Follow us:
3rd to 6th July 2017 University of Sunderland

Timandra Harkness

 Keynote: Big Data and Little Al – who’s doing the programming?

Tuesday 4th July


tamara Tom Cowie Lecture Theatre



If big data is the oil powering the next industrial revolution, Artificial Intelligence is the engine using it to transform our world. AI-driven technology already permeates our lives more than we may realise. From helpful smartphones that talk back, to industries using the Internet Of Things to predict and avert problems, machines are now taking over not just heavy lifting, but routine cognitive tasks.

This raises some tricky questions:

  • Who decides which mental short cuts your AI PA will take on your behalf to smooth your day?
  • Whose idea of the Good Life is the Smart City aiming to create, effortlessly, invisibly, around us?
  • Machines that learn can optimise complex systems, finding patterns no human eye can discern, iterating problems to generate novel solutions – but to what parameters?

In short, how can we turn the immense potential of big data into better human lives while keeping humans firmly in the driving seat – metaphorically, if not always literally?



Timandra Harkness is the author of Big Data: Does Size Matter? which was published in 2016, and the presenter of the BBC Radio 4 series, ‘FutureProofing’. She has also presented the documentaries, ‘Data, Data Everywhere; Personality Politics and The Singularity’, as well as being resident reporter on Radio 4’s social psychology series ‘The Human Zoo’.

She speaks regularly at, and hosts events for, Cheltenham Science Festival, the Institute of Ideas, & the Wellcome Collection, among many others. She is a Visiting Fellow in Big Data, Information Rights and Public Engagement with the Centre for Information Rights at the University of Winchester.