Cambridge Festival of Ideas looks to the future

stack of Cambridge Festival of Ideas prgrammes

Could printing food be the answer to food sustainability? Is multi-generational living the way forward in terms of solving the housing crisis? Could a radical new political philosophy help societies flourish in the future?

In an ever-precarious world, this year’s Cambridge Festival of Ideas (14-27 October) hosts several events that take a close look at what lies ahead in terms of the food we eat, how we live, and whether a radical new political philosophy could be the answer to all the challenges we face. 

Two events focus specifically on food. In Meat and potatoes: changing diets for changing times? (15 Oct), Cambridge researchers with different expertise and viewpoints discuss the value and importance of specific foods and food technologies, from canning and refrigeration, to meat and potatoes. Good or bad, sustainable or not? It takes multiple perspectives to capture the scientific, cultural and political reasons why we eat the way we do, and what future diets might look like.

In 3D virtual reality experience (19 Oct), viewers are immersed in the world of current and future food technology through 3D virtual reality videos to see how food is grown and explore kitchen innovations that might change the way we eat in the future. One video takes the viewer to Iceland to see tomatoes growing in sub-zero temperatures in geothermal greenhouses (available here). Another shows how food-tech company Foodini has found a way to cut down on fish waste, using 3D printing technology to create edible products from offcuts that would otherwise be wasted. Another introduces viewers to indoor vertical farming (Plantcube), which uses a fraction of the land and water required for conventional farming. Funded by EIT Food, Europe’s leading food innovation initiative, the series shows how technology is integrated into the European food industry and where it can solve sustainability issues and transform the way our food is produced. It also aims to reconnect people with their food and show how technological advances can be key to achieving a more sustainable food system.

How we live also comes under scrutiny in Households of the future: will sharing our home be the new norm? (15 Oct).  Cambridge Centre for Housing and Planning Research have been looking at how the way we live is changing. In the UK, we are seeing the formation of new types of households – different generations of the same family living under the same roof, older people sharing their home with students in exchange for practical help around the house, and a rise in shared rented housing as a result of a failure to get on the housing ladder. The CCHPR explores questions such as what is it like to live in a multigenerational home, and why is this type of household becoming more common? What are the benefits of cohousing? Is co-living a positive way to live in older age? And will digital innovation in home and work technologies make us 'digital nomads'? Dr Gemma Burgess, Acting Director of CCHPR, architect and urban designer Manisha Patel, and Guardian journalist James Tapper offer a lively debate on multigenerational living, cohousing and life as a digital nomad.

Our world is facing massive challenges. Soaring population, rising temperatures, cyclic recessions and mounting debt. And it is not clear that either socialism or Western liberal capitalism offer a sustainable way forward. What if we could change politics, the economy and the future of our world by focusing on the relationships that connect individuals, groups and organisations? David John Lee and Michael Schluter, authors of a new book, The Relational Manager: Transform Your Workplace and Your Life, explore a radical new political philosophy in Is this the way we could fix our world? (25 Oct). They ask whether we could change politics, the economy and the future of our world by looking first at the relational frameworks which connect everything. That is the radical idea at the heart of ‘Relationism’, a new political philosophy that starts, not with rights or market forces or social classes, but by pointing to the fundamental role of relationships in helping individuals, and societies, flourish. Lee and Schluter assert that relationships, including support networks, families, friendships, communities and nations, are the mechanism through which all social goods are realised (including productivity, efficiency, education, justice and sustainability).

Further related events include:

  • Has social media changed how we read? (19 Oct) Researcher Tyler Shores discusses how the move from books to screens is affecting our reading habits, whether digital distraction alters how we take in information, and what this means for the future of reading. Shores believes that while social media is frequently implicated as a cause for declines in reading rates, the reality suggests a more complicated picture. This talk explores how social media and online platforms are influencing not only how books are produced, discovered, and read – but also looks at several examples, such as the New York Public Library’s ‘Insta Novels’ project, and how reading might evolve alongside our online reading behaviour.
  • The changing face of medicine: stem cells for future medicine – scientific advances and a Christian perspective (24 Oct). Sue Kimber, Professor of Stem Cells and Development in the University of Manchester and Co-Director of the North West Embryonic Stem Cell Centre, describes the changing face of medicine in stem cell research.

 *The programme is available in hard copy and online here. Booking lines are open from 11am-3pm each weekday. Please call 01223 766 766.

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