Speakers in the news 17th May
1) Lucy Hawking
- Lucy Hawking uses story-telling to help audiences understand and engage with science. Lucy is the creator of the George Greenby books, a series of adventure stories which use dramatic story-telling to explain complex science to young audiences. Lucy has collaborated with several distinguished scientists on the George Greenby series, including her well-known father, the late theoretical physicist, Stephen Hawking. Translated into 40 different languages the books have each met with rave reviews. Lucy is currently working with Canadian animation studio DHX media to develop the series into an animated television series.
As the spokesperson of her late father’s estate, Lucy Hawking announced this week that Stephen Hawking’s final book is being published posthumously. The book, ”Brief Answers to Big Questions”, will cover “everything from the creation of the universe, black holes, alien intelligence, and the existence of God to the importance of space colonization, and the perils and promise of artificial intelligence.” Lucy said in a statement that her father “loved” this project and would have wanted the world to be able to read it. “Communication was so important to our father in his lifetime and we see this book as part of his legacy, bringing together his thoughts, humor, theories, and writing into one beautiful edition,” she explained.
2) Jim O’Neill
- Jim O’Neill stepped down from Government, having been Commercial Secretary to the Treasury from May 2015 until September 2016. During that time, and since Spring 2014, Lord O’Neill had chaired a formal Review into AMR (antimicrobial resistance) reporting its final recommendations in May 2016, and contributed to high-level agreement at the UN in September. Until October 2014, Jim chaired the Cities Growth Commission in the UK, when it provided its final recommendations, which formed the impetus for the government’s policy on devolution as well as the concept of the Northern Powerhouse. He is the Honorary Chair of Economics at Manchester University. Jim worked for Goldman Sachs from 1995 until April 2013, spending most of his time there as Chief Economist. Before 1995, Jim had worked for Swiss Bank Corporation, Marine Midland Bank and Bank of America, starting in the City in 1982. Jim is the creator of the acronym “BRIC” and has conducted much research about these and other emerging economies. He has published various books on the topic, and in early 2014 made a documentary series for the BBC entitled MINT: The Next Economic Giants. He writes frequently on these and many other international economic and financial topics for leading international media. He is one of the founding trustees of the UK educational charity, SHINE, and following his move into government, he became their lifetime President. Jim has served on many educational foundation boards, as well as having served on the boards of a number of international organisations and think tanks.
Writing for Project Syndicate this week, Jim O’Neill detailed how universities can soften the ‘Brexit blow’. Jim wrote that despite weakening growth, the United Kingdom continues to punch above its weight economically, and remains a world leader in higher education. But to sustain this success after Brexit, British universities must contribute more to the fundamental drivers of productivity growth and wealth creation.
3) Taavi Kotka
- Taavi Kotka is former Estonian government Chief Information Officer (CIO), named European CIO of the Year 2014 (Computerworld 2016 Premiere 100 technology leaders). Taavi has a strong background working in the private sector. He started his career as a programmer, rising to be Founder and Managing Director of the largest software development companies in the region, ‘Webmedia’, now known as ‘Nortal’. As an engineer, he has been the brainpower behind many Estonian e-government innovative initiatives like e-residency (digital citizenship), data embassies, country in the cloud, no-legacy policies, VAT fraud detection etc. Taavi is also a special advisor to European Commission vice-president Andrus Ansip on European Digital Single Market. Taavi is currently finishing his Ph.D. and is helping Estonian start-ups conquer the World.
- This week, Taavi spoke to HIMSS UK e-Health Week delegates. He said that in order to provide as many public services online as possible, painful political decisions needed to be taken. To create a system in which citizens would carry out the vast majority of their interactions with the government online, it was necessary to issue mandatory ID cards, Kotka explained.“Estonians are very rational people. We didn’t ask [if they wanted ID cards]. We just forced it. Innovation through pain has always been a key element of change. If the engineers say you have to do it this way – it’s not a question for debate.“Innovation won’t happen if you don’t force it. Everybody has a unique identity card,” said Kotka. He added that in exchange for government requirements that every citizen hold a unique national ID, strong privacy guards were put in place, particularly for health records.“To protect privacy we have a system that allows people to see who viewed their data – a logbook. If I find a name that I don’t recognise I can run a query and if the person has no good reasons to search [my] data then they will be instantly dismissed. If you pass data to a third party you will go to jail,” Kotka explained.
4) Iain Martin
- Iain Martin is UK based political commentator. A former editor of The Scotsman, his 2016 book, Crash Bang Wallop: the inside story of London’s Big Bang and a financial revolution that changed the world, as well as his previous book on the rise and fall of the Royal Bank of Scotland gives him an unrivalled perspective on the consequences of the financial crisis.Iain is a weekly political columnist for The Times and is the editor and founder of Reaction, an independent website dedicated to commentary and analysis on politics, economics and culture.Iain worked as Editor of The Scotsman (2001-04), editor of Scotland on Sunday (2004-06), deputy editor and columnist for The Sunday Telegraph and Head of Comment for the Daily Telegraph. In 2009 he joined the Wall Street Journal, as deputy editor of the European edition and author of a blog on UK politics.
- This week, Iain called for the House of Lords to be abolished. Writing in The Times, he said ”some of my best friends are members of the House of Lords, which makes what I am about to say painful. They should be abolished. Or rather, the Lords should be subject to a process of reform so fundamental, so far-reaching, that by the time it is done it will come as close to abolition as makes no difference. The historic red benches and the elaborate decor — always too Turkish boudoir for my taste — can stay but the composition and membership of the chamber must change dramatically. The powers of the Lords should be redefined for the post-Brexit era.”