London Futurists news, 8th Sep 2014

Dear Futurists,

I trust that at least some of the following news items will prove interesting.

1.) The proactionary imperative, this Saturday, 13th Sept

Ahead of the meetup in Birkbeck College this Saturday, “The proactionary imperative, with Steve Fuller and Veronika Lipinska”, I’ve been reading some more of the book of the same name co-authored by the presenters.

It’s a book that’s fizzing with ideas, from fields such as the philosophy of science, political philosophy, sociology, and even theology.

I found the book to be a reminder that many of our present-day hopes and fears about technological change are likely to be addressed and progressed, not just by technology, but by ideas – especially by ideas that have deep roots (and which therefore often influence people’s actions without them being fully aware of these drivers). Despite us sometimes thinking we’re living in a post-ideology world, it turns out that ideology still matters.

London Futurists who particularly enjoy debates about the history and future of ideas should particularly enjoy this event. There’s plenty in the book, too, about particular technologies, e.g. genetic engineering and synthetic biology.

2.) Recordings of previous meetups

An audio recording of our most recent previous meetup, “The future of futurism, with WFS CEO Amy Zalman”, is now available for people to listen to or download. You can find ithere.

That same website, by the way, contains various other audio recordings of previous meetups, including the events with Duncan Clark (“The burning question”) and Mike Power(“Drugs 2.0”).

The recording of “The future of futurism” contains all that was said in the event:

  • Three minutes at the beginning where a couple of audience members gave some of their expectations for the event
  • A brief introduction from the meeting chair
  • Twenty five minutes of prepared remarks from Amy Zalman
  • Then more than an hour of audience Q&A and wider discussion.

The audio recording is far from perfect, but most of what people were saying, even from the back of the room, can be heard if you listen with earphones. There’s some background chatter from time to time, unfortunately. But the file is still a useful memory jog, for a whole set of fascinating points raised as the afternoon unfolded.

3.) Request for someone to video this Saturday’s event

Rather than just an audio track, it would be great to be able to capture video recordings of more of our meetups.

With that in mind, is there anyone who has a suitable video camcorder, and would be able to record this Saturday’s event (ideally in HD)? The device would need one or more batteries that will in total last at least two hours (or a mains lead), along with sufficient disk storage space.

I can make an audio recording as usual, and the two recordings could be merged together to provide (perhaps) the best of both worlds.

Anyone who can do this will be able to co-brand the resulting video recording. Please get in touch!

4.) Request for video animators

Here’s a different request (although it shares with the previous one the word “video”).

There are a lot of bright ideas in the London Futurists community for short essays and scripts that would strongly benefit from being turned into an attractive short YouTube video.

I have in mind to organise a kind of match-making, whereby the best essays and scripts from the community can be used as input to video animators from the community. That way, good multimedia design and technical execution could be combined with good futurist ideas. The result would be videos that could quickly go viral, in the process changing the minds of many viewers (in a positive direction hopefully).

I’m not looking for fully qualified expert video animators – just for people who know a few of the basics and who are willing to learn more in joint projects with other community members. Please get in touch.

5.) HOA Interview with Brenda Mathisen of Metamed, 9th Sept

Metamed is an extremely interesting company in the “personalised medicine” space. Headquartered in New York, their team of executives and sponsors includes Michael Vassar, Jaan Tallinn, Zvi Mowshowitz, Alyssa Vance, Sarah Constantin, and Laura Baur.

At GF2045 in New York last year, I had a fascinating discussion with Michael Vassar about the disruptive potential of Metamed. It was one of the most interesting discussions in a weekend that was already remarkable.

That’s why I was pleased to see that Brenda Mathisen, Executive Vice President of Metamed, is the featured guest on an online Hangout On Air (HOA) event that is taking place tomorrow, from 7pm to 8pm UK time.

If you have a G+ account, you can watch the event here – and also ask questions in real-time, using the Q&A app inside that page. I recommend you RSVP ‘Yes’ in advance, so Google will send you a reminder when the event is due to start.

This event uses the same HOA and Q&A mechanisms that I often use for London Futurists online events. It is hosted by the intriguingly-named “Eternal Life Fan Club” (ELFC). The ELFC describes the event as follows:

ELFC will be interviewing Brenda Mathisen, an expert in personalized medicine. Brenda is the Executive Vice President of MetaMed Research, Inc. a company that is a leading pioneer in PersonalizedMedical Research.

Brenda is very knowledgeable about diet and lifestyle choices for ideal health and longevity. If you want to learn about how personalized medicine can help maximize your health, then you don’t want to miss this great opportunity!

RSVP to this live Q&A or if you cannot attend, submit your questions ahead of time: EternalLifeFan@gmail.com

This interview will be very useful to anyone who wants to reach longevity escape velocity!

6.) The new future of old age, 27th Sept

For another take on health and longevity, we have our own event “The new future of old age” taking place in Birkbeck College on Saturday 27th September.

I’ve been fortunate to assemble a top-class panel of speakers for this event – William Bains, Michael Price, Alex Zhavoronkov, and Sebastian Sethe – who will each give their assessment of “what’s new in the field of old age”:

• What are some of the most significant research findings and other potential breakthroughs from the last five years?
• What is the likelihood of significant practical change in healthy longevity within, say, the next 10-20 years?
• What would be the economic, social, and psychological implications of such changes?
• Are there any new grounds for scepticism or fear regarding these potential changes?
• If individuals wish to help accelerate these changes, what should they do?
• What are the major obstacles that could prevent real progress being made?

Please see the event description for more details of the panellists, and to register to attend.

As with all our events in Birkbeck, there will be plenty of time for audience members to raise questions and observations from the floor.

7.) Hangout on Air on Augmented Reality, Thurs 25th Sept

Here’s another online HOA you might want to join. This one is run by the IEEE (tagline: “Advancing technology for humanity”; description: “The world’s largest professional association for the advancement of humanity”).

The title of this event is “A Scenario for AR in 2020”. “AR” is “Augmented Reality”. Panellists so far announced include: Brian Wassom, Partner at Honigman Miller Schwartz and Cohn LLP; and me, Chair, London Futurists.

This is taking place 4pm-5pm UK time on Thursday 25th Sept. You can register to attend by clicking here, on the G+ event page. Here are some excerpts from the description from that page of what will be discussed:

During this Google+ Hangout invited experts will discuss the potential societal, security and professional risks when people are surrounded by sensor-rich objects connected to omniscient cloud-based services.

In the “Skeletons of Empires” scenario for the future, there are many serious political, economic and social problems. People feel that they have not only lost their privacy, but their liberty as well. They feel helpless and scared. In this ‘Scenario for AR in 2020’ no one knows who is evil and who to trust; everyone wants to blame someone else.

The panel discussion will focus on identifying the likely signposts that we could detect if this scenario is approaching, the costs of such a scenario emerging and how to mitigate the negative impacts of our connected future.

• Who could gain control of our data or benefit from such a scenario and how?
• What are the early indicators of technology getting into the “wrong hands”?
• Are some geographic regions at greater risk than others?
• Are some socioeconomic groups more insulated or exposed?
• What are the likely roles of technologies, legislation, law and policy today and in the future to prevent such a scenario?

Find out what our experts believe and predict during this live Google+ Hangout on Air episode of the AR in Your Future series.

Moderator: Christine Perey | PEREY Research & Consulting.

Tweet your questions to our panel using the hashtag #IEEEar

8.) Re.work technology seminar, 18-19 September

Re.Work are hosting a two-day event “Re.Work Technology” at LSO St Luke’s, Old Street, London EC1V on 18-19 September. They have 50 speakers lined up and are expecting around 250 attendees. You can see all the details on their website.

There are no early-bird tickets left, but full-price tickets are still available. Note that the fee is heavily discounted for startups, students, and academics.

9.) Start-up Institute London

I’m forwarding this note on behalf of the Start-up Institute London.

Ready to take the plunge and look for a job in a cool London startup? Check out Startup Institute – London launching on October 6th!

Startup Institute  trains the next generation of startup and tech talent and has over 600 alumni working for startups around the world. Startup Institute teaches technical skills such as Web Development, Product & Design, Technical Marketing, or Sales & Account Management.  They also teach you what it takes to work in a startup environment and boast a 90% placement rate. In the London programme you’ll be taught by and meet instructors from companies like Yelp, Twitter, City Socializer, Geckoboard, Bought by Many, Silicon Valley Bank, and more. You’ll network with people from small startups through to big high-growth tech companies.

We’re pleased to offer our London Futurists community a 10% discount – just tell them London Futurists sent you when you apply.  If you’ve got questions, reach out to Jessica Salmon, or read about them in Fast Company.

10.) How human will posthumans be? – Sat 25th Oct

Our meetup this Saturday, on the Proactionary Imperative, isn’t the only one in our schedule that has a philosophical flavour. Step forwards to Saturday 25th October and we’ll have the pleasure to host Open University Philosophy lecturer Dr David Roden. The topic will be “How human will posthumans be?”

This event will feature ideas and themes from the presenter’s recently published book “Posthuman Life: Philosophy at the Edge of the Human”.

Here’s an excerpt from the description of this event:

It is common to imagine posthumans as humans made superhumanly intelligent or resilient by future advances in nanotechnology, biotechnology, information technology and cognitive science. Many argue that these enhanced people might live better lives; others fear that tinkering with our nature will undermine our sense of our own humanity. Whoever is right, it is generally assumed that our technological successor will be an upgraded or degraded version of us: Human 2.0.

However, in Posthuman Life, David Roden argues that this enhancement debate projects a human face onto an empty screen. We actually do not know what will happen and, not being posthuman, cannot anticipate how posthumans will assess the world.

Posthuman Life develops a position called “speculative posthumanism” which the author distinguishes from both:

• “Critical Posthumanism” – which seeks to “deconstruct” the philosophical centrality of the human subject in epistemology, ethics and politics;

• Transhumanism – which proposes the technical enhancement of humans and their capacities.

Posthuman Life argues that only a truly speculative posthumanism can support an ethics that meets the challenge of the transformative potential of technology.

For more details, and to register to attend, click here.

11.) Joint meetup with TZM and SFF – Tues 23rd Sept

In case you prefer activist futurism to philosophical debate, you’ll probably be interested in the meetup “Can technology and positive values revolutionise society?” that is being jointly organised by The Zeitgeist Movement UK, London Futurists, and the Social FuturistForum, on Tuesday 23rd September:

We live in an age of converging promise and risk. Technological development is accelerating and creating great promise for a better future, but at the same time grave risks are multiplying at an unprecedented rate. Can a combination of emerging technologies, positive values and the scientific method help us achieve radical positive change?

There will be two speakers at this event: James Phillips of TZM UK, and Amon Twyman (founder of Zero State and the WAVE research institute).

For more details, and to register to attend, see here.

12.) Smartphones and beyond

Finally, allow me to answer the question which a member of London Futurists asked me recently: “What do you do, when you’re not writing long and interesting newsletters?”

My answer is that I have been writing a long and (hopefully) interesting book: “Smartphones and beyond: lessons from the remarkable rise and fall of Symbian”:

The smartphone industry has seen both remarkable successes and remarkable failures over the last two decades. Developments have frequently confounded the predictions of apparent expert observers. What does this rich history have to teach analysts, researchers, technology enthusiasts, and activists for other forms of technology adoption and social improvement?

In Smartphones and beyond, David Wood, the only executive to remain on the Symbian leadership team throughout virtually the entirety of the company’s history, gives a “warts and all” account of the remarkable rise and fall of that company, and its role in pioneering the smartphone industry. En route, he suggests numerous practical lessons relevant to the future evolution of other forms of smart technology.

After spending the best part of two years, off and on, writing this book, it’s my great pleasure to have e-published it last week. And at this moment, it’s currently listed as the #1 best-selling book in “Mobile & Wireless Communications” at Amazon. Initial reviews confirm that people find it interesting and useful 🙂

// David W. Wood
Chair, London Futurists

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