Many thanks to all of you for making 2014 the most successful year yet for London Futurists. We sailed past the 3,000 member landmark a few weeks ago. This couldn’t have happened without all the thought-provoking presentations, panel contributions, and audience participation that took place throughout the year. Together, we are envisioning, understanding, and influencing a better future.
If you missed meetings during 2014, you can find video recordings (and/or audio recordings) for many of them at https://londonfuturists.com/previous-meetings/.
Thanks to our team of camera operators, led by Kiran Manam, we’ve been capturing these videos for viewers around the world. They’ve been well-received. I was particularly gratified at a remark by Professor of Pathology at University of Alberta, Edmonton, Canada, Kim Solez, when he said “Take the time to watch this video by David Wood. It will be the most valuable two hours you have spent in a long time!” He was referring to this recording of our event on 6th December.
2.) Meetups in January 2015
We already have a couple of great meetups scheduled for January 2015:
*) On Saturday 17th January, renowned neuroscience researcher and futurist philosopher Anders Sandberg from the Future of Humanity Institute at Oxford will speak on the subject“What is a fair distribution of brains?”:
How might different groups of people benefit or lose out from various forms of brain enhancement? How does justice intersect with designer neuroscience?
In a post-industrial economy useful individual abilities – human capital – are increasingly important both individually and to society. But acquiring human capital is presently a slow, expensive process of education and training. Human capital can be lost through the processes of aging, or made obsolete as the world changes ever faster. People also vary in their mental abilities, which has significant effects on life outcomes.
Can we do better? And if so, what risks and opportunities arise?
Click here for more info and to RSVP.
*) Two weeks later, on Saturday 31st January, world-leading expert on stem cells, Stephen Minger, the Chief Scientist of GE Healthcare Life Sciences, will speak on the subject “Blue Skies – the future of regenerative medicine”:
In this talk, Dr Stephen Minger will review the state of play with stem cell research, regenerative medicine, and cell-based therapies, before covering some “Blue Skies” technologies that will revolutionise the future of medicine even further.
Click here for more info and to RSVP.
3.) Futurists groups around the world
Do you live near Amsterdam? Then check out the newly formed meetup “Amsterdam Futurists Society”:
What will happen when humans merge with machines? What could the impact of re-engineering our own genome be? Are we really heading towards a technological Singularity? Will we live in Matrix-like environments? Does technology have wants and needs too?
In the meetups we will discuss range of topics including evolution, humanity, culture, technology, nature and everything in between. Focusing on what is, and what may one day be. We will arrange talks, invite speakers, have both informal and more structured, formal evenings, review books, screen related movies and documentaries and create inspiring philosophical sessions of brain jazz on where we’re headed.
On a related topic, I’ve been asked several times for my advice in setting up and running a local futurists group. My friends inside the transhumanist (Humanity+) community have asked me similar questions. For that reason, I started an online document to try to give answers:
This is a working document, collaboratively edited, that seeks to collect the best tips and advice to help Humanity+ chapters:
*) Get started
*) Grow and have more impact
*) Take advantage of useful tools, processes, and platforms
*) Avoid pitfalls that have slowed down other chapters
The advice in this document is intended to be applicable to all groups within the overall Humanity+ umbrella, whether or not these groups:
*) Have an official affiliation with the global Humanity+ organization
*) Operate under an explicit “transhumanist” branding
*) Use a formal structure or are a loose informal body.
The advice may also prove useful to related groups outside the Humanity+ umbrella, such as new Futurist groups.
Let me know if you’d like to be added to the set of people with edit access to this document.
4.) Online futurist-related discussion groups
One area where London Futurists has not succeeded is in hosting a productive online general discussion about futurist issues. We have good online discussions about topics in individual events, but there are many limitations to the discussion capabilities of meetup.
A recently created online group seems to be doing much better. It’s called the Posthuman Network, and can presently be found on Facebook, here. It’s well moderated, and the discussions I chip into, on the group, seem to be broadly sensible and enlightening. I hope to see some of you online there!
5.) Nesta’s Longitude Explorer Prize
If you have family members aged 11-15 (or are particularly youthful yourself), this contest organised by Nesta may be of interest. The details are from Nesta’s website:
Longitude Explorer Prize – enter the challenge
Challenging young people to come up with ideas that use navigational and observational data from satellites for social good.
Longitude Explorer Prize is a youth-focused challenge for secondary school pupils and constituted youth groups aged 11 to 16, which aims to provide a practical education opportunity to link young people to the history of Longitude while supporting them to develop STEM skills for the 21st century.
We are challenging young people to come up with new ideas for products, technologies and services that use satellite information to have a positive impact on the issues that matter to them…
6.) Newsletters archived
It’s been suggested that I make these newsletters easier to link to, so that people can more easily refer to them at later dates, and forward them to colleagues.
For that reason, all the London Futurists newsletters for 2014 are now available in the list here.
For example, today’s newsletter will be available at https://londonfuturists.com/2014/12/30/london-futurists-news-30th-dec-2014/.
7.) A transhumanist manifesto for the UK?
There will be a General Election for the UK Parliament in May 2015. What topics are politicians currently not thinking enough about? What topics would we futurists like politicians to think more about?
Over the last few days, in fast-moving developments, a group of people have come together under the name “UK Transhumanist Party”. That currently only exists on Facebook, but will probably have its own website soon. I’m not sure I like the idea of creating a new political party, but I do like the idea of trying to influence politicians to take futurist and transhumanist ideas more seriously.
For that reason, I’ve drafted a “Transhumanist Manifesto”, which has been undergoing quick group-editing over the last 48 hours. You can find a copy here. It starts as follows:
Accelerating technological progress has the potential to change lives in the next ten years more profoundly than in any preceding ten year period in history. Disruptive technologies are coming sooner than people think, and are going to change society in unexpected ways. These changes include the potential for tremendous upside for both the individual and society, as well as the potential for tremendous risk.
Politicians of all parties urgently need:
*) To think through the consequences of these changes in advance
*) To take part in a wide public discussion and exploration of these changes
*) To adjust public policy in order to favour positive outcomes
Current policymakers rarely tackle the angle of convergent disruptive technologies, which means they are going to be jumping from one surprise to the next.
Transhumanism is the viewpoint that human society should embrace, wisely and thoughtfully, the radical transformational potential of technology. Recent and forthcoming breakthroughs in technology fields such as nanotechnology, synthetic biology, renewable energy, regenerative medicine, brain sciences, big data analytics, robotics, and artificial intelligence can:
*) Enable humans to transcend (overcome) many of the deeply debilitating, oppressive, and risky aspects of our lives
*) Allow everyone a much wider range of personal autonomy, choice, experience, and fulfilment
*) Facilitate improved international relations, social harmony, and a sustainable new cooperation with nature and the environment.
The policies in this manifesto are designed to facilitate these positive transformations whilst avoiding adverse consequences. We will be delighted if other manifestos use these ideas.
The manifesto then lists policy recommendations in each of nine areas:
1. Action for healthy longevity
2. Basic Income Guarantee (BIG), aka Universal Basic Income (UBI)
3. Reform of laws covering drugs and therapies
4. Action to reduce existential risks
5. Education for the future
6. Reform of Intellectual Property law
7. Reform of democratic processes
8. Human and non-human rights
9. Covering the costs of new initiatives
If you’re interested, watch out for news of a series of online hangouts, wiki-editing sessions, etc, as the text is improved, and as the overall strategy is clarified.
// David W.