Here are some events and projects that have caught my attention. As usual, feel free to skip ahead to the stories that are most relevant to you.
1.) This weekend: The Fourth Group politech hackathon
In my consulting work with businesses and organisations, I often talk about the wide disruptions expected in the wake of what has been called “the fourth industrial revolution”. I was therefore intrigued when I found out about the “Fourth Group”, who are running what they describe as a “politech hackathon” this weekend. It’s taking place at Newspeak House, 133 Bethnal Green Rd, London, E2 7DG.
Here are some extracts from the online description of the event:
The fourth industrial revolution is fundamentally reshaping the global economy and societies, and we are shifting the way we live, work, and play. How must we respond to these changes, and how can we use the technological advancements of this age to create a new politics?
Building upon the momentum from the ideas in our Facebook group, we are hosting our first Politech Hackathon to bring some of the buzzing ideas being discussed to life. We want to bring together people from the political and technology sectors to create a new politics in the context of the fourth industrial revolution. These two communities will be leading the forefront in shaping the future and it only makes sense to be collaborating now.
Over the course of a weekend, participants will ideate and prototype products, services, or platforms to improve politics using tech, data, and political ideas. Want to help change the future of politics to improve the state of the world? Join us.
Our goal: Make politics more inclusive, transparent, open, and diverse, to ensure that it meets its original purpose of bringing people together to address societal problems.
The hackathon is interested in the following themes:
- Automating political tasks
- Creating a new political institution
- Developing a more transparent and accountable political system
- Understanding the public’s political views
For more details, and to register to take part, click here. Note that you can register as a developer, a designer, or an ideator. (Stop Press: the tickets for ideators have sold out…)
2.) Call for submissions: Transpolitica 2016
Several of the themes from the Fourth Group’s hackathon are relevant for another event – “Transpolitica 2016”, which will take place on Saturday 3rd December.
This event has the subtitle “Real world policy changes for a radically better future“.
Tickets to attend aren’t on sale yet, but there’s a request for speakers:
The conference invites submissions from people interested in presenting TED-style thought leadership talks at the event. These presentations should last 15-20 minutes and should convey key practical thoughts to stimulate group discussion.
These TED-style talks will be followed by audience Q&A.
The stated goal of the Transpolitica 2016 conference is to formulate and review policy recommendations which could become the focus of subsequent cross-party campaigns for legislative changes. In turn, these legislative changes will have the aim to enable better politics, better communities, and better human experience – by allowing society to take good advantage of the remarkable transformational potential of accelerating technologies.
Potential speakers are asked to consider addressing the following topics:
- Transitional steps towards Universal Basic Income
- Alternative responses to the possibility of Technological Unemployment
- Legal support for self-experimentation with nootropics
- The political future of genetic enhancements
- Policy changes that encourage quicker development of anti-aging therapies
- Improvements to how finance works
- Improvements to democracy and decision-making
- Policy changes regarding surveillance, privacy, and data ownership
- Support for radical decentralisation: cryptocurrencies, blockchain, and more
- The role of politics in accelerating science and innovation
- The role of politics in responding to existential risks
- Beyond national sovereignty: The evolution of transnational governance.
For more details, see the Transpolitica website.
3.) The Future of Work
The question of the future of work is one that is receiving more and more attention. Ryan Avent of the Economist has written a book on that topic, which is due to be published later this month. It’s called “The Wealth of Humans: Work and its Absence in the Twenty-first Century”. (The version of the book for the US market has a less controversial title: “The Wealth of Humans: Work, Power, and Status in the Twenty-first Century”. The idea of the absence of work may be too close to the bone for some potential readers…)
Ryan Avent will be speaking about themes from his book:
- At the LSE (London School of Economics), on Monday 26th Sept
- At the RSA (Royal Society of Arts), on Thursday 29th Sept.
The description of the LSE talk starts as follows:
Ryan Avent addresses the difficult questions about the increasing abundance of labour and what this means politically, economically and socially for every one of us. The traditional solutions – improved education, wage subsidies, universal basic income – will no longer work as they once did. In order to navigate our way across today’s rapidly transforming economic landscape, Avent argues that we must radically reassess the very idea of how, and why, we work.
Another writer on similar topics is Calum Chace. As a reminder, Calum is speaking at London Futurists on Saturday 8th Oct, with the intriguing title “The Economic Singularity (Or How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the AI)”:
Artificial intelligence (AI) is surpassing our human ability to absorb and process information. Robots are becoming increasingly dextrous, flexible, and safe to be around (except the military ones!). AI is our most powerful technology, and we all need to understand it.
In his new book, “The Economic Singularity”, Calum Chace argues that within a few decades, most humans will not be able to work for money. Self-driving cars will probably be the canary in the coal mine, providing a wake-up call for everyone who isn’t yet paying attention. All jobs will be affected, from fast food McJobs to lawyers and journalists. The Economic Singularity is the single most important development facing humanity in the first half of the 21st century. The outcome can be either very, very good or really rather grim.
A few decades later, assuming we make a successful transition to the post-employment world, we will face the Technological Singularity, which Calum wrote about in his previous book, “Surviving AI”. The creation of the first artificial general intelligence, he argues, will will be followed shortly by the arrival of superintelligence. This, as the Three Wise Men observed (Hawking, Musk and Gates) will either be the best or the worst thing ever to happen to humanity.
The outcome of the two singularities is not pre-ordained. In this talk, Calum explores what we can do to ensure the outcome is positive.
For yet another angle on the Future of Work, you might want to review the video of one of the recent London Futurists event, “Inventing the Future: Postcapitalism and a World Without Work”. This video, along with recordings of many other previous London Futurists events, can be found on https://londonfuturists.com/previous-meetings/.
Finally on this topic, the RSA have another excellent event lined up for the evening of the same day (29th Sept) as the talk there by Ryan Avent. This one features Demis Hassibis, CEO of Google DeepMind, “Artificial Intelligence and the future”:
With his AI project DeepMind, Demis Hassabis has said he is leading “an Apollo programme for the 21st century”. But how far can AI really take us?
Demis Hassabis the co-founder and CEO of DeepMind, a neuroscience-inspired AI company, acquired by Google in 2014. He is now Vice President of Engineering at Google DeepMind and leads their general AI efforts, including the development of AlphaGo, the first program to ever beat a professional player at the game of Go.
In this special event at the RSA, Demis Hassabis offers a unique insight from the frontiers of artificial intelligence research, and shares his latest thoughts on AI’s potential to help solve our biggest current and future challenges, from healthcare to climate change.
Note: the tickets for both these RSA talks are fully sold out, but you can elect to add yourself to their waiting list, and/or to watch the live stream which the RSA is likely to broadcast in parallel to the event taking place.
4.) Deep Science Ventures
In case the above section has made you pessimistic about finding good employment in the future, I’ll add one note for balance. London is a great place for bright, energetic people to start new companies – in part due to the network of accelerators that exists here.
For example, consider Deep Science Ventures (DSV), who are offering a limited number of fully funded places for science graduates. DSV are ready to support you as you work in teams for up to 6 months to come up with ideas that will have a profound impact on the world. Their programme provides a stipend, investment, access to top facilities and a community of equally driven, brilliant scientists to help you make a huge impact. The programme is accepting registrations of interest until September 21st.
They describe their programme on their website as follows:
Create a high-tech startup from scratch
Deep Science Ventures is a fully funded, 6 month programme which brings together scientific talent across the EU, industry experts and investors to discover opportunities and build the next generation of high growth science based ventures from scratch. Join as an individual, build your team, find an opportunity that you’re passionate about and own the value created…
Meet co-founders from across disciplines
We bring together the restless and the unruly, recently graduated or returning from industry: up to 100 diverse, brilliant scientists and engineers eager to finally make their own impact. We can also provide a cash stipend for 3 months whilst you find the right team and idea, no strings attached. You don’t need to be ‘ready’ just technically brilliant, adaptive and driven to make an impact on the world…
Work with people who really understand high-tech
Creating a startup around high-tech (healthcare, bio-tech, chemical, materials, energy, industry, food etc.) is very different and often much more complex than web-tech. You’ll get to work with sector experts from agriculture to healthcare, and technology experts from machine learning to genomics, and receive continual guidance from founders and investors who have built high-tech ventures before…
In addition to a 3 month stipend, once you have an idea we will invest £30,000 for 15% equity in viable projects to help you get to sufficient proof for a seed round. We’ll also help you to raise non-dilutive grant funding (£200 – 500k is typical) and introduce you to specialist high-tech focused investors…
5.) Conway Hall event, “The Abolition of Aging?”
London’s venerable Conway Hall Ethical Society have asked me to speak at their event at 11am on Sunday 25th September. You can register for the event, either on the Conway Hall website, or on their own meetup page.
Here’s how Conway Hall describe the event:
Conway Hall Ethical Society presents: The Abolition of Aging?
If we choose to prioritise this project, there’s a high probability that comprehensive, affordable, reliable therapies for human rejuvenation will be available by 2040. People everywhere, on the application of these treatments, will, if they wish, stop becoming biologically older. Indeed they would start to become biologically younger, in both body and mind, as rejuvenation therapies take hold. In short, everyone will have the option to become ageless.
That’s a viewpoint which our distinguished speaker, David Wood, has reached following more than ten years of study of the field of rejuvenation biotechnology. It’s a viewpoint which generates a storm of questions.
This provocative talk reviews the ethical dilemmas and opportunities arising. Wood will urge society to embrace a project for “The abolition of aging” (the title of his recent book), which could change humanity forever.
David Wood studied mathematics and the philosophy of science at Cambridge before spending twenty five years as a software engineer in the mobile computing and smartphone industry. Seeing the radical possibilities of exponentially improving technologies, such as nanotech, AI, biotech, and cognotech, he founded the London Futurists meetup, and has been chairing discussions in London since 2008 on technoprogressive and transhumanist possibilities. He is now an independent futurist speaker, writer, and consultant. He has been visiting Conway Hall Ethical Society intermittently since moving to London in 1986.
6.) Eurosymposium on Healthy Ageing, Brussels
I’ll also be talking at the 2016 Eurosymposium on Healthy Ageing in Brussels on 1st October. Here is the abstract for that talk:
Scenarios for the future of healthy life extension
This talk looks at four scenarios for the future of healthy life extension over the next 25 years – scenarios that can be termed “Optimistic”, “Realistic”, “Pessimistic”, and “Humanity+” (the latter can also be called “Abolitionist”). Each of these scenarios is a credible development from the status quo.
The speaker will look at critical factors which will vary the likelihoods of the different outcomes. Whereas the Optimistic scenario depends on the successful execution of a single significant disruption from existing mainstream medical practice, the Humanity+ (Abolitionist) scenario relies on a two-fold disruption taking place.
Drawing on his extensive experience of disruptions taking place in other fields of business and technology, and on his studies of the history and philosophy of science, the speaker will clarify how the adoption of disruptions often depends as much on social factors as on technological ones.
The speaker will proceed to make suggestions for the best steps that can be taken by the community of healthy life extension enthusiasts, bearing in mind the risks of counter-productive steps. Recommendations include improved community-building, political alliances, and more sophisticated meme engineering, as well as increased support for citizen science.
The first two days of that Eurosymposium feature a range of technical talks, by academics and expert practitioners from the field of healthy aging. The third day covers questions of activism and social change. Other speakers that day include:
- Victor Bjork – “What supercentenarians tell us about aging, ageism and negligible senescence”
- Marc Roux – “A world with less senescence and fewer children”
- Didier Coeurnelle – “Longevity and Artificial Intelligence”
- Alexander Tietz – “Ecological aspects of sustainable longevity”
- Avi Roy – “Fighting ageing from Oxford to Astana”
- Daria Khaltourina – “Fighting ageing in the World Health Organization”
- Edouard Debonneuil – “Biological ageing: a disease or not?”
It’s an impressive gathering of thought leaders.
For more details, see the online conference programme.
Three other forthcoming events on anti-aging deserve mention:
- International Conference on Aging and Disease – Stanford, California – Sept 30 to Oct 2, 2016
- Anti-Ageing Conference, London – Oct 13-15, 2016
- RAAD Fest 2017 (“Revolution Against Aging and Death”), San Diego, California – Aug 9-13, 2017 – low-cost earlybird registration now available
Apart from RAAD Fest – which is in a special category all of its own – you’ll see there’s a cluster of anti-aging conferences and events happening in October. That fits with the designation of October as “Longevity Month” – the subject of the next news item.
7.) An H+Pedia prize competition in connection with Longevity Month 2016
Recall that H+Pedia is a project with the declared aim to spread accurate, accessible, non-sensational information about transhumanism and futurism among the general public. Since its creation in July 2015, H+Pedia has now grown to over 1,000 pages of content.
As stated on its front page,
H+Pedia welcomes constructive contributions from everyone interested in the future of humanity.
A new H+Pedia initiative is to run occasional prize competitions, with the intent to boost both the quality and the impact of H+Pedia. You can read more about these prize competitions on (where else?) H+Pedia itself.
Prizes can be awarded for a variety of different kinds of contributions, including:
|Best biography page(s)||Provide an exceptional biography of biographies for influential persons relevant to H+.|
|Technology page(s)||Provide information about an emerging or hypothetical in a accessible technology that is relevant and accessible for H+ readers|
|Philosophy or advocacy resources||Write up either about a specialised stream of thought in H+, or create a resource about how any aspect of H+ can be more effectively used as as advocacy resource|
|Organisational pages||Write up in detail one of more tranhumanist organisation to a high standard|
|Media pages (e.g. book or tv/film)||Develop a page or pages within the arts, such as visual arts, video games, film and TV or books|
|Improvements to existing pages||Take an existing page or pages which is significantly under developed and bring it into a far superior state|
|Royalty-free media submissions and integration||Find image resources that are appropriately in the public domain so that they be used on H+Pedia. Add them into suitable pages in a relevant and aesthetically pleasing fashion. You could even contribute your own art!|
|Other outstanding contributions||A discretionary award for an individual who excels a specific area not explicitly mentioned above|
|Being the “MVP” (most valuable person)||For a person who contributes significantly to the project perhaps across all the areas above without focusing on a single area|
Contributions are more likely to be awarded prizes if they observe the H+Pedia principles.
The initial prize fund for this competition is US$ 500 – though this could rise depending on any other donations made by supporters of the project.
Prizes will be awarded in line with the general criteria given above, for contributions that improve H+Pedia coverage of longevity from a transhumanist point of view.
Contributions submitted to H+Pedia from 1st September to 15th October can be taken into consideration for prizes. Prizes will be announced by the end of October.
For more details, see the corresponding H+Pedia page.
8.) Two London Futurists events on Saturday 10th Sept
As an experiment, we’re holding two different London Futurists events on Saturday 10th Sept:
- From 2pm to 4pm: The End of Banking? with Jonathan McMillan
- From 4pm to 5pm: Technology vs. Humanity, with Gerd Leonhard
Click on the links for more details, and to RSVP to attend.
Since I need to finalise the room booking for these events in the next few days, I’d appreciate it if people planning to attend RSVP soon. That way, the room size is more likely to be a good fit for the audience that attends.
9.) Masters of the Exponential Age – Sat 5th November
Some additional background information is now available for the event “Masters of the Exponential Age: An immersive leadership development experience” happening on Sat 5th November.
As that website states,
The purpose of Masters of the Exponential Age is to help leaders understand the key technologies and trends of the Exponential Age, the better to guide strategic planning and investment decisions.
For your organisation you will be able to address the following questions:
- Which elements of the Exponential Age are most likely to affect my organisation and me?
- What are the technology and trend developments that my organisation and I should monitor?
- When and how should we reconfigure our approach to sales and marketing to exploit the competitive dynamics of the Exponential Age?
For yourself and your team you will be able to address the following questions:
- How might our cognitive biases and cultural blinds spots influence the quality of our forecasting?
- What bias indicators should I look out for during the creative and planning processes to avoid groupthink and synthesise conflicting views to achieve consensus?
- What practical steps should I take to raise awareness of the Exponential Age within my team and the wider organisation?
10.) The Quantum Revolution is coming!
One of the technologies whose forthcoming impact is hardest to assess is quantum computing. I’m therefore particularly looking forward to an event in Cambridge on 14th September. It’s the annual “TEC” meeting organised by CW (the organisation formerly known as “Cambridge Wireless”). I’ve been attending various CW events for more than 10 years, going back to my days in the smartphone industry. They’ve had a high quality level throughout.
Here’s an excerpt from the event website:
The science behind today’s ITC systems essentially dates from the first half of the 20th century, but now esoteric quantum principles such as entanglement and superposition promise another technological revolution – ‘Quantum 2.0’. Quantum technology will have many applications in computing, communications and sensing.
It promises to increase computational power by many orders of magnitude – what will a quantum computer look like and how will it be programmed? How will we make cryptography safe once the methods we rely on today can be cracked by a new generation of computers? How do we exploit quantum technology to solve this problem? How will quantum clocks enable us to synchronise 5G networks? How will Quantum acceleration and gravity sensors enable new ways of mapping and navigation? Are there new limits to communications beyond Shannon that we will be able to exploit?
The 2nd CW TEC is aimed at technology leaders in industry, and young engineers and physicists, to give them an overview of the new world to come and examine the host of hard problems that need to be solved and the opportunities that will open up. Speakers will include the leaders in Quantum research and development from universities, government research and industry.
I’m expecting to come away from that event with a lot of new insight.
I’ve been interested in quantum computing since I had the unexpected pleasure of sharing a stage in Oxford in 1985 with David Deutsch, often known as the father of quantum computing. Practical applications of quantum computing have been forecast for a long time, but now it seems they may be closer than ever – see for example an article in this week’s New Scientist:
The field of quantum computing is undergoing a rapid shake-up, and engineers at Google have quietly set out a plan to dominate…
SOMEWHERE in California, Google is building a device that will usher in a new era for computing. It’s a quantum computer, the largest ever made, designed to prove once and for all that machines exploiting exotic physics can outperform the world’s top supercomputers.
And New Scientist has learned it could be ready sooner than anyone expected – perhaps even by the end of next year…
Until next time,
// David W. Wood
Chair, London Futurists
PS Remember that an archive of previous London Futurists newsletter is accessible online at https://londonfuturists.com/newsletters/.