Better videos for a better future

Dear Futurists,

We’re all influenced by the images, narratives, and videos we encounter. Sometimes we’re consciously aware of the influence, but there’s often an “under the radar” connection that reprograms us subconsciously.

In particular, when we encounter specific images, narratives, and videos about the future, it inevitably influences how we think about the future in general. Sometimes for good. But often for ill.

This isn’t a complaint about dystopian visions. Dystopian predictions can play an important role, warning us of dangers ahead which we need to take steps to avoid.

But we urgently need positive, constructive visions too. These are visions of how humanity could take wise advantage of new technological possibilities:

  • To solve the wicked problems that are confronting us,
  • And to secure profound new levels of wellbeing.

In other words, alongside the shocks and distress of “Black Mirror”, we also need credible, engaging, uplifting visions that we could call “White Mirror”.

Sadly, Hollywood seems unable to offer positive visions of the future without lacing in lots of negative aspects as well. Conflict sells. Treachery sells. Decay sells. Therefore, every silver lining apparently comes with a dark cloud attached. And here’s the lesson that audiences take away, perhaps subconsciously: you’re foolish if you believe in a significantly better future.

But for some different kinds of videos of the future, read on.

1.) 2045 World Build

Here’s a short video produced by a team of collaborators from the Millennium Project: Jerome Glenn, Ted Gordon, Elizabeth Florescu, Veronica Agreda, José Cordeiro, and Maria Mateo.

There’s lots to admire in this video. It’s part of a wider exploration submitted by the Millennium Project collaborators into how the world might develop between the present day, 2022, and 2045.

You can find the full entry here. On the same website, you can also find links to 19 other entries selected by competition judges as finalists in the Future of Life World Building contest.

Altogether, the contest attracted 144 entries, so the judges clearly had a challenging task to assess everything in their in-trays. I assume they used some cognitive shortcuts.

I’ve not looked in depth at all the finalists, though what I have seen leads to think that, if I had been a judge, I would have made some different selections. Some inspirational pieces of analysis are mixed in with other lightweight entries that fall significantly short on credibility or even desirability. (They’re no “White Mirror” but are more like “Murky Grey Mirror”.)

As I said, the Millennium Project entry seems to be one of the best. The contest organisers have asked members of the public to supply feedback online. You don’t need to provide feedback for all twenty finalists, but if various entries strike you as particularly strong – or as particularly weak – I suggest that you submit some comments, via the links on the various finalist pages.

A different way to scan through the entries, by the way, is via this Twitter thread.

2.) Timeline to transcendence

Here’s the video that was part of the submission I personally entered to the contest:

Like the other videos submitted, it was part of a larger set of documents:

I believe these documents add up to a plausible and integrated vision of how humanity can navigate through three enormous waves in the years ahead: turbulence, transformation, and transcendence.

Evidently, the contest judges had different criteria in mind. Perhaps they disliked the radical transhumanist elements of my world vision. If I had been more prudent, I could have chosen to downplay that aspect of my entry. Nevertheless, to my mind, the ‘T’ of “transhumanism” is every bit as important to a positive future as the ‘T’s of “turbulence”, “transformation”, and “transcendence”. So I have no regrets.

3.) The Singularity Principles – now ready for feedback

An important part of my vision for humanity reaching a significantly better world is the role to be played by growing worldwide agreements over the principles to govern and regulate the development and deployment of AI and other powerful new technologies.

I’ve gathered my recommendations about these principles into a forthcoming new book, The Singularity Principles.

I’ve now completed the first draft of the material that will be contained in that book. You can read the entire draft online here. Compared to some of my other books, it’s relatively short.

In case you prefer to view a detailed table of contents, click here.

I’ve pulled this material together because, frankly, I am dismayed by much of the public discussion about AI and other exponential technologies.

I frequently criticise what I hear various people saying about aspects of AI. Even apparent experts, that you would think should know better, make dubious claims about the ethics of AI, ways to control AI, timescales for AI progress, and much more. Well, it’s time for me to back up my own alternative views with some focused material. Hence this forthcoming new book.

The list of Singularity Principles actually first appeared in the final chapter of my previous book, Vital Foresight. But they deserve greater prominence. They also deserve a fuller analysis than I provided in Vital Foresight. Hence (again) this forthcoming new book.

I’ll appreciate any comments, questions, and suggestions about the current draft material. You can send it to me via email, via Meetup messages, via the London Futurists Slack, or by any other channel that you find convenient.

The content is likely to evolve over the next few weeks. It’s a bit rough in a few places at the moment. But once I’ve grown more comfortable with it, I plan to create an ebook version, a physical book version (for those who prefer to hold books in their hands), an audio version (for people who prefer to listen), and a set of videos which I will feed back into the “Singularity” page of the Vital Syllabus project.

Yes, that’s going to take a lot of work. But I see it as truly important!

4) Another chance to see the future

The future could be very wonderful – if some of the predictions in some of the World Building contest turn out to be anything like correct.

Who would not want to be part of such a future?

But what if our physical bodies are failing us, before that future comes into being?

That’s when the option of cryopreservation becomes particularly relevant. Cryopreservation – the suspension of physical bodies at ultra-low temperatures – could provide a kind of “ambulance to the future”, for ourselves, and/or for our beloved companions and family members.

Cryopreservation will be the theme of the London Futurists event this Saturday, 28th May.

Our speaker will be Jordi Sandalinas, a lawyer, drone pilot, and professor of the course on Drone Law at the Universitat Oberta de Catalunya (UOC). He is also one of the leaders of a proposed Europe-wide initiative to highlight best practice in the laws and regulations that are applicable to cryopreservation.

Cryopreservation is a controversial subject. Even people who are open to explore the possibilities of significant life extension (sometimes called “Plan A”) are sometimes embarrassed to be seen considering the “Plan B” of cryopreservation.

(Aside: Hmm, my entry to the abovementioned Future of Life World Building contest contained some positive assessments of cryopreservation. That probably wasn’t politically wise of me. I can imagine some judges having a visceral “yuk” reaction. Too bad.)

But it’s not just confusion over the moral desirability of cryonics that deters some possible patients from signing up to it. There are a number of legal and regulatory hurdles as well. That’s what Jordi Sandalinas will be discussing on Saturday:

  • The limits of rights for people to specify what happens to their bodies after legal death
  • Laws governing the stabilization, transport, and storage of cryopreserved bodies
  • Options for “cryopreservation with dignity”, sometimes called cryothanasia
  • Complications with laws regarding property and ownership when someone formally legally dead is reanimated
  • Differences between the legal situation in different countries
  • The case for a Europe-wide initiative to propose best practice in laws and regulations

I’m looking forward to a discussion that will be thought-provoking but also deeply practical. After all, it’s a matter of life and death.

5.) What I want to do in the future

I’ll finish with a different kind of video. The effort to produce it must have been huge.

I was reminded of this video when Dalton Murray asked me for suggestions for what should be included in the “Transhumanist Music for Cyborgs Top 20” list that he is creating and maintaining.

It’s not quite clear what counts as “Transhumanist Music for Cyborgs”. But the above “Bohemian Gravity” video speaks powerfully to me. It reminds me that, once upon a time, I used to have a reasonably good understanding of quantum field theory. (Which, by the way, is a significant step up in complexity from non-relativistic quantum mechanics.) The video also makes me look forward to a time when I can re-immerse myself sufficiently in mathematics that I can understand all the technical references contained in the lyrics.

(Perhaps an AGI tutor will guide me through that understanding. A bit like in this short story.)

And, yes, one day I’ll organise a London Futurists event on the ways in which the multiverse interpretation of quantum mechanics is likely to impact the future of philosophical thinking.

// David W. Wood
Chair, London Futurists

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