Living in a Cyber-Enabled World

An exploration of the state of software today, how we got to where we are, and what we shall need to do to shore up the foundations of a digital society that is increasingly built on sand. The lectures are designed to inform, to entertain, and to stimulate balanced discussions that lead to effective actions. It is hoped that these lectures may play a role in accelerating the transition of the craft of software development into a mature engineering profession.

An independent consultant systems engineer and non-executive director, Professor Martyn Thomas is an internationally recognised expert in safety-critical or security-critical, software intensive systems, software engineering, and cybersecurity. (from

Image: Living in a Cyber-Enabled World

Should We Trust Computers?
Computers and software have transformed the world in 67 years and the pace of change is still accelerating.

A Very Brief History of Computing, 1948-2015
The world's first modern computer, in Manchester in 1948, was followed remarkably swiftly by the first business software, but by 1968 software was in crisis and NATO called a conference.

How Can Software Be So Hard?
How can it be possible for teenagers to write smartphone apps that make them multi-millionaires when many commercial and Government IT projects fail, despite employing the skills and resources of international IT companies?

Computers, People and the Real World
Almost nobody wants an IT system. What they want is a better way of doing something, whether that is buying and selling shares on the Stock Exchange, flying an airliner or running a hospital.

The current approach to cybersecurity is flawed. Effort is spent trying to "educate" users not to click on links in emails or to open attachments, when this is exactly how those features were designed to be used.

Big Data: The Broken Promise of Anonymisation
It is often claimed that your personal data is safe because it has been anonymised, but computer scientists know how easy it is to re-identify the individual by matching the data against other public datasets.

Are You the Customer or the Product?
It has been said that if you are not paying for a service, then you are the product, not the customer.

Safety-Critical Systems
Software is an essential part of many safety-critical systems. Modern cars and aircraft contain dozens of processors and millions of lines of computer software.

The Dilemmas of Privacy and Surveillance
Cyberspace must not be an unpoliced area of society - it is much too important for that. But the courts have ruled that mass surveillance of citizens by their Government is disproportionate and unacceptable in a democracy.

What Really Happened in Y2K?
As the year 2000, 'Y2K' - approached, many feared that computer programs storing year values as two-digit figures (such as 99) would cause problems.

Making Software 'Correct by Construction'
Is it possible to build software so that you know that it is correct? How could this be done? Has anyone tried? What would it cost?

Artificial Intelligence
Alan Turing famously proposed a test of artificial intelligence. What has been achieved? Professor Stephen Hawking has said that real artificial intelligence will mean the end of mankind. Is that a real threat? Are there limits to what a silicon brain might do?

Related Links
The Digital State
Almost every aspect of taxpayer services is being transformed by technology. In this series of lectures we will look at the current state of the art, the future and what it means for our tax bill and the services we expect.
The Machine That Changed the World
This is a 1992 documentary series on the history of electronic digital computers, from the dawn of the computer in the 1800s to the early 1990s.
A History of Computing in Three Parts
This program will explore the history of computing from three novel standpoints. Jonathan Bowen reflects on the life and work of Alan Turing. Martin Campbell-Kelly reconstructs a history of computing from colour depictions. And Doron Swade will give a lecture tracing the origins of the core concepts of modern computing.
The Virtual Revolution
This is a BBC documentary series presented by Aleks Krotoski, looking at the impact that the World Wide Web has had since its inception 20 years ago.
Digital Nation: Life on the Virtual Frontier
Within a single generation, digital media and the World Wide Web have transformed virtually every aspect of modern culture, from the way we learn and work to the ways in which we socialize and even conduct war.
The State of Artificial Intelligence: War, Ethics and Religion
Professor Yorick Wilks will examine some of the tougher questions about ethics for AI in war zones, whether we should care about AI as we do about animals, and the impact AI could have on religion.
Social Implications of Computing
A discussion-intensive course about the social implications of computing. Topics include electronic community, the changing nature of work, etc.