Book Preview: Rosalind Picard – Thinking technology, Thinking Faith

anatomy-1751201_640 Pixabay Gordon Johnson
Gordon Johnson, Pixabay

One place where my faith has helped me with my science is that it has made me fearless. I take it literally when the Bible says ‘Fear only God.’ I’m not going to fear what all my colleagues are going to think of me. Before God all of the most intimidating professors really aren’t intimidating at all. With this perspective all fear of people vanishes. As a child I was quite nervous in front of people, detested public speaking and would weasel out of any public appearance, especially the weekly show-and-tell time at school. I would hide the object my Mom made me bring so I wouldn’t have to stand up in front of class and talk. I would have cowered in the presence of the Nobel prize-winners, CEOs, rock stars, You Tube luminaries, heads of state and other people that I have the pleasure to meet regularly these days. What brought about this change in me? Continue reading

Strength harnessed

Storm Cell Over the Southern Appalachian Mountains, NASA, Stu Broce
Storm Cell Over the Southern Appalachian Mountains, NASA, Stu Broce

I spent last weekend at Lee Abbey, Devon. The theme of the weekend was ‘Science & Faith in a Secular Age’, with the Exeter-based molecular biologist John Bryant as the main speaker (I managed to sneak in as a workshop leader). We spent most of Saturday morning thinking about how science has been misused to further a secularist agenda, and how much more awe inspiring the real picture is – using Job 38 and John 1 as a basis for that reflection.

What struck me in particular was the warden David Rowe’s talk on Sunday. He started from the same Bible passages and asked, ‘How does God manage to communicate with us without obliterating us?’. If God created on the scale of the universe, how could he possibly be in the room with us without turning us into dust and ashes? Continue reading

Affective Computing

It’s not a typo, it definitely is ‘affective‘ computing. Rosalind Picard runs a research group at the MIT Media Lab  that looks into ways in which computers can interpret and respond to human emotions. She visited the Faraday Institute this week to give a lecture on ‘Playing God? Towards machines that deny their maker’ (watch/listen online). Besides describing some fun and no doubt very useful new technology, such as a sociable robot called Kismet, there was plenty of food for thought. Continue reading