I didn't make it last year, and I really, really want to go so I'm waiting expectantly for more details. So much so, that I've found myself fantasising about who might speak.
This is partly because it's only just over 6 months away, partly because I've been enjoying Crispian Jago's Skeptic Top Trumps, and also partly because I went to see the monstrously good Ghost Stories at the Lyric Hammersmith.
Last year's speakers suggest four broad categories of speakers, although there was a strong weighting to the Brits:
- JREF Reps - Phil Plait (Randi was sadly too ill to fly)
- UK based skeptics - Richard Wiseman, Ben Goldacre, Jon Ronson, Ariane Sherine, Tim Minchin, Brian Cox, Simon Singh, Robin Ince (Richard Dawkins was also scheduled to speak but couldn't make it)
- US based skeptics - Adam Savage, George Hrab
- Speakers from left field - Glenn Hill
I've seen or heard all of the British skeptics speak at some point over the last 12 months, and they already get a decent and increasing amount of exposure in mainstream media. Given TAM's profile, I'd like to see some slightly less familiar names given a bigger platform than they might otherwise get.
I'd also like the chance to see more big names from the US, since there aren't many opportunities to do so.
And, most of all, I'd love to see some people who might not yet call themselves skeptics. The only name on last year's list who wasn't a well-known, card-carrying member of the movement was Glenn Hill, son of Elsie Wright who produced the 'Cottingley Fairies' photographs.
To my mind, that made him the most intriguing speaker.
In what I think was my best post to date, I wrote in January about 'The Skeptics Who Never Were' because the movement came to late for them. And so here, using the same categories as above, is my fantasy list of speakers for TAM London 2010.
1) JREF Reps
- James Randi - Every skeptics' favorite uncle, Randi has just come out at the incredible age of 81 and was too ill to make it last year. He has to be first on the list.
- DJ Grothe - As the new President, DJ is pretty much now the leader of the free-thinking world. He has had some very interesting stuff to say recently about 'kneejerk skepticism' and the importance of the grass roots. And, when I spoke to him a while back for the Pod Delusion, he said he'd break bread with me.
- Andy Lewis from Quackometer. I was fortunate enough to see him at CFI's Alt Med on Trial, and he was sensationally good. Very insightful and very funny, I suspect he would completely own the event.
- Bruce Hood - Author of Supersense and baiter of ADE651 proponents, he has atypical views on homeopathy on the NHS and how & when skeptics should engage. Would challenge more preconceptions than other speakers.
- Richard Wilson - Not the aging actor who can't believe it, but the trouble-making journalist and author of Don't Get Fooled Again. It would be great to hear Wilson's take on the Climategate emails and tactics of the deniers, since he's an expert on the methods the tobacco industry used in the 60s and 70s.
- Josie Long - Co-presenter of Robin Ince's much-missed Utter Shambles, Long is a stand up comedienne full of wit, eccentricity and sense of wonder at the world. Kind of like a female, funnier-but-less-well-qualified, whimsical English version of Carl Sagan.
- Jennifer Michael Hecht - Another one to challenge and stretch the standard skeptical outlook, she argues that there is truth to be found in the arts. A poet & historian, she wrote The Happiness Myth and Doubt: A History as well as the gorgeous Dear Fonzie blog. She is the most erudite speaker on my list, and I can't imagine we'll see her in the UK unless it's at TAM. My absolute first choice
- Michael Shermer - Presumably everyone knows who he is? Runs The Skeptic magazine among other things, if you aren't sure, and (again) someone who we don't get to see in the UK so often.
- PZ Myers - Just because he'll make me laugh harder than anyone else and, if we ask him nicely, he might come over a month early and help to irritate the Pope.
- Eugenie Scott - From her position as executive director of the National Centre for Science Education, Scott is the doyenne and heroine of the movement to preserve the teaching of evolution in the US education. The faith schools agenda suggests we may need her expertise in the UK sooner rather than later.
- Nancy Cartwright - Important to note that I'm talking about this lady, the LSE-based philosopher of science and economics, not the voice of Bart Simpson. Cartwright would really help widen the boundaries and scope of UK skepticism. She would go a long way to ensuring philosophy wasn't a dirty word for skeptics, and would also have important things to say about the role of critical thinking in policy making.
- Becky Hogge - Hogge is best known as writer a on technology, editor of openDemocracy and was previously executive director of the Open Rights Group. Seeing as Web 2.0 played such a crucial role in the explosion of skepticism, who better to talk at TAM in a year when the traumatically awful Digital Economy bill has been passed? She has also worked for Little Atoms and Index On Censorship, perennial friends of skepticism.
- Andy Nyman - There are nowhere near as many magicians associated with skepticism in the UK as there are in the States, and while Derren Brown might be the obvious choice, Nyman is the man behind the curtain, as co-creator and co-writer of all of Brown's shows. He is also responsible for the incredible Ghost Stories, and I'd love to hear his thoughts on things that go bump in the night.
- Jasper Fforde - We missed Douglas Adams by a good few years, and for some reason I don't think Terry Pratchett and Neil Gaiman would fit in. But Fforde is a author who understands science, and he is a worthy heir to Adams' manthle. The Thursday Next books are full of science-based humour and illogical flourishes, and The Fourth Bear features a degree in pseudoscience alongside all sorts of technological nonsense. If you haven't given Fforde a go, do so as quickly as you can.
- Armando Iannucci - Quite simply, no one has made a more persuasive argument for evidence-based policy in the last year than Iannucci and co did with In The Loop.
- Alan Rusbridger - Finally the current editor of the Guardian. While the temptation must be to ask Simon Singh to speak again, or his fellow libel sufferers like Peter Wilmshurst, I'd be intrigued to hear Rusbrider's take on libel-reform, as well as the role of science in politics, and where blogs, newspapers and other media go next.
Hope to see you all there.