From Big Data to Wise Data?

Dear Futurists,

We tend to be conflicted about “big data”. The phrase evokes thoughts of “big brother”, as in the dystopian image of “big brother is watching you”.

Our concern is not only that we might be watched, but that we might be manipulated and controlled. We also worry that others may profit richly from what they learn by observing us, abandoning us in a “left behind” condition, without an appropriate portion of these profit returning to us.

However, we also acknowledge that, if large pools of diverse data could be analysed in a suitable way, it’s likely that many new insights could be harvested, enabling higher levels of human flourishing.

How can we obtain the benefits of big data without falling foul of the perils?

How might we advance the topic of the conversation from “big data” to “wise data”?

Welcome to the latest news from London Futurists 🙂

1.) Big Data and Healthy Longevity – Thurs 9th Sept

Following an unexpected medical incident last week, I’ve joined many millions of other people around the world who are searching online for reliable advice about alleviating aspects of ill health.

Which foods should I eat, and which should I avoid, in order to regain some of my former vigour and vitality? Which dietary supplements should I consider? Which prescription drugs or other medical therapies should I ask my doctor about? And what about all the side-effects and complications that may arise in each case?

One difficulty is in distinguishing data from anecdotes. Person A consumed lots of walnuts and a medical condition subsequently alleviated. Person B had a similar experience with tomato soup. But what’s the evidence of cause and effect?

A bigger difficulty is in understanding the variations between different people. A specific dietary supplement may improve a health condition in some people but not in others. The variant responses could be due to all sorts of factors – genetics, epigenetics, gut biome content, overall lifestyle, environmental influences, co-existing conditions, mindset, and so on.

In principle, the fields of big data and AI can provide assistance here. They can help untangle the strong pathways of influence from the accidental coincidences in the data. They can provide new classification methods which make sense of what was previously a spaghetti of confusing relationships.

But how are these fields actually progressing in practice? Are they filled with over-hype? Will people suffer adverse consequences from having their personal health data collected? Or have clear guidelines been established to ensure positive results?

That’s the subject of an online conference taking place on Thursday this week, 9th September, from 4pm to 9pm UK time. The organisers are Heales and International Longevity Alliance.

The conference webpage poses the question:

Big Data, A.I. and Healthy Longevity. How to progress faster and better?

The webpage continues:

Our goal is to contribute to creating a system that is trusted by citizens, managed by a public institution (or an NGO), where, by default (opt-out), all health data (anonymised or pseudonymised) can be used for scientific research (and not for other use).

The ultimate goal is to enable everyone to live a longer and healthier life.

The speakers at this event include:

  • Giovanni Briganti MD, Leader of health vertical of AI4 Belgium
  • Ben Goertzel, CEO and founder of SingularityNET
  • Carina Dantas, The Digital Health Society / SHINE 2Europe
  • Thierry Geerts, Country Director Google Belgium and Luxembourg
  • Y-H Taguchi, Chuo University, Tokyo, Japan
  • Agbolade Omowole, Founder of Longevity Nigeria
  • Karen Sandler, Executive Director of the Software Freedom Conservancy
  • Didier Coeurnelle, co-chair at Heales
  • Stefan Lorenz Sorgner, philosophy professor at John Cabot University in Rome

The conference is free to attend, but advance registration is necessary.

For more details of the speakers and schedule, and how to register, see here.

2.) Progress with healthy longevity and geroscience?

Another fine conference on the science of healthy longevity took place recently, organised by Lifespan Extension Advocacy Foundation: Ending Age-Related Diseases.

Presentations from that conference will be made available online for public viewing in the weeks and months ahead. One that has already been released is the opening keynote by Keith Comito, President of Lifespan. It’s well worth watching.

The graphics in the presentation are powerful, but if you prefer just to read a transcript of what Keith said, you can find one here.

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

Our field of geroscience is accelerating rapidly. New technologies, such as blockchain, are emerging and bringing new communities to join in our work – as powerfully evinced by the recent pulse chain cryptocurrency airdrop fundraiser to support the SENS Research Foundation – raising nearly 28 million dollars from almost entirely new donors.

Advocates of our field are appearing ever more frequently on popular news shows, YouTube channels, and podcasts. Even in mainstream pop culture age-related disease and regenerative medicine have taken center stage. For example M Night Shyamalan’s movie OLD, and Marvel’s Falcon and the Winter Soldier – the plot of which not only centers on a serum with health-extending properties but on the issues of equitable access to life-saving therapies generally.

With this attention and consequent funding comes meaningful advancements – such as improvements to CRISPR, cellular reprogramming, and senescent cell clearance…

Do you agree with that optimistic assessment of progress? That takes me to the next news item, which involves my own assessment of that progress.

3.) Radical longevity for all by 2040 – 50:50 chance? Sat 11th Sept

It’s a big “if”, but if we decide as a species to make this project a priority, there’s around a 50% chance that practical rejuvenation therapies resulting in the comprehensive reversal of aging will be widely available as early as 2040.

People everywhere, on the application of these treatments, will, if they wish, stop becoming biologically older. Instead, again if they wish, they’ll start to become biologically younger, in both body and mind, as rejuvenation therapies take hold. In short, everyone will have the option to become ageless.

The two preceding paragraphs introduced my book The Abolition of Aging which was published in 2016.

In that book, I laid out an argument, over the course of 140,000 words filling 400 pages, that such an outcome was credible, desirable, and actionable.

That book reviewed ten factors that could impact the timescales for the advent of the abolition of aging – five factors that, taken together, could accelerate such an outcome, and five other factors that, again taken together, could block that outcome.

Since the book was published, more than 20% of the envisioned timespan (from 2016 to 2040) has already passed. How have the various factors grown, or weakened, in the intervening five years? As a result, should my previous 50-50 assessment be revised?

That’s the topic I’ll be addressing in my presentation on Saturday morning to the online VSIM-21 session on “Radical Longevity & Transhumanism”.

That session runs from 9.00 to 13.30 Bulgarian time (the organisers are based in Sophia, Bulgaria), which is from 7.00 t0 11.30 UK time.

I’ll be in good company in that session. The topics and speakers listed for it include:

  • Transhumanism’s Epic Journey: Triumphs Amid Extraordinary Tales – Natasha Vita-More
  • Regaining Civilizational Sanity Through Transhumanism – Gennady Stolyarov II
  • Radical Longevity for All by 2040: 50-50 Chance? – David Wood
  • Open Big Data, A.I., and Healthy Radical Longevity – Didier Coeurnelle
  • Social Support for Geroscience – Ilia Stambler
  • Longevity and Transhumanism Topics in Bulgarian Yogurt Business Game – Angel Marchev Sr. and Angle Marchev Jr.

The conference itself spreads over five days, generally with two sessions per day. Audience members can watch as much, or as little, of the proceedings as catches their attention.

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

4.) The Life Extension Podcast, with Dr B

Maybe you prefer to engage with material about the future in short, audio form?

In that case, let me draw your attention to the recently launched Life Extension Podcast.

The creator of the podcast, Dr B, describes it as follows:

The Life Extension Podcast discusses current efforts to significantly extend human live spans beyond normal medical progress. Science & technology, philosophy, politics, and business are together weaving a new posthuman mythology about our individual and social existence.

Episodes present cutting-edge biomedical research, the status of various longevity therapies, and progress in replacing, enhancing, and possibly overcoming human biology with artificial intelligence. We are looking at underlying questions of aging and death, the way how science-based promises are often indistinguishable from magical practices, what it means to be human in this new techno-scientific culture, and in what kind of society we are preparing to live in the future.

Episodes are being released once per week. I’ve listened to all four that have been released so far. Dr B makes some good points in each episode – though I don’t agree with all his assessments.

5.) Biostasis 2021 – Zurich, 22-24 October

Suppose you, or someone dear to you, is nearing death ahead of the time of availability of therapies for radical life extension.

In such a case, what about the option of biostasis, sometimes known as cryopreservation?

From 22-24 October, many leading experts in the subject of biostasis, along with a number of other analysts and reviewers, will be gathering for Biostasis 2021.

Some of participants will be meeting in a real-life conference centre in Zurich. Others will be participating online.

There will be speakers sharing the latest biostasis developments from countries as far flung as Australia, China, Germany, Spain, the UK, Canada, and the US. (And more speakers may have been announced by the time you read this.)

As well as technical aspects, the discussions will cover legal matters and cultural matters. After all, the speed of adoption of new technologies often depends on regulations as well as on public perception and general memes.

My presentation at this event will be on the topic “Scenarios for the Future of Biostasis: Good, Bad, and Vital”.

For more details of the conference click here.

6.) Continuing the discussions after the formal parts of our webinars

Three newsletters ago, I mentioned a new experiment that is underway, in which the London Futurists Zoom webinars transition after their first 90 minutes into a different mode which encourages a wider exchange of views among webinar participants.

What I’ll briefly add now is that I see these add-on conversations as having been a good success. So they’ll be continuing for the foreseeable future.

On some occasions the speakers have been able to stay with us, during that extended conversation; on other occasions, they’ve had other commitments. Either way, the resulting flow of dialogue has helped me to personally understand more fully some of the implications arising from the ideas that have been shared.

Deliberately, that part of the webinars aren’t recorded. That encourages everyone to speak up more candidly.

However, what I can share with you now are links to the recordings of the opening 90 minute portions of our two most recent webinars. Both cases feature plenty of thought-provoking material.

7.) A Paradigm Shift in Aging Research? – Sat 18th Sept

I’ll close with a brief reminder about our forthcoming event on Saturday 18th September, “A paradigm shift in aging research?” featuring Dr Harold Katcher.

I’m making my way through Dr Katcher’s new book, and am finding lots of points of interest in it. It’s wide-ranging, so may not be to everyone’s taste. But since I have wide-ranging tastes myself, I have enjoyed the multiple diversions into points of history, science, philosophy, and (yes) religion, with which Dr Katcher gradually builds his case.

Due to various distractions in my life over the last week, I’ve not yet been able to finish Dr Katcher’s book, so I’m not yet sure how fully I can agree with his particular conclusions.

But I already know that the conversation on the 18th of September should be fascinating. Click here for more details and to register.

// David W. Wood
Chair, London Futurists

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