Past Events

Brave New Britain - New Technologies of Human Nature

  1. Background
  2. Speaker Profiles
  3. Recommended Resources
  4. Audio Links
  5. Background

    We face the prospect of a century dominated by some big biotech challenges. Ahead is a whole new debate in bioethics, not one about whether we should take human life, but one about whether we should make and manipulate human life.

    Bioethics think-tank, BioCentre organised a timely conference on the impact of some of the new technologies facing our society: reproductive technology, nanotechnology and cybernetics.  These probably represent some of the most important issues facing us as a human society as we enter into the 21st century.

    As with all BioCentre events, the main aim of the event was to generate the conversation between both speakers and delegates. BioCentre seeks to help those concerned to get the big picture on what is happening to human nature and human dignity in the light of these new technologies.

    Keynote speaker, Kevin Warwick, Professor of Cybernetics at Reading University, is a well known, self styled, cyborg who caused a stir in the 90s by having a silicon chip implanted in his arm. Warwick has appeared on ‘Tomorrow’s World’ and in ‘Time’ and ‘Wired’ magazines.

    Other speakers included Dr Ian Gibson MP who chaired the House of Commons Select Committee that produced a controversial report on Human Reproductive Technologies and the Law.  Also Prof Andrew Briggs, an expert on nanotechnology talked about its impact on our society and our human future.

    The event was led by BioCentre’s Chairman Professor Nigel Cameron - a bioethics expert and ethicist who took part in the talks to draft UNESCO’s Declaration on Bioethics and Human Rights.

    With a range of speakers providing very different perspectives on controversial topics, this conference promised to be stimulating, informative and highly topical.


    Speaker Profiles

    Prof. Kevin Warwick

    Professor kevin warwickKevin Warwick is Professor of Cybernetics at the University of Reading, England, where he carries out research in artificial intelligence, control, robotics and biomedical engineering. He is also Director of the University KTP Centre, which links the University with Small to Medium Enterprises and raises over £2Million each year in research income for the University.

    Kevin was born in Coventry, UK and left school to join British Telecom, at the age of 16. At 22 he took his first degree at Aston University, followed by a PhD and a research post at Imperial College, London. He subsequently held positions at Oxford, Newcastle and Warwick universities before being offered the Chair at Reading, at the age of 33.

    He has been awarded higher doctorates (DScs) both by Imperial College and the Czech Academy of Sciences, Prague. He was presented with The Future of Health technology Award from MIT (USA), was made an Honorary Member of the Academy of Sciences, St.Petersburg and received The IEE Achievement Medal in 2004. In 2000 Kevin presented the Royal Institution Christmas Lectures, entitled “The Rise of The Robots”.

    Kevin has carried out a series of pioneering experiments involving the neuro-surgical implantation of a device into the median nerves of his left arm in order to link his nervous system directly to a computer in order to assess the latest technology for use with the disabled. He has been successful with the first extra-sensory (ultrasonic) input for a human and with the first purely electronic communication experiment between the nervous systems of two humans. His research has been discussed by the US White House Presidential Council on BioEthics, The European Commission FTP and has led to him being widely referenced and featured in academic circles as well as appearing as cover stories in several magazines – e.g. Wired (USA), The Week (India).

    His work is now used as material in several advanced Level Physics courses in the UK and in many University courses including Harvard, Stanford, MIT & Tokyo. His implants are on display in the Science Museums in London and Naples. As a result, Kevin regularly gives invited Keynote presentations around the world at top international conferences.

    Kevin’s research involves robotics and he is responsible (with Jim Wyatt) for Cybot, a robot exported around the world as part of a magazine “Real Robots” – this has resulted in royalties totalling over £1M for Reading University. Robots designed and constructed by Kevin’s group (Ian Kelly, Ben Hutt) are on permanent interactive display in the Science Museums in London, Birmingham and Linz.

    Kevin regularly makes international presentations for the UK Foreign Office and the British Council, e.g.2004/5 India, New Zealand, Singapore, Malaysia, China, Spain, Czech Rep., USA and Hong Kong.

    His presentations include The 1998 Robert Boyle Memorial Lecture at Oxford University, The 2000 Royal Institution Christmas Lectures, The 2001 Higginson Lecture at Durham University, The 2003 Royal Academy of Engineering/Royal Society of Edinburgh Joint lecture in Edinburgh, The 2003 IEEE (UK) Annual Lecture in London, The 2004 Woolmer Lecture at York University, the Robert Hooke Lecture (Westminster) in 2005, the 2005 Einstein Lecture in Potsdam, Germany and the 2006 IMechE Mechatronics Prestige Lecture in London.

    Kevin was a member of the 2001 HEFCE (unit 29) panel on Electrical&Electronic Engineering, is Deputy Chairman for the same panel in the 2007/8 exercise and is a member of the EPSRC Peer College. He has produced over 400 publications on his research including more than 90 refereed journal articles and 25 books. Kevin received the EPSRC Millenium Award (2000) for his schools robot league project and is the youngest ever Fellow of the City and Guilds of London Institute. Kevin’s research has featured in many TV and film documentaries, e.g. in 2004/5 - Inventions that changed the world (BBC2), Future Scope (RAI 1) and in The Making of I Robot (Twentieth Century Fox/Channel 5). He has appeared 3 times on Tomorrow’s World, 5 times in Time magazine, twice in Newsweek and was selected by Channel 4 as one of the Top 6 UK Scientists for their 2001 series “Living Science”. In 2002 he was chosen by the IEE as one of the top 10 UK Electrical Engineers. Kevin also appeared as one of 30 “great minds on the future” in the THES/Oxford University book – Predictions – with J.K.Galbraith, Umberto Eco and James Watson.

    Kevin’s research is frequently referred to by other authors – recent examples being in books by Robert Winston, Peter Cochrane, Jeremy Clarkson and Susan Greenfield. Kevin’s research has also been selected by National Geographic International for a 1 hour documentary, entitled “I,Human” screened in 2006 and  broadcast in 143 countries and translated into 23 different languages.  

    Dr. Ian Gibson MP

    Dr. ian gibson mpDr. Ian Gibson was born in Scotland and educated at Dumfries Academy.  He attended the University of Edinburgh, where he was awarded a BSc and a PhD. After working at the University of Edinburgh ,Indiana and Seattle. He late joined the University of East Anglia where he was Dean of the School of Biological Sciences and served as head of a 10 strong research team investigating various forms of cancer. In 2003, the University awarded him an Honorary Professorship.

    In 1997, 2001 and in 2005, he was elected as Member of Parliament for Norwich North. He specialises in science and health issues and chairs the All Party Parliamentary Group on Cancer, and the All Party Parliamentary Group on Cuba. He is the former chair of both the House of Commons Select Committee on Science and Technology and the Parliamentary and Scientific Committee. He is also co-manager and occasional pivotal defender in the Parliamentary football team. His work in parliament has been recognised by MPs and members of the Lords. Dr. Gibson as twice won the e-politix award for Health champion and also the backbencher of the year award in 2003


    Professor Andrew Briggs

    Professor andrew briggsProfessor Andrew Briggs is Professor of Nanomaterials at the University of Oxford. He is Director of the Quantum Information Processing Interdisciplinary Research Collaboration ( He is a Professorial Fellow of St Anne’s College, Emeritus Fellow of Wolfson College, Honorary Fellow of the Royal Microscopical Society, Fellow of the Institute of Physics, Liveryman of the Clothworkers’ Company, and Guest Professor of the State Key Laboratory of Nanotechnology in Wuhan, China. He is a Director and Vice-Chairman of OxLoc Ltd ( He has a degree in theology from Cambridge University, and is a qualified private pilot. In 1999 he was a winner of the Metrology for World Class Manufacturing Award. He developed the use of elevated temperature scanning tunnelling microscopy and associated techniques to study in situ the atomic structure of oxide surfaces, and the growth of semiconductors, including self-assembled heteroepitaxial nanostructures such as quantum dots and the nitride family of semiconductor materials. He has over 425 publications, the majority in international refereed journals. His work is characterized by a close relationship between experimental observation and theoretical modelling. He is currently pursuing the application of nanomaterials to quantum computing, especially nitride quantum dots and carbon nanotubes and fullerenes (




    Prof. Kevin Warwick's webpage

    BioCentre briefing pages on nanotechnology



    Audio recordings of this Symposium can be downloaded here