I’d like to share a few more updates with you from the world of futurism, as seen through a London perspective. As usual, feel free to skip through to the points of most interest to you.
1.) We’re being joined by the “Larry King of the Singularity”
Many of you already subscribe to the excellent “Singularity weblog” and “Singularity 1 on 1” series of podcasts and video interviews conducted by Nikola Danaylov.
Singularity 1 on 1 is a series of podcast interviews with the best scientists, writers, entrepreneurs, film-makers, journalists, philosophers and artists, debating the technological singularity.
Nikola Danaylov was born in Bulgaria and now lives in Toronto. Over the past 5 years Nikola has published and edited over 600 articles and conducted more than 130 interviews with many of the world’s best known experts on accelerating technological change.
The Singularity 1 on 1 podcast has grown into the most popular and widely recognized interview series in the niche and, according to Prof. Roman Yampolskiy, Nikola has established himself as the “Larry King of the Singularity.”
Nikola will join what is already an outstanding panel of analysts who have thought long and hard about the potential of superhuman AI: Randal Koene, Calum Chace, andStuart Armstong. Together, the four panellists will be debating a number of far-reaching questions raised by recent Hollywood AI extravaganzas:
• Which elements of Transcendence are the least credible? Which elements are the most credible?
• How soon will we see the first human-level AI? Haven’t computer scientists been wrong about their predictions of timing many times before? Why should we take their latest predictions any more seriously than previous ones?
• Aren’t human minds just too complex and mysterious to be replicated?
• If human society can’t even take effective action to address climate change, what chance do we have to take effective action against malignant AI development?
• If we had Hollywood-level budgets at our disposal, what kind of film about AI would we most like to make?
Note: the discussion is likely to cover many aspects of the plot of Transcendence. To avoid spoiling your cinematic enjoyment, attendees are recommended to watch the film before participating in this Hangout.
For more details of this event, and to RSVP, see here.
2.) Robots, unemployment, and basic income
From one outstanding Hangout On Air panel… to another 🙂
As we know, the accelerating improvement in the dexterity, agility, versatility, and intelligence of robots raises a number of hard questions about the future of human society. Employees in increasing numbers of professions find themselves under threat of being displaced by robots, algorithms, and other AIs. The pace at which existing professions are being disrupted and transformed by new technology looks set to outstrip the speed at which humans can re-skill and re-train.
That was the subject matter of my recent interview on the Bloomberg TV show “The Pulse”. I tried to cram 90 minutes of ideas into that one short 6 minute on-air segment. Happily, on the 11th of May, there’s going to be time to explore this same set of ideas in the depth it deserves.
The London Futurists Hangout On Air on that date assembles another first class international panel of writers who have important things to say on the subject of the future of work: James Hughes, Martin Ford, Gary Marchant, and Marshall Brain. If you’re unfamiliar with these names, you can find details of their very interesting biographies onthe meetup page for the event.
On this occasion, the panellists will be debating:
• Are contemporary predictions of technological unemployment just repeating short-sighted worries from the 19th century “Luddites”?
• What scope is there for a “Basic Income Guarantee” to address the needs of everyone who will struggle to find work in the new age of smarter robots?
• What lessons can be learned from history, and from local experiments in different parts of the world?
• How soon should society be preparing for the kinds of major changes that new generations of robots will bring?
3.) The future of healthy longevity
Before either of the above two “Hangout On Air” events, we have one “in real life” event, on the subject of “The future of healthy longevity”, on Saturday 26th April.
There’s a great deal of news these days about potential developments to increase healthy longevity. How can we decide which are the most promising initiatives? What can we do to support faster development and deployment of new treatments? If we want to enable significant increases in healthy longevity for ourselves and our loved ones, what steps should we be taking?
This London Futurists meetup gathers a panel of experts and researchers in the field of healthy longevity. We’ll be hearing a number of TED-style talks, followed by extended audience Q&A and discussion.
The speakers are Phil Micans, Tuvi Orbach, and Avi Roy. They each have fascinating and well-informed things to say about the subject. I expect we’ll all be individually challenged and inspired, at various times in this meetup, to rethink our own personal health strategies, and/or to alter our thinking about how to change society’s presently inadequate approach to this topic.
If you’re planning to attend, please do RSVP in advance. Since we have to cover the room hire costs for this “in real life” meetup, there’s a small entrance fee, set at £5, payable in advance.
Note: I use the number of positive RSVPs to help me pick a room in Birkbeck College of the right size. I don’t want us to be squashed (again) – that’s not good for healthy longevity! Nor do I want us to hire an overly large (hence overly expensive) room.
4.) Videos from the Anticipating 2025 conference
My thanks go to Brian Hall (aka “Poorly Donkey”) for getting all the videos of the presentations and panels from the Anticipating 2025 conference nearly ready for release.
The first is already available now: the opening presentation by Rohit Talwar, Global Futurist and Founder of Fast Future Research, on “Driving forces, global challenges and potential disruptions“. You can view this video here, or via the newly tidied London Futurists YouTube channel, or on the Agenda page from the conference itself, where all the videos will be embedded as they are released. This page also contains selected slidesets from the event.
All that remains to be done with the other videos is a little bit of trimming and repackaging. We aim to release these, one by one, over the next couple of weeks. To be informed, keep your eye on any of the above online locations, or the London Futurists pages on Facebook or Twitter.
To help maintain the good level of conversation about the critically important topics in these presentations, please don’t hold back with your YouTube comments on these videos.
5.) Your chance to feature in a photo documentary about cryonics / immortality
I’m forwarding this message on behalf of Phelim Hoey, who I’ll be meeting during his visit to London later this week. I’m sure there are several London Futurists who have interesting things to contribute to Phelim’s project – please connect directly with him, via the details below.
I am a photographer working together with the Dos Santos Lab at Wageningen University in the Netherlands.
We are working on a big project on immortality that combines photography and synthetic biology.
For this project, I am looking to portray people who want to prolong life or become immortal. These portraits will eventually be printed in modified human gut bacteria (Escherichia Coli), which, because of their modification, became sensitive to light. Cell modification may eventually prolong life itself because it can be used to eliminate all kinds of diseases.
As the developer of this modified bacteria, Chris Voigt, stated in an interview once: ‘In the future we can program bacteria in order to be able to implement therapeutic effects for just about any disease you can imagine. We can create programmable biological robots that can keep our bodies healthy forever’.
It would be great if you would be willing to cooperate and be part of this project! From the 14th till the 20th of April I will be in London to meet and portray some fellow Cryonicists. I would like to meet as many people as possible during my week in the UK so it would be great if I can meet you as well. I can give more details through a Skype meeting,by mail, on the phone or in person.
I hope to hear from you.
6.) An online course about transhumanism
Regular readers of these newsletters will know about my interest in promoting high quality online educational resources about topics of radical futurism, existential risks, the singularity, and transhumanism. I’ve been working for some time on a plan to build an online “London Futurists Academy”.
I’m not alone with this idea. I’ve just noticed an online course being run throughout the month of May by Canadian futurist and regular io9 contributor George Dvorsky, on “An introduction to transhumanism”.
I have a great deal of respect for George, and so I’ve taken the plunge and signed up for the course. If several other London Futurists do the same, we could have a mini-community in the course alongside the wider international community there.
(There’s another online course being run at the same time by the same organisation, “Chris Mooney on the Science of Why We Don’t Believe in Science”, that also looks very interesting.)
From the IEET website:
George Dvorsky, prominent futurist, writer on ethics and technology and Chairman of the IEET Board of Directors, is offering his Introduction to Transhumanism course during May, from May 1st to May 31st, 2014.
This course introduces the philosophy and socio-cultural movement that is transhumanism. We will survey its core ideas, history, technological requirements, potential manifestations, and ethical implications. Topics to be discussed will include the various ways humans have tried to enhance themselves throughout history, the political and social aspects of transhumanism, the technologies required to enhance humans (including cybernetics, pharmaceuticals, genetics, and nanotechnology), and the various ways humans may choose to use these technologies to modify and augment their capacities (including radical life extension, intelligence augmentation, and mind uploading). Along the way we will discuss social and ethical problems that might be posed by human enhancement.
deadline to register- April 30
advisory- this class will fill up quickly, so register soon!
Schedule and readings: Specific reading and discussion goals are set for each week, and students can proceed at their own pace. There are no live events planned. An assortment of resources will be used, including academic papers, online presentations, instructional videos, and popular articles. Everything about the course and all readings are provided within the PSA Moodle website. Course lectures, links to websites, and forums for discussions with the instructor and students are included in the Moodle website classroom. Visit the class anytime to contribute your posts and receive George Dvorsky’s replies in discussion forums. There is nothing “live” you can miss – log in and participate anytime day or night, 24/7, throughout May.
About George Dvorsky:
Canadian futurist, science writer, and ethicist George Dvorsky has written and spoken extensively about the impacts of cutting-edge science and technology—particularly as they pertain to the improvement of human performance and experience. George is a contributing editor at io9 where he writes about science, culture, and futurism. A founding member of the Institute for Ethics and Emerging Technologies, he is its Chair of the Board and the founder and program director for its Rights of Non-Human Persons program. In addition, George is the co-founder and president of the Toronto Transhumanist Association and has served on the Board of Directors for Humanity+ for two terms. His work has been featured in such publications as The Guardian, the BBC, CBC, Forbes, the New York Times, Slate, Radio Free Europe, and al-Jazeera. He is also an avid CrossFitter, an ancestral health enthusiast, and an accomplished music performer, composer, and recording engineer.
// David W. Wood
Chair, London Futurists