London Futurists news, 8th Feb 2014

Dear Futurists,

The future is getting closer… because the rate of change and convergence is speeding up. More and more people are getting seriously interested in these forces of change and convergence. Here’s some news about futurists events happening in and around London.

Feel free to skip ahead to the news items that most interest you 🙂

1.) Cybersalon: Human 2.0, Thursday 27th February

Cybersalon describe themselves as follows:

  • We’re a think tank on Digital Futures.
  • We’ve been around since 1997 as a non-profit organisation.
  • We do research and produce insights.
  • We got fed up with only discussing this stuff online so we also put on public events in London.

Here’s an extract from their webpage about their next event:

27 February 2014: Human 2.0 – Technologies of Enhancement

Since the turn of the 20th Century human enhancements and augmentations have been increasingly aestheticised and fetishised by medium of Science Fiction. But only in the last two decades are we beginning to encounter tangible advances that could be leveraged towards the project of dramatically altering the human condition.

Speakers
– Prof. Steve Fuller (@ProfSteveFuller)
– Dr. Rachel Armstrong (@LivingArchitect)
– Dave King (@luddites200)
– Nigel Ackland (@NigelAckland or @bebionic)
– Frank Swain (@SciencePunk)
– Veronika Pete (@Veronika_Pete)

Chair
– Luke Robert Mason (@LukeRobertMason)

Location
DigitasLBi, 146 Brick Lane (Old Truman Brewery), London, E1 6RU

For more details, see http://www.cybersalon.org/humanenhancement/.

2.) London Climate Change Coders, Wednesday 19th February

Want to do something practical about the threats from climate change?

London Climate Change Coders describe themselves as follows:

Climate Change Coders (CCCoders) is a group of programmers and people with computer skills who volunteer some of their time to work with organisations that aim to have a positive effect on climate change.

What has computing got to do with climate change?

Not enough is currently being done to prevent climate change. Two things could make a difference to that:-

  1. Information – more will get done if people really start to understand that climate change is likely to badly affect them and their children and if they have the information to help them change or to force governments to change. The internet has been shown to be a powerful medium for bringing people together to affect change.
  2. Technology – we can improve current technology to reduce our emissions now and in the future. We can also work on new technologies. Computing will play a big role in these developments.

Their next meeting is on Wednesday 19th February. Read more about it on their own Meetup page.

3.) Open online course on Climate change: challenges and solutions

As some of you know, I’ve signed up for an eight week long open (free of charge) online course, taught by members of the Climate Change faculty at the University of Exeter, and presented through the UK’s FutureLearn MOOC.

Due to huge public interest in this course, FutureLearn have extended the option for people to join the course up until the 10th of February. You can enrol here.

The course is described is taking three hours a week. I’ve now completed the first three weeks of material (out of eight weeks in total), and I’ve spent nearer eight hours each week, doing supplementary reading, and getting involved in some of the online discussions which the course encourages.

One reason I study the material diligently is because I know there’s an online test at the end of each week’s material, and I want to keep up my personal 100% score rate. Three weeks in, so far, so good 🙂

I’m also studying it diligently because

  • Of the huge potential importance of the matters discussed on the course
  • I’m keen to understand what can be accomplished by a well-run MOOC (Massive Open Online Course).

It’s my vision that London Futurists, together with partner organisations, will be running a MOOC on key topics in futurism, ideally starting some time later this year.

In the meantime, I know that several members of London Futurists have enrolled on this climate change course, and I can recommend the experience to those of you who are still sitting on the fence about it!

4.) Priority actions for a positive 2025: Sunday 16th February

Rather than just talking about potential future scenarios, what should people actually be doing to boost the chances that society in, say, 2025 will be something that is more attractive and desirable than today’s?

2025 is well beyond the current political election time horizons, and exceeds the planning framework of most business leaders. But technology has the potential to drive huge changes in human experience between them and now. How should we prepare?

This London Futurists Hangout On Air will feature a live online discussion between a number of the speakers from our forthcoming Anticipating 2025 event: Ben McLeishRohit TalwarDavid Pearce, and Amon Kalkin.

For more details, see this Meetup page.

Note: There is no central physical location for this meetup. Instead, you can view the event:

  • On Google+ at this event page, where you’ll also be able to vote on questions to be submitted to the panellists
  • Via YouTube here.

5.) Z-Day 2014, Saturday 15th March

One of the speakers in our Hangout On Air on Priority actions for a positive 2025, Ben McLeish, is also one of the speakers and main organisers for a significant event being held at London‘s Conway Hall on Saturday 15th March, organised by the Zeitgeist Movement.

See here for some preliminary details about this event, and to purchase tickets (only £5 for the whole day) before they run out – which I remember happening for at least one previous Z-Day event in London.

As their event website states,

The Zeitgeist Movement is a global sustainability activist group working through education & explicitly non-violent means to bring the world together for the common goal of human and environmental sustainability. Divisive notions such as nations, governments, race/colour, political parties, religions, creeds or class are non-operational distinctions in the view of The Movement. Rather, we recognize the world as one system and the human species as a singular family, sharing a common habitat.

This year we have Rou Reynolds from the band ‘Enter Shikari’ giving a presentation, also Desmond Kilroy from the ‘Centre for the Advancement for the Steady State Economy’, Myles Dyer, Ben McLeish with more to follow. A full programme will be released a month before the event…

The Zeitgeist Movement have recently released a comprehensive book covering their ideas, “The Zeitgeist Movement Defined”. It has lots of interest for futurists. You can purchase a printed copy from Amazon, or download an entire electronic version for free from http://thezeitgeistmovement.com/orientation.

To quote from the start of the book

The Zeitgeist Movement Defined is the official, representative text of the global, non-profit sustainability advocacy organization known as The Zeitgeist Movement (TZM).

This tediously sourced and highly detailed work argues for a large-scale change in human culture, specifically in the context of economic practice. The dominant theme is that the current socioeconomic system governing the world at this time has severe structural flaws, born out of primitive economic and sociological assumptions originating in our early history, where the inherent severity of these flaws went largely unnoticed.

However, in the early 21st century, these problems have risen prominently, taking the consequential form of increasing social destabilization and ongoing environmental collapse. Yet, this text is not simply about explaining such problems and their root causality – It is also about posing concrete solutions, coupled with a new perspective on social/environmental sustainability and efficiency which, in concert with the tremendous possibility of modern technology and a phenomenon known as ephemeralization, reveals humanity’s current capacity to create an abundant, post-scarcity reality.

While largely misunderstood as being “utopian” or fantasy, this text walks through, step by step, the train of thought and technical industrial reordering needed to update our global society (and its values) to enable these profound new possibilities. While this text can be read strictly from a passive perspective, it was created also to be used as an awareness or activist tool. The Zeitgeist Movement, which has hundreds of chapters across dozens of countries and is perhaps the largest activist organization of its kind, hopes those interested in this direction will join the movement in global solidarity and assist in the culmination of this new social model, for the benefit of the whole of humanity.

6.) Art that anticipates 2025

Thanks to everyone who has registered already for Anticipating 2025 and/or helped to publicise this two-day event (22-23 March).

We already have a full line-up of speakers for this event, but there’s scope to include some art work, posters, or even very short videos. These can be shown as part of the video projector loop on display screens during networking portions of the event.

If anyone would like to provide any “Art for 2025” or similar content – something that will engage more of the brain than just its rational centres – then please get in touch! Your contributions will be fully attributed.

7.) Films that anticipate 2025

Here in the UK, we’re still awaiting the UK release of the movie “Her”, which has received lots of attention for its depiction of the possible usage of advanced, hyper-personalised AI in the interfaces to future computers. I’ve avoided reading reviews of it so far, but I hear that it’s thought provoking.

Last evening, Hyesoon & I ventured to our local cinema to see the 2014 remake of Robocop. There are plenty of futurist themes in that too! If you’re looking for some light-hearted entertainment with quite a few philosophical stings in its tail, I can recommend it! The unexpected use of 1970s music by the Dutch group Focus was a pleasant backwards reminder in the midst of all the forward-looking screenplay.

Perhaps we should organise an informal hangout where we compare our experiences with some of the recent crop of futurist movies…

(I think my own favourite such movie might still be the low-key 2012 film “Robot and Frank”.)

// David W. Wood
Chair, London Futurists

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