Global telecoms expert and entrepreneur Dr Mo Ibrahim, one of TIME Magazine’s 100 most influential people in 2010, will be amongst a panel of leading engineers, commentators and futurologists taking part in a ‘round table rumble’ debate on the relationship between technology and freedom at the Royal Academy of Engineering on 22 November.

Produced in partnership with the Institute of Ideas, Can technology set you free? will close the international satellite programme of the Battle of Ideas festival of public debate. The session will explore the extent to which technology has shaped social transformation and where today’s potentially revolutionary technologies may lead society in the 21st century.

Dr Ibrahim will be joined on the panel by Dr Aleks Krotoski (journalist and academic; presenter, BBC Radio 4’s The Digital Human); Professor Andy Miah (director, Creative Futures Research Centre); Dr Martyn Thomas FREng (non-executive director, Health & Safety Laboratory; Fellow of the Royal Academy of Engineering); Professor Judy Wajcman (Head of Sociology, LSE; Research Associate, Oxford Internet Institute) and James Woudhuysen (Professor of Forecasting & Innovation, De Montfort University; co-author, Energise!). Chair: David Bowden (UK satellite co-ordinator, Institute of Ideas)

Speaking ahead of the event, Lesley Paterson, Head of Communications and Engagement at the Royal Academy of Engineering says: “The Academy is committed to debating and questioning the impact that engineering technologies can have on our society. Over recent years the Academy has worked in partnership with the Institute of Ideas to encourage public debate and discussion on engineering topics from extracting shale gas to ensuring an adequate water supply for all. We are delighted to welcome such a stellar panel to the Academy to close what has been a great programme of events for this year’s festival.”

David Bowden, UK Satellite Co-ordinator at the Institute of Ideas says: “Whether it’s the steam engine, the Pill or even the humble smartphone, we are used to associating technological developments with enormous social upheaval. But are these shifts symbolic of moves towards greater freedom, or the driving force? For instance, did the invention of the washing machine liberate women from domestic drudgery and enable the pursuit of broader political and social freedoms, or was it the feminist demand for greater freedom which pushed forwards the innovation? Doesn’t the smartphone offer us both unparalleled communication and yet often keep us chained to our workspaces 24-7?

“We are still hotly disputing the legacy of industrialisation, sexual freedom and the digital revolution, even as new innovations offer ever greater transformations to our lives: for better or worse. Can technology set you free; can it be used to enslave; or is this the wrong way to discuss freedom and progress? It is a question which will increasingly be asked as we move ever further into the Brave New World.”

Notes for editors

  1. ‘Can technology set you free’ takes place 19:00-21:00 on November 22nd at the Royal Academy of Engineering, 3 Carlton House Terrace, London, SW1Y 5DG. The debate will take the format of a ‘round table rumble’ in which speakers will be seated around a table facing each other. They will have 45 minutes of discussion in this configuration before the debate opens up to the audience for a further 45 minutes of questions and answers. For more information see:
  2. This Battle Satellite event is part of the Battle of Ideas, an annual festival of public debate organised by the Institute of Ideas in partnership with the Barbican, PwC and SABMiller
  3. Founded in 1976, The Royal Academy of Engineering promotes the engineering and technological welfare of the country. Our fellowship – comprising the UK’s most eminent engineers – provides the leadership and expertise for our activities, which focus on the relationships between engineering, technology, and the quality of life. As a national academy, we provide independent and impartial advice to Government; work to secure the next generation of engineers; and provide a voice for Britain’s engineering community.

For more information please contact

For more information about the event and to arrange interviews with speakers please contact  Dave Bowden  / 07751942606 or  Manisha Lalloo  / 020 7766 0683