Risk and Resilience: Lessons from Ecology and Banking Systems
Seminar summary: Given that natural selection acts on individual organisms in relation to their environmental setting, it is not surprising that we understand less about how evolutionary processes shape communities and ecosystems than about individual species. Darwin saw the evolution of cooperative behaviour in large groups as his greatest unsolved problem, and current controversies still swirl around these issues. Nor are these questions of purely academic interest. For example, many of the things financial institutions did in the run-up to recent events made sense at the level of individual institutions, but not for the system as a whole. Similar processes are seen, writ even larger, in our faltering efforts to address the problems of climate change.
Speaker Biography: Robert McCredie May, Lord May of Oxford, OM AC Kt FRS, holds a Professorship jointly at University of Oxford and Imperial College, London and is a Fellow of Merton College, Oxford. He was President of The Royal Society (2000-2005), and before that Chief Scientific Adviser to the UK Government and Head of the UK Office of Science and Technology (1995-2000). His career includes a Personal Chair in Physics at Sydney University aged 33, Class of 1877 Professor of Zoology at Princeton, and in 1988 a move to Britain as Royal Society Research Professor. Particular interests include how dynamical systems are structured and respond to change, particularly with respect to infectious diseases and biodiversity. Honours include: the Royal Swedish Academy’s Crafoord Prize, the Swiss-Italian Balzan Prize, the Japanese Blue Planet Prize, and the Royal Society’s Copley Medal, its oldest (1731) and most prestigious award.
This was the first seminar in the Risk and Resilience Seminar Series in Hilary term 2011.