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The Tanner Lecture on Human Values

Clare Hall hosts the Obert C. Tanner Lecture on Human Values in Cambridge each year.

This page is a repository of recent recordings, and includes a link to a list of all past lectures held at Clare Hall.

Imitations of Apocalypse: Catastrophist and Gradualist Imaginings of the Planetary Future

Photo: Ian Olsson

We were delighted to welcome Amitav Ghosh, an award-winning author, global thinker, environmentalist, and climate advocate, as our speaker for the 2024 Tanner Lecture on the 5th of February.

Amitav spoke about catastrophist and gradualist imaginings of the future of our planet in the context of increasingly disruptive global crises. Ghosh illuminated the reasons behind these strands of thought, and the growing belief in preparing for an inevitable apocalypse.

After the talk, Ghosh was in conversation with Jonathan Derbyshire, the Executive Opinion Editor of the Financial Times. The evening was filled with enthusiastic conversation over dinner at Clare Hall.


Photo: Ian Olsson

The 2023 Clare Hall Tanner Lecture was given by the Nobel Laureate Paul Krugman, Professor Emeritus at Princeton University, together with Professor Meg Jacobs, Senior Research Scholar at the Princeton School of Public and International Affairs. They explored current and historic inflation.

Ahead of the Lecture, Paul Krugman shared: ‘What have we learned about inflation? The sudden resurgence of inflation after 35 years of quiescence has called a lot of what we thought we knew into question. Optimists, myself included, were proved wrong by the surge — but pessimists making analogies with the 1970s have been equally wrongfooted by the rapid decline in 2022. And we’ve learned a lot more than we wanted to about the limitations of data. Nonlinear pricing seems like the best story at this point, but anyone making confident predictions hasn’t been paying attention.’

Meg Jacobs added: ‘Today, with inflation at near historic postwar highs, policymakers have turned to monetary policy as the preferred solution. But it has not always been that way. In this lecture I will look back over the last century and a half to uncover a long history of alternative interventions.’

Postgraduate students from Clare Hall and across the University in Economics, Politics, Development Studies, Land Economy and related disciplines, joined this year’s Tanner Lecturers – Professor Paul Krugman and Professor Meg Jacobs – for a seminar to explore further the content of the lectures.

Providing for a nation’s health, in a global context

Photo: Ian Olsson

The Tanner Foundation graciously enabled Clare Hall to hold a double Tanner event across two interconnected evenings in February 2022.

Evening 1
The Relationship Between National and Global Health
Professor Allen Buchanan, Professor Emeritus, Duke University; Professor of Philosophy, University of Arizona; Professor of the Philosophy of International Law, Dickson Poon School of Law, King’s College, London.
Professor Cécile Fabre, Professor of Political Philosophy and Senior Research Fellow in Politics, All Souls College, Oxford.
Sir Paul Tucker, Research Fellow, Harvard Kennedy School; author, Unelected Power.

Evening 2
The Consequences for Healthcare Practice, Globally
Professor Trish Greenhalgh, Professor of Primary Care Health Sciences, Nuffield Department of Primary Care Health Sciences, Oxford University.
Professor Ama de-Graft Aikins, British Academy Global Professor, University College London.
Professor Alexander Bird, Bertrand Russell Professor of Philosophy, University of Cambridge; Fellow of St John’s College, Cambridge.

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

Photo: Luciana Axente

In 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.

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.

Gaining Power, Losing Control

Photo: Phil Mynott

Professor Jonathan L. Zittrain, George Bemis Professor of International Law at Harvard University, gave the Clare Hall Tanner Lecture on Human Values in January 2020, followed by responses from Dr Stephen Cave, Professor Martin Rees and Professor Sophia Roosth.

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

Explore past Clare Hall Tanner Lectures via our archive list.