Philosophy and Society: A Computational Future | Peter Millican | TEDxOxford


Computer Science may seem intellectually distant from the humanities and social sciences, but it has many close links with Philosophy in particular (as recognised by Oxford’s new degree programme), while computer modelling is becoming a vital tool for understanding political, social and economic systems. Many influential theories have been based on simplistic views of human behaviour, limited by our own analytical abilities. Yet computer models (even when coded in short programs that are easy to understand) can radically extend our powers, enabling thought-experiments whose surprising results yield important insights and refute common assumptions. Economics, especially, faces a potential revolution from this alternative methodology, which can combine objective analysis with rejection of the crude assumptions of homo economicus. But budding theorists in a wide range of disciplines stand to gain hugely from acquiring coding skills, which are more accessible now than they have ever been. Peter Millican is Gilbert Ryle Fellow and Professor of Philosophy at Hertford College, Oxford University. A passionate advocate of interdisciplinary computing for many years, he recently set up the innovative Oxford degree programme in Computer Science and Philosophy. Peter has developed several major software systems for teaching, and is leading a £100K project, co-funded by the UK Department of Education, to provide software to support the new school Computing curriculum. As a philosopher, he is best known for his research on early modern philosophy – especially David Hume – though he has published over a wide range including epistemology, ethics, philosophy of language, science, and religion. A familiar voice in the media (e.g. on Radio 4’s In Our Time), Peter’s software has twice made front-page news, thwarting an attempted smear of Barack Obama just before his election, and revealing J.K. Rowling as author of The Cuckoo’s Calling. He is also a Grandmaster of correspondence chess. This talk was given at a TEDx event using the TED conference format but independently organized by a local community. Learn more at http://ted.com/tedx





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