How do disruptions happen? Slowly and then quickly.
The Covid-19 lockdown is accelerating many transformations that were previously progressing rather slowly.
For example, we’re all having to learn, in a hurry, better ways of carrying out activities online. Read on for news about online futurist activities gathering pace.
1.) DSMNTL talks moving online – 15th April
Earlier this year, I signed up as a speaker with DSMNTL Ideas. The plan was for me to give a talk on the 15th of April at the Devereux, in Central London, on the subject “Disrupting Death: Technology and the Future of Dying”. It was to be a brand new talk and I was especially looking forward to sharing my thinking with a live audience.
Of course, since then, the world has changed. But rather than indefinitely postponing the event, DSMNTL have been bold enough to turn it into an online webinar. I’m therefore in the process of restructuring my material to be suitable for this new context.
For more information, and to sign up for tickets, click here.
2.) London Futurists webinar – recording and summary
On Thursday last week, 60 members and friends of London Futurists took part in an online Zoom webinar. The goal was to address the following questions:
- Are regular payments to every citizen in the country an appropriate solution to the fragility that the coronavirus pandemic is exposing in our economy and social safety net?
- When we consider potential additional crises that may boil over in the years ahead, does the case for UBI (universal basic income) strengthen or weaken?
- What are the alternatives to UBI?
A video recording of the discussion (lightly edited) is now available:
As you can see, the event was not without glitches, but it went more smoothly than the previous online London Futurists event. We continue to live and learn!
To help continue some of the many thoughtful lines of discussion that took place during that event, I’ve prepared this summary of various points raised that deserve wider attention.
I’m looking forward to running more events with a broadly similar format. Watch this space for more details!
3.) Post-COVID-19 Futures – Social media groups
One option to continue the discussions of recent London Futurists events is via two new groups that Rohit Talwar (a panellist on last Thursday’s event) has just set up.
Rohit describes these groups as follows:
There is so much interesting content emerging about possible post COVID-19 scenarios that open groups have been set up to share relevant material on both Facebook and LinkedIn.
You have to be a member of the platforms to access the relevant group. The groups are resources intended to provide dedicated places to find and share scenarios, projections, visions, and discussions of what our post-pandemic world could look like in the near, medium, and longer term.
The groups are:
- On LinkedIn: https://www.linkedin.com/groups/13841900/
- On Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/groups/825138974664277/
It’s early days for these groups, but there’s already some great content posted.
4.) New book project: Aftershocks and Opportunities
Rohit and the team at Fast Future have also announced another project to gather key insight about how the world might respond to the Covid-19 crisis. It’s a book that will be published on 1st June, with the title “Aftershocks and Opportunities – Futurists Envision our Post-Pandemic Future”.
All members and friends of London Futurists are invited to submit chapters for this book. Here’s an extract from the book website:
What are the possibilities for the future in a post-pandemic world?
While the world grapples with the current unfolding crisis, as futurists we know how important it is to also be thinking about the next horizon and beyond. This can help ensure that the decisions we make today don’t lay the foundation for a new set of problems over the horizon. Equally, understanding the types of future that might emerge post-crisis can help us plan and prepare for those possibilities as we reshape our strategies today. Finally, such future insights might help us spot, train for, and adapt to the new opportunities that could arise as a post-pandemic world unfolds.
Aftershocks and Opportunities – Futurists Envision our Post-Pandemic Future
In response to this need for future perspectives, Fast Future Publishing wants to create a fast track widely accessible and affordable book of 1,000-word chapters from future thinkers around the world. The goal is to provide individuals, leaders, and organizations with foresight, insight, challenge, visionary thinking, and navigational guidance on what lies ahead. This is a fast track opportunity to put your latest thinking in front of a world hungry for ideas, hope, and inspiration.
Hence, this call for chapters is an invitation from Fast Future to future thinkers from around the world to contribute a chapter of up to 1,000 words depicting your thoughts on how the world, or some aspect of it, might look after the COVID-19 pandemic. We are seeking perspectives on economic, cultural, organisational, political, social, scientific, technological, commercial, and ecological evolution over the coming two to five years.
(Picture credit: Vera Chernyshova from Pixabay.)
To help stimulate your thinking, why not take a look at this online Fast Future survey, and provide your own answers on the possible social and economic impacts of COVID-19.
Note: the survey will remain open until midnight PST on 1st April, so if you want to take part, don’t procrastinate.
5.) Futures events with Luke Robert Mason moving online
Over recent years I have frequently enjoyed attending various events hosted by Luke Robert Mason, in series such as Virtual Futures and Futures Podcast.
Luke has just scheduled a series of Futures live streaming events. They all look fascinating. Follow the links for more information and to register:
- Mon 6th April: Hacktivism w/ Maureen Webb & Lauri Love – “Explore Hacktivisim and the vital role computer hackers play in challenging democracy through enabling new forms of activism”
- Wed 15th April: Our Future Selves w/ Yancey Strickler – “Learn how to build a society that looks beyond money by focusing on the values that make life worth living”
- Wed 22nd April: Abolish Silicon Valley w/ Wendy Liu – “Understand the radical ways technology can be developed to benefit society at large”
- Wed 29th April: How Hype Obscures the Future w/ Gemma Milne – “Uncover how the hype-machine operates in the world of science and technology”
6.) Singularity University network: the Pandemic Challenge
Here’s an extract from the competition website:
The SARS-CoV-2 coronavirus, the cause of COVID-19 disease is a serious threat to us all, and could even unseat our global economy.
The purpose of this competition is to elicit sensible viable ideas that can help abate the pandemic, i.e. to support and not try to conflict with or replace the work of healthcare professionals, businesses, NGOs and Government. The competition will end on 14th April 2020, necessarily quite fast so ideas can be put to use.
Singularity University’s global network is an ideal platform for this initiative, as we are a diverse multi-ethnic group of technologists, scientists, entrepreneurs, government, NGO, corporate and SME people. While Singularity is known for its prowess in the arena of emerging technologies, the organisation’s mission is to educate and inspire people to help solve humanity’s hardest problems and this Covid-19 coronavirus is definitely one of those hard problems.
The competition is open to all, and we have a great initial prize from Singularity University in Silicon Valley, to attend Singularity’s world-renowned California Executive Programme.
For more information, see here.
7.) An anti-viral virtual hackathon – 4 & 5 April
For a different kind of collective activity to respond to the Covid-19 challenge, consider the HackFromHome virtual hackathon taking place on the 4th and 5th of April:
HfH is a virtual hackathon sponsored by Dataswift.io and organised by the Ethical Tech Alliance, HAT-LAB, Case Western Reserve University’s xLab, Cleveland Clinic’s Hwang Lab and WMG – University of Warwick.
We’re giving people a chance to respond with action, working together to improve the lives of everyone affected by the Coronavirus. Our goal is to band together to help communities, patients, and their families better using what we know best – technology.
Hack from home empowers everyone to contribute to the struggle against COVID-19 by building technologies and leveraging their personal data – but this time in an ethical way. Apps and technologies that are built through the hackathon will be created using personal data accounts, giving users full transparency over how their data is being used and the agency to turn it on or off (if they want).
We need to ensure that in these difficult times, we don’t allow the surveillance economy to take over. No one should be allowed to hoover up all of our data, and we’re working to avoid a scenario where the world ends up worse than it was before.
The project themes for HackFromHome are:
- Citizen science: Solutions to empower individuals to help healthcare and the government tackle the disease faster
- Community health: Technology or applications that help the vulnerable, or ensure communities have the resources to make it through
- Mass coordination: Apps that unlock the power of personal data, to ethically help our mobilisation and coordination of resources
8.) Coronavirus Tech Handbook
Perhaps the largest collaborative response by the tech community to Covid-19 is the remarkable “Coronavirus Tech Handbook” developed with key support from friends of London Futurists at Newspeak House.
The Handbook describes itself as follows:
The Coronavirus Tech Handbook provides a library for technologists, civic organizations, public and private institutions, researchers, educators and specialists of all kinds to collaborate on an agile and sophisticated response to the coronavirus outbreak and sequential impacts. It is a rapidly evolving resource with thousands of active expert contributors.
It’s a fast-evolving network of interlinked documents. The organisers say:
Things are flooding into the handbook way faster than we can organise them. If you’re interested in helping out by doing unsexy but vitally important tasks, join the librarians!
9.) Looking forwards – our finest hour?
I’ll finish with a general observation.
With productive collaboration, humanity can organise agile solutions ahead of even worse social and humanitarian crises arising in the years ahead. But if dysfunction and tribalism prevails, all bets are off.
If you haven’t already seen it, you might like to review the recent blogpost by Gretchen Schmelzer, “This can be our finest hour – but we need all of you”. I’ll include three paragraphs here, but it’s worth reading in its entirety:
For the vast majority of people nationwide and worldwide, this virus is not about you. This is one of those times in life, in history, when your actions are about something bigger. They are about someone else. They are about something greater, a greater good that you may not ever witness. A person you will save who you will never meet…
When the Apollo 13 oxygen tank failed and the lunar module was in danger of not returning to earth, Gene Kranz, the lead flight director overheard people saying that this could be the worst disaster NASA had ever experienced—to which he is rumored to have responded, “With all due respect, I believe this is going to be our finest hour.”
Imagine if we could make our response to this crisis our finest hour. Imagine if a year or two from now we looked back on this and told the stories of how we came together as a team in our community, in our state, in our nation and across the world. Your contribution to the finest hour may seem small, invisible, inconsequential—but every small act of ‘not doing’ what you were going to do, and ‘doing’ an act of kindness or support will add up exponentially. These acts can and will save lives. The Apollo 13 crew made it their finest hour by letting go of the word “I” and embracing the word “we.” And that’s the task required of us. It can only be our finest hour if we work together. You are all on the team. And we need all of you to shine in whatever way you can.
// David W. Wood
Chair, London Futurists