London Futurists news, 7 Feb 2017

Dear Futurists,

Here are some events and projects that have caught my eye.

1.) Something for Valentine’s Day?

The team at HackTheSenses – which includes many friends of London Futurists – have kindly made some discount tickets available for their forthcoming production entitled “Dr Wellentine’s Emporium of Sensory Curiosities”.


Use the code ‘LonFutLove‘ to obtain a 15% reduction in the (already small) sign-up fee. (Note: this offer is restricted to the first 30 applicants.)

The Emporium is being held a number of times each day from 9th to 14th Feb, so you can pick a time and date that works for you and any significant other you bring with you.

Here’s an extract from the event description:

Join us for a celebration of the science of love, exploring the power of your senses, crossmodality and the expansion of perception from prismatic goggles to virtual reality!…

We invite you to Dr Wellentine’s parlour of games and oddities. Relying on your senses and co-operation, only you and your partner can crack a series of challenges. Solve the mystery that lies within the taste of a painting, follow your nose through an invisible maze, or lift your spirits outside of your body! Dr Wellentine’s weird, wonderful and whimsical assortment of experiences combining art, science and entertainment will test the limits of your senses.

You can read more about HackTheSenses here.


2.) How well do we really understand AI? (18th Feb)

Spoiler alert: There’s lots about AI in this newsletter. That’s my way of saying AI is probably the single most important technology for the next 5-10 years.

But how well do we really understand AI? And how well do we understand what AI will become?

These are the topics to be explored at our event on Saturday 18th Feb, featuring Daniel Hulme, the CEO of Satalia.


From the event description:

There have been more news stories about AI (artificial intelligence) in 2016 than in any previous year. London has recently been described as “The most important hub in the world” for AI. Interest in AI is clearly accelerating.

At this meetup, Daniel Hulme, CEO of Satalia, will be covering:

  • A framework for understanding what AI is, and what it is not
  • The future challenges and opportunities for AI
  • The potential wider impacts of AI in the years ahead.

There will be plenty of opportunity for audience interaction and Q&A with the speaker.

We’ll be in a large room for this event, but the number of remaining tickets is diminishing quickly.

3.) The application of AI to disrupting sustainability (25th Feb)

Here’s an extract from

Today the pace of innovation is as high and rapid as it has never been before. Current digital technologies stimulate development and create connections between concepts that have never been associated with each other. One of such relationships is between the concepts of Artificial Intelligence (AI) and Sustainable Development. Recognizing the importance and actuality of this relationship, on the 25th of February 2017, Sustainable Development Forum will hold the conference “Artificial Intelligence: Disrupting Sustainability” at the University of Cambridge.

Drawing on perspectives from leaders in academia, business, policy and public sector, the conference aims to become a platform for analysing and responding to the key questions arising around AI and its impact on Sustainable Development for generations to come. Topics to be covered include:

  • Transforming Conventional Industries with AI
  • Ethical aspects of AI
  • Job Markets Transformation in the Smart Economy
  • Effects of AI and Machine Learning on Education

Specifically, the conference will tackle questions on the potential of AI to shape the process of the United Nations 2030 Agenda’s implementation, focusing on the Sustainable Development Goals. Therefore, the issues to be addressed include the responsible consumption and production of consumer goods, and raising quality of education and economic growth by recognising the significant role of innovation and digital infrastructure. The conference will also recognise the importance of the private and public partnerships for the goals’ implementation in technology sectors, which help to foster peace and justice – the key concepts of sustainability.

AI has become the key focus area of the so called New Industrial Revolution, providing a range of opportunities, and at the same time – many risks. Our goal is to give an insight into the topic, exchange experts’ opinions to formulate solutions and strategies for the successful implementation of the Sustainable Development 2030 Agenda, the Sustainable Development Goals and challenges ahead.


There’s a great lineup of speakers at this event, including Lord Martin Rees, Sir Paul Judge, Alex Housley, and Eleonora Ferrero. I’ve registered to attend, and look forward to seeing many London Futurists there!

4.) AI and the Future of Work (8th Feb)

I’ll be one of the panellists at a Mercer event taking place at Bloomberg tomorrow evening, from 4.30pm to 8pm: “Future of work”:

Robots, AI, augmented reality and automated transport reshape the way we work tomorrow…

The new world of work is changing so rapidly it’s increasingly challenging to predict the direction of change. Some jobs, as we know them today, will disappear – others will be created. 65% of current primary school children will end up in new job types that don’t even exist as yet…

We invite you to join us for our Future of Work Night in partnership with Bloomberg and six innovative HR Tech start-ups presenting their latest ideas.

The last time I checked, the organisers were still accepting registrations for this event, but you’ll have to hurry.

5.) The most important conference about AI in history (so far)?

What’s the most important conference that’s ever taken place about AI?

It may have been the one that took place in Asilomar, California, on the 5th to 8th January this year, “Beneficial AI 2017”, organised by the Future of Life Institute.


Among other things, the conference generated the set of “Asilomar AI principles”:

Artificial intelligence has already provided beneficial tools that are used every day by people around the world. Its continued development, guided by the following principles, will offer amazing opportunities to help and empower people in the decades and centuries ahead…

Scott Alexander has provided a very useful personal summary of the conference here, on Slate Star Codex. The set of online comments to that article are well worth reading too.

Videos from the event are in the process of being released here. Perhaps my favourite, out the ones I’ve watched so far, is this one on “AI and the economy” by Erik Brynjolfsson:

I also like this one by Jeffrey Sachs:

Let me know which videos made you think the most.

6.) The age of technology has arrived. Now what? (18th Mar)

If the pace of technological change makes you feel breathless, and you’re struggling to decide what our reaction to these changes should be, let me recommend the London Futurists event happening on Saturday 18th March.

The speaker on that occasion will be Azeem Azhar, the curator and publisher of the phenomenally interesting weekly newsletter “The Exponential View”.


Here’s an extract from the description of that meeting:

It is impossible to escape technology because as humans we are inextricably linked to it. What are the implications as the pace of technology increases? What are the most important things to understand, in order that we can become positive participants in this fast-changing world, rather than bewildered spectators or disoriented victims?

7.) The future of healthcare (25th Mar)

I’ll be running a couple of workshops at the “Future of Healthcare Conference” happening in Manchester on Saturday 25th March.


Aubrey de Grey of SENS will be speaking as well (just in case you need extra motivation to attend…)

Tickets for students (including postgraduates) are just £10, which is refunded on the day, making attendance free of charge. Tickets for professionals are just £20 for the day.

The workshop I’ll be running is entitled “Radical scenarios for the future of health”:

Former smartphone industry executive David Wood will outline four credible scenarios for the future of healthy aging – “Optimistic”, “Realistic”, “Pessimistic”, and “Abolitionist”. He will then set out the argument why the abolition of biological aging by 2040 is both feasible and desirable.

Whereas the Optimistic scenario depends on the successful execution of a single significant disruption from existing mainstream medical practice, the 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.

This talk will

  • Explain the importance of the concept of the “Longevity Dividend”
  • Suggest actions that can be taken to increase the probability of the success of the Abolitionist scenario
  • Refute arguments that the Abolition of Aging is impossible or that, if possible, it should be opposed on moral or philosophical grounds
  • Consider steps that we can all take to increase the chance of us living long enough to be able to reach the point of wide availability of these therapies.

8.) Understanding Blockchain (31st Mar)

Trying to make sense out of Blockchain? My own observation is that many of the applications discussed in connection with that technology would happily work with different forms of databases. This flowchart, shared by Tom Kysar, is a good starting point:


Other researchers have proposed a different flowchart:


but that flowchart is a bit too simple 🙂

(See this analysis by Sebastien Meunier if you’d like to explore this topic further.)

I mention all this as a prelude to a one-day Blockchain Technology Masterclass which is taking place on Friday 31st May. It’s organised by Lets Learn Digital. The two course instructors are described as follows:

Adi Ben-Ari one of the co-founders of Applied Blockchain has extensive experience in enterprise technology spanning almost two decades. He has delivered significant software projects with major institutions both in the UK and abroad in different industries including finance. He is a noted and recognized expert in the blockchain field and talks frequently at conferences and industry forums, most recently at the 14th Bank Management Conference, Greece in November, and has led the delivery of a number of Blockchain smart contract solutions

Peter Bidewell is the Chief Marketing Officer of Applied Blockchain and leads client relationships, partnerships and marketing for Applied Blockchain; consulting on the strategic implementation of blockchain solutions that are platform agnostic, scalable and enterprise ready. He has worked with a number of clients, across many different industries, to explain the technology and consult on the most suitable application of blockchain for their specific business needs. Peter regularly presents on blockchain at international events, most recently at the Blockchain Conference, Colombia in December.


The organisers have kindly made five tickets available with the cost reduced by £50, if you use the code ‘LondonFuturistswhen you register.

9.) Looking forward to ZDay London (13th May)

As you can see from the videos around two thirds of the way down, I’ve had the pleasure to speak at three previous ZDay London events – in 2013, 2015, and 2016.

The ZDay organisers have kindly asked me to speak at their 2017 London event, which will be held on the 13th of May. The topic I’m planning to speak about is “Fixing politics”:

Why has political discussion become so divisive and unpleasant? And what can be done to ensure that the best opinions of the electorate are heard and recognised, instead of being drowned out by the loudest voices and the most powerful vested interests? This talk outlines a technoprogressive transhumanist vision of a sustainable future, along with a roadmap of actions needed to progress towards that vision.

The content of my talk will feature ideas from my forthcoming book of the same name:


(The book cover that’s shown here is a temporary placeholder, pending a new design. The idea it’s trying to suggest is that present-day politics is in a state of ruin.)

I hope to see some of you at the ZDay event, and look forward to continuing to exchange ideas about a roadmap to a radically better future.

// David W. Wood
Chair, London Futurists


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