Plotting the Future
Lecture Series II

Towards Sustainability: Environment - Society - Economy

This public lecture series is a joint initiative of four research institutes at University College Dublin – the Earth Institute, the Geary Institute for Public Policy, the Humanities Institute, and the Institute for Discovery. The series will consist of public lectures, thematic workshops, interviews and other outreach activities.

Building on the success of the initial series Plotting the Future: Scenes and Scenarios of Speculation which addressed the social, cultural and economic impact of Artificial Intelligence and robotics, Plotting the Future: Towards Sustainability explores the question of whether and how life in the Anthropocene can be made sustainable. The question of sustainability cannot be solved by any one discipline on its own – besides scientific, economic and political interventions, it also requires ethical, cultural and historically informed perspectives. We are therefore keen to invite leading international experts spanning the sciences, social sciences and humanities to explore how we are driving environmental change and discuss how we can or should respond, in terms of society, economy, policy, technology, culture and lifestyle. For full information please visit

Series II was launched with:

Dr Rick Crownshaw, Goldsmiths, University of London

Climate Change, Literature, and the Future of Memory
Room H.204, UCD Humanities Institute
7 November 2019

Prof. Richard Thompson, Plymouth University
Perspectives on Plastic Pollution
17 December 2020


Upcoming events:

Prof. Eva Horn, University of Vienna

Cultivating the Air: A Short History of Climate Modulation [TBC]
UCD Humanities Institute
20 October 2021


Plotting the Future
Lecture Series I

Plotting the Future: Scenes and Scenarios of Speculation

Led by the UCD Humanities Institute, the UCD Institute for Discovery and the UCD Geary Institute for Public Policy, ‘Plotting the Future’ is a public lecture series and forum for debate that explores the urgent question of what it means to be human in the age of Artificial Intelligence and Robotics.

AI, robotics, autonomous vehicles, drones, 3-D printing, nanotechnology, and biotechnology are revolutionising society. These new technologies are already blurring the lines between the physical, digital, and biological worlds, raising ethical, social and legal concerns. While some commentators celebrate the opportunities of the so-called Fourth Industrial Revolution, others foreground the potentially uncontrollable ramifications of what is arguably an unprecedented transformation of the human world.

Our experts and guest lecturers will discuss the following questions:

  • What are the socio-political, economic and cultural challenges and opportunities of the second machine age?
  • How will it transform the world of work?
  • To what extent will our self-perception as human beings change?
  • How can we safeguard the very notion of self-governance, given the increasing dependence on AI and robotics?
  • Can robotics law protect us from uncontrolled advances in these domains?

Join us as we discuss what the future may look like in thirty years. Listen back to podcasts from previous events below.



Mark O'Connell, Journalist and author

To be a Machine

Date: Thursday, 20 September 2018 @ 5.30pm
H.204, UCD Humanities Institute

Mark O'Connell is a writer based in Dublin. His book, To Be a Machine: Encounters With a Post-Human Future, was published by Granta (UK & Commonwealth) and Doubleday (US & Canada) in 2017. 

He is Slate’s books columnist, a staff writer at The Millions, and a regular contributor to The New Yorker’s “Page-Turner” blog; his work has been published in The New York Times MagazineThe New York Times Book ReviewThe Observer, and The Independent. He is also the author of the Kindle Single Epic Fail: Bad Art, Viral Fame, and the History of the Worst Thing Ever (Byliner/The Millions).

He has a PhD in English Literature from Trinity College Dublin, and in 2013 his academic monograph on the work of the novelist John Banville, John Banville’s Narcissistic Fictions, was published by Palgrave Macmillan. He was an Irish Research Council Postdoctoral Fellow from 2011 to 2012 at Trinity College, where he taught contemporary literature.

Please register for the event by clicking here.








Professor Maja Pantic, Chair iBUG Group, Imperial College London, Computing Dept., UK 
Director, Samsung Artificial Intelligence Research Centre, Cambridge, UK. 

Artificial Intelligence: What if machines could sense how I feel

Date: Thursday, 17 May 2018 at 5pm (the talk will be followed by a wine & cheese reception)
Venue: Theatre F, Science Hub

Maja Pantic obtained her PhD degree in computer science in 2001 from Delft University of Technology, the Netherlands. Until 2005, she was an Assistant/ Associate Professor at Delft University of Technology. In 2006, she joined the Imperial College London, Department of Computing, UK, where she is Professor of Affective & Behavioural Computing and the Head of the iBUG group, working on machine analysis of human non-verbal behaviour. From May 2018, she is the Director of the Samsung Artificial Intelligence Research Centre in Cambridge, UK.

Prof. Pantic is one of the world's leading experts in the research on machine understanding of human behavior including vision-based detection, tracking, and analysis of human behavioral cues like facial expressions and body gestures, and multimodal analysis of human behaviors like laughter, social signals, and affective states. In 2011, Prof. Pantic received BCS Roger Needham Award, awarded annually to a UK based researcher for a distinguished research contribution in computer science within ten years of their PhD. She is an IEEE Fellow and an IAPR Fellow.

The talk will be moderated by Adrian Weckler, group technology editor, Irish and Sunday Independent.

Adrian Weckler is Ireland’s most recognised media commentator on how technology is changing our lives, both at work and beyond. As Technology Editor of both The Irish Independent and The Sunday Independent, he has risen to become the country’s most senior journalist in the sector, regularly appearing on national and international television and radio shows to interpret new trends.
He is also the host of Ireland’s most listened-to technology podcast, The Big Tech Show. Adrian is currently the holder of the the Smurfit Business Journalism award, Ireland’s most prestigious business media accolade. Twitter: @adrianweckler


Brett Scott, Journalist, campaigner and former derivatives broker

The War on Cash

Date: Tuesday, 20 February 2018 
Venue: B.003, Geary Institute for Public Policy

Brett Scott is a journalist, campaigner and former derivatives broker. He is the author of The Heretic’s Guide to Global Finance: Hacking the Future of Money (Pluto Press: 2013), which helps non-expert readers to explore the financial system, and to think about how it could be designed differently. He has worked with a variety of groups on issues related to the financial sector. This includes working on tax justice with Action Aid UK, considering the impact of offshore financial centres, and working on food markets with the World Development Movement, considering the impact of financial players in commodity derivatives markets. He was on the original team of the UK ethical banking reform campaign MoveYourMoney, which advocates for greater banking diversity, transparency and responsible investment. He's collaborating with groups like Berlin-based Open Oil on building open data models for oil sector transparency, whilst working with student campaigners on the ethical policies of university investment. He also writes on financial campaigns, alternative finance and open source hacker culture for publications like The Guardian, New Scientist, Wired Magazine, Aeon and, and provides commentary on financial reform and cryptocurrencies on media channels such as BBC and Arte. He is a Fellow of the ICAEW/WWF Finance Innovation Lab, which brings together practitioners interested in sustainable finance, monetary reform, and peer-to-peer finance. He is very interested in popular education around financial markets, and frequently runs workshops at festivals and other events, as well as helping to facilitate a course on power and design at the Camberwell College of Arts London.  To read more, see his blog, and visit his Twitter profile @suitpossum.


Professor Philippe van Parijs, Visiting Professor and Senior Research Fellow, Nuffield College University of Oxford.

Basic Income and The Future of Work

Date: Monday, 4 December 2017
Venue: William Fry Theatre L.143, UCD Sutherland School of Law

Philippe van Parijs is a guest professor at the Universities of Louvain and Leuven, a Robert Schuman Fellow at the European University Institute and an associate member of Nuffield College, Oxford. He was the founding director of Louvain’s Hoover Chair of Economic and Social Ethics from 1991 to 2016, and a regular visiting professor at Harvard University from 2004 to 2010 and at the University of Oxford from 2011 to 2015. He is a member of Belgium’s Royal Academy of Sciences and a Fellow of the British Academy. He is one of the founders of the Basic Income Earth Network and chairs its International Board. His books include Real Freedom for All. What (if anything) can justify capitalism ? (Oxford U.P. 1995), What’s Wrong with a Free Lunch ? (Beacon Press, 2001),  Linguistic Justice for Europe and for the World (Oxford U.P. 2011), and Basic Income. A radical proposal for a free society and a sane economy (Harvard U.P. 2017, with Y. Vanderborght).


Professor Kathleen Richardson, Professor of Ethics and Culture of Robots and AI, De Montfort University, Leicester

A Human Attachment Crisis: Can the Robots Save Us?

Date: Thursday, 9 November 2017 at 5pm
Venue: William Fry Theatre (L.143), Sutherland School of Law, UCD

Kathleen Richardson is the Director of the Campaign Against Sex Robots and Senior Research Fellow in Ethics of Robotics and part of the Europe-wide DREAM project (Development of Robot-Enhance Therapy for Children with AutisM). She completed her PhD at the Department of Anthropology, University of Cambridge. Her fieldwork was an investigation of the making of robots in labs at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. After her PhD Kathleen was a British Academy Postdoctoral Fellow (BAPDF), a position she held at the University College London. Kathleen's postdoctoral work was an investigation into the therapeutic uses of robots for children with autism spectrum conditions. In 2013, she was part of the Digital Bridges Project, an innovative AHRC funded technology and arts collaboration between Watford Palace Theatre and the University of Cambridge.

Kathleen is author of An Anthropology of Robots and AI: Annihilation Anxiety and Machines. She is now working on her second manuscript The Robot Intermediary? An Anthropology of Attachment and Robots for Children with Autism.


Professor Susanne BeckProfessor of Criminal Law and Philosophy of Law, Leibniz University Hanover

Robots and the Law - the Problem of Liability Diffusion

Date: Thursday, 12 October 2017 at 5pm
Venue: Room H.204, UCD Humanities Institute

Susanne Beck is professor of Criminal Law and Law Philosophy at the Leibniz University Hanover since 2013. She has studied and worked in Wuerzburg, London, Sydney and Zhuhai (China), has received her PhD in Wuerzburg on the topic "Criminal Liability for Stem Cell Research in Germany" and also worked on topics such as collectives and criminal law, the rule of law from a postmodern perspective or sanctioning of elderly people. Since 2008 she has been constantly analysing the rapid development in robotics and AI and the consequences for the legal system.


Professor Margaret Boden, OBE FBA Research Professor of Cognitive Science, University of Sussex

AI and the Future

Date: Tuesday, 19 September 2017 at 5pm
Venue: Moore Auditorium, Science Centre East (O'Brien Centre) building

Margaret A. Boden OBE ScD FBA is Research Professor of Cognitive Science at the University of Sussex, where she helped develop the world's first academic programme in cognitive science. She holds degrees in medical sciences, philosophy, and psychology, and integrates these disciplines with AI in her research. She is a Fellow of the British Academy, and of the Association for the Advancement of Artificial Intelligence (and its British and European equivalents) and has recently been appointed Scientific Advisor to the APPG (All-Party Parliamentary Group) on AI.  She was also a member of the Royal Society’s Policy Committee on “Machine Learning” which published its report Machine Learning: the power and promise of computers that learn by example in April 2017.

Her books include The Creative Mind: Myths and Mechanisms (1990/2004), Mind as Machine: A History of Cognitive Science (2006), and AI, Its Nature and Future (2016).


Dr Mary AikenAdjunct Associate Professor at UCD Geary Institute for Public Policy

The Cyber Effect: Children and Young People in an Age of Artificial Intelligence, Robotics and the Internet

Date: Tuesday, 20 June 2017 at 5pm
Venue: Room B003, Seminar Room, UCD Geary Institute for Public Policy

Dr Mary Aiken is an Adjunct Associate Professor at University College Dublin, Geary Institute for Public Policy, and Academic Advisor (Psychology) to the European Cyber Crime Centre (EC3) at Europol. She is a lecturer in Criminology and Research Fellow at the School of Law, Middlesex University, a Fellow of the Society for Chartered IT Professionals, a Sensemaking Fellow at the IBM Network Science Research Centre, and has served as a Distinguished Professor of the Practice of Cyber Analytics at AIRS. She is a member of the Hague Justice Portal advisory board and Director of the Cyberpsychology Research Network.


Professor Judy Wajcman, Anthony Giddens Professor of Sociology, London School of Economics
Automation, Robotics and the Temporality of Everyday Life

Date: Tuesday, 30 May 2017 at 5pm
Venue: Room H204, UCD Humanities Institute

Judy Wajcman is the Anthony Giddens Professor of Sociology at the London School of Economics, and a Visiting Professor at the Oxford Internet Institute. She has published widely on the gender relations of technology. Her recent books include Pressed for Time: The Acceleration of Life in Digital Capitalism (2015) and The Sociology of Speed: Digital, Organization, and Social Temporalities (2017).