Anticipating combinations (again)

Dear Futurists,

If we just use a single tool to explore future possibilities, we’re likely to blinker ourselves. No one description – no one analytical framework – can do full justice to the rich complexity of what might lie ahead.

Likewise, if we just listen to a single forecaster, we’re likely to restrict our understanding. Practitioners of foresight, despite often being individually brilliant, each suffer from at least some limitations and presumptions.

That’s why London Futurists seek, over our programme of events, to bring forward multiple forecasters, representing different disciplines, different backgrounds, different paradigms, and different attitudes.

That convergence of diverse perspectives can be unsettling. The models of the future that lie within our own personal comfort zones will come under stress and strain from the resulting turbulence.

However, as F. Scott Fitzgerald wrote in 1936:

The test of a first-rate intelligence is the ability to hold two opposed ideas in the mind at the same time, and still retain the ability to function.

That principle can be rewritten to apply to the discipline of foresight:

The test of a first-rate futurist is the ability to hold two opposed scenarios in the mind at the same time, and still retain the ability to think creatively, critically, and constructively about these scenarios.

Indeed, the scenarios that produce the biggest disruptions and aftershocks are likely to combine elements of forecasts that initially seemed far separate from each other.

That’s why we need to become better, not just at anticipating scenarios, but at anticipating combinations.

And that brings us to the topic of our webinar this Saturday.

1.) Navigating the Next Horizon – Sat 30th October

The new book from Fast Future, Aftershocks and Opportunities 2: Navigating the Next Horizon, brings together no fewer than 37 writers from 17 countries on 5 continents to explore the forces, developments, emerging ideas, issues, risks, and opportunities that could shape our post-pandemic world.

Each chapter in the book has its own gems of insight. However, the book is constructed so that the whole is considerably greater than the sum of the parts.

Due to constraints of time, it’s not practical to bring all 37 writers together into a single London Futurists session. However, six of them will be joining us this Saturday, the 30th of October.

Each of the six authors will be giving a brief description of their own chapters in the book. And then the dialog will really start – where the biggest “aha” realisations are likely to arise from contrasts, unexpected resonances, stress points between the different futures envisioned, and (as in the book’s title) glimpses of a “next horizon” where apparent antagonisms might coalesce into larger paradigms.

Here are some details about the six authors who will take part:

  • Doaa Alghalban, from the UAE, is a strategic advisor on foresight strategies, governance, public policy, quality, and excellence management for different government organizations in the United Arab Emirates (UAE). Her chapter is entitled A World Transformed: Political and Socio-Economic Impacts of the Pandemic. It asks the question: “How might the economic and political fallout from the pandemic impact international relations and society over the next five years?”
  • José Cordeiro, from Spain, is a director of the Millennium Project and Vice Chair of Humanity+. His chapter is entitled Crisis (危機) = Danger (危) + Opportunity (機): A New Renaissance. It asks the question: “Is the pandemic a source of global danger that also uncovers a great opportunity in the evolution of this planetary crisis?”
  • Claire A. Nelson, from the USA, is lead futurist at The Futures Forum. Her chapter is entitled Reimagining the World Order to Regenerate African, Caribbean, and Pacific Economies. It asks the question: “How can nations in Africa, the Caribbean, and the Pacific recover and regenerate their economies?”
  • Alejandro Repetto, from Argentina, is a foresight and innovation strategy practitioner and serial technology entrepreneur. His chapter is entitled The Day After the Lockdown. It asks the question: “Which of the changes that we are experiencing today could define the future?”
  • Marian Salzman, from Switzerland, is senior vice president, global communications at Philip Morris International. Her chapter is entitled Life Next: How Our World Could Change Post-Pandemic. It asks the question: “How might this crisis impact businesses, lifestyles, and mindsets?”
  • Rohit Talwar, from the UK, is a global futurist and the CEO of Fast Future. His chapter is entitled 20 Shifts on the Path to 2030. It asks the question: “What are some of the emerging future factors that could turn into influential shifts shaping the next decade and beyond?”

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

Note: There is a 25% discount for members of London Futurists on this book and all the others in the Fast Future bookstore. Use coupon code LF25 at checkout.

2.) Combining insights about possible rejuvenation mechanisms – Sat 20th Nov

Our event on Saturday 20th November will involve a different sort of combination.

The topic will be an attempted reconciliation of multiple diverse observations about possible rejuvenation mechanisms that exist within the biology of organisms.

The proposed new synthesis has been given the name “Younging” – which some observers like, and others seem to dislike. I recommend that you listen to the presentation and then make up your own mind.

This event will feature a presentation from two advocates of the Younging hypothesis: independent longevity researchers Vince Giuliano and Steve Buss.

Vince and Steve observe that there has recently been an explosion in the number of scientific studies documenting evidence about biological processes related to aging and rejuvenation. Many different theories attempt to explain that evidence. One complication, however, is that several new intervention techniques have emerged that appear to provide longevity benefit, sometimes profound, that aren’t explained by any of these existing theories.

The presenters believe that the number and content of scientific-study puzzle pieces have now approached a critical threshold. It is now possible, they claim, to assemble a good explanation, in which natural body rejuvenation processes play a vital role. This comprehensive new explanation integrates existing theories and also highlights an age-reversal process – the one they have identified and named ‘younging’.

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

3.) Transcending right and left: forward?

One area where a combination of insights is badly needed – but where such a combination often seems to be fiercely resisted – is in the field of government.

How can the undoubted benefits of innovation and the free market (as championed by the “right wing” of politics) best be combined with the benefits of a social contract and a welfare safety net (as championed by the “left wing”)?

Equally, how can the catastrophic failure modes of a free market be avoided, without running into the similarly catastrophic failure modes of central planning and flawed “white elephant” state projects?

Historically, parties of the right and left have sometimes been able to cooperate in a bipartisan way. But for various reasons, we now all experience polarising tendencies as never before. Bipartisan approaches are often disparaged as traitorous. In the US in particular, politicians seeking selection as Republican nominees or as Democratic nominees are each pulled, by local election dynamics, toward the extreme fringes of their parties. There’s little electoral advantage to demonstrate any willingness to forge cross-party coalitions.

That’s one theme covered in the provocative new book by Andrew Yang, Forward: Notes on the Future of our Democracy.

You may recall that Yang rose to prominence as an advocate of UBI, which he championed in his run between 2018 and 2020 to become the Democratic Party nominee for the 2020 US Presidential election.

Yang developed his ideas about UBI in his previous book The War on Normal People: The Truth About America’s Disappearing Jobs and Why Universal Basic Income Is Our Future. In his new book, he touches on a much wider set of themes. It gave me a lot to think about.

The first third of Forward was a refreshing, very human account of Yang’s race to be Democratic nominee for the 2020 US Presidency. The book is valuable for that alone.

The second third was bleaker reading. It reviewed stubborn reasons why most attempts to improve politics in the US (and, by extension, in several other countries) are doomed to failure. The system is not only broken but is stacked against meaningful change.

The final third of Forward offered some rays of hope again. Whilst Yang in 2020 put the concept of UBI on the political table, from now on he will be working to raise appreciation in a similar way of Rank Choice Voting and Open Primaries.

If Rank Choice Voting and Open Primaries sound dull to you now, you’re likely to change your opinion in the months and years ahead, as the campaign of Yang’s new Forward Party builds momentum.

Other core principles of the Forward Party resonate with me too, including “Human-Centered Capitalism”, “Fact-Based Governance”, “Effective and Modern Government”, and “Grace and Tolerance” (that last one came as a very pleasant surprise).

Some of the usual critics have said that the Forward Party lacks width of policy. But there are plenty of compelling ideas in Yang’s book, beyond the ones I’ve just mentioned. You can dip into examples online.

By the time I’d reached the end of Forward, the idea of Andrew Yang leading a third party in the USA to break through the deep logjam and dysfunction of present US politics, and possibly even becoming President, wasn’t quite as unlikely as I had previously thought. I wish him well!

By the way, if there’s anyone close to the leadership of the Forward Party who is willing to join an online London Futurists discussion, I’ll be very happy to hear from them.

4.) Transcending right and left: upward?

As someone associated with a minority political party myself (one starting from an ever lower threshold than the Forward Party), I found lots to ponder in the experience of Andrew Yang regarding scenarios in which Transhumanist UK might achieve true impact.

The motto of the Forward Party is “Not Left. Not Right. FORWARD.”

This has similarities with a message that transhumanists have used since FM Estfandiary entitled his 1973 book Up-Wingers: A Futurist Manifesto. His language in that book is dated in some ways, but remains visionary. Here’s an extract:

To transcend more rapidly to higher levels of evolution we must begin by breaking out of the confinement of traditional ideologies. We are at all times slowed down by the narrowness of Right-wing and Left-wing alternatives…

How do you identify Space scientists who this very day are working with new sets of premises to establish communities in other worlds? Are they Right-wing or Left? Are they conservative or liberal?

How do you categorize radio astronomers now scanning the galaxies in search of Intelligent Life? Or scientists working on the implantation of devices in the human body enabling the individual to control its own pain and pleasures – emotions and dreams? Or those working on telefarming systems which can provide endless quantities of food? Or computerers developing cybernated systems to free people of the primitive ordeals of perpetual work and of leadership government? Or bio-engineers striving to conquer death?

These and other breakthroughs are outside the range of all the traditional philosophical social economic political frameworks. These new dimensions are nowhere on the Right or on the Left. These new dimensions are Up.

Up is an entirely new framework whose very premises and goals transcend the conventional Right and Left…

The Right/Left establishment wants to maintain an evolutionary status quo. It is resigned to humanity’s basic predicament. It simply strives to make life better within this predicament.

Up-Wingers are resigned to nothing. We accept no human predicament as permanent, no tragedy as irreversible; no goals as unattainable.

I echoed that terminology in a slide in one of my presentations in Madrid at TransVision 2021 earlier this month:

In that presentation, I shared with the TransVision audience a status update about the aspirations of Transhumanist UK to take part in mayoral elections in major cities in the UK in 2024. I’ll share a recording of that presentation as soon as the event organisers make it available. For now, I’ll note one example of positive feedback regarding that talk: veteran transhumanist Anders Sandberg tweeted as follows:

That was a surprisingly good case for a transhumanist party.

It’s still very early days for a possible “Transhumanism 2024” campaign in the UK, but quite a lot of preliminary activity is taking place behind the scenes. To become involved – or just to lurk, if you are transhumanist-curious (or politics-curious), see the links on this page, including an open (for now) invitation to the Transhumanist UK Slack.

5.) One thousand years young?

Another initiative of Transhumanist UK is the occasional podcast Humanity Unshackled. Episode 5 was released a few days ago – and Episode 6 has already been recorded.

The title of Episode 5 is “1000 years young, with Angela Shurina”. It is introduced as follows:

In case the transhumanist technological dawn is not quite as near as some might hope, what are the practical steps each of us can take here and now, as individuals, to boost our vitality and extend our healthy lifespan?

What can be done, using methods and processes that are already available, to improve our lifestyles and diets, allowing us to become “our superhuman self” – to make it more likely we can in due course become “1000 years young”?

Keep your ears open for future episodes of Humanity Unshackled. And keep your eyes open for some new videos, coming soon, that present the ideas of Transhumanist UK in very different ways from before.

// David W. Wood
Chair, London Futurists

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