London Futurists news, 16 Aug 2019

Dear Futurists,

Please find below news of events and projects that may be of interest.

1.) A new series of London Futurists video interviews

Look out for a number of London Futurists video interviews, under the general theme “The most important scenarios for the 2020s and beyond”.

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The first interview in this series features Julian Snape, long-time futurist and transhumanist, talking about a particular passion of his: the future of rural communities:

What scenarios lie ahead for rural communities? Is it inevitable that these communities will decline, as a result of a growing movement of people, resources, and energy into what are increasingly known as “smart cities”? What steps can be taken to create “smart rural areas”?

As with many things we do in London Futurists, there are many experimental features to this video. We aim to live and learn!

2.) The future of improving human performance – Sat 7th Sept

Improving human performance

Following a break in our programme of live meetups over the summer months, London Futurists is returning to our usual venue of Birkbeck College on Sat 7th Sept for an event led by performance coach and biohacker Nick Powell: “The future of improving human performance”.

As usual for our events, there will be chance to listen to the speaker’s opening presentation, and then take part in an extended Q&A session. On this occasion, here’s how the event is described on its meetup page:

What is the best advice to improve our personal and professional performance – to increase our focus, creativity, resilience, and effectiveness? What does the latest science have to say about exercise, diet, sleep, meditation, fasting, smart drugs, and various other biohacking techniques?

For more information, and to RSVP to attend, click here.

3.) The future of technoprogressive politics – Sat 16th Nov

Looking further afield, plans are progressing for an all-day London Futurists event on Sat 16th Nov on the future of technoprogressive politics:

rsz_ftpp_preview

Thanks to breakthroughs in science and technology, the future could be profoundly better than the present – provided we recognise this opportunity, and take appropriate actions.

In this vision, there will be an abundance of all-round human flourishing. Everyone will have the means to live better than well – healthier and fitter than ever before; nourished emotionally and spiritually as well as physically; and living at peace with ourselves, the environment, and our neighbours both near and far.

That’s the technoprogressive vision of the Transhumanist Party UK. But what are the next steps in transforming this vision into actual policies and campaigns?

On 16th November, members and friends of the Transhumanist Party invite people from across the political spectrum to join the discussion about the future of technoprogressive politics.

At the time of writing, six speakers are lined up to speak at this event, which means four more are still to be announced. If you have something distinctive to say about the topics listed for the event, and would like to join the speaker roster that day, please contact the organisers!

4.) The 2020s – the decade of transhumanism? – Cheltenham, Sun 18th Aug

This Sunday, the 18th of August, I’ll be speaking from 7pm to 9pm at an event in Cheltenham on “The 2020s – the decade of transhumanism?”:

The 2020s will be the decade of transhumanism

Can a significantly better society be built, whilst human nature remains essentially unchanged?

Broadly speaking, there are three answers to that question. First, a conservative answer: Human nature can’t change much (or shouldn’t change much), so social policy needs to take full account of human weaknesses.

Second, a more progressive answer: Human nature can and will improve as society becomes less unfair and less focused on superficial goods.

Third, the answer given by the transhumanist community: To ensure a better society can arise, human nature can and must change, with the assistance of 21st century science and technology. (Note: the word “assistance” here is critical. Transhumanists see a fundamental role for human wisdom, alongside new technology, to steer this coming transformation.)

For more details click here.

5.) The case for transhumanism, by Steve Fuller – Sat 21st Sept

For a slightly different take on “the case for transhumanism”, you can listen to Prof Steve Fuller speaking on Sat 21st Sept at the “How the lights get in” festival in the grounds of Kenwood House on the top of Hampstead Heath:

Transhuman-Face_sm

Transhumanism is the radical idea that our species can transform and enhance itself using technology – from living forever to uploading our minds into machines. Is this humanity’s next step? Warwick sociologist and author of Humanity 2.0 Steve Fuller lays out his vision for the future…

How will society need to be transformed if we are on the verge of a world where we might live forever, upload our minds, or become cyborgs? What should we be doing now to prepare?

For more details, and to obtain tickets, click here.

6.) Tech Dives: Do Blockchain & AI work together? – Tue 17th Sept

I’ll be one of the speakers at a Tech Dives event in London EC2Y on Tue 17th Sept, “Do Blockchain & AI work together?”:

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Blockchain and AI have generated both huge interest and investment from public and private sectors alike. While their potential is there for all to see, their potential to transform industries has often been clouded by intense media hype. Furthermore, many are now mentioning the two in the same breath, with companies such as SingularityNET building decentralised AI solutions and using blockchain to improve the quality of data in their machine learning models.

Many dismiss this as a cynical marketing exercise, but is there a grain of truth there? Are companies that claim to have combined the two to deadly effect set to change the world, or does the emperor have no clothes?

This meetup will see leading researchers and developers from across blockchain and AI explore these two technologies potential to join forces. You’ll hear unbiased, hype-free viewpoints and gain an inside look into current blockchain and AI projects that are pushing into exciting new fields.

For more details and to obtain tickets to attend, click here.

7.) Tech Dives: Ethical AI: Is it possible? – Tue 10th Sept

Whilst on the subject of Tech Dives events, let me mention another of their gatherings, taking place one week earlier, that is on Tue 10th Sept.

On this occasion, the event lasts all day, and tackles the BIG subject of “ethical AI”:

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On 10th September at Primalbase London, leading developers, lawyers and government figures will come together for a day-long conference, providing a cross-disciplinary investigation of the ethical challenges around AI and what can be done.

The chorus of cautionary voices around unchecked AI is growing louder, with activists, researchers and journalists voicing concerns over biased, deceptive and malicious applications.

These are not the ravings of people who have seen too many Terminator films, wildly predicting the apocalypse in 100 years. Bad AI is a problem today. Respected academics such as Cathy O’Neil have observed how existing human bias in police forces’ data sets is being intensified as a result of machine learning. We are witnessing the rise of AI forgeries and artificially-created fake content, making it harder to know what is real and what is not real online. Automated weaponry is being developed that could cause destruction on a scale never before seen.

You’ll join more than 100 of the foremost minds, with speakers exploring topics such as the need for balance between regulation and innovation, transparency in machine learning, the potential for social bias and everything we must do to ensure we safely harness the opportunities that AI is creating — whether that be in transportation, farming, medicine, finance or national security.

The companies building this technology are responding to the concerns. Everyone from Google to the startups are introducing ethical frameworks designed to ensure their systems create positive outcomes. But do they go far enough? Will commercial concerns trump those of society, leading to what Brad Smith, Microsoft’s president and chief legal officer, described as “a commercial race to the bottom”? Is regulation the answer? We look forward to finding out.

For more details and to obtain tickets to attend, click here.

8.) The Future of AI with Stuart Russell, Mon 7th Oct

humancompatible

Another event that I recommend on the subject of the future of AI, is one organised by the “How To Academy” on Mon 7th Oct. It features ideas from what will probably come to be recognised as a pivotal book on the subject, which is being published on the following day (8th Oct). The author of that book, Stuart Russell, is the lead speaker at the event.

Here’s an excerpt from the description of the event:

Musk, Hawking, Gates: many powerful men fear the rise of super-intelligent machines. But in their circle, only one figure can claim to truly be an expert on the future of AI: Professor Stuart Russell.

Creating superior intelligence would be the biggest event in human history. Unfortunately, it could also be the last. How can we design artificial intelligence that realises its enormous potential to improve human lives – and does not unleash unintended consequences that could be disastrous for humanity?

Berkeley Professor Stuart Russell has spent more than 40 years at the forefront of AI research, and is lauded by the giants of global technology and innovation as the leading expert in the field. His ‘bible’ on AI is employed by students and engineers the world over, and his TED Talk on the subject has been viewed over a million times. There is no one in the world better placed to explain the existential risk of intelligent machines to our species – or to lay down a roadmap that will ensure a safe, mutually beneficial co-existence between machines and humankind.

In this compelling and accessible talk, Professor Russell will explain how we can ensure that we never lose control of machines more powerful than we are. He will show how we can avert the worst threats by reshaping the foundations of AI to guarantee that machines pursue our objectives, not theirs – a machine that has no overriding interest in self-preservation, that is provably deferential to humans, and makes decisions based on human preferences, not its own.

For more details of this event, and to obtain tickets to attend, click here.

9.) Funzing – The real risks of super AI – Chiswick, Thu 26th Sept

I’ll be giving my own assessment of the importance of ethical AI – and the route to achieve it – in a talk I’ll be giving in Chiswick on Thu 26th Sept, hosted by Funzing. The talk is entitled “What are the real risks of super AI?”:

rsz_real_risks_of_super_ai

What are the potential consequences when artificial intelligence increasingly exceeds human comprehension? Which possible side-effects of “superAI” deserve the most attention? Just as malfunctioning satnav systems occasionally lead travellers off the beaten track, where might malfunctioning superAI lead humanity?

For example, should we worry most about the impact of superAI on military conflict? Or on battles between various systems of “fake news” that seek to manipulate people into actions contrary to their best interests?

Alternatively, are such worries misplaced? Should we instead encourage faster progress towards a near-future world in which pervasive AI provides us all with an unprecedented abundance of goods and services?

For more details and to obtain tickets to attend, click here.

10.) Funzing – The Abolition of Aging – Manchester, Wed 25th Sept

If Manchester is an easier location for you to reach, I’m doing a different Funzing talk there the previous evening, Wed 25th Sept, “The Abolition of Aging by 2040”:

TAoA by 2040

By 2040, could we have abolished what we now know as biological aging?

It’s a big “if”, but if we decide as a species to make this project a priority, there’s around a 50% chance that practical rejuvenation therapies resulting in the comprehensive reversal of aging will be widely available as early as 2040.

People everywhere, on the application of these treatments, will, if they wish, stop becoming biologically older. Instead, again if they wish, they’ll 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.

This possibility tends to provoke two powerful objections. First, people say that it’s not possible that such treatments are going to exist in any meaningful timescale any time soon. In other words, they insist that human rejuvenation can’t be done. It’s wishful thinking to suppose otherwise, they say. It’s bad science. It’s naively over-optimistic. It’s ignorant of the long history of failures in this field. The technical challenges remain overwhelmingly difficult.

Secondly, people say that any such treatments would be socially destructive and morally indefensible. In other words, they insist that human rejuvenation shouldn’t be done. It’s essentially a selfish idea, they say – an idea with all kinds of undesirable consequences for societal harmony or planetary well-being. It’s an arrogant idea, from immature minds. It’s an idea that deserves to be strangled.

Can’t be done; shouldn’t be done – this talk will argue that both these objections are profoundly wrong. The speaker will argue instead that rejuvenation is a noble, highly desirable, eminently practical destiny for our species – a “Humanity+” destiny that could be achieved within just one human generation from now. The abolition of aging is set to take its place on the upward arc of human social progress, echoing developments such as the abolition of slavery, the abolition of racism, and the abolition of poverty.

For more details and to obtain tickets to attend, click here.

11.) The humanist case for the abolition of aging – Guildford, Tue 8th Oct

I’ll be giving a different version of the above talk at an event in Guildford on Tue 8th Oct, hosted by Guildford and Woking Humanists.

Guildford and Woking Humanists

The talk is entitled “The humanist case for the abolition of aging”.

For more details, click here.

12.) RAADfest 2019, Las Vegas, 3-6 Oct

For what has been called “the Woodstock of the rejuvenation community”, you should consider travelling half way round the globe to visit RAADfest in Las Vegas from 3rd to 6th October.

RAADfest 2019

The tagline of RAADfest this year is “The most powerful information and inspiration for staying alive”.

More details of the schedule and the speakers for RAADfest 2019 are being announced on a regular basis. Keep your eye here and watch out for deadlines before ticket prices increase.

13.) TransTech London with Nichol Bradford, Wed 25th Sept

As noted in the previous three news items, technology has the potential to rejuvenate our physical bodies, leading to the possibility of what I call “the abolition of aging”.

Technology also has the potential to rejuvenate our minds, leading to all kinds of possibilities for enhanced mental wellbeing.

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TransTech is a global organisation with the vision to “leverage tech for mental health, wellbeing, and joy”. Here’s an excerpt from the Mission page on their website:

We believe in changing the world by helping impact-focused engineers, scientists, and entrepreneurs realize their dream of creating new tools for wellbeing. We believe that by building the basic infrastructure that they need to communicate, connect, and create, we accelerate progress towards psychological wellbeing for all humanity. We believe that the products that will reduce human psychological suffering will unlock human potential in a way that serves all.

Psychological suffering is the choke point on hyper-accelerated human progress.

For all of our extraordinary human endeavours, fear and fear-induced conflict, insecurity, and scarcity limit the potential of our species and slow global, local, and individual progress.

It doesn’t have to be this way.

Psychology, neuroscience, meditation research, and other fields of inquiry have increased the scientific understanding of the mechanisms behind human experiences like peace, compassion, embodiment, love, and our sense of who and what we are. Inspired by this ever-growing visibility, humanity can now turn our creativity towards breaking the bindings that limit our potential.

Technology can positively transform our inner lives as much as it has our external lives.

Technology has positively disrupted our external lives; now is the time to match that positive disruption internally. Technology should serve our whole selves, not just our productivity.

Nichol Bradford, Executive Director & Co-Founder of Transformative Technology Lab, is visiting London on Wed 25th Sept and will be speaking and answering questions at a special meeting of the TransTech London meetup being hosted on this occasion by Deloitte Digital.

For more details of this event and how to attend it, click here.

14.) London meetup: Science and society – books, ideas and discussion

Science and society

There’s a new London meetup I’d like to tell you about. It’s “Science and society – books, ideas, and discussion”:

This is a group for people who like to read, think about and discuss (mostly) human science and what it means for society and the future. We’ll discuss ideas in psychology, economics, politics, technology, education, genetics (!), philosophy, possibly even fiction, and where these meet…

We meet in a central London cafe on Sundays. Bring an open mind, some thoughts and questions and £1 as a contribution towards the monthly meet-up costs. There will be a text to start the discussion but the point is to meet and discuss ideas as freely as possible.

The ethos of the group is not debate or combative discourse but to examine ideas without overtly leaning on anecdotal sources.

The topics for three of their upcoming meetings are:

I’ve listened all the way through the audio version of Siddharta Mukherjee’s book, twice – which is a measure of how much I enjoyed it.

15.) New audio book: Sustainable Superabundance

I’ll finish this newsletter on a personal note. For the first time, one of my own books is now available as an audio version. It’s already available on Audible, and I believe it should appear on iTunes soon too.

It’s “Sustainable Superabundance: A universal transhumanist invitation”. Of all of my books, it is in some ways the simplest, but also the boldest.

Sustainable Superabundance

The recording and the sound editing was done by yours truly. It was quite an experience!

If you share my preference that the best way to consume a book is often to listen to it, I hope you’ll enjoy hearing my words in your ears 🙂

If you do listen to it and like it, consider leaving a review for it on the Audible site. Thanks!

// David W. Wood
Chair, London Futurists

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