Well. This was a presentation I won’t forget in a hurry. SBL Director Colin Williams’ stunning 45 minutes of…I’m not sure what…blazed through a succession of blink-and-you’ll-miss-them slides that seemed to cover all human history up to this point.
I paraphrase slightly, but Colin started with something along the lines of: ‘I bring you tidings of great peril. Everything you cherish and hold dear is near the end. These machines are the work of Satan. The dark web is shrouding your every move. There are attacks everywhere. Shadowy figures everywhere. It’s cybergeddon.’
Wow. I considered smashing my phone to bits on the spot and swallowing the pieces. Yet I held on.
Colin’s theatrically-driven, expertly delivered tirade led him to one Vannevar Bush – one of those characters from history I’ve never heard of but who seems to have invented everything – and paraphrased one of his quotes: ‘Unless we change our relationship with information, we’re screwed.’
I couldn’t quite make out when Colin was being ironic and when he was being serious – or if he was ever being ironic or serious at all. It was baffling and foreboding fun.
Another powerful thinker I’d never heard of was introduced: J.C.R Licklider, a man who also invented everything. ‘You encounter his creations every single day,’ said Colin. Among many other things, Licklider apparently anticipated Facebook – yet he did nothing to stop it!
I gave up trying to make notes; it was all too fast and dazzling. You just had to sit back and enjoy the show.
Colin concluded (I think): ‘We need microsensors fitted in all devices that use electricity. Everything needs to talk to everything else.’ Our fridges, our cars, our toilets. Yes, our toilets. Finally, the electric toilet.
If you get a chance to see this man in action, take it – but perhaps have a couple of drinks first.