Text full multimedia monochrome

First time here?

Find out more about how The Lecture List works.

Coronavirus situation update

Our lecture organisers may or may not have had time to update their events with cancellation notices. Clearly social gatherings are to be avoided and that includes lectures. STAY AT HOME FOLKS, PLEASE.


Find out what you can do to keep The Lecture List online

Can technology set you free?

Should we be much more demanding of what we could get from new kinds of technology? What does the debate about technology say about our sense of purpose and ambition?

Prometheus was severely punished for giving fire and the arts to mankind, but his loss of liberty was our gain. Just what though is the relationship between technology and freedom? Did washing machines liberate women, or was it feminists who demanded washing machines? In what senses are we – in a gadget-filled world – freer today than 50 or 500 years ago? What might it mean, even, when we talk of being made free?

For the developing world, technology has been named ‘the single most transformative tool for development’, while others claim it will destroy – not liberate – traditional communities. Our lives are enriched by technology but we also blame it for taking away our autonomy. The smartphone that makes the daily commute a creative moment is also the device that makes you available 24/7 to the demands of your boss, and indeed your friends. Can we ever be truly free if privacy is a thing of the past, where technology has enabled the accumulation of masses of personal data? Even when there is so much potential to exploit, critics point out that its potential to emancipate humanity might be illusory. But technology is all around us. It makes things faster, smaller, cheaper, and improves how we live, work and entertain. It can empower – removing the shackles of disability and dependency and the housewife’s daily graft. Technology has made travel to the moon and the bottom of the oceans possible, given us artificial hearts and oral contraceptives, mapped our genetic code and even allowed the blind to see again and amputees to run in the Olympics.

Nevertheless, we often seem incapable of handling the change new technology brings. Does it cause a loss of autonomy – or are we more fearful of our inability to withstand change? Should we be much more demanding of what we could get from new kinds of technology? What does the debate about technology say about our sense of purpose and ambition? Perhaps in answering that, we can begin to answer the question of whether or not technology can liberate us, or if the liberated are in the best position to make use of what technology offers.


Dr Mo Ibrahim | talks
Dr Aleks Krotoski | talks | www
Professor Andy Miah | talks | www
Dr Martyn Thomas | talks
Professor Judy Wajcman | talks
Mr James Woudhuysen | talks | www
David Bowden | talks


Date and Time:

22 November 2012 at 7:00 pm


2 hours



Royal Academy of Engineering
3 Carlton House Terrace

Show map

Organised by:

Institute of Ideas
See other talks organised by Institute of Ideas...



£5 (£3)

Available from:


Additional Information:

Visit www.battleofideas.org.uk for more information.

Register to tell a friend about this lecture.


If you would like to comment about this lecture, please register here.


Any ad revenue is entirely reinvested into the Lecture List's operating fund