Conscious Robots for December

You may recognise our December speaker from previous Bath Skeptics events as Joanna Bryson is sometimes in attendance at our monthly talks (even when she has no voice!)

Dr Joanna Bryson will be taking the microphone at our December event on Tuesday 6th with a talk entitled ‘The ethics on conscious robots’ that will look at whether it is possible that artifical intelligence built as artefacts by humans might themselves be considered moral subjects?  Moral patients that deserve our protection, or even moral agents that deserve credit or responsibility for their own actions? And what, if anything, would a robot’s consciousness contribute to this question?

photo of Dr Joanna Bryson

After twenty years of involvement in artificial intelligence, Joanna has come to the conclusion that the answers to these questions have less to do with technology and more to do with sceptical enquiry into the origins of our concepts of morality.

Joanna has been at Bath University since 2002 and in 2010 was made a Reader in Computer Science. We’re really excited that Joanna is going to be speaking to us on a subject that is something we’ve never explored before.

There have been a few changes to the way our events are organised – we are now trialing the use of Eventbrite to see if we can get a better head for numbers of those attending the event (something that will help us set up the room accordingly etc.) If you are thinking of coming to our December talk then please select how many free tickets you need by clicking here and we’ll see you on the night!

We’re currently organising events for 2012 so watch our event website for details of upcoming talks as they’re organised and arranged.

Also worth a mention is the fact that on November 29th the very first Bristol Bright Club is talking place and previous Bath Skeptics in the Pub speaker, Ian Walker, is on the line up! More details here.

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vampires, tattoos & robots – oh my!

The rest of the year looks very exciting for Bath Skeptics in the Pub with a whole range of different talks coming our way – not only that, but we’ve already started to plan ahead for 2012 too!

On Tuesday October 4th we have Deborah Hyde coming to talk for us about ‘Unnatural Predators’. Deborah is the acting editor of The Skeptic Magazine and also blogs as Jourdemayne. Below is a look at some of the word Deborah has done in the past on ‘The Vampires of Rhode Island’ and demonstrates how interesting her talk promises to be.

Our November speaker, Dr Matt Lodder, was recommended to us by the previous ‘Skeptics in the Pub’ groups he has spoken for. His talk will be a fascinating look at how the media perception of tattoos has been trying to convince people that tattoos are ‘not just for sailors’ for a very long time.

Matt recently wrote a brilliant piece for The Guardian outlining some of the most common myths surrounding those who are tattooed. Did you know Winston Churchill’s mum was even inked? Neither did I, which is why I can’t wait for this talk to learn about more myths surrounding body modification and tattoo art.

It’s a talk with a difference, but it’s important to remember that there are claims made in all walks of life that effect people and the way they view others, that deserve equal skepticism. Those who have tattoos will be able to relate to some of the myths Matt wrote about in The Guardian. This talk may challenge the view of tattoos you hold – it promises to be an enlightening discussion.

In December Dr Joanna Bryson, from Bath University (we ❤ local academics!) will be talking to us about the ethics of conscious robots. Learn more about Joanna on her website here.

We hope to see you on Tuesday at the usual venue (The Westgate) which has recently has a lovely refurbishment and is even cosier than it used to be. We’re busy looking for speakers for 2012 so if you have any suggestions or recommendations to do be sure to get in touch with us.

The irrationality of transport & a new home!

Welcome to the blog for the Bath Skeptical Society! We’ve decided it’s probably worth resurrecting this blog so that we can share brief bits of news and information for those who attend our events that we cannot fit onto our main website.

Firstly, yesterdays talk by Dr Ian Walker went down a storm and was really interesting and informative, thanks to Ian for a great evening. I’m sure I don’t speak alone when I say that other ‘skeptics in the pub’ groups would do well to ask Ian to speak for them…

As attendees at last nights talk will have been aware though, everyone was a bit squished due to the small room that we have been using for our events. Some attendees had to sit outside on some stone steps in the beer garden which isn’t ideal.

When we first used The Hop Pole it was because they had very kindly helped us out of a tricky situation when our initial venue cancelled on us at the last minute, if it hadn’t been for The Hop Pole there would probably not be a Bath Skeptics in the Pub. Our first events drew in much smaller audiences compared to the one last night and although we knew we would probably need to find a bigger venue at some point, it wasn’t until all the discussion online about ‘The irrationality of Transport’ kicked off that I realised we’d need to find the bigger venue sooner than we thought. We hadn’t anticipated such numbers.

So it is with HUGE pleasure (and a little bit of regret because I love The Hop Pole) that I announce that Bath Skeptics now have a new venue for ‘skeptics in the pub’ events. We will now be hosting our events on the upper floor bar at The West Gate (which used to be ‘The Rat & Parrot’). It’s much bigger and is also more central (roughly 5 minutes from the stations) which is ideal for those who commute into Bath to come to our talks (as I know many of you do!) If you were one of the unlucky people who had to stand up or sit on stone steps last night please don’t be put off by your experience. There will be seats for everyone at our new home.

So, to summarise, a BIG thank you to Dr Ian Walker for a superb talk last night, a huge thank you to The Hop Pole for allowing us to use their pub to find our feet, and a big thank you to The West Gate for welcoming us into their premesis.

Now, all you need to do is start making your geek pride costumes… I’ve nearly finished mine!

Next Events:
May 25th: The Geek Pride Celebrations (pub quiz, fancy dress & Vogon Poetry) [details here]
June 21st: Martin Poulter: ‘How to create your own cult, the Scientology way’ [details here]