London Futurists news, 9th Oct 2014

Dear Futurists,

Please find below a selection of news items which I think will interest many of you.

1.) London launch of “Network Society”

Technology entrepreneur and visionary David Orban, long-time friend of London Futurists, describes his new initiative “Network Society” as follows, http://netsoc.org/:

Preparing for the coming social infrastructure phase change

A set of simultaneous technologies is growing exponentially, with the common feature of being decentralized, and organized in a network. This contrasts with the centralized and hierarchical organization oftoday’s traditional society and its basic functions. The shift from the old to the new structure will subject the Nation State to an unprecedented pressure. The Network Society project creates a vision and analytical tools to allow individuals, enterprises and the society at large to deal positively with this unstoppable change.

There are more details online at http://netsoc.org/manifesto/ and related pages. On Facebook, announcing an event in London to launch Network Society, David writes,

The Fundamental Thesis Of The Network Society:
1. Widespread social and economic change only happens once a solid technological basis evolves to make it sustainable.
2. Globally distributed and decentralized technologies have emerged that achieve superior results with respect to centralized and hierarchical ones.
3. These unstoppable technologies undermine and disrupt the Nation State’s supporting pillars. The resulting socioeconomic organization is the Network Society.

On Tuesday evening, 14th October, from 6pm onwards, an event will take place in central London (venue to be announced):

Organized by Network Society’s UK Ambassador Philip Sheldrake, this meeting will be an opportunity to discuss how the legislation in the UK is supporting or hindering the adoption of technologies and organizations reflecting the changes around the Network Society.

For more details, and to register your intent to participate, see the event page on Facebook.

2.) Discounted attendance at Singularity University Summit Europe

Several of the themes covered by Network Society also feature in the Summit Europe being held by the Singularity University in Amsterdam on 19-20 November.

The theme of this event will be: “Ignition: Embrace tomorrow by launching today”.

Here’s what attendees can expect from the summit:

More information and tickets for this two-day event are available on the official site. Normal tickets cost €2000 (plus VAT).

The good news is that a small number of special tickets are being reserved for the extended London Futurists community in the UK, with a €500 discount. To obtain this discount, use partner code ‘SUMMITUK’ when you register.

3.) Peace Grand Challege essay contest

One UK-based member of the extended London Futurists community will win free entry to the Singularity University Summit Europe. That’s the person who wins the Peace Grand Challenge that was announced a few days ago.

Full details of this essay contest are available at https://londonfuturists.com/peace-grand-challenge/. In this contest, Singularity University and London Futurists invite applicants to submit an essay describing their idea on the subject ‘Innovative solutions for world peace, 2014-2034’.

The contest is running on a tight timetable. Entrants must submit their essay to the email address lf.grandchallenge@gmail.com by noon on Wednesday 29th October 2014. The winner and three runners-up will be announced no later than Friday 7th November.

So far, I’ve received two sets of reaction to this contest:

*) The subject matter is too hard – people will be deterred from entering

*) There are some easy solutions to existing global violent flashpoints, which our current political leaders are too weak to pursue.

In both cases, I urge people to “seize the day” and set down their thoughts in an essay. The panel of judges will be looking at a number of attributes, including

  • Ability of the proposed solution to impact millions of people
  • Smart use of technology
  • Project feasibility (including sociological credibility)
  • Applicant profile, achievements, and potential.

We hope to publish a number of the best essays online, shortly after the conclusion of the contest.

We also hope that the winner of the contest will agree to speak to a London Futurists meetup, some time in the month or so after the Europe Summit, to share some of their experiences and learnings from the Summit.

My thanks go to Singularity University, and especially their UK ambassador, Mike Halsall, for their involvement and support in this project.

4.) Viewing of the film The Immortalists

All tickets for the screening of the film The Immortalists at the Brixton Ritzy on Saturday 18th October have now been sold. That’s a good sign – it seems that plenty of people are interested in the fascinating subject of extending healthy lifespan.

That does also mean, however, that no-one else can join this premier viewing. But you can consider two other options:

*) The film is also being shown at the Vue West End Cinema at 6.30pm on Wednesday 15th October

*) Regardless of which of these two screenings you attend – or even if you attend neither of them – you’ll be welcome to join a gathering of London Futurists in the Prince of Wales bar, Brixton (just across the road from the Ritzy) from 5.30pm onwards on Saturday 18th. The bar have agreed to reserve some space for us, on their ground floor.

The two co-directors of The Immortalists – David Alvarado of Structure Films, and Jason Sussberg of Dogpatch Films – have agreed to join us in the Prince of Wales for at least part of this gathering.

For more details of the film, the Ritzy, and this post-screening gathering, see the corresponding meetup page.

5.) Videos of two previous events – now available

A full video recording of our recent meetup, “Can technology and positive values revolutionise society?”, which was held jointly with TZM UK and the Social Futurist Forum, is now available here.

Many thanks to Stephen Oberauer for the Herculean task of filming and then editing this 153 minute video! It’s great to be reminded of everything that was said during the event.

Also available is a full video recording of another recent meetup, “The new future of old age”. This recording can be found here. Thanks are due in this case to Kiran Manam for the camerawork.

This video is actually the second one we have published from this particular meeting. The second one incorporates an improved audio stream – thanks to Alberto Rizzoli. (The audio is still sub-par – a consequence of the poor acoustics of the room in which we held that meeting. We continue to live and learn…)

6.) Killer apps for Bitcoin (and the blockchain technology)

Here’s the start of an article from a couple of days ago by Adam Ludwin, founder of Chain.com. The article is entitled “Bitcoin’s killer apps”:

Most people think about bitcoin as an alternative to something they already know, as opposed to an enabler of something they never considered.

In 1985, Steve Jobs was asked by a journalist for concrete reasons why anyone would buy a computer for the home. He answered that “so far, that’s more of a conceptual market than a real market.”

He went on to say that if you aren’t buying a PC to help you do business work at home, then you probably want one because “you know there’s something going on, you don’t exactly know what it is, so you want to learn.” But, he added, “This will change: computers will be essential in most homes.”

When the journalist pressed him to explain why, he predicted the internet, saying “The most compelling reason for most people to buy a computer for the home will be to link it into a nationwide communications network,” adding, “We’re just in the beginning stages of what will be a truly remarkable breakthrough for most people — as remarkable as the telephone.”

A lot of people thought he was crazy.

Bitcoin is in the same place today. Many people are intrigued because they can feel “something is going on.” But they wonder how buying a sandwich with bitcoin is better than using, say, a credit card. As with many breakthroughs, most people think about bitcoin as an alternative to something they already know, as opposed to an enabler of something they never considered.

To get from here to the future, we need to start imagining and building services that are not simply bitcoin versions of existing financial products, but are novel systems that solve problems that could not be solved until the advent of bitcoin.

These will be bitcoin’s killer apps…

I’ll leave you to read the rest of this article for yourself. But I will note that David Orban lists the blockchain (the technology underlying Bitcoin) as one of eight areas of fundamental technology disruption, in the manifesto of Network Society (refer back to news item 1 above, in case you skipped it before):

The mathematical invention of the Blockchain, and its implementation with Bitcoin has revolutionized the world of payments. But even more generally, the explosion of innovative cryptocurrencies and their applications, offers an alternative to central banks, financial institutions and their products and services. Decentralized, viral, accessible to all, the new world of Bitcoin promises solutions that lead to the emancipation of the individual, and to the increase of creative entrepreneurial initiative. We are already in the implementation phase of insights on how notaries, legal services, and investment and startup funding can be based on a similar algorithmic approach.

On Saturday 8th November, Stephan Tual, the CCO of Ethereum, will be speaking to London Futurists about this same general area. The event is entitled “The upcoming decentralization singularity”:

What are the wider consequences of the innovative technology that underpins the Bitcoin currency? This meetup features Ethereum CCO Stephan Tual, who will highlight some far-reaching scenarios, including the establishment of Decentralized Autonomous Organizations.

About Ethereum:

Ethereum is a worldwide, decentralized singleton in current development with a go live date of March 2015. Ethereum’s promise is to leverage this singleton to build a new web, but without the webservers, and therefore without the middlemen so costly to everyday’s transactions…

For more details of this event, and to RSVP to attend, click here.

7.) How human will posthumans be?

What’s the likely outcome of all the technology and social trends covered in the preceding news items? Some writers anticipate the emergence of what might be called “posthumans”, at the end of what was previously “the human era”.

Open University lecturer in philosophy, David Roden, notes that 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, David’s recent book “Posthuman Life: Philosophy at the Edge of the Human” 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.

On Saturday 25th October, London Futurists are holding an event features the author of Posthuman Life who will address the question “How human will posthumans be?”.

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

8.) Transvision 2014

Before we become posthuman, there’s a transitional phase, sometimes called “transhumanism”, that we need to assess. Is it a step that we want to take? Do we seek to transcend human limitations (limitations in body, mind, and society), or do we think it best to remain within the boundaries provided for us by our evolutionary history up till now?

20-22 October sees arguably the most important event in 2014 dedicated to the general topic of transhumanism. It’s a gathering in Paris, in which presentations will be given in both French and English (with translation taking place for those of us whose progress towards posthuman intelligence does not yet include bilingual mastery of French and English).

The event is described at http://transvision2014.org/. All of the first batch of tickets have been sold, but I understand that the organisers are trying to find a way to accommodate some more attendees. I suggest you keep your eye on that website.

Note: the organisers of Transvision would welcome additional financial sponsorship, especially to improve the translation that will be taking place at the event. If you think you (or an organisation or company you represent) would like to help this task, please get in touch!

9.) An event featuring Mark Stevenson

One of the most popular presenters at our Anticipating 2025 event back in March was Mark Stevenson. (For the video of him speaking, see this page, which contains complete recordings from these two days.)

For a chance to listen to more of what Mark has to say, consider attending the event “The future – and how to be ready for it”, which is taking place 10.30-18.00 on Sunday 11 January 2015. (Yes, 2015.)

Here’s an excerpt from the Eventbrite page for the event:

A short course on personal strategies for success in an uncertain world (without any ‘self-help’ nonsense)

Featuring:

  • Mark Stevenson, Futurist and author of An Optimist’s Tour of the Future and We do things differently here: travels on the cutting edge of change (due 2015)
  • Oliver Burkeman, Author, The Antidote: Happiness for People Who Can’t Stand Positive Thinking and Help!: How to Become Slightly Happier and Get a Bit More Done.
  • John-Paul Flintoff, Improviser. Maker. Writer. Books include Sew Your Own, How To Change The World, and What If The Queen Should Die?

You’ve probably noticed the world is changing. Accepted wisdom no longer holds true, as technology and social transformations challenge our ideas of how to build a career, create space for our families to prosper, find focus amid the distraction, or have time to rest, travel, and play. And that’s before even considering the existential crises of climate change and ever-present economic insecurity…

‘Constant agility!’ is the mantra. It’s this, we’re told, that will let us deal with all the stress, uncertainty and ambiguity. The only problem is that this often just seems to invite more stress, uncertainty and ambiguity. But handling change – and enjoying the process – can be simpler than you think. This one-day course gives you the tools.

Bringing together societal, personal and technological perspectives, The future – and how to be ready for it pulls no punches and is based on thousands of hours of practically applicable research. You won’t be required to go on an inner journey, or make a ridiculous five-year plan. What you will get is:

  • a solid context for how and why the world will change in the next 30 years
  • what that could mean for you
  • instantly graspable, practical approaches for enjoying the journey and increasing your creativity and contentment along the way.

10.) A reminder: Anticipating 2025 the book

If you missed our Anticipating 2025 event in March, or you’d like to read a series of articles by the presenters, audience members, and other writers, on the themes of that conference:

Then you may be interested in the book “Anticipating 2025: A guide to the radical changes that may lie ahead, whether or not we’re ready”.

As stated in the foreword to the book:

The authors of the chapters in Anticipating 2025 share the broad view that remarkable changes could be taking place in human lifestyles and in social structures by 2025 – or that if such changes have not yet transpired by that time, the popular mindset could be much more open towards the likelihood and desirability of such changes. The magnitude of these impending changes far exceeds the typical thinking of most of our present-day leaders in the fields of politics, business, and academia – leaders who are “caught in the present”, or who are too accustomed to thinking in linear rather than in exponential terms.

In Anticipating 2025, the authors give their diverse views as to which future scenarios are technically feasible and which are desirable. They also highlight the best steps to take to bring these desirable visions into reality, despite the many and varied roadblocks that are likely to be encountered en route.

As befits a critically important discussion, the authors expound a variety of viewpoints, via a range of different writing styles. Readers are urged to explore these chapters widely, leaving aside their comfort zones and briefly suspending their familiar thought patterns. That’s the best way to prepare for the possible roller-coaster transformations and tumults of the years ahead.

The book is available from Amazon sites worldwide, including Amazon UK and Amazon US.

// David W. Wood
Chair, London Futurists

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