The Tanner Lectures on Human Values

About the Tanner Lectures on Human Values

The Tanner Lectures on Human Values were established by the American scholar, industrialist and philanthropist, Obert Clark Tanner in 1978.  The purpose of the lectures is to advance and reflect upon the scholarly and scientific learning related to human values.

In creating the lectureships, Professor Tanner said, “I hope these lectures will contribute to the intellectual and moral life of mankind. I see them simply as a search for a better understanding of human behaviour and human values. This understanding may be pursued for its own intrinsic worth, but it may also eventually have practical consequences for the quality of personal and social life".

Appointment as a Tanner Lecturer is a recognition of uncommon achievement and outstanding abilities in the domain of human values. The lectureships are international and intercultural and transcend ethnic, national, religious and ideological distinctions.


This year's Tanner Lectures on Human Values took place from 1-2 February 2022, focusing on the subject 'Providing for a nation’s health, in a global context'


To complement the lectures, we will soon present The Art and Heart of Leonardo - an exhibition chiefly of Leonardo da Vinci's anatomical drawings, as seen through contemporary eyes.


The Obert C. Tanner Lecture on Artificial Intelligence and Human Values 2021

Black Mirror: Race, AI and Inequity in the 21st Century

Professor Ruha Benjamin

On 18 October 2021, Ruha Benjamin, Professor of African American Studies at Princeton University, gave the Obert C. Tanner Lecture on Artificial Intelligence and Human Values at Robinson Auditorium, followed by respondents Dr Shakir Mohamed, Dr Mónica G. Moreno Figueroa and Professor Sennay Ghebreab.

Lecture details:

From everyday apps to complex algorithms, technology has the potential to hide, speed, and deepen discrimination, while appearing neutral and even benevolent when compared to racist practices of a previous era. In this talk, Professor Ruha Benjamin examines biased bots, altruistic algorithms, and their many entanglements, and provides conceptual tools to decode tech promises with historical and sociological insight. She also considers how race itself is a tool designed to stratify and sanctify social injustice, and challenges us to question not only the technologies we are sold, but also the ones we manufacture ourselves.

About the speaker:

Ruha Benjamin is Professor of African American Studies at Princeton University, Founding Director of the Ida B. Wells Just Data Lab, and author of the award-winning book Race After Technology: Abolitionist Tools for the New Jim Code among many other publications. Her work investigates the social dimensions of science, medicine, and technology with a focus on the relationship between innovation and inequity, health and justice, knowledge and power.

Ruha earned a BA in Sociology and Anthropology from Spelman College, MA and PhD in Sociology from UC Berkeley, and completed postdoctoral fellowships at UCLA’s Institute for Society & Genetics and Harvard’s Science, Technology & Society Program. She is the recipient of numerous awards and fellowships including from the American Council of Learned Societies, National Science Foundation, Marguerite Casey Foundation 2020 Freedom Scholar Award, and the President’s Award for Distinguished Teaching at Princeton. For more information please visit  

The Obert C. Tanner Lectures on Artificial Intelligence and Human Values launched the Critical Borders: Radical (Re)visions of AI Conference, spanning 18-21 October 2021, generously funded by the Obert C. Tanner Lectures on Artificial Intelligence and Human Values; Christina Gaw; the Leverhulme Centre for the Future of Intelligence; and the University of Cambridge Centre for Gender Studies.


Clare Hall's Tanner Lectures on Human Values 2020

Gaining Power, Losing Control

Professor Jonathan L. Zittrain

George Bemis Professor of International Law, Harvard University, Professor of Computer Science, Harvard School of Engineering and Applied Sciences and Professor, Harvard John F. Kennedy School of Government.

Lecture 1 - Between Abdication and Suffocation: Three Eras of Governing Digital Platforms

Lecture 2 - With Great Power Comes Great Ignorance: What’s Wrong When Machine Learning Gets It Right

Jonathan Zittrain is the George Bemis Professor of International Law at Harvard Law School and Professor at the Harvard Kennedy School of Government, Professor of Computer Science at the Harvard School of Engineering and Applied Sciences, Director of the Harvard Law School Library, and co-founder of the Berkman Klein Center for Internet and Society.  His research interests include battles for control of digital property and content, cryptography, electronic privacy, the roles of intermediaries within Internet architecture, human computing, and the useful and unobtrusive deployment of technology in education. He is currently focused on the ethics and governance of artificial intelligence and teaches a course on the topic. His book, The Future of the Internet -- And How to Stop It, predicted the end of general purpose client computing and the corresponding rise of new gatekeepers.  That and other works may be found here.

Tanner Lecture Respondents 2020

Dr Stephen Cave, Executive Director of the Leverhulme Centre for the Future of Intelligence, University of Cambridge

Professor Martin Rees, Emeritus Professor of Cosmology and Astrophysics, University of Cambridge

Professor Sophia Roosth, Frederick S. Danziger Associate Professor in the Department of the History of Science at Harvard University

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