There’s more to politics than next month’s election

Dear Futurists,

Over the next few weeks, the UK is going to witness lots of heated discussions about political expediency. After all, politics, famously, is “the art of the possible”. With more information being shared online in real time than ever before, the general election on 12th December is likely to see a higher proportion of tactical voting than any predecessor.

However, if we become preoccupied by tactics, we risk losing sight of the real strategic issues.

At London Futurists we try to highlight the bigger trends – the trends that deserve more attention, despite the insistent demands of short-term decisions. These are trends that could accelerate more quickly than conventional thinking imagines. If we allow ourselves to be overly distracted by present-day concerns, we may end up regretting having effectively put our heads into the sands regarding potential future disruptions. We may elect politicians who are promising to right the wrongs of yesterday, but who are hopelessly ill-equipped to handle the exponential threats and exponential opportunities of tomorrow.

Therefore, please find below some information about events and projects that seek to improve our understanding of the bigger picture – events and projects that should enable us to take our heads out of the sand and look more squarely at potential future scenarios.

1.) Politics Summit 2019: Globalism vs Nationalism in the Digital Age – Tue 19 Nov

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How should we understand the apparent rise of nationalism and far-right movements around the world? What are the underlying causes of this change in political mood? And what responses should be prioritised?

Some commentators see this rise as a direct backlash against forms of globalism and globalisation that have not delivered for ordinary people. Too many people, with considerable justification, perceive themselves as being “left behind”.

Other commentators point to the adverse role played by digital technologies – social media, big data, and tools for mass communication – in shaping this new state of affairs.

The Fourth Group – with whom London Futurists partners from time to time – has assembled an impressive set of speakers and panellists for an all-day event it is organising at the Tabernacle, Powis Square, in London W11, on Tuesday 19th November.

The event is Politics Summit 2019: Globalism vs Nationalism in the Digital Age. You can find full details here.

Confirmed speakers include:

  • Professor Mary Kaldor CBE (Professor of Global Governance at the London School of Economics)
  • Eric Kaufmann (Author of Whiteshift: Immigration, Populism, and the Future of White Majorities & Professor of Politics at Birkbeck College)
  • Lewis Iwu (CEO at Purpose Union, former World Debating Champion, & Author of Words that Win)
  • Catrin Nye (Award-winning Investigative Journalist at the BBC)
  • Aaron Bastani (Author of Fully Automated Luxury Communism & Co-Founder of Novara Media)
  • Alberto Alemanno (Founder of The Good Lobby)
  • Ella Whelan (Co-Convenor, Battle of Ideas & Author of What Women Want)
  • John Vlasto (London Associate, Democracy Without Borders)
  • Oz Katerji (Writer, filmmaker, and journalist with a focus on the Middle East)
  • Eshaan Akbar (Award-winning Comedian)
  • Omar Salha (Founder of Ramadan Tent Project, and winner of Mayor of London’s Bringing Londoner Together award)
  • Michael Olatokun (Leads The Rule of Law for Citizenship Education at the Bingham Centre, and member of the UK Solicitor General’s Public Legal Education Committee)
  • Marine Shah (United Citizens Global Co-Representative)
  • Samad Masood (United Citizens Global Co-Representative)

And here’s the particularly good news:

Members of London Futurists community can use the discount code FUTURISTS to obtain tickets for just £29.95, which is £55 (65%) off General Admission tickets:

  1. Go to the Eventbrite page for the event
  2. Click on the “Tickets” button
  3. Click “Enter promo code”
  4. Enter your discount code above, then click “Apply”
  5. You will now notice that the discount has been applied to the “General Admission” ticket
  6. Choose how many discounted tickets you want
  7. Click the “Checkout” box
  8. Fill in your details and click “Place Order”
  9. Done!

2.) Online conference for the Technoprogressive Roadmap – Sun 17 Nov

TPzoom

The UK’s Transhumanist Party is in the process of publishing a “Technoprogressive Roadmap” for the UK:

  • 15 transformational goals for the UK to seek to accomplish by 2035,
  • With the goals being supported in each case by 2 interim stepping-stone targets to be accomplished by 2025.

These 15 goals span six overlapping spheres of human life: the flourishing of individuals, the flourishing of society, the flourishing of positive international relationships, the flourishing of the environment, the flourishing of humanity’s steps into the wider cosmos, and the flourishing of productive political processes.

There will be a one hour online Zoom conference from 9pm on Sunday 17th November, providing a chance for people to ask questions and express their views on what the Transhumanist Party has already published. During the conference call, attendees can share views:

  • About matters in the Roadmap to prioritise or deprioritise
  • On potential alternatives
  • On what shorter-term actions should be organised.

To join the online conference, from anywhere in the world with an Internet connection, visit https://zoom.us/j/248354765.

There is no charge to take part: attendance is free.

For more details about this event, see here.

To get the most out of the time on the call, attendees are recommended to view ahead of time one or more of the short videos in this playlist. (These videos are generally ten minutes or less in length.)

If there’s only time to watch one, start with the first one in the series:

3.) A podcast series on climate change, from the Future of Life Institute

Not-Cool

One of the topics which deserves much more attention from society’s leaders is the question of climate change.

I recently came across the “Not Cool” podcast series, published by Ariel Conn of the Future of Life Institute:

Climate change, to state the obvious, is a huge and complicated problem…

We started this podcast because the news about climate change seems to get worse with each new article and report, but the solutions, at least as reported, remain vague and elusive. We wanted to hear from the scientists and experts themselves to learn what’s really going on and how we can all come together to solve this crisis.

At time of writing, there are already 19 episodes in the series, which have been published in just over one month. The interviewees cover a very impressive range of disciplines. There’s ample material in these interviews:

  • To challenge the attitude of those which dismiss concerns about climate change
  • To rebut the counter-arguments advanced by so-called “climate change sceptics”
  • To suggest productive positive steps.

You can access the series from the Future of Life Institute, or from SoundCloud.

If you want more help in addressing the sometimes bewildering objections raised by those who deny that human actions pose a significant threat to the world’s climate, I recommend the MOOC “Making Sense of Climate Science Denial”. The material in it is presented carefully, thoughtfully, and comprehensively. Here’s its introductory video:

4.) The future of quantum computing – Sat 16 Nov

On 23rd October, the prestigious journal Nature carried news of an apparent major breakthrough in the discipline of quantum computing:

Hello quantum world! Google publishes landmark quantum supremacy claim

The company says that its quantum computer is the first to perform a calculation that would be practically impossible for a classical machine.

Scientists at Google say that they have achieved quantum supremacy, a long-awaited milestone in quantum computing. The announcement, published in Nature on 23 October, follows a leak of an early version of the paper five weeks ago, which Google did not comment on at the time.

In a world first, a team led by John Martinis, an experimental physicist at the University of California, Santa Barbara, and Google in Mountain View, California, says that its quantum computer carried out a specific calculation that is beyond the practical capabilities of regular, ‘classical’ machines. The same calculation would take even the best classical supercomputer 10,000 years to complete, Google estimates.

Quantum supremacy has long been seen as a milestone because it proves that quantum computers can outperform classical computers, says Martinis. Although the advantage has now been proved only for a very specific case, it shows physicists that quantum mechanics works as expected when harnessed in a complex problem…

Martinis likens the experiment to a ‘Hello World’ programme, which tests a new system by instructing it to display that phrase; it’s not especially useful in itself, but it tells Google that the quantum hardware and software are working correctly, he says…

It’s therefore timely that London Futurists are having a meeting on Saturday 17th November dedicated to “The past, present, and future of quantum computing”:

Quantum Computing.png

In a lecture given in 1981, Richard Feynman said that since Nature is quantum mechanical, the best way to understand it is to build a quantum computer which can simulate it.

Fast forward to the end of 2019: Google has announced quantum supremacy, and IBM are making a 53-qubit quantum computer available in their cloud. It seems clear that we are well on our way to fulfilling Feynman’s vision.

In this talk at London Futurists, Peter Morgan will give an overview of quantum computing, from the early pioneers to present day research and quantum computing industry. He will also consider the future trajectory of this very powerful technology, and share his thoughts on potential timelines and applications.

He will look in particular at how quantum computers can be used to simulate molecular dynamics, and describe applications in drug discovery and materials science. In this way, quantum computers may be used to solve the grand challenges of climate change and human longevity.

For more details about this event, and to register to attend, click here.

Note: the speaker, Peter Morgan, is the author of the industry report, “Quantum Computing Strategies: 2019”, published by Inside Quantum Technology.

5.) The future of nanotechnology – Sat 7 Dec

The future of nanotechnology

Nanotechnology is the deliberate systematic mechanical manipulation of matter at the nanoscale, that is, at dimensions of around one to a hundred nanometres. Rapid improvements in nanotechnology increasingly allow control of the very building blocks of life, including proteins and DNA.

Nanotechnology is revolutionizing medicine in ways that will have profound effects on our health and longevity: nanoscale machines that can target individual cancer cells and deliver drugs more effectively; nanoantibiotics that can fight resistant bacteria; the engineering of tissues and organs for research, drug discovery, and transplantation.

A London Futurists event on Saturday 7th December will feature Sonia Contera, one of the leading researchers in nanotechnology. Sonia heads the Contera Lab in the Department of Physics at the University of Oxford, and is the author of the new book Nano Comes to Life: How Nanotechnology Is Transforming Medicine and the Future of Biology. In this event, Sonia will be giving her insider’s perspective on this new frontier, revealing how nanotechnology enables a new kind of multidisciplinary science that is poised to give us control over our own biology, our health, and our lives.

For more details about this event, and to register to attend, click here.

Note: the speaker, Sonia Contera, is Associate Professor of Biological Physics at Oxford Physics Department.

6.) Automation and Utopia – Sat 11 Jan

Automation and Utopia

Human obsolescence is imminent. We are living through an era in which our activity is becoming less and less relevant to our well-being and to the fate of our planet. This trend toward increased obsolescence is likely to continue in the future, and we must do our best to prepare ourselves and our societies for this reality. Far from being a cause for despair, this is in fact an opportunity for optimism. Harnessed in the right way, the technology that hastens our obsolescence can open us up to new utopian possibilities and enable heightened forms of human flourishing.

These are some of the claims advanced in the recent new book by John Danaher, Automation and Utopia: Human Flourishing in a World Without Work. John will be speaking about these themes at a London Futurists event on Saturday 11th January. Propositions covered include:

  1. The automation of work is both possible and desirable: work is bad for most people most of the time, in ways that they don’t always appreciate. We should do what we can to hasten the obsolescence of humans in the arena of work;
  2. The automation of life more generally poses a threat to human well-being, meaning, and flourishing: automating technologies undermine human achievement, distract us, manipulate us and make the world more opaque. We need to carefully manage our relationship with technology to limit those threats;
  3. One way to mitigate this threat would be to build a Cyborg Utopia, but it’s not clear how practical or utopian this would really be: integrating ourselves with technology, so that we become cyborgs, might regress the march toward human obsolescence outside of work but will also carry practical and ethical risks that make it less desirable than it first appears;
  4. Another way to mitigate this threat would be to build a Virtual Utopia: instead of integrating ourselves with machines in an effort to maintain our relevance in the “real” world, we could retreat to “virtual” worlds that are created and sustained by the technological infrastructure that we have built. At first glance, this seems tantamount to giving up, but there are compelling philosophical and practical reasons for favouring this approach.

For more information about this event, and to register to attend, click here.

Note: the speaker, John Danaher, is a Senior Lecturer in Law at NUI Galway, Ireland, and the coeditor of the book “Robot Sex: Social and Ethical Implications”.

7.) Potential documentary created in Wales

Do you live in Wales? A TV producer based in Wales has been in touch with me asking for potential subjects for a local human-interest documentary he has in mind.

The kind of person he is hoping to speak to would meet the following criteria:

  • You are potentially about to take some keys steps in a journey towards transhumanism
  • For example, you might be considering significant personal enhancements, or signing up for cryonics, or becoming involved in transhumanist activism
  • You don’t mind opening up to a film crew about your personal hopes, fears, doubts, and convictions – and how these might change as your journey into transhumanism progresses.

For more details, drop me an email.

With best wishes,

// David W. Wood
Chair, London Futurists

 

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