Note the change of programme

Thursday, September 20 2018 at 7:30PM

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60 Roff Avenue
Bedford MK41 7TW

Video plus discussion

What's the talk about?

As announced, our speaker has had to withdraw, due to unexpected pressure of work, but we are, as ever, reluctant to deny our faithful following (and ourselves) an excuse to spend an evening down the pub, so we are offering an alternative.

Skeptics regulars will recall the recent visit of Jamie Bartlett, on the Dark Web.

In August last year, BBC2 broadcast a mini-series he made called Hidden Secrets of Silicon Valley. There were two parts, the first on the effects of AI on business and employment, the second on the effect on politics.

The latter issue has since blown up bigtime, with Carole Cadwalladr’s investigation for the Guardian and Observer into the nefarious activities of Cambridge Analytica, Vote Leave and BeLeave in the EU referendum campaign. Jamie gets ahead of the game, exposing the contribution of CA and Facebook to the Trump presidential campaign, featuring a characteristically evasive and obfuscating interview with Alexander Nix, and an interview with the woman who ran Project Alamo, responsible for using the personal ‘preferences’ (i.e. psychographic) data extracted by Daniel Kazinski (interview with him, too) from Facebook clicks and ‘likes’.

The first programme considers the effects of Silicon Valley’s concentration of creative talent and venture capital, and the capacity to ‘disrupt’ (key word – remember Tony Seba on electric vehicles?) existing industrial, commercial and social models, with supposedly (and possibly genuinely) benign motives, but questions how benign the effects may turn out to be. Uber and AirBnB receive not unqualified approval.

Both programmes are, imho, excellent, and I am reluctant to offer any recommendation for which one we use. Both will be available, so perhaps we could decide on the night by, say, a referendum. What could possibly go wrong?