The future starts today

Dear Futurists,

Please find below news on events and projects that may interest you.

1.) The future starts today – Sat 24th April

We all have a choice.

We can let the future happen to us. After all, life keeps us busy in the here and now!

Or we can take steps to conceive, evaluate, and accelerate future scenarios in which we are more likely to flourish. Rather than being recipients of other people’s visions for the future, we can become producers and directors.

That second option may sound daunting. But the four speakers at today’s London Futurists event – which starts at 4pm UK time – will be providing encouragement and assistance.

They have each contributed chapters to the new book “The Future Starts Now”. Here are a few notes about that book from its publisher:

The Future Starts Now, published by Bloomsbury Business, is a call to action for those who are tired of being caught up in someone else’s future.

The choices we make today, as individuals, as businesses, and as societies ripple out all around us, amplifying over time. What will future generations – our children and our grandchildren (indeed, even our future selves, should we live long enough, as well we could) – make of the choices we are making on their behalf?

The truth is, the future is not fixed: It is neither as bleak as the profits of doom predict, nor as shiny and brilliant as the optimistic smooth talking “singularity” soothsayers promise. Despite what powerful, power hungry politicians and high-profile profit hungry businesses “personalities” tell us, nothing is “inevitable” (except for death and taxes, and even then…).

This means: “exponential growth” is not guaranteed, UBI is not the “only solution” to surviving the “robot uprising”; moving to a Mars colony is not the only way to “save” the human race from climate change; you will probably never own a flying car; and submitting to an omniscient surveillance state is not the only way to protect our babies from the big bad world outside.

We are better – deserve better – and can do better than these limited overly optimistic and overly pessimistic visions will have us believe.

Friends and members of London Futurists are welcome to use the discount code FUTURISTS25 to obtain a 25% reduction on the price of the book on the publisher’s website.

To hear what four of the authors have to say – and for a chance to raise questions – click here for more details of today’s event.

2.) How to talk about climate change – Sun 9th May

Another book that I’ve been enjoying reading recently is How to talk about climate change in a way that makes a difference by social trends researcher Rebecca Huntley.

From the book’s publisher:

Why is it so hard to talk about climate change?

While scientists double down on the shocking figures, we still find ourselves unable to discuss climate change meaningfully among friends and neighbours – or even to grapple with it ourselves.

The key to progress on climate change is in the psychology of human attitudes and our ability to change. Whether you’re already alarmed and engaged with the issue, concerned but disengaged, a passive skeptic or an active denier, understanding our emotional reactions to climate change – why it makes us anxious, fearful, angry or detached – is critical to coping on an individual level and convincing each other to act.

This book is about understanding why people who aren’t like you feel the way they do and learning to talk to them effectively.

I’ve been making lots of mental notes as I listen to each chapter of this book.

Rebecca is based in Sydney, Australia, which is ten hours ahead of London. We’ve had to find a different timeslot from normal to host an event to accommodate busy schedules. So please note this will be taking place on a Sunday, and from 10am in the morning UK time.

For more details of this event, and to register to take part, click here.

3.) A decade of cognitive dissonance – Sat 15th May

At the time of writing, there’s one more forthcoming event in the London Futurists calendar.

This time the speaker is distinguished futurist and author David Houle. The topic is a subject that deserves a lot more attention: cognitive dissonance – and how to respond to it.

Cognitive dissonance has been defined as the mental stress arising due to a clash between what we think reality is and what our senses are telling us it is. It’s the psychological conflict that results from incongruous beliefs and attitudes held simultaneously.

In this webinar, David Houle will explain why the 2020s are likely to see an acceleration of disruption, volatility, and creative destruction. Accordingly, the 2020s will be a decade of unprecedented cognitive dissonance.

David will be sharing material from his new book The 2020s: A decade of cognitive dissonance. He will explore what it means to live in cognitive dissonance and why we may well be living in this state for much of this decade. Our future wellbeing will be strongly influenced by how well we respond to this inner conflict.

David will offer advice on how to minimize stress and strife, and how to flourish during a constant state of cognitive dissonance. He endorses the observation by Robert Thurman, “Wisdom is tolerance of cognitive dissonance”.

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

4.) A quick note on Zoom links for our webinars

A small number of you have experienced some difficulties logging in to a Zoom webinar for which you had previously registered.

Please note that the Zoom registration software generates an individualised login link (URL) for each registrant for the event. You need to make a copy of that link, and click on it to join the webinar when the time comes.

Zoom helps you in this regard by sending you the link in a confirmation email. But I understand that these emails can sometimes become submerged in a busy set of email folders.

To help avoid instances when you cannot locate the right link, I’ve now changed the email reminder settings for our events. I’m now following the pattern which Zoom itself suggests, and which seems to be the norm for many other Zoom events, which is an automated reminder 24 hours before the event will start, and another reminder just 1 hour before.

In any case, I recommend logging into the system 10 minutes before the event is due to start. That way, you’ll have more time to address any connectivity surprises.

5.) Videos of recent events

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

For the complete back catalogue, see the links on the London Futurists website.

Another idea is to subscribe to the London Futurists channel on YouTube.

6.) Careers of the future – Thu 6th May

On Thursday 6th May I’ll be one of the panellists at an event “Careers of the Future” hosted by the LSESU Future Impact Society and the CEMS Club St Gallen, in association with the LSE Alumni Association London.

Other announced panellists are

  • Lee Howell – Managing Director, Member of the Managing Board – World Economic Forum
  • Anna Alex – Co-Founder @Planetly | Co-Founder @Outfittery

The panel moderator will be Kenneth Damien, Chair – LSE Alumni Association London and Technology Lawyer at Google via Axiom.

I’ll be providing my views on the skills most needed for someone’s career to flourish, given what I expect to be rapidly changing workplace conditions in the years ahead.

For more details of this event, and to register to attend if you have a present or past association with the LSE, click here.

7.) The inaugural Fork Talk – Thu 13th May

You’ve heard about TED talks. Now it’s time to consider Fork talks.

This initiative arises from the #ForkInTheRoadProject that I mentioned in the last London Futurists newsletter.

As a reminder, the Fork Project is aiming to accelerate “a global narrative that brings four existential issues (climate change, capitalism, exponential technological change, and human enhancement) into a sharper and wider public focus, to catalyse real action by leaders around the world”.

The inaugural talk in this series is taking place from 4pm UK time on Thursday 13th May. It’s designed for people who have already signed the Fork In The Road manifesto, or who are considering doing so.

Here are the details of the four speakers at this event:

Brenda Cooper: Stories of the Future: Science Fiction as a Visionary Tool

Brenda will touch on the power of story as a way to spark interest in the future, to explore possible solutions, and to either warn or instill hope.

Brenda Cooper is the award-winning author of twelve books and more than fifty stories. She is the Information Technology Director for a large construction company in Seattle. WA; Lease Crutcher Lewis. She occasionally gives talks on the future.

David Houle: Facing the Climate Crisis: Simplified

David Houle subject will touch on a high-level look at what needs to be done. The basics needed to change our trajectory at this fork in the road of the 2020s.

David Houle is a futurist, thinker and keynote speaker. He has keynoted numerous conferences across the country and internationally. In the last fourteen years he has delivered 1200+ presentations and keynotes on 6 continents and 16 countries. He is regularly invited to speak at corporate management retreats.

Bronwyn Williams: Re-Writing the Social Contract

In this short talk Bronwyn will explain the undercurrents that have become cracks in our social contract and highlights the pitfalls we need to avoid if we wish to heal rather than widen those divides. She will be highlighting the importance of holding space for diversity and divergent ideas about the future without falling into the twin traps of discrimination or forced homogeneity.

Bronwyn Williams is a futurist, economist and trend analyst from Johannesburg South Africa. She is currently a Partner and foresight lead at Flux Trends and is the co-author of The Future Starts Now, published by Bloomsbury in 2021. She is a regular media commentator on socio-economic trends and has consulted to large company boards and public sector institutions alike on how to dream, design, and build better futures for all of us.

Philip Kotler: Is World Capitalism Ready for Nordic Capitalism?

Philip Kotler will share how Nordic democracies consistently rank the highest in multiple categories. Might they be a model for global capitalism?

Philip Kotler is known around the world as the “father of modern marketing.” For over 50 years he has taught at the Kellogg School of Management at Northwestern University. Kotler’s book Marketing Management is the most widely used textbook in marketing around the world.

Click this link for more information about this event and to register to attend.

8.) Some light(?) relief – Pandora’s Oracle by Calum Chace

I recently took a break from juggling listening to several non-fiction books about the future, to give myself time to listen to a fictional account of the same: Pandora’s Oracle, by AI specialist writer and speaker Calum Chace.

I thought I would dip in and out of it over a week or so, but I ended up listening to the entire book in just 24 hours.

Here’s the basic proposition of the book:

Humanity creates god. Can humanity survive?

The mind of a student named Matt has been uploaded into a supercomputer, but before he can achieve a fraction of his potential, his uploaded mind is captured and effectively frozen by a group within the US intelligence services.

A couple of years later, this group need Matt’s help to tackle an existential threat to humanity. The risks are terrifying, but Matt agrees to help – after all, he has his own plans for the future.

I found myself wrong-footed by the narrative flow several times in the book – much to my pleasure.

It’s a sequel to a previous book by the same author, Pandora’s Brain, which I read six years ago, but it is designed to be self-contained. So you can read it without having read the earlier one.

The reason I particularly liked Pandora’s Oracle is the way the narrative subtly raised a number of key dilemmas and challenges about the potential evolution of AI, and the co-opetition that is bound to occur between the different groups who each have a vital interest in not coming second in any race to build an AI with superhuman levels of general intelligence.

These are topics we urgently need to explore – and fiction can be a great way to help us see things in a new light.

// David W. Wood
Chair, London Futurists

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