Options for 2022

Dear Futurists,

2022 starts with some good news, and with some options for new projects.

1.) Going mainstream: stopping the aging process

Several topics that used to be restricted to fringe meetings – such as those organised by London Futurists – are nowadays being addressed much closer to the centre of public discussion.

As a striking example, Andrew Steele – who was the speaker at a London Futurists webinar back in January 2021 – will be speaking on broadly the same topic, twelve months later, at the venerable Royal Institution in Central London.

As a reminder, the Royal Institution is where Michael Faraday gave his renowned public lectures in 1825 and where Faraday devised the idea of the electrical generator. At least ten chemical elements have been discovered in experiments carried out in the premises. Fifteen scientists attached to the Royal Institution have won Nobel Prizes. But I digress.

Here’s how the Ri website describes the talk Andrew Steele will be giving there on 13 January:

Aging is not a biological inevitability. Scientists are studying every aspect of the body which could lead to treatments that could slow down, or even stop, the aging process.

Join Andrew Steele as he discusses what happens as we age, practical ways we can help slow down the process and the fascinating research being carried out today.

In this talk, discover how understanding the scientific implications of aging could lead to the greatest revolution in the history of medicine. One that has the potential to transform the human condition.

It’s very encouraging that such a talk will be given at this venue, on a subject described as potentially “the greatest revolution in the history of medicine”.

Click here for details on how to take part, either on one of the seats in the Ri lecture theatre, or online.

2.) Radically extended healthspans: the political dimension

Another indication of increasing mainstream interest in the subject of radically extended healthspans – and possibly even stopping and reversing aging – is the recent publication “Live Longer or Healthier? The Science That Is Making Both Possible” by the Tony Blair Institute for Global Change.

Section headings in that report include:

  • The Economic and Public-Health Imperative
  • Signs of Progress
  • Understanding the Biology of Aging
  • Longevity in a Pill?
  • Advances in Genomics, AI and Gene Editing
  • Measuring Aging
  • Regenerative Medicine
  • Implications for Policy
  • Putting Britain at the Forefront of Longevity Research

The report contains bold proposals but is backed up by sound analysis.

The three main authors of that report are joining London Futurists on Saturday 8th January – at the earlier-than-usual start time of 2pm – to speak about their research.

Here are some details about the three speakers:

  • Karen Hooper: Karen’s work focuses on issues including the future of food and technology development in Asia. She has spent the past eight years in China and Singapore working in tech and marketing. Karen received her BA in East Asian studies from Dartmouth College and her MBA from INSEAD.
  • Martin Carkett: Martin’s work focuses on a broad range of areas across science and innovation including Health and Biotech, Structures of Science, and Innovations in Financial Markets. He has spent the past six years at Her Majesty’s Treasury where he most recently headed the Innovative Financing team. Prior to this, Martin completed a PhD in Stem Cell and Developmental Biology at the Francis Crick Institute and University College London (UCL).
  • Jess Northend: Jess’s work focuses on frontier tech and innovation policy, and how can we equip public leaders to respond to science and technological change. She has previously worked with HM Government and some of the UK’s leading businesses to improve firm-level productivity. Additionally, Jess has served on the teaching teams of courses in adaptive leadership, negotiation, and leadership and ethics at the Harvard Kennedy School.

It has the makings of a fascinating session. Click here for more details and to register to attend.

3.) Going mainstream: AI as the biggest event in human history

Another grand British institution is the annual series of Reith Lectures – named after Lord Reith, the first director general of the BBC. They have taken place almost every year since 1948, with a remarkable series of eminent speakers starting with Bertrand Russell. This year the speaker was Professor Stuart Russell, one of the deepest thinkers about the rise of artificial intelligence.

I recommend listening to all four lectures. The extended Q&A portions after each lecture add significant extra value.

I didn’t entirely agree with everything Stuart Russell said (especially in the fourth lecture), but even in such cases, Russell made his points well.

Again, it was refreshing to hear many of the topics that used to be confined to London Futurists events, now gaining pride of place in this distinguished BBC lecture series.

4.) How Dangerous is Artificial Superintelligence?

One of the major themes for London Futurists during 2022 will be the difference between today’s artificial intelligence – often called “narrow” AI – and forthcoming “general” AI – sometimes called “artificial superintelligence”.

As a curtain raiser for several more meetings envisioned on the same broad theme, we’ll be joined on Saturday 5th February by Dr. Roman Yampolskiy, Professor of Computer Science at the University of Louisville. Dr. Yampolskiy is the author of the book Artificial Superintelligence: A Futuristic Approach and the editor of the book Artificial Intelligence Safety and Security.

Here’s a flavour of what Dr Yampolskiy will be covering in his presentation:

Researchers around the world are developing methods to enhance the safety, security, explainability, and beneficiality of “narrow” artificial intelligence. How well will these methods transfer into the forthcoming field of artificial superintelligence (ASI)? Or will ASI pose radically new challenges that will require a different set of solutions? Indeed, what hope is there for human designers to keep control of ASI when it emerges? Or is the subordination of humans to this new force inevitable?

Click here for more information and to register to take part.

5.) Volunteer intern positions

The arrival of a new year can be a good time to reconsider which projects deserve more of our time – and which deserve less.

Let me mention two roles to assist London Futurists projects. Neither are paid, sorry, but they could be a fine thing to add to your CVs. You might also like to become involved simply out of a sense of the importance of these projects.

I would hope that people who step forward will consider working on these projects an average of four hours a week (maybe more) for a period of around three months.

The first of these positions is to help fill out several of the online pages in the Vital Syllabus project.

The kind of assistance I would welcome is covered in the FAQ of the project:

Q: What kind of assistance would the project most appreciate?

A: The project needs to start gathering and organising links to good quality resources – that is, links to videos, documents, or other online material – resources that address areas mentioned in the syllabus. These resources should be:

  • Accessible: available without any payment or other obstacle
  • Clear: easy to understand
  • Engaging: inspires and keeps the attention of viewers
  • Precise: addresses the topic in the syllabus, rather than lots of other questions
  • Authoritative: has good reason to be trusted.

People can help the project by suggesting any or all of the following:

  1. Resources that should receive priority recommendations in the Vital Syllabus
  2. Resources that should be created, to address gaps in the recommendations
  3. Processes to review and validate resources that have been suggested
  4. The overall structure of the content
  5. The appropriate mix of definition and diversity – that is, how much variation should be included
  6. Ways in which the project can acquire greater impact – the sooner, the better.

For a different idea, consider joining the team of volunteers that improves the online encyclopedia H+Pedia.

H+Pedia will welcome people who can:

  • Tidy existing articles
  • Increase publicity for the site
  • Notice when articles have become out-of-date, and need revising
  • Suggest changes to the overall structure of the site, to make it more engaging, more welcoming, and more impactful
  • Recommend changes in the strategy of the project – aiming to “do more by doing less”
  • Recommend tactical changes in the tools, layout, or operational flow of the project

6.) A personal note (and the transhumanist shadow)

As some of you have noticed, I’ve been less active over the last month or so. I’ve needed to slow down following some medical complications. Thankfully, I’ve regained most of my former vitality, so I am ramping up my activities again.

For example, I have agreed to be the main speaker this Sunday(2nd January) at the U.S. Transhumanist Party Virtual Enlightenment Salon on the subject of “The Transhumanist Shadow”.

It’s a controversial subject in some quarters, but one that I see as important to raise and explore.

The event will be broadcast live on YouTube, here.

In case it’s not clear, I’ll be championing the idea of transhumanism as being especially important in the present time.

I’ll also be looking at the factors why, despite its relevance, transhumanism has achieved only limited public support. And I’ll be suggesting responses to these factors.

As I said, some of what I say may well be regarded as controversial. Welcome to 2022!

// David W. Wood
Chair, London Futurists

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