Keynote Speakers

The programme for the conference has not been finalised but the offering includes:


 
Dr Adriana Marais (SAP)
The reason I want to go to Mars is simple—The allure of the unknown is far more powerful than the comfort of the known.
Dr Adriana Marais, theoretical physicist and aspiring extraterrestrial, believes that we are living at a unique point in the history of life on Earth. Developments in science and technology are taking place at an unprecedented rate, and the expansion of our society beyond this planet is within reach. She will talk about her research in quantum biology and the origins of life, the technology required to sustain terrestrial life on Mars and the various projects aiming to send crewed missions there. She describes how the establishment, and potential discovery of evidence of, life on Mars, would be one of the most profound possible contributions of science to humanity


 
Prof Mike Inggs (UCT)
Big Data or Big Hype?
The technology press has been talking for some years about Big Data. Although the issues of handling vast data sets have been appreciated by engineers and scientists for much longer, it has been a topic that in many ways grabbed the limelight away from Climate Change. Many governments have followed up with the funding of facilities to handle the impending data tsunami. Is this topic something that we need to worry about, or, maybe Industry has quietly stolen a march on us and can satisfy our wildest dreams in terms of storing, and importantly, mining the data tsunami?
Michael Inggs obtained a Ph D, DIC from Imperial College, London (1979). He has worked in industry in the UK, USA and South Africa, and joined the Department of Electrical Engineering, University of Cape Town in 1988. He retired in 2016 and now holds the rank of Emeritus Professor. He holds a Visiting Professorship at University College London, and was a visiting Professor at TU Delft in 2015. His research is in the area of radar sensor networks, radar remote sensing and high performance computing.


 
Dr David Rubin (U Wits)
Circles in a Forest—Some Thoughts on the Application of System Dynamics to Biological and Environmental Phenomena.
An understanding of systems has enabled the development of astounding technological innovation. Its application to nature, however, is still in its infancy, and the vast, elaborate, interconnected networks of the natural world remain largely unexplored. The title of this talk, after Dalene Matthee’s novel, is intended as a metaphor for the intricate web of closed-loop feedback processes encountered in nature. This talk will deal with the role of System Dynamics in our quest for insight. As we begin to understand these phenomena, we will surely better understand the consequences of our own actions and their impact on the future our planet.
David Rubin received his medical degree from the University of Pretoria. He has a Diploma in Anaesthetics and a Fellowship in Nuclear Medicine from the Colleges of Medicine of South Africa, and holds a Masters in Biomedical Engineering from the University of New South Wales, and a Master of Medicine from the University of the Witwatersrand, Johannesburg. He has worked as a clinician and specialist in Nuclear Medicine, after which he founded the Biomedical Engineering Research Group at the University of the Witwatersrand, Johannesburg, which he currently leads as Adjunct Professor in the School of Electrical and Information Engineering. His research interests include medical education and developments at the interface of medicine and engineering.
 
 
Dr Thompson Chengeta (Univ Johannesburg)
Behold, the line in the sand: Our creations mustn’t be deadly creatures.
By and large, the modern day is called modern because of the creativeness of the human mind. As intelligent human beings, we have invented machines, robots, automated and autonomous machines to enhance the quality of human life on earth. But with the same innovativeness, we have created deadly weapons. We are now in the process of creating autonomous weapon systems, killer robots as some call them. The deadly creatures that can kill but have no soul which we can condemn. Is it intelligent, moral, ethical and lawful for humans to create and deploy robots that can autonomously make the critical decision of killing our brothers and sisters—fellow humans? Where do we draw the line in the sand? What is the role or potential role of the law in all this?

Dr. Thompson Chengeta studied law at Harvard Law School (LL.M), University of Pretoria (LL.D and LL.M) and Midlands State University (LL.B). Dr. Chengeta is an expert in international weapons law and his publications in that field is widely cited. He is an expert member of the International Panel on the Regulation of Autonomous Weapons (IPRAW). IPRAW is an independent, interdisciplinary panel of international experts on the regulation of Lethal Autonomous Weapon Systems in the framework of the United Nations Convention on Certain Conventional Weapons. Dr. Chengeta is also an expert member of the International Committee for Robots Arms Control (ICRAC). ICRAC is an international committee of experts in robotics technology, robot ethics, international relations, international security, arms control, international humanitarian law, human rights law, and public campaigns, concerned about the pressing dangers that military robots pose to peace and international security and to civilians in war. He participated in the research and drafting of the report on Lethal Autonomous Weapons to the United Nations Human Rights Council in 2013.
 
 
Teresa Oakley-Smith
Half the World, Half a Chance—Women in Science
Teresa has an honours degree in Psychology, a Master’s Degree in Educational Psychology and worked as an academic at Wits University for 12 years before starting her own company, Diversi-T, in 1993. Diversi-T is a change management consultancy with a focus on transformation and diversity training. Her work involves bringing together people in the workplace across traditional barriers of race, gender, culture, language et cetera, in order to develop mutual respect and enhance productivity and profitability. She is particularly well known for her work in bridging racial divides in South Africa. She was the Chairperson of the Task Team, which worked at Vryburg High School in 1998 following racial attacks at that school, and subsequently sat on a Ministerial Commission of Enquiry investigation racism in the South African Police Services. She has been a member of three Commissions of Enquiry into racism in the workplace, one of which she chaired. She has appeared on television and on the radio to comment on issues of transformation pertinent to South Africa and currently co-hosts a monthly talk show for the SABC talking about race.
 
 
Dr Ashley Kruger (Evolutionary Studies Institute, Univ Wits)
What Makes Us Human? Perspectives from South African Palaeoanthropology

Exploration in 2013 of the Dinaledi Chamber of the Rising Star Cave system has yielded 1550 fossils representing at least 15 individuals. An additional 133 fossils from four individuals were excavated a few months later from a second chamber, the Lesedi Chamber. All of these fossils can be clearly attributed to Homo naledi. The use of six independent dating methods has constrained the time these individuals were alive to between 335 and 236 thousand years ago. This places this population of primitive small-brained hominins at a time and place that it is likely they lived alongside modern humans—Homo sapiens. It was previously thought that at that time only Homo sapiens lived in Africa, but this proves that another genetically diverse species of hominin survived alongside the first humans in Africa. That time coincides with the emergence of what has been called “modern human behaviour” in southern Africa—behaviour attributed, until now, to the rise of modern humans and thought to represent the origins of complex modern human activities such as burial of the dead, self-adornment and complex tools. The Homo naledi remains have primitive features that are shared with some of the earliest known fossil members of our genus, such as Homo rudolfensis, Homo habilis, and the Neanderthals, that lived nearly two million years ago. On the other hand, Homo naledi also shares some features with modern humans. If Homo naledi shared the world with modern humans in Africa, it is very likely there were other species as well—they have just not yet been discovered. We can no longer assume that we know which species made which tools, or even assume that it was modern humans that were the innovators of some of the critical technological and behavioural breakthroughs in the archaeological record of Africa. So how does this change our understanding of the human family tree? What makes us human?

Dr Ashley Kruger has a PhD in Palaeontology from University of the Witwatersrand and is currently a postdoctoral researcher at the Evolutionary Studies Institute. Ashley was deeply involved with the Dinaledi exploration. Using cutting edge technology, he and the team were able to scan a desired area, produce a visualization of the fossil locations relative to each other and to the excavation site, and transmit that information to the team above ground. An auto-alignment capability was then used to streamline the process of stitching together the digital files, allowing rapid analysis of the data.