Challenge your thinking this September with these five smart talks

From the science of fire to artificial intelligence, these will dust off the old brain cells

You’ve sorted your September workwear, bag and shoes. So far, so good. But what about your September brain? If you’re anything like us, you’re struggling to get back into the rhythm of things after a summer of too much sun, beer and sporting excitement. What you need is a something to get those rusty cogs turning again. You might have left your university days far behind you, but that doesn’t mean you can’t attend the odd mind-expanding talk or two. These five smart-thinking lectures are just the thing to oil your brain’s metaphorical wheels, so you can dive back into the real world fully charged and raring to go.

You and AI – The future of work

We’ve all heard tell that the future belongs to robots, but is this true? At the very least, it’s looking increasingly likely, which is why, as a smart-thinking man, you’ll want to stay in the know. This lecture, helmed by Professor Joseph E. Stiglitz, Nobel Laureate in economics and professor at Columbia University, will examine how AI might affect our working lives in the near future, as well as how its benefits can be shared equally across society – or not. Stiglitz will also be joined by Professor Diane Coyle CBE, economist and professor of Public Policy at the University of Cambridge, who will share her thoughts, before you get the chance to ask your own burning questions about your future job prospects in an I, Robot world.

11 September, The Royal Society

Alcohol and Humans: A Long and Social Affair

You may have finished the summer well and truly libated, but that doesn’t mean the fun has to stop now. In fact, this two-day conference at the Royal Historical Society will give you all the excuse you need to order that second round. Refuting the idea that alcohol is merely a ‘social problem’, the conference will examine its importance in the social fabric of human society, both past and present. It’ll dive deep into the uses of alcohol throughout our collective history, including contexts such as feasting, sacred rituals and male bonding. One thing’s for sure, it’ll make you size up at your next pint in a whole new light.

13-14 September, 9-5pm, Royal Historical Society

The science of fire

Humans and fire have a long, intertwined history. It’s the driving force that has propelled us from hunter gatherers to the Industrial Revolution, and on to the myriad technological developments of the modern age. But it’s a complex relationship, with curiosity, fear and an overwhelming need to control fire’s destructive nature at the heart of human progress. This talk, led by Guillermo Rein, Professor of Fire Science (probably the coolest job title in the world) at Imperial College London, will discuss how people, property and the environment can be protected from the current plague of accidental fires, as well as revealing the role of fire in the sinking of the Titanic, and the true nature of the Great Fire of London. Fascinating stuff.

5.30-6.30pm, 3 October, Imperial College London

I object: Ian Hislop and Janina Ramirez in conversation

History is made by the victors… or is it? In the British Museum’s latest exhibition, I Object: A History of Dissent, veteran broadcaster and editor of Private Eye, Ian Hislop, seeks to uncover the stories of rebellion, subversion and satire in the objects that didn’t make the history books the first time around. The exhibition is accompanied by this one-off talk between Hislop and art historian Janina Ramirez, (of BBC Four series fame) in which the pair will discuss the themes of the exhibition and how subversion is a common thread throughout human history.

18.30–19.45pm, 14 September, The British Museum

Nightwalking with Matthew Beaumont

Thought you were familiar with London? Think again. After dark, London is a different world, transformed into a city of hidden streets, hidden stories and layered histories. This intriguing talk, hosted by the Design Museum, but taking place while perambulating around the city after dark, is led by Matthew Beaumont, Professor of English Literature at UCL and author of Nightwalking: A Nocturnal History of London. It’ll uncover the hidden side of London that comes alive after dark, as well as exploring what the capital’s relationship to the night has been, currently is and might become in future years. Us Londonphiles will never look at the city the same way again.

8-9.30pm, 14 September, start location emailed in advance, Design Museum