London Futurists news, 6 Oct 2019

Dear Futurists,

1.) Housekeeping

Just in case you’re not sure why you’re receiving this newsletter:

I know that some of you have more than one meetup account. If you ever decide you no longer want to receive these newsletters, and you can’t figure out why they’re still reaching you, drop me an email, and I’ll help you get untangled.

2.) To see the future, change your perspective!

On Saturday afternoon, 12th October, London Futurists is hosting Bryce Hoffman, author of the book “Red Teaming”. The book’s subtitle, “Thinking Like the Enemy”, highlights the idea that we need to adopt diverse thinking styles, if we are to avoid nasty surprises ahead.

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

Why do we often fall victim to surprise developments that seem, in retrospect, to be obvious? What mental habits unnecessarily limit our ability to plan for the future? Can we learn to anticipate potential flaws in our plans, and, being wiser, improve the plans in sufficient time?

This London Futurists event features Bryce Hoffman, who will be sharing his insights about “red teaming” – a process developed by the U.S. military and intelligence agencies.

Red teaming is designed to to stress-test strategies, and to flush out unseen threats and missed opportunities. By making critical and contrarian thinking part of the planning process, red teaming helps companies and other organisations challenge their assumptions, overcome groupthink , and strengthen their plans.

The event will feature examples of organisations learning to execute more successfully in an increasingly uncertain world, and discussion of implications for how society as a whole can manage risks more effectively.

For more info, and to register to attend, click here.

3.) The future of technoprogressive politics (part 1)

There’s been a change to plans for an all-day event on the subject of “The future of technoprogressive politics”.

Previously, this was scheduled to be taking place on Saturday 16th November.

This event will now be taking place some time next year, 2020.

I’m sorry for any inconvenience this change of plan causes.

Watch this space for more details.

4.) The future of technoprogressive politics (part 2)

One reason for the delay in the plans for the event just mentioned, is to allow more time for another project to develop before the event takes place.

This project is “The Technoprogressive Roadmap for the UK, 2019-2035”.

The project involves the creation of a number of short videos (generally ten minutes or less in length), each looking at goals in particular areas.

Videos that have already been produced include:

More should be appearing soon.

5.) What are the real risks of super AI? – Bristol, 7th Oct

Tomorrow evening (Monday 7th Oct), I’ll be speaking at a Funzing event at the Square Club in Bristol on the subject “What are the real risks of super AI?”

Some of the questions to be covered are:

  • If we can’t turn off the Internet, or disable Bitcoin, what makes you think it would be easy to switch off a super A.I. if we disliked what it’s doing?
  • In an accelerating global arms race to be the first country with a super A.I., can there really be any winners?
  • With AI increasingly being used to help humans build new, more powerful AIs, might we wake up one morning to find AI is much more powerful than we expected?
  • Is it an AI that somehow turns ‘evil’ that we need to fear? Or simply an AI that learns human goals and then pursues these goals ruthlessly?
  • To stop an AI machine from running out of control, is the first thing we need to do to stop the machinery of capitalism from running out of control?
  • Why is it that so many people seem blind to the risks of super A.I? Are they caught up in some kind of cultural denial?

If you happen to be near Bristol tomorrow evening, click here for more info and to obtain tickets.

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

On Tuesday evening (8th Oct), I’m speaking at a meeting of the Guildford and Woking Humanists, on the subject of “The humanist case for the abolition of aging”.

For more details, this is the link.

Something I’ll be talking about at that meeting is the progress that is taking place in what I see as a paradigm change between the mainstream “disease-first” model of medicine and the emerging new “aging-first” model.

One important area of progress is in the publication of books that will have a greater impact on the public consciousness. I’m particularly thinking of the recent book by Harvard Medical School professor David Sinclair.

Here’s some of what I wrote about that book in a recent personal blogpost:

Harvard Medical School professor David Sinclair has written a remarkable book that will do for an emerging new paradigm in healthcare what a similarly remarkable book by Oxford University professor Nick Bostrom has been doing for an emerging new paradigm in artificial intelligence.

In both cases, the books act to significantly increase the tempo of the adoption of the new paradigm.

Bostrom’s book, Superintelligence – subtitled Paths, Dangers, Strategies – caught the attention of Stephen Hawking, Bill Gates, Elon Musk, Barack Obama, and many more, who have collectively amplified its message. That message is the need to dramatically increase the priority of research into the safety of systems that contain AGI (artificial general intelligence). AGI will be a significant step up in capability from today’s “narrow” AI (which includes deep learning as well as “good old fashioned” expert systems), and therefore requires a significant step up in capability of safety engineering. In the wake of a wider appreciation of the scale of the threat (and, yes, the opportunity) ahead, funding has been provided for important initiatives such as the Future of Life InstituteOpenAI, and Partnership on AI. Thank goodness!

Sinclair’s book, Lifespan – subtitled Why We Age, and Why We Don’t Have To – is poised to be read, understood, and amplified by a similar group of key influencers of public thinking. In this case, the message is that a transformation is at hand in how we think about illness and health. Rather than a “disease first” approach, what is now possible – and much more desirable – is an “aging first” approach that views aging as the treatable root cause of numerous diseases. In the wake of a wider appreciation of the scale of the opportunity ahead (and, yes, the threat to society if healthcare continues along its current outdated disease-first trajectory), funding is likely to be provided to accelerate research into the aging-first paradigm. Thank goodness!

Bostom’s book drew upon the ideas of earlier writers, including Eliezer Yudkowsky and Ray Kurzweil. It also embodied decades of Bostrom’s own thinking and research into the field.

Sinclair’s book likewise builds upon ideas of earlier writers, including Aubrey de Grey and (again) Ray Kurzweil. Again, it also embodies decades of Sinclair’s own thinking and research into the field.

Both books are occasionally heavy going for the general reader – especially for a general reader who is in a hurry. But both take care to explain their thinking in a step-by-step process. Both contain many human elements in their narrative. Neither books contain the last word on their subject matter – and, indeed, parts will likely prove to be incorrect in the fullness of time. But both perform giant steps forwards for the paradigms they support.

If you read Sinclair’s book, I’ll be interested to hear what you think about it.

7.) GIANT Health, 15-16 October

For a huge gathering of experts and innovators from the health industry, check out the GIANT Health event which is taking place on 15th and 16th October at the Chelsea Football Club Stadium (London).

Here are links to just three of many interesting tracks at the event:

For discounted tickets, use this link.

// David W. Wood
Chair, London Futurists

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