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    Peter Smout Memorial Essay Writing Competition 2018

    We are delighted to announce that our annual Peter Smout Memorial Essay Writing Competition is now open! 

    This competition is for Kimbolton School pupils in the First to Lower Sixth Forms. It has been made possible thanks to the generosity of an anonymous Old Kimboltonian who thought highly of Peter Smout, a much-respected former Kimbolton Senior Master.

    Please read the instructions below on how to enter (also available as a pdf download from the bottom of this page).

    The essay topic for 2018 is: Should humanity fear advances in artificial intelligence?


    Useful Info:

    The increasing ability of machines in recent years to replicate or even supersede human abilities in complex tasks has been impressive. Already, artificial intelligence (AI) techniques have been used to allow machines to beat the best players in the world at chess. While such demonstrations of the potential for AI are intriguing, there are now more and more real-world applications for AI systems. For example, voice-recognition systems like Amazon’s Alexa and Apple’s Siri use AI techniques to learn what the most suitable answer to our questions might be. Purchase prediction techniques are already well established to provide personal recommendations of items which we might like to buy online. Driverless cars cannot be pre-programmed for every eventuality, but need to ‘learn’ through experience using AI. Combined with huge datasets, AI-enabled machines could learn to interpret x-rays and other scans, making diagnosis quicker and more accurate.

    Key issues you may like to consider within your answer:

    The implications of AI for society are only just becoming apparent. In 2015, the Bank of England’s chief economist, Andrew Haldane, suggested that as many as one third of jobs in the UK – 15 million – could be lost to automation. Examples could include drivers replaced by autonomous vehicles and administrative staff replaced by intelligent assistants like Alexa. In the future, smarter machines and artificial intelligence could affect a much broader range of jobs, including many high-paid, high-skilled positions. Whilst facial recognition systems, combined with CCTV could call into question our privacy. The world-famous physicist, Stephen Hawking, even claimed that ‘AI may replace humans altogether’ as a ‘new form of life’ that can rapidly learn and improve, making people obsolete (Debating Matters website 2018).
    So should we welcome AI’s potential or are the perceived threats too great?

    Essay structure

    We are looking for you to consider both sides of this debate, whilst presenting your own line of argument. It would be a good idea to include some specific examples of artificial intelligence in your response with some discussion about the impact of these advances.

    Starting your research:

    In addition to a range of resources available in the school library, a super introduction to the
    topic with plenty of recommended further reading can be found here:


    Other useful websites:


    Length of Essay

    Essays submitted should be in the region of 1500 words.

    Entry Deadline

    To Mr Newsam’s pigeon hole Monday 10th September 2018.


    Overall winning essay – £200

    Two consolation prizes:

    Senior Category (4th to L6th Forms) – £100

    Junior Category (1st to 3rd  Forms) – £100

    Peter Smout 1929-2006

    Peter Smout, former Kimbolton School Senior Master

    Charles Anthony Peter Smout (known as Peter) was born in Birmingham on 14 November 1929. Following school at The Leys, National Service in the Army, a degree at Cambridge and teaching practice at KES Birmingham and Kimbolton, Peter joined the staff of Kimbolton School as an English teacher in 1954. He remained here for 35 years, becoming Second Master in 1964. Many former colleagues and pupils remember him as the originator of outdoor Shakespearian productions in the castle courtyard – now home to a memorial bench bearing his name.

    Peter had many and varied interests, including football, birds, butterflies, the church and opera. The Kimboltonian magazine of 1989 notes: "He always welcomed the opportunity to broaden his already diverse interests, and the Printing Club, the Wine Club, the Paperback Bookshop and the School magazine all benefitted from his enthusiasm and efficiency."

    In addition to his School commitments, Peter also stood three times as parliamentary candidate for the Liberal Party in the 1970s, highlighting environmental issues and on one occasion polling over 17,000 votes. A former colleague recalls: "Many of those votes were in addition to any national swing, reflecting personal support gained by diligent long-term canvassing."

    Peter celebrated his golden wedding anniversary in 2004 and remained in good health until his death on 22 December 2006, aged 77. He leaves his wife Mary, two sons and four grandchildren.