paul joined BCS in 2014 after ten years at RM Education where he was Group Managing Director of the Education Technology Division. Prior to RM, Paul held senior management consultancy roles with A.T. Kearney and KPMG. He started his career in the Aerospace Industry. Paul is passionate about the role of IT in education and society as a whole.

See all posts by Paul Fletcher

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