Event cancelled: Disaster capitalism and time: from grenfell tower to artificial intelligence

An open seminar by Professor John Preston, hosted by the Centre for Criminology in the Department of Sociology

  • Thu 12 Mar 20

    16:00 - 18:00

  • Colchester Campus


  • Event speaker

    Professor John Preston

  • Event type

    Lectures, talks and seminars
    Criminology Centre

  • Event organiser

    Sociology, Department of

  • Contact details

    Dr Anna Di Ronco

Due to unforeseen circumstances this event has now been cancelled.

John Preston is Professor of Sociology at the University of Essex and an ESRC Leadership fellow in Crime, Conflict and Security. His latest book is Grenfell Tower: Preparedness, Race and Disaster Capitalism (Palgrave, 2019)

When disasters are reviewed in post-hoc analysis or public inquiries the role of time and critical junctures is central.  Whether something could have been done to stop a disaster, or whether the action that someone could have taken would have helped them survive, becomes a matter of chronology and clock time. Countdowns and critical paths are used to map the sequence of events.  In the inquiry into the Grenfell Tower fire in London 2017, for example, chronologies are a matter of legal and political argument.  In work on the existential threat of an A.I. takeover scientific debates are conducted to estimate when would be the correct moment to prevent the development of malignant technologies.  

Work on disaster capitalism usually portrays time as a contested field where there is differential access to economies of time.  Whilst capitalists and the state have the autonomy, intentionality and resources to make decisions in concrete and clock time others have limited agency.  This understanding of contested time in disaster capitalism is useful but obscures the fundamentally capitalist nature of time.  Disaster capitalism is not just a contestation of time and resources but a rupture between material wealth and value and concrete and abstract time.  This is exhibited in contemporary disasters, such as grenfell tower, and in plans for future existential threats, such as artificial intelligence.  In this presentation Professor John Preston will critically examine the public inquiry into the grenfell tower fire and Nick Bostrom’s work on the existential threat of A.I. to consider the limitations of public inquiries and scientific speculation on past and future disasters.

This seminar is part of an open seminar series, hosted by the Centre for Criminology. To find out more about the Centre for Criminology, visit our website and follow us on Twitter.

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