London Futurists news, 24th Jan 2015

Dear Futurists,

Here are a few items that have caught my eye recently. Thanks to everyone who has emailed me to say they enjoy reading these newsletters.

1.) Can Nanotechnology Save The World?

Tomorrow morning (Sunday 25th January) at London’s Conway Hall, the Conway Hall Ethical Society is hosting Prof. Douglas Paul, Director of the James Watt Nanofabrication Centre at the University of Glasgow. Professor Paul’s subject is “Can Nanotechnology Save The World”.

For more details of that meetup, and to RSVP in advance, see http://www.meetup.com/ConwayHall/events/219475170/. Here’s an extract of what Professor Paul writes:

The media’s focus on nanotechnology suggests that grey goo may kill everyone at some stage in the future. The reality is very different. We all carry and use nanotechnology every day in our smart phones, for the internet, in computers and for entertainment. I will show how nanotechnology techniques have come from the technology making the transistors that are in all our consumer products before presenting recent research where similar technology is being used for gas sensing for improved and safer working environments, to monitor pollution, to reduce carbon dioxide emissions, for security to make our lives safer and for personalised healthcare that could significantly improve our quality of life.

Prior to taking up his role at the University of Glasgow, Prof. Paul was at the Cavendish Laboratory, University of Cambridge. He is a Fellow of the Royal Society of Edinburgh and the Institute of Physics and was the recipient of the Institute of Physics President’s Medal in 2014. He presently or has sat on a number of counter terrorism and security scientific advisory committees in the Cabinet Office, MOD and Home Office. He undertakes research in nanofabrication, transistors, quantum devices, healthcare sensors and energy harvesting.

The meeting is due to start at 11am. The doors open at 10.30am. It’s a relatively small room (the Brockway Room), so my advice is to aim to arrive in good time.

2.) Anticipating the better politics of tomorrow?

A number of London Futurists are in the process of founding a new think tank,Transpolitica. The stated goals of Transpolitica are to:

  • Enable society to transcend the limitations and constraints of today’s political models
  • Anticipate the better political practices of an envisaged transhuman future
  • Advocate the practical policies that will advance that future
  • Engage people at all levels of politics and society around the world, to support and implement these policies
  • Support transhumanists within political parties of all shapes and stripes.

Just as transhumanism (H+) anticipates tomorrow’s humanity, Transpolitica (P+) anticipates tomorrow’s politics.

The co-founding team for Transpolitica will be announced shortly. If you are interested in becoming involved, perhaps with a named role in the organisation, take a look at

3.) Your chance to contribute to a new book

One of Transpolitica’s projects may particularly interest a number of readers of this newsletter. Here are some details – see http://transpolitica.org/projects/book-project/ for more:

Transpolitica invites political thinkers and transhumanists from around the world to become involved in a project to publish a book entitled “Anticipating tomorrow’s politics”.

This project is looking for chapter authors, reviewers, editors, and graphic designers.

The proposed publication date is 21st March 2015. Here is the schedule:

  • Potential chapter writers are requested to submit short abstracts for their chapters by the end of January
  • Chapter writers will be notified shortly afterwards if their proposals are accepted as falling within the specification of the book, and as generating sufficient confidence that a good chapter is likely to result (though this, by itself, won’t guarantee eventual inclusion)
  • People who find out about the book project after the initial deadline will still be able to submit proposals, but it will become increasingly unlikely that their chapter ideas will be accepted for this first publication
  • In all cases, complete publication-ready text needs to be submitted by the end of February
  • The first couple of weeks of March will involve one or more rounds of reviews and improvements, as well as quality checking, and some (potentially hard) decisions about what to include and what to exclude
  • An e-book will be available by 21st March (and, perhaps, a physical copy too – or that might come slightly later).

Depending on the success of this project, follow-up books, on broadly similar themes, might be published at later dates (for example, one new book every three months).

4.) The case for Universal Basic Income

Accelerating technological unemployment, with increasing numbers of people being displaced from the workforce by automation, is likely to cause growing social disruption and increased social inequality and alienation. These developments strengthen the case for a new social contract, with appropriate social, educational, and economic support for those who are left with no viable option of ‘earning a living’ due to unprecedented technological change.

With that in mind, the London Futurists meetup on Sat 14th February examines a possible key element of what might become this new social contract: a universal basic income (UBI). UBI is defined as follows: an amount of money paid on a regular basis to each individual, unconditionally and universally, high enough to ensure a material existence and participation in society.

The speakers at this event, Barb Jacobson and David Jenkins, will share the analysis and perspective of Basic Income UK, and will answer questions on the pros and cons of UBI.

For more details, and to RSVP, see http://www.meetup.com/London-Futurists/events/219886366/.

5.) Basic Income in India, with Professor Guy Standing

If you can’t wait until 14th February to find out more about the real-world evidence from trials of Universal Basic Income, then consider attending the launch this Tuesday (27th Jan) of the book “Basic Income: A Transformative Policy for India”. The launch is taking place from 6.30pm to 8pm at Bloomsbury Publishing in central London.

Tickets for the launch are free, but you are asked to RSVP in advance, here. This is an extract from that site:

What would happen if a monthly basic income was an unconditional right?

You are cordially invited to the launch of Basic Income: A Transformative Policy for India, by Sarath Davala, Renana Jhabvala, Soumya Kapoor Mehta and Guy Standing.

The book draws on a pilot in which over 6,000 men, women and children received a basic income unconditionally for 18 months.

A talk from one of the authors, Professor Guy Standing, will be followed by commentary from Stuart Weir, former editor of the New Statesman. Light refreshments will be served.

Basic Income and Guy Standing’s previous books The Precariat and A Precariat Charterwill be available at a launch discount.

6.) The Carbon War

Over the last few weeks, I’ve been listening to an Audible audiobook version of “This Changes Everything: Capitalism vs. the Climate” by Canadian writer Naomi Klein. I’m not quite finished it yet (I’m around 80% of the way through it) but it’s already one of the books that have made me think the most, out of all the books I’ve read in the last five years.

I’m not aware of when Naomi Klein will be back in the UK, but there is one other writer on climate issues who is based here, who also has fascinating thoughts and experiences in what he calls “The Carbon War”. I’m referring to Jeremy Leggett, whose talk to London Futurists in October 2013 received a number of very positive reviews.

I’m pleased to announce that Jeremy is continuing to write, and has kindly agreed to return to London Futurists to share some of his more recent thinking. That event will be on Sat 11th March. For more details and to RSVP, see http://www.meetup.com/London-Futurists/events/220046966/. Here’s an extract:

Humanity is in a race, a kind of civil war. Believers in a safe future fuelled by endless sunlight and related forms of clean energy combat defenders of finite carbon fuels careless of the impact they have on the world by clinging to coal, oil, and gas.

Jeremy Leggett has fought for the light side for a quarter of a century as it lost battle after battle to the dark side. Then, in 2013, the tide began to turn. It is now clear the light side can win the war. In “The winning of the carbon war”, Leggett’s dispatches from the front lines tell the story of the turnaround years, and what they mean for the world.

7.) A reading group in South London for “This changes everything”

If you’re interested to join a South London reading group about Naomi Klein’s book “This changes everything”, see this Facebook Group. Their idea is to meet every second Tuesday evening, in London SE19 (Crystal Palace). The first event in this fortnightly series is on Tues 27th January.

People who want to attend the first event are requested to read the full Introduction (p 1-28) beforehand, as preparation to join into the discussion fully informed.

I can’t make that first event myself, but I hope to be able to join later ones.

8.) Computational Intelligence Unconference UK 2015

London Futurists was pleased to collaborate in 2014 with the organisers of the CIU UK (Computational Intelligence Unconference). Daniel Lewis, with help from some colleagues, is planning another CIU in summer 2015. Here’s an excerpt from their website:

Computational Intelligence Unconference UK 2015, or CIUUK15, is the 2nd computational intelligence unconference. An unconference is an informal self-organising event which is completely non-profit and volunteer run.

Computational intelligence is collection of techniques which give machines capabilities similar to humans and other life forms. Computational intelligence includes, but is not limited to: Evolutionary algorithms (including genetic algorithms and genetic programming), Swarm intelligence (and herds and shoals/schools), Artificial neural networks and “deep learning”, Fuzzy set theory and fuzzy logic, Autonomous mental development. Applications include anything from data mining to machine learning to search to route finding and even to general problem solving. We can find it in robotics, on web servers for analytics, and data science for “smart cities” and the “internet of things”.

CIUUK14 was a very broad event. From now on we will focus on carefully selected topics for each year. CIUUK15 will have two streams:

  • Smart Cities & Smart Governance
  • Healthcare & medicine

With a specific focus on open data and policy issues, all within the realm of “computational intelligence” (including artificial intelligence, data mining and machine learning).

If you’d like to get involved in the planning and organisation of this conference, please seetheir website.

9.) Blue Skies – the future of regenerative medicine

Dr. Stephen Minger, Chief Scientist, GE Healthcare Life Sciences, is one of the world’s leading experts on stem cells. We’re very fortunate that he will be speaking to London Futurists next Saturday, 31st January. His topic will be “Blue Skies – the future of regenerative medicine”.

In this talk, Dr. 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.

For more details, and to RSVP, see http://www.meetup.com/London-Futurists/events/219480516/.

10.) Videos of previous London Futurists events

Don’t forget that videos of many previous London Futurists events are published on the website https://londonfuturists.com/previous-meetings/.

The most recent addition is the video of last Saturday’s talk by Anders Sandberg of Oxford University, “What is a fair distribution of brains”.

11.) The case for anarchist transhumanism?

From time to time, I run online video hangout meetings, usually on Sunday evenings. Next Sunday, 1st February, I’ll be joined by three panellists to discuss the topic “The case for anarchist transhumanism”. You can find more details on Google+ or on Facebook.

If you watch any of these hangouts using the Google+ interface, you can raise text questions in real-time for the panellists to answer:

  • Be sure you’re logged in with one of your Google+ accounts
  • Press the Start button, to get into the Event video screen
  • If the right hand panel is displaying “Showcase”, you can change it to “Q&A” by pressing the small 3×3 grid menu button
  • Once you see the Q&As already submitted, you can +1 the ones you particularly wish the panellists to answer, or raise your own question. (Tip: keep it short, and end it with a question mark!)

The panellists for the event on 1st February will be:

  • Kris Notaro, Managing Director, IEET
  • Benjamin Abbott Summerspeaker, IEET Affiliate Scholar
  • Waldemar Ingdhahl, director and founder of the Swedish policy think tank Eudoxa

Kris and Summerspeaker are two of the authors of the work-in-progress document “An anarchist transhumanist manifesto”. The document includes the following encouragement at the beginning:

Note to anyone who is unfamiliar with the term “Anarchism”: It may turn you off from the start but be assured that “anarchism” is the evolution of radical democracy, consensus decision making, freedom, and equality.

12.) “Sapiens” Historian Yuval Noah Harari in the UK

“History began when humans invented gods, and will end when humans become gods.” That’s a quote from the website of historian Yuval Noah Harari.

Harari is the author of the book “Sapiens: A brief history of humankind”. The book is backed up by a number of fascinating video lectures, many of which are available online. Here’s the description of that book from its website:

Homo sapiens rules the world because it is the only animal that can believe in things that exist purely in its own imagination, such as gods, states, money and human rights.

Starting from this provocative idea, Sapiens goes on to retell the history of our species from a completely fresh perspective. It explains that money is the most pluralistic system of mutual trust ever devised; that capitalism is the most successful religion ever invented; that the treatment of animals in modern agriculture is probably the worst crime in history; and that even though we are far more powerful than our ancient ancestors, we aren’t much happier.

By combining profound insights with a remarkably vivid language, Sapiens has already acquired almost cultic status among diverse audiences, captivating teenagers as well as university professors, animal rights activists alongside government ministers. It is currently being translated into close to thirty languages.

Harari is speaking at several events in the UK in February. His schedule is published online, here. I’m booked into his event at Foyles bookshop on Thurs 19th February. I hope to see some of you there!

// David W. Wood
Chair, London Futurists

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