London Futurists news, 15th Aug 2014

Dear Futurists,

I hope some of the following news items will be of interest. As always, feel free to skip through to the ones that most catch your attention.

1.) Singularity Summit comes to the Netherlands

The Singularity University is coming to Amsterdam, for a two-day summit on 19-20 November.

You can read more details about it at http://singularityu.org/eu-summit/. Here’s an excerpt:

On November 19-20, 2014, Singularity Summit Europe will take place for the first time in Amsterdam. It is one of the largest two-day events in Europe aimed at bringing awareness about exponential technologies and their impact on business and policy to thought leaders and executives from breakthrough companies. Theme of this unique event will be: ‘Ignition: Embrace tomorrow by launching today’

What can you expect at Singularity Summit Europe?

  • A public of 900+ European C-level executives, entrepreneurs and policy makers.
  • Great international speakers and SU core faculty members.
  • Break-out sessions to dive deeper into the impact of these technologies.
  • Pitches by the best European startups, as well as startups from SU Labs.

We will introduce you to Singularity University and the themes of accelerating change and help you understand how emerging technologies will impact your industry and regulatory environment. This will enable you to prepare your organization for future developments.

Registration is now open:
Early Bird Tickets: € 1.500,00 (excl. VAT) – only 150 tickets available
Normal Tickets: € 2.000,00 (excl. VAT)

Yes, you read that correct – the price-tag will probably put attendance outside the scope of most members of London Futurists. Though if you work for a company with an enlightened attitude towards educating employees, you should ask them to cover your attendance from their training or development budget.

And here’s one more option…

2.) Opportunity for free attendance at Singularity University in NASA Research Park with Silicon Valley

The UK branch of Singularity University has just announced a grand challenge contest, in partnership with Wired Sussex, Brighton & Hove, the University of Sussex, and the University of Brighton.

Quoting from http://www.brightongrandchallenge.com/:

The Brighton Grand Challenge is looking for ambitious entrepreneurs whose viable business concepts can help address humanity’s biggest problems.

Do you have a big idea that makes use of technology to solve humanity’s greatest challenges?

If you have the right idea and the right skills, you could win a chance to develop your solution at NASA Research Park with Silicon Valley’s technology leaders.

Submit your application by 15th September.

Eligibility Criteria:

  1. Applicants must speak English fluently.
  2. Applicants must be able to attend SU’s Executive Programme between 7th-12th December, 2014.
  3. Applicants must be aged 18 or over on the 26th September, 2014.Applicants must be resident in the UK.
  4. Teams of up to four people can apply, though only the team leader will be able to attend SU.

If you decide to take part, good luck! Please let London Futurists know how you get on.

3.) Peter Thiel speaking in London

One more item of news about future-focused entrepreneurs: Peter Thiel will be speaking at the London School of Economics on the evening of Friday 26th September. Attendance is free but you must apply for tickets beforehand. If more people apply for tickets than seats are available (which is very likely from my past experience of this kind of event at the LSE), seats will be allocated by lottery. If you don’t win a seat in the lottery, you can still get to the LSE early enough (about 45 minutes before the published start time of the lecture) and join a special queue in case some seats become available. (I’ve done that in the past too – and luckily got a seat on each occasion I’ve tried, so far.)

Here are the details from the LSE event page:

How to Build the Future: LSE Entrepreneurship public lecture

Date: Friday 26 September 2014
Time: 6-7.30pm
Venue: Old Theatre, Old Building
Speaker: Peter Thiel

It’s easier to copy a model than to make something new. Adding more of something familiar takes the world from 1 to n. But every time we create something new, we go from 0 to 1. Today our challenge is to imagine and create new technologies to make the future more peaceful and prosperous.

Peter Thiel (@peterthiel), an entrepreneur and investor, co-founded PayPal and the data analytics firm Palantir Technologies. He made the first outside investment in Facebook, funded companies like SpaceX and LinkedIn, and started the Thiel Foundation, which nurtures tomorrow’s tech visionaries through programs such as the Thiel Fellowship and Breakout Labs.

This event marks the publication of Peter’s new book “Zero to One: Notes on Start Ups, or How to Build the Future”.

4.) The room for tomorrow’s London Futurists meeting with Dr Amy Zalman

As you can see from the event page for tomorrow’s London Futurists event “The future of futurism” with WFS CEO Dr Amy Zalman, the meeting will be taking place in lecture room B18 of Birkbeck College. The ‘B’ at the beginning of the name indicates this is on the basement floor.

Birkbeck College is a bit of a maze, but if you keep looking for signs, you should reach the lecture room within five minutes of entering the main door of the building.

In case you forget the room number, you can get the details from big electronic noticeboard close to the reception.

It should be a great discussion. From the RSVP list, I see that many of the attendees have futurist responsibilities in at least part of their professional work. After Dr Zalman has finished her presentation, I’ll be encouraging everyone to chip into the conversation, whether you are a professional or amateur futurist, or merely someone interested in this topic.

After our Saturday afternoon meetups in Birkbeck College, people who want to continue the discussion informally usually make their way to the nearby pub The Marlborough Arms, 36 Torrington Place. In case you’d like to get together with other London Futurists but you can’t make it to the main event in Birkbeck College, consider joining us at the Marlborough Arms from around 4.30pm onwards.

5.) Who are the top ten living futurist writers?

Thanks to Peter Morgan for drawing my attention to the fascinating recent episode of the “Review the future” podcast in which the presenters give their list of the top ten livingfuturist writers.

I had my own ideas on who should be on that list, before I started listening to it, and I guessed six of the ten correctly 🙂

The presenters give their reasons for their choices, and also discuss a number of “bubbling under” contenders. For the most part, the presenters were pretty knowledgeable, and I found it a pleasant use of 39 minutes of my time. In the end, I agreed with nine out of ten of their choices (it’s only the final person listed who doesn’t quite fit with the others, in my view). Click on this link to access the podcast, and let me know if you agree.

Most of these writers are on the list because of articles or books they wrote some years back. One person who is making a great job, more recently, of sparking intelligent discussion on futurist and transhumanist themes is Hungarian-American writer Zoltan Istvan. His column in Huffington Post is full of provocative, well-written articles about the bleeding edge of modern tech possibilities. Yesterday, one of his articles provided the theme content for an article in the Daily Mail, “Would YOU grow your child in an artificial womb OUTSIDE of a human body? Ectogenesis could be widely used in 30 years”. This is radical futurism hitting the mainstream.

At the current rate, I expect that a new version of the “top ten futurists writers” list, produced in two or three years time, might have Zoltan’s name in it. (And hopefully some people from London Futurists too…!)

6.) A system to match volunteer effort with futurist tasks needing done

I know from talking to a number of London Futurists that several people would like to volunteer some of their time to help the goals of this community. There are plenty of tasks needing doing, both in research and in communications, in website design and in improved video recording and playback, etc.

I wonder if anyone reading this can point me to some kind of online “skills exchange” system in which London Futurists could:

  1. Volunteer amounts of their time to work on tasks that utilise specific skills that they list, and
  2. Request for help from other members in the network to perform particular tasks.

For example, someone could post that they have skills in icon design, or in movie animation, or in proof reading, or in project management, that they are willing to provide to suitable community projects led by other London Futurists. Someone else might post details of a book they are writing, where they would welcome some assistance with book cover design. Or they might be looking for help to refresh a website design, or to research what is the most impactful idea in a particular area. Etc.

The system would allow volunteer contributors (who have some discretionary time they wish to deploy in support of London Futurists) and projects to find each other. It will be a mini-manifestation of the future world of abundance to which many of us futurists look forward to.

Ideally such a system would also have an element of reputation management, so it would become clear which offers of skill contribution would be likely to be useful and reliable (as opposed e.g. to vapour).

If you know of such a system, by all means get in touch. I don’t want to re-invent the wheel!

7.) Transvision 2014, Paris

Fancy a futurists get-together in mainland Europe in November, but the Singularity Summit event in Amsterdam isn’t quite for you?

Then consider Transvision 2014, being held in Paris, 20-22 November. Hyesoon & I are planning to be there. Lectures will be translated in real-time into English and French.

The event webpage is http://transvision2014.org/. As translated by the not-yet-perfect AI of Google Translate:

“Transhumanism facing the social question”

This conference will aim to reflect on the many ways in which technological advances in convergence may enable a “human augmentation” can simultaneously be put at the service of social justice. In almost all international conferences held so far about transhumanism, this question has never been posed frontally, it has never been the central issue, hence the importance of this meeting which held over three days in Paris in late 2014.

More broadly, it is to initiate a formal discussion of these developments and their implications for society by involving, in addition to experts in the field, the general public affected by these issues.

Announced speakers include Remi Sussan, James Hughes, Natasha Vita-More, Aubrey de Grey, Didier Coeurnelle, Francesco Adorno, Olivier Goulet, Sylvie Allouche, Anders Sandberg, Amon Twyman, Marina Maestrutti, Thierry Berthier, Miroslav Radman, Lawrence Alexander, and conference organiser Marc Roux.

I hope to see a good number of you there!

// David W. Wood
Chair, London Futurists

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