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    Sixth Form: The McWhirter Conference

    The Ross McWhirter Foundation was set up in December 1975 and as part of the aims of the foundation to promote the principles and practice of good citizenship, Oxford university hosts yearly educational conferences for sixth formers, from both state and independent schools, which inspire debate on a social or moral issue.

    This year the theme is 'Will AI Make Us Happier?'

    Every year we are offered two places on what is normally a two day residential conference, but this year the event took place remotely.

    Students in Y12 were offered the chance to attend this year's conference. As part of their application they had to submit a short written piece outlining their interest in the specific theme for discussion, what they thought they could bring to the conference and what they thought they would gain from it.

    There was a great deal of interest and in the end we were given an extra two places.

    These are the responses of the students who took part:
    The conference was a very engaging and enjoyable experience which allowed me to think thoroughly and critically about AI and how it will affect our future. It was a great opportunity to hear insightful ideas from four expert speakers working in the industry. We then debated these ideas within groups of students all with varying opinions and areas of interest, led by a group leader who helped shape the discussions. Overall I found the two days very thought-provoking and they have left me with a great deal of knowledge which I feel will continue to be relevant for a long time. [Amelie]

    My favourite part of the conference was listening to an interesting lecture about how increased use of AI in some aspects could increase objectification of girls and women, these were two issues that I found very interesting and it was fascinating to see them linked together. I learnt a range of new perspectives on what the future holds for AI, including topics such as problems with biases, AGIs and ASIs and the potential dangers of using AI to do human tasks and comparing humans to what could be considered objects. I enjoyed taking part in the group discussion with others who had a variety of ideas and interesting contributions, and I liked contributing to them myself. Overall, I've taken away many interesting ideas and knowledge about how AI potentially could shape our future, and distinguishing between the increasing role of AI and whether or not it seems to make us happier - this was a very worthwhile experience and makes me feel more confident about my knowledge about the future of society! [Alice]

    I had a wonderful time at the conference.
    It was a welcome break from the daily norm of lockdown schoolwork and I felt truly refreshed both during and after the conference, as if a conversational itch had finally been scratched. It was great to be able to meet so many insightful people my own age and even better to have quality discussions with them. The speakers held thought provoking talks which ignited many a conversation in the zoom chat-bar and forced me question my own opinions on the topic of "Will AI make us happier?".
    Once again thank you!

    Thank you so much for the opportunity for this, it was incredibly interesting and eye-opening! I learnt so much about not just the future but also what is happening in the world right now. Every speaker had a fascinating insight and perspective of the topic, and it was great to have debates and conversations with other students across the country. I think I enjoyed these conversations best, as they always made me consider my opinions and outlooks more deeply in a way I would not have done otherwise. [Sylvie]

    And this is the feedback from the Conference organiser:
    I would just like to say that all four of your students were fantastic delegates at the conference and a credit to your school.  They were enthusiastic and provided intelligent debate and I hope they enjoyed themselves.

    Olivia Camillo
    Director of Sixth Form
    Deputy Head Teacher