Futurism on a Sunday morning

Dear Futurists,

Yes, I know it’s actually a Saturday morning as I write and distribute this newsletter, whereas the headline refers to Sunday morning.

The headline refers to a new experiment for London Futurists, taking place tomorrow, which is to hold an online event in a different timeslot, 10am-11:30am UK time on a Sunday morning.

Assuming it goes well, and depending on your feedback, I may organise some additional events in this same timeslot in the months ahead – while keeping the majority on Saturday afternoons.

1.) Talking About Climate Change

Our event tomorrow features social trends researcher Rebecca Huntley. Rebecca will be joining us all the way from Sidney, Australia.

The topic is How to talk about climate change in a way that makes a difference.

I contacted Rebecca after reading her book with the same title. I found it engaging, thoughtful, and inspiring without being in least bit naive.

What I expect for tomorrow morning will be less of a conversation about the science of climate change – or a conversation about any roadmap towards zero carbon – but more of a conversation about the science of discussing climate change. This will feature insights about the roles of the various emotions that frequently arise during such discussions: anger, fear, guilt, shame, hope, denial, and even love.

Without recognising and intelligently managing these emotions, our discussions about climate change are likely to be ineffective.

It’s the same, in my view, with discussions about many other aspects of the future.

For more about tomorrow’s event, and for links to the Zoom registration page, click here.

2.) The Ministry for the Future

I give The Ministry for the Future four stars out of five.

I’m referring, not to an actual ministry anywhere in the world, but to the sweeping work of fiction of that name by renowned author Kim Stanley Robinson.

The action in The Ministry for the Future starts in 2025, with an extended episode featuring a oppressive heatwave that wreaks havoc in parts of India. The rest of the novel – 563 pages in the hardback edition – imagines possible responses to that heatwave.

I actually listened to the audio version of the book, in which the voices were provided by eleven different narrators, who in turn adopted numerous different accents as they spoke thoughts from the vantage point of a vast collection of characters from around the world.

The Ministry for the Future features diversity not just of character but also of ideas. The book is packed full of different ideas related to how humanity might avoid the worst excesses of extreme climate change. The scenarios covered stir up lots of emotions. As I was saying a moment ago (item #1 above), recognising and intelligently managing these emotions is going to be key to steering humanity through the many perils and, yes, opportunities, that lie ahead of us.

On the plus side, the book contains sections of outstanding writing, in which I found myself utterly absorbed. It is also to be commended for making clear the ways in which many different aspects of society intersect to complicate the issue of climate change. Some of the ideas featured are innovative and were new to me.

Allowable weaknesses, perhaps: the writing was overextended (indulgent) in places – but then, who am I to complain about lengthy prose! Several of the conversations were completely implausible. The political analysis is, arguably, on the weak side. And with such a vast cast of characters, I suppose it was inevitable that many of these characters were left undeveloped.

If you’re reading for something to sink yourself into – either in written or audio form – you could do far worse than The Ministry for the Future.

And who knows, maybe the COP26 gathering in Glasgow in November this year will create a real-world version of the ministry described in that book. The sooner, the better.

3.) The Fork In The Road – Thu 13th May

One reason I started reading The Ministry of the Future was the positive remarks I heard about that book in a recent internal planning meeting for The Fork In The Road project.

The people who are driving that project forward demonstrate, to my mind, a welcome multidisciplinary approach to what they describe as “a critical moment” in the history of humanity:

Humanity has entered a critical moment in its history. The coming decade is a time of great historical significance, and the decisions humanity collectively makes in the next 10 years may well determine whether our future is bright and prosperous, or whether it leads to misery and perhaps even our eventual demise as a species. 

That’s the opening paragraph of the Fork in the Road manifesto. You can read the entirety of that (short!) manifesto here, and if you like what you read, please add your name to the list of signatories.

This Thursday, from 4pm to 5pm UK time, the project is holding an open public event.

This event features four speakers and four interconnected topics:

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

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

On 15th May, London Futurists will be back at our for-now usual timeslot: 4pm on a Saturday afternoon.

That event will be an opportunity to take a deeper dive into the ideas of one of the initiators of the Fork in the Road project, global futurist David Houle. We’ll be exploring his analysis about what he calls “A decade of cognitive dissonance”.

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 event, David 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, he says, 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.

5.) Coexisting with immature superintelligence

Someone who takes a slightly different view on the challenges facing humanity in the next ten years is long-time friend of London Futurists, Tony Czarnecki of the think tank Sustensis.

Tony was the featured guest in the most recent audio podcast in the Humanity Unshackled series, created by Radio Hydrogen in association with Transhumanist UK. Tony was talking to main show host Rusty Burridge, with some occasional comments by yours truly.

That conversation has been released in two parts:

  1. Becoming a Butterfly
  2. Coexisting with immature superintelligence

In the second part, questions covered included:

  • How should humanity manage the risks of unintentional harmful actions by “immature superintelligence”?
  • Might immature superintelligence cause human extinction by 2050?
  • How can humanity increase the chances of benefiting from artificial superintelligence?
  • Is the answer for humans to hurry up and become transhuman?

For a fuller description of the contents, as well as the show notes and for a chance to listen to the audio itself, click here.

Humanity Unshackled will be back soon, proposing actions for how we can all become unshackled from the various cruel constraints placed on us by our biological, social, psychological, and philosophical inheritance.

// David W. Wood
Chair, London Futurists

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2 Responses to Futurism on a Sunday morning

  1. Graham McNally says:

    David, It’s 7:18 pm on Saturday evening here. I’m up to the eyeballs working on a consultancy as technical advisor to a film on cocoa that is being put together. Trust that you are still well.

    Kind regards,

    Graham McNally, Agricultural Production Manager, NGIP Agmark Group of Companies, NGIP Haus,Level 1, Talina, Kokopo P.O Box 1921 ,Kokopo, ENBP Papua New Guinea

    Mobile: +675 7178 2993 Ph: +675 982 9055 Ext 239 Fax: +675 982 8706


    • David Wood says:

      Papua New Guinea – that’s somewhere beyond the end of London’s District Line, right?
      More seriously, it’s great to see that these newsletters have a global reach. I hope your film project goes well.

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