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The 10 Cultures Problem

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If you have a question about this talk, please contact Mateja Jamnik.

800th Anniversary of Cambridge Univ. talk

In May 1959 CP Snow used the Rede Lecture in Cambridge to explore the notion that British society, its education system and its intellectual life was characterised by a split between two cultures, the humanities and the sciences.

Today the divide that matters is that between those who can count in binary and those who can’t, between the culture of the technologists and coders and that of the users. The division is similar to, but not co-extensive with, that identified by Snow simply because most scientists are, thanks to the technological basis of their research, computer-literate, while many of those in the arts, humanities and politics will be wondering what happened to the other eight cultures referred to in the title of this lecture.

Writer and journalist Bill Thompson took the Diploma in Computer Science in 1983 and now describes himself as a ‘technology critic’, straddling the two worlds in his work for the BBC , Arts Council England and others. In this lecture he will consider what level of understanding of computer science is needed in order to be an effective and engaged member of modern society. Is there a technological equivalent of Snow’s complaint that the literary people of his acquaintance did not know of the Second Law of Thermodynamics? Should everyone code, or is it enough to understand what Roger Needham meant when he claimed – as he so often did – that every problem in computing can be solved with another level of indirection?

Please note that there will be a computing related treasure trail on the morning of the talk, starting in Central Cambridge and ending at the venue of the talk. See http://www.cl.cam.ac.uk/seminars/800/#events for details.

This talk is part of the Computer Laboratory Wednesday Seminars series.

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