Speeches and hand-outs

On Thursday 2nd August, two out of three speeches had a hand-out to stir our curiosity and to provide some additional elements.

Andrew Grant gave his seventh speech – “Research Your Topic”, from the Competent Communicator Manual – whose objective is “Collect information from numerous sources, carefully support the points and opinions with specific facts, examples, and illustrations gathered through research”. Starting from a personal recollection – his grandfather fought in World War II –, he talked about what Enigma was and the efforts made by the scientists at Bletchley Park to break that code used by Germany for secret, diplomatic and military communication. It was based on the use of a special typewriter which, through three rotors, changed the letters which were typed. As an example of this, he showed a paper with the example of a coded message and a photo of the Enigma machine. The code, however, had three weaknesses:

  1. Each letter was always changed with every letter except the correct one
  2. Each message started with the same beginning
  3. The position of the rotors was always the same, so the changes happened with the same pattern

When the British were able to break Enigma, they were faced with a dilemma: if they had always used the information they were decoding, the Axis would have understood they had cracked the code: this meant they had to let many soldiers die not to reveal what they had discovered. Although several lives were lost because of these tactics, it has been estimated that solving Enigma enabled the Allies to shorten the length of the war from two to four years: in this way, a very large amount of lives were saved.

Martin Seagroatt, too, with his third speech entitled “Does artificial intelligence pose an existential threat to humanity” – which covered the “Get to the Point” step, from the Competent Communicator Manual – started handing out a piece of paper depicting the three possible ideas one might have about Artificial Intelligence (A.I.): a positive, a balanced and a negative one. Martin first asked his audience in which idea they identified themselves, then he continued to talk about his fear that A.I. might have some negative aspects. For example, we will be able to create some supercomputers very soon, and they, too, will be able to devise and create new computers of their one: however, we cannot predict which type of devices they will be and what effect they might have on us.

On a similar note, with all these implementations we can’t predict how the A.I. will evolve, if they are going to follow our aims or if they have a logic of their own. In all these scenarios, there will always be the possibility of human errors and malfunctions, thus conveying the idea that a bleak future for the human species might not be such a far-fetched theory.

Moira Beaton “revisited” her previous speech, “Hidden in Plain Sight”, incorporating the observations and the feedback the evaluator originally gave her. This “update” of her speech was part of the program she is following: in fact, in the “Presentation Mastery” there is a project where the member has to “present either a new speech or the same speech that incorporates some or all of the feedback received from the presentation of the first speech”. This new “version” about the perils and the difficulties to detect the hidden sugar in the food had a stronger delivery, the technical aspects of the subject were explained in a clearer way, and the usage of the slides was improved.

Three examples of speeches which had some innovative aspects in their delivery, thus showing the variety of techniques we may learn in our club. Don’t miss, then, our next meeting on 16th August.

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