London Futurists news, 9th July 2016

Dear Futurists,

The following items cover events which you’ll probably find interesting.

1.) The Guardian, Utopia, and Transhumanism – Thurs 25th August

Guardian Live are holding an event at London’s Somerset House on the evening of Thursday 25th August, with the intriguing title UTOPIA 2016: Transhumanism and the future of ‘you’. The main speaker is long-time friend of London Futurists, Anders Sandberg from the Future of Humanity Institute at Oxford University. In my experience, Anders always has fascinating things to say.

Utopia and Transhumanism

For more information, and to register for this event, see here. Extract:

Transhumanism is a philosophy that humanity can, and should, strive to higher levels, both physically, mentally and socially. It encourages research into such areas as life extension, cryonics, nanotechnology, physical and mental enhancements, uploading human consciousness into computers and megascale engineering.

Join Dr Anders Sandberg from Oxford University’s Future of Humanity Institute as he presents the latest technologies and imagined possibilities of what future humans could look like. Science editor of the Guardian Ian Sample will then lead a Q&A with Anders and the audience to examine the ever blurring line between technology and ourselves.

This event is part of UTOPIA 2016: A Year of Imagination and Possibility at Somerset House.

Throughout 2016 Guardian Live and Somerset House will collaborate to celebrate the 500th anniversary of the publication of Thomas More’s Utopia. More was the first to give a name and form to an idea that has captured the human imagination throughout history: that by imagining a better world is possible, we are empowered to create it. To celebrate More’s vision this series of talks will explore challenges facing contemporary culture and society, and the pivotal role that the arts and culture play in creating the space where dreams can take root.

Hyesoon & I will both be there. I look forward to seeing other London Futurists at the event.

2.) Yuval Noah Harari on the rise of Homo Deus – Mon 5th Sept

Someone whose thinking exceeds the span even of Thomas More and Utopia is the historian Yuval Noah Harari. His book Sapiens: A Brief History of Humankind was one of the most fascinating reads over the last two years. His new book, Homo Deus: A Brief History of Tomorrow, continues where Sapiens left off.

Intelligence Squared have organised an event with Harari to launch the English language version of Homo Deus at London’s Emmanuel Centre on Monday 5th September.

HomoDeus_Poster

You can find more details of this event here. Extract:

Yuval Noah Harari is the superstar historian who shot to international fame with his bestseller Sapiens: A Brief History of Humankind. Bill Gates reads him on holiday. Mark Zuckerberg picked him for his book club. When Harari came to the Intelligence Squared stage in 2015, his event sold out in days. Now, on September 5th, he returns to Intelligence Squared for his only major appearance in London, to mark the publication of his new book Homo Deus: A Brief History of Tomorrow.

Covering 70,000 years of human evolution, Sapiens captured the history of humankind in just 400 pages. In it, Harari described how our unique ability to believe in collective myths – whether religion, human rights, or money – enabled us to become the dominant species of the planet. Harari will now ask what is set to happen to our cherished values of liberal humanism as technology threatens to thrust us towards a new stage of evolution.

Algorithms and artificial intelligence are fast overtaking our cognitive abilities. What will happen to democracy, Harari will ask, if and when Google and Facebook come to know our likes and our political preferences better than we know them ourselves? Medicine may soon dangle the possibility of prolonging human life indefinitely and of upgrading our minds and bodies through gene-editing and biotechnology. If our species then divides into two groups – mere flesh-and-blood humans and those who have been technologically enhanced – what social eruptions might ensue? The gap between these two distinct classes of humans, Harari will suggest, could be bigger than the gap between homo sapiens and Neanderthals.

Join Harari on September 5th and hear what may lie ahead for the next stage of human evolution. As Harari will argue, the more we understand of these possible technological revolutions, the better placed we are to influence their course. ‘This is the best reason to learn history,’ Harari says. ‘Not in order to predict the future, but to free ourselves of the past and imagine alternative destinies.’

3.) Our geopolitical futures – Sat 16th July

Which scenarios for the future of geopolitics deserve most attention?

That question is always one of the most important ones to think about. It deserves even more attention in the turmoil of renewed political debate in the wake of the EU referendum discussion in the UK.

In the London Futurists meetup on Saturday 16th July, Alun Rhydderch, co-founder of the School of International Futures (SOIF), will be sharing some of his key insights about trends and possibilities in the global political space.

Newsletter Meeting image

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

Note: The School of International Futures (SOIF) is a not-for-profit institution created to support the use of Strategic Foresight by international policy officials, business leaders, analysts and activists. SOIF Consulting puts the School’s expertise and resources to work more widely, across the public and private sectors. SOIF works with its clients to:

  • Scan their strategic horizon
  • Analyse and address upcoming issues
  • Assess and strengthen their Strategic foresight capability
  • Create a real-world impact

4.) 3D printing and manufacturing – Wed 20th July

From time to time, London Futurists supports events organised by DSMLF – the Digital and Social Media Leadership Foundation – which is a membership organisation with the goal of enabling members to stay abreast of new social and digital technology.

DSMLF are kindly making a number of complimentary tickets available to London Futurists for their event on the morning of Wednesday 10th July, entitled 3D Printing and Manufacturing.

web-3D-july

3D printing is the process of creating a physical object by printing it layer upon layer from a digital 3D drawing or model. It has the potential to create very complex products without complex bespoke equipment. It also enables rapid iterative design and mass customisation, and is likely to significantly reduce costs of transport and waste.

According to the World Economic Forum, the first 3D-printed car will be in production in 2022. Eventually 3D printers will be able to do what a whole factory was once required to accomplish. Over time, 3D printers will overcome the obstacles of speed, cost and size, and become more pervasive. What are the implications?

This meeting is an opportunity to explore the different capabilities of 3D printing, the resulting market impact, and new business models for this emerging technology.

I’ll be joining representatives from PwC and other companies on the panel at this event.

Important: As space is limited, all attendees must register in advance, via this EventBrite link. RSVPing via the London Futurists meetup page for this event does not confirm your registration.

5.) Postcapitalism and a World Without Work – Sat 20th Aug

Inventing the Future: Postcapitalism and a World Without Work is a major new book that argues for a novel set of alternatives for the future – alternatives which seek to rekindle a popular modernity. The book lists three “demands” on its front cover: Demand full automation, Demand basic universal income, and Demand the future.

Inventing_the_Future-cover

At the London Futurists event on Saturday 20th August, the authors of this book, political scientists Nick Srnicek and Alex Williams, present their vision for that better future, along with their analysis of shortcomings in recent political movements.

I find their vision to be both provocative and plausible. In a time when many political parties are having a crisis of identity, Srnicek and Williams have a message that deserves to be heard.

Their book claims that the emancipatory and future-oriented possibilities of our society can be reclaimed. Instead of running from a complex future, the authors envisage a post-capitalist economy which is capable of advancing living standards, liberating humanity from work, and developing technologies which free us from biological and environmental constraints.

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

6.) The end of banking? – Sat 10th Sept

Will fintech overthrow the forces that crashed our financial system?

Fintech is the segment of the technology startup scene that stands poised to disrupt the operation of money transfers, loans, mobile payments, asset management, and fundraising. Fintech has sparked the hope that finance will become more transparent and democratic. In the current setting, however, fintech may end up destabilizing our financial system just as financial innovation did a decade before. We cannot just sit back and hope positive change will happen.

In the view of Jonathan McMillan, the author of the recent book The End of Banking, we urgently need to properly adapt the rules of banking to the digital age. Only then will the digital revolution unfold its creative power and transform our financial system for good.

The End of Banking book cover

Jonathan has strong views on how to end the dysfunctional banking system and replace it with a transparent, decentralized, and modern financial system. In the London Futurists event on Saturday 10th September, Jonathan will lead the audience along a fascinating journey covering the history of banking, money, financial crises, and how things started to change radically with the onset of the digital revolution unfolding in the 1970s.

His presentation is likely to leave the audience seeing banking and the ongoing financial crisis in a new light. We’ll be able to assess a possible “End of Banking”.

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

7.) Video of event “Scenarios for the future of healthy life extension”

We’re continuing to experiment with different ways of recording London Futurists meetings, so that a wider audience can view them.

Many thanks are due to Rich O’Regan for directing and editing the video of our most recent event, “Scenarios for the future of healthy life extension”.

DW Scenarios for life extension Slide 18

The video is available here. It incorporates film taken by three separate cameras (one manned by Martin Dinov). The sound quality is a lot better than in most of our previous videos. Hopefully it will be a pleasant experience to watch it. And an interesting experience too!

8.) Video of RSA event “How to Live to 100″

The topic of significantly extended healthspans is becoming more and more mainstream. One sign of this is the recent book The 100 year life by two eminent professors from London Business School:

  • Andrew Scott, Professor of Economics at London Business School, and Fellow of All Souls, Oxford University and the Centre for Economic Policy Research
  • Lynda Gratton, Professor of Management Practice at London Business School, where she directs the program ‘Human Resource Strategy in Transforming Companies’ – often considered the world’s leading program on human resources.

the-100-year-life

The two authors spoke about their book at an event at the RSA last Thursday:

What will your 100-year life look like? Does the thought of working for 60 or 70 years fill you with dread? Or can you see the potential for a more stimulating future as a result of having so much extra time?

Offsetting the excess of negative debate about longevity, Lynda Gratton and Andrew Scott take a fundamentally different approach – seeing long life an opportunity for a fundamental restructuring of finances and careers, and of relationships and leisure – in other words, for a redesign of life.

Many of us have been raised on the traditional notion of a three-stage approach to our working lives: education, followed by work and then retirement. But this well-established pathway is already beginning to collapse – life expectancy is rising, final-salary pensions are vanishing, and increasing numbers of people are juggling multiple careers.

In a multiple-stage life how can we all learn to prepare for and navigate the transitions and choices to make the best of a longer life?

The RSA website has published a video of that event. It’s well worth watching.

Professors Gratton and Scott consider future scenarios for healthy life extension that are less radical than the ones I look at in my own book, The Abolition of Aging. But I see their book as an important step to gently opening people’s minds to the wider possibilities ahead. It’s pleasantly written, intelligently constructed, and easy to read.

9.) Overseas events on healthy longevity

If you’re willing to consider events outside of London, and you’re serious about improving healthy longevity (possibly even the abolition of aging), here are two events to look into:

I’ll be taking part in both – chairing a session at RAAD Fest, and speaking about healthspan extension activism at EHA2016.

EHA 2016

10.) Overseas event on the future of mind – New York, Wed 20th July

Continuing the theme of events outside of London’s M25 outer-ring motorway, here’s an event that looks particularly interesting. It’s the Future of Mind symposium, in New York on Wednesday 20th July. The organisers are Ben Goertzel (Vice chair, Humanity+) and Ed Keller (Associate Professor, The New School, NYC).

flammarion_crop

For more details, and to secure tickets before they all run out, see here. Extract:

What form of cognition will be salient in our corner of the universe 50 years from now?  Our models of mind have been forced to evolve radically in recent years, in the wake of accelerating scientific, mathematical, computational and cultural advancements.  The Extended Mind Hypothesis, the Global Brain, Machine Consciousness, Artificial General Intelligence, Open Ended Intelligence and a host of other cutting-edge concepts are all part of this expanding landscape of cognitive models.

Provocatively- if the Technological Singularity envisioned by scientists like Ray Kurzweil and SF writers like Vernor Vinge arrives mid-century as foreseen- then the concept of intelligence will be expanded even more broadly. We may find ourselves living in a world populated by literally millions of ‘kinds’ of intelligence, distributed across our planet and the local neighborhood of our solar system, occupying the macro, nano and femto scales, and perhaps penetrating aspects of reality we cannot now imagine.

In this workshop we will explore the future possibilities of intelligence in the broadest way possible.   What kinds of minds will future AGIs and robots possess?   What kinds of collective intelligence will emerge among humans, cyborgs, robots, and AIs?  What new types of complex self-organizing dynamics will arise, stretching beyond our current concept of “intelligence”?   What will our current notions of “ethics”, “consciousness” and “creativity” look like from the perspective of 2050 or 2200?   What are the questions we should be asking about the future of mind and the mind of the future?

FUTURE of MIND will feature a series of panels moderated by  Dr. Goertzel and Prof. Keller, combining contributions of expert panelists with those of audience members. Brief presentations by panelists will be followed by discussions encouraging  participants and audience to develop a day long conversation.

11.) World Future 2016 – Washington DC, 22-24 July

London Futurists has been running, in various forms, since March 2008. That makes it a veritable youngster when compared to the World Future Society (WFS). The WFS was founded in 1966, so this year it’s celebrating its fiftieth anniversary.

As a mark of that milestone, World Future 2016 is taking place in Washington DC, 22-24 July. The theme of that event is “A brighter future is possible”.

World Future 2016

Sessions at this event to which I’m particularly looking forward include:

  • Foresight in Government: Sharing Lessons Learned
  • Life Extension – What You Can Start Doing Today (Jim Karas)
  • The Future Orgs: Collaborating for a Brighter Future
  • The Digital Revolution in Motion
  • Techno-Optimism: New Thinking in the Age of Futuristic Technologies (Gray Scott)
  • New Ways to Infuse Future Thinking Into Governance
  • The Future of Longevity (Claudia Aguirre)
  • The Future of Sustainability: Mainstreaming Conscious Capital and Company Models
  • Utopia or Dystopia / Work Technology 2050 (Jerome Glenn).

Along with Rodney Hill (Presidential Professor, Texas A&M University), Michael Zey (Professor, Montclair State University), and Paul Tinari (CTO JOOM3D.COM Technologies Inc, I’ll be taking part in a panel on the final morning entitled “The Future of Health, Wellness & Longevity”. It’s likely to be a busy 60 minutes 🙂

// David W. Wood
Chair, London Futurists

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