Edinburgh science festival to explore tech dangers

The play "Girl in the Machine" will be part of the science festival strand looking at the impact of new technology on modern-day life.
The play "Girl in the Machine" will be part of the science festival strand looking at the impact of new technology on modern-day life.
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The pitfalls and perils of new technology will be laid bare at the Edinburgh International Science Festival.

Audiences will be warned about the dangers of everything from creating artificial identities and leaving your online life behind when you die to activity tracking wristbands and binge-watching TV series.

The latest scamming and cyber crime techniques, the difficulties of getting to sleep, the impact of mobile phones on the "unravelling" of modern-day relationships and the difficulties of completely disconnecting from the digital world will all be explored at the event.

The history of hacking, the links between the growth of new technology and ecological crises and the "tangled mess" of modern-day medical care will also feature in the 16-day festival in April.

However it will also look at whether "robot companionship" could transform the way people live their lives, the possibility of digital smells being introduced to help improve the enjoyment of films and video games, and whether advances in medicine and new technology could allow humans to live for hundreds of years.

Amanda Tyndall, creative director of the festival, said: "Conflict, cultural divisions, demographic shifts and environmental degradation are not new, but what is new is the degree to which we are all connected – both in real time and virtually in a wired world – to these issues and to each other.

“We are interested in what it means to live in this 'Information Age' through mind-expanding talks, interactive experiments, theatre shows, interactive exhibitions, sociable science activities and artistic installations for all ages.”

More than 270 festival events will be staged at 29 venues, including the biggest ever arts programme, with the Traverse, Royal Lyceum, Bedlam and Festival theatres all featuring in the line-up.

One play, "Girl in the Machine," will feature a couple whose world is turned upside down by a mysterious new technology creeping into mobile phones, while "Conscious Uncoupling" is a romantic comedy investigating how technology and modern communications are playing a role in nostalgia, romance and relationships.

In "Who Will Scam Us Next, And How", a cyber security expert will discuss the latest tricks to gain access to money, data and passwords.

One event, "A Death Online," will look at how physical possessions have become only a part of what is left behind and the technical, legal and psychological issues involved in the way lives are increasingly lived online.

The "Wearables That Snitch On Us" event will explore the surveillance risks and privacy concerns surrounding the 250 million activity tracking wristbands, smart watches and personal heart monitors that exist.

The lost art of grabbing forty winks will be explored in "Nap Time," while the exhibition Firedamp: Revisiting The Flood will explore the impact of technology on the environment and the human body.

Other highlights of the festival programme will include the Doctor Who-inspired installation of four police boxes on The Mound precinct which will transport visitors back in time to key moments in the nation's scientific history.

The Reformation, the Enlightenment era and the Industrial Revolution will all be covered by a series of specially-created installation, while a celebration of 101 Scottish inventions will include the likes of the steam engine, the pneumatic tyre, the television set, the thermos flask, chloroform and colour photography.

Special events will look at the evolution of the burger, the latest low carbon vehicles under development, what the hospitals of the future may look like, and whether animals should be given basic human rights in return for being held responsible for crimes.

This year's Edinburgh Medal, the annual award for scientific achievement awarded at the festival, be presented to Professor Peter Piot, director of the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine.

He will visit the city to about the threat of infectious diseases to the human race.

Dr Simon Gage, director of the science festival, which has been running since 1989, said: "Science is at the heart of almost every issue and challenge the world faces in its future."