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The Monstrous Day
Sallis Benney Theatre
Brighton United Kingdom
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The Monstrous Day
Monstrous Sunday

The prophecies of Mary Shelley in Frankenstein are coming to pass: designer babies, organ donation, transhumanism, robots, artificial intelligence and the cloud-monsters of Google and Facebook Are they the fearsome monsters they seem to be, or will they be the beneficial forces they were designed to be? Will they make life easier, or take our jobs and enslave our minds?

To help us debate and decide, we will have experts to answer important questions and provide important balance. 

12.00 - It's Alive! Simon McGregor hosts a session on what defines life. A 'series of biological interactions'. Is that enough? Craig Venter created a synthetic cell in 2010. Was it alive? What would you consider the minimum requirements for life? Simon is with the A-Life Group at the University of Sussex, which works at the crossroads of biology, genetics, psychology and bio-engineering.

1.00 - Designer Babies? Manipulation of an individual's genes is easy nowadays, so what's to stop us creating our own little monsters? We can remove inherited diseases from someone's DNA, so that neither they or their descendants will ever have it. Already there are designer dogs. Michelle West, from the School of Life Sciences at the University of Sussex, helps us predict the future.

2.00 - It's Electric! Demonstration of the kinds of tricks and experiments that simultaneously horrified Mary Shelley, and led to the invention of the electric motor in 1834.

3.00 - Frankenstein's Brain. John Sutherland, researched the fount of all our fears, Mary Shelley's Frankenstein - the New Prometheus, for his eponymous book. John is an admiring critic, but he had to wonder how to create a seven-foot monster with only five foot cadavers, or when, why and whence Igor emerged, etc. For those who have read the book, this will be an entertaining talk. For those who haven't, the same applies.

4.00 Body donation: Bodies donated for anatomical examination are a vital resource for medical education and play a crucial role in producing practitioners of the highest standing. Throughout the centuries the requisition and preparation of corpses on which to practice has been a quiet but vital industry, albeit one surrounded by ethical and legal wrangles. And scandals, though nothing quite on the scale of Dr Frankenstein. Dr Claire Smith, Head of Anatomy at Brighton and Sussex Medical School, explains. (She also performs the live brain dissection at 1.00 pm on Wednesday October 24).

5.00 Artificial Stupidity. Intelligence, they say, is what the police are always searching for. Why don't they ask your home digital assistant? She (and it is always a she) knows everything.

So how worried should we be about having one of those in our home, car, operating theatre, battlefield, or courtroom? Are our snazzy new assistants actually designed to put us out of work? New Scientist consultant Michael Brooks, has a good sense of humour. He needs it. So do we.

Leonarduino da Vinci, Facebach, Appleinaire  could artificial intelligence ever replace artists, composers or poets? Maggie Boden from the Centre for Cognitive Science, University of Sussex, has her answer! 


Sallis Benney Theatre (View)
58-67 Grand Parade
Brighton BN2 0JY
United Kingdom



Kid Friendly: No
Dog Friendly: No
Non-Smoking: Yes!
Wheelchair Accessible: Yes!


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