Technological Change and Sustainable Environment

Dear Futurists,

1.) The Viridian Conference, Wed 17th March

AFT Technoprog, the organisation also known as Association française transhumaniste, have published what they call the “Viridian Manifesto” – in both French and English.

That manifesto sets out its scope in its opening paragraphs:

Technoprogressive transhumanists consider that it is essential to change our behaviour collectively and individually in order to stop global warming, the loss of biodiversity, and the consumption of non-renewable resources…

A “viridian” option, which is to say, one that is ecological, technological, and non-destructive to humanity, presupposes radical transitions…

The change necessary, such that any change is for the better, requires broad technological progress and profound societal shifts…

The manifesto goes on to list recommendations grouped under the following headings:

  • Collective research
  • Renewable energy
  • Reuse and remediation
  • Collective reflections and decisions

To take these ideas forward, AFT Technoprog are holding two half-day events this week:

On each day, the event runs from 5pm to 9.30pm CET, that is, from 4pm to 8.30pm UK time.

The declared focus of the overall conference is “Sustainable environment and technological progress”. I congratulate the organisers for bringing together a diverse set of speakers. Here’s a copy of the schedule for Wednesday:

  • Indra Adnan: “The hard and soft power of technology to face the crises”
  • José Cordeiro: “The Energularity and the future of humankind”
  • Nell Watson: “Automated Externality Accounting”
  • Alexander Phraxos: “Biomethane Pyrolysis: It’s in Our Hands”
  • James Hughes: “EcoSocialism and the Technoprogressive Perspective”
  • Natasha Vita-More: “An Ecology of Solidarity: Sustainable Environments for Life”
  • Didier Coeurnelle: “Biodiversity: Risks and Opportunities”
  • David Bent: “Why progress of techniques are more important than progress of technologies”
  • John Danaher: “Collective Intelligence or AI? How to harness minds for a more sustainable future”
  • David Wood: Superdemocracy as the key enabler of a viridian future.

As well as speaker presentations, the event has options for participants to take part in workshops to dig deeper into possible improvements in the Viridian Manifesto.

Attendance is free, but you’ll have to register in advance. You can attend either day (or both). Use these links: 16th March and 17th March.

2.) The Future of You: Sat 20th March

Just as changing technology has big implications for the sustainability (or otherwise) of the environment, it also has big implications for the sustainability (or otherwise) of a clear sense of personal identity.

In each case, what will prepare us better for the many risks and opportunities ahead, is upfront thinking about the issues likely to arise.

The implications of technology for our sense of personal identity is the theme to be covered in the London Futurists event on Saturday, 20th March.

The speaker will be Tracey Follows, a professional futurist consultant who works with global brands, specializing in the application of foresight to boost business.

As a member of the Association of Professional Futurists and World Futures Studies Federation, and a former Head of Strategy at Wired, she helps clients understand the next generation of consumerism to help them make decisions with the future in mind.

Tracey was the winner of Adage ‘Woman to Watch’ 2017, Women in Marketing Award 2016 for Outstanding Contribution, and the Inaugural Creative Strategy Lion Jury President at Cannes Lions International 2019 Festival of Creativity.

She is also the author of the book “The Future of You: Can Your Identify Survive 21st Century Technology”. Ahead of Saturday’s event, I’ve had the pleasure to read a pre-publication copy of the book. Here’s a selection from the many discussion points that arise from the book:

  • Big Tech vs. Little You: can we take back control of our identity in an increasingly online world?
  • Will “citizenship of social media companies” become more important than “national citizenship”?
  • The pros and cons of a national ID system
  • The future of computer-generated social media influencers
  • Implications of direct mind-mind interactions. Like shared access to a Google Doc?
  • Ownership of any embedded technologies that “enhance” us, so that these devices serve us, rather than a corporation or government
  • Questions over identity posed by cryonics suspension and reanimation, and by possible transfer of memories.

Tracey’s book referred to several films and TV series, but not the “usual” ones. I found the reference to the 2015 film “Advantageous” to be particularly poignant. That film provides a number of warnings against some rather naive ideas of technological progress, social wellbeing, and, yes, individual identity. It also turns out (as is apt for today, Mothering Sunday) to have a lot to say about maternal instincts.

Here’s a trailer for Advantageous:

For more details about the event on Saturday, and to register to attend, click here.

3.) Discount code for World Ethical Data Forum, 17-19 March

Friends of London Futurists at the World Ethical Data Forum are organising three days of online forums from 17-19 March.

The standard price for a ticket to attend as many of these forums as you wish is just £49. However, with the discount code LDNFUTURISTS10 you’ll receive 10% of that price.

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

As day after day the spectacular benefits and potential monstrosities of data technologies and their utility are made more conspicuous, and against the background of the many urgent and related issues in media and politics that are dominating headlines globally, questions about the exploitation and control of information have never been more important.

In 2021 the World Ethical Data Forum will not only continue to explore the cutting edge of data, privacy, and AI, it will also welcome leading lights in the worlds of journalism and social media to its stage. Celebrated figures from print journalism will explore the tension between the edited story of the independent press and the unmediated factual morass — or information anarchy — of a fifth estate that has never been more significant politically; while television networks from across the ideological spectrum will examine the various serious contradictions in the practice of journalism — between journalism as a pursuit of truth and journalism as one of the most powerful instruments available to governments and corporations for bringing about shifts in the attitudes and feelings of the public.

You’ll see that there are many great speakers lined up.

I’ll be chairing a couple of the sessions there – on “Open Source & Freedom in the Digital Age” and on “The Future of Cryptocurrency & Data”. I’m looking forward to some fine discussions.

4.) Videos of recent events

If you missed watching either of the last two London Futurists events – or just want to refresh your memories of what were fascinating conversations – the video recordings are now available:

Another recent event featured me speaking on the subject of “The Risks and Opportunities of Artificial Superintelligence” to the Guildford and Woking Humanists. If you’re interested in that topic, here’s a recording of the presentation portion of that event:

5.) H+Pedia moving forwards: easier editing and translating

Thanks to lots of behind-the-scenes work by Chris Monteiro, H+Pedia is looking – and functioning – different from today onward.

As a reminder, H+Pedia is a project to spread accurate, accessible, non-sensational information about transhumanism, futurism, radical life extension and other emerging technologies, and their potential collective impact on humanity. H+Pedia operates similarly to Wikipedia – and uses the same underlying software – but shows more awareness and appreciation of material which might not pass the Wikipedia tests for notability, as currently applied by Wikipedia editors.

Here’s what’s new about H+Pedia from today:

  1. People editing pages now have the option to use a visual “what you see is what you get” editor, rather than having to master the syntax of the original “mark up” editor. (The original editor remains available, via the “Edit Source” buttons that accompany the “Edit” buttons that lead into the visual editor.)
  2. There’s now better support for articles written in languages other than English. See this H+Pedia article for more details.

Both these issues – difficulty in editing pages, and lack of clarity about how to handle translations of content – have been mentioned in the past as reasons for loss of enthusiasm of people who were previously keen to add to H+Pedia. Hopefully, therefore, the project will now pick up additional momentum.

For more information about becoming involved in improving H+Pedia, see this Community Portal page.

// David W. Wood
Chair, London Futurists

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