Leverage points, misunderstandings, fascinations, and missed opportunities

Dear Futurists,

After a break of several weeks (more about that below), here are a few news items that may interest you – starting with our event tomorrow (Saturday 23rd July).

1.) Artificial Intelligence and You

Our guest tomorrow is Peter J. Scott, who has a rich background:

A Master’s degree in computer science from Cambridge University led Peter to spend more than thirty years working for NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory, helping advance the exploration of space. A parallel pursuit of the human development field as a certified coach positioned him to recognize and address technological disruption. The births of his children brought him into a mission: to help people understand, use, and advance AI for the betterment of all. He has given TEDx talks, and spoken to audiences as diverse as transformational leaders, executives, and British parliamentarians.

In 2017 he founded the Next Wave Institute, which coaches clients to become resilient to exponential disruption. In 2020 he started the Artificial Intelligence and You podcast, bringing expert guests as diverse as politicians, CEOs, philosophers, developers, and artists to help audiences understand this incredibly complex thing called AI. He lives in the Pacific Northwest with his wife and two daughters.

Our event marks the publication of Peter’s new book, Artificial Intelligence and You. I had the privilege of reading a pre-publication copy. Here’s my assessment of the book:

In his engaging, lively prose, Peter Scott demonstrates three vital truths about AI. First, AI is not just one thing; it is a multitude. Second, there is not just one risk with AI; there are many. But, third, AI brings humanity a wide range of tremendously positive opportunities. “Artificial Intelligence and You” provides a wonderful guide to the issues arising.

 Peter tells me that, in our discussion tomorrow, he will share some lessons and insights from his extensive experience in discussing the the future of AI with people in all walks of life. The question he particularly has in mind is this:

In communicating about the promise and peril of AI with general audiences, what are the most important leverage points, misunderstandings, fascinations, and missed opportunities?

The webinar will span the gamut of the subtitle of his book: What AI Means for Your Life, Your Work, and Your World. There will be references to autonomous weapons, self-driving vehicles, neuroscience, current topics in AI ethics, and above all, how we should think about AI.

I hope you can join us. For more information, and to register to attend, click here.

2.) New frontiers for longevity

My personal worldview has been decisively shaped by a number of key conferences that I’ve had the privilege to attend over the years. One series of conferences that has had a special impact on me was the SENS conference series, organised by pioneering longevity visionary Aubrey de Grey. I have fond memories of what I learned – and the new personal connections forged – at SENS events in Cambridge in 2007, 2009, 2011, and 2013, and at other events in the same series in San Francisco and Berlin.

The good news is that this conference series is being rebooted. The restart is taking place in Dublin, between 18th and 20th September. Click here for the details.

Here’s an extract from the conference website:

Gather with us for an informative, uplifting conference recognising and celebrating emerging research and developments across the Longevity Industry globally.. Join world-renowned longevity experts like George Church (Professor of Genetics, Harvard Medical School), Aubrey de Grey (Co-Founder, SENS Research Foundation),  Evelyne Yehudit Bischof (Associate professor, internal medicine specialist, Longevity physician at Human Longevity Inc.), Jim Mellon (Chairman & Co-Founder Juvenescense ; Global Investor ), Maria Blasco (Scientific Director, Spanish National Cancer Research Centre), Greg Grinberg (Actualfood Founder & CEO), Phil Newman (Founder, First Longevity, Editor-in–Chief Longevity.Technology), and many more 

Click here for the full set of speakers.

Nowadays – compared to when I first attended the SENS conferences – there are numerous other longevity conferences, many with excellent material. The longevity community has grown exponentially. But my expectation is that the Dublin event will raise attention to important aspects of the longevity landscape that aren’t receiving sufficient attention elsewhere. That’s part of the special genius of Aubrey de Grey and his team of supporters. I’m really looking forward to it.

Early bird pricing finishes soon (31st July). Don’t delay!

3.) Newspeak House residents – last few places available

Another opportunity with an application deadline of 31st July is for the next cohort of the Newspeak House Residential programme.

Details of the programme – and about Newspeak House – are available at https://www.nwspk.com/residency. The following information is taken from there.

Newspeak House is a hub for communities working to change society with technology, spanning all kinds of civic institutions, from government, politics, activism, charities, journalism, thinktanks, NGOs, philanthropy, to academia.

At the heart of Newspeak House is its residential programme, running since 2015. Seven residents spend a year immersed in these communities, enjoying the chance to meet thousands of people and attend events held on their doorstep.

It is designed to support mid-career technologists gain a holistic understanding of the civic landscape in the UK, in order to found groundbreaking new projects or seek strategic positions in key institutions. It’s ideal for people who have been working professionally for several years and are now looking to grow their network and spend time reflecting deeply on how they can best have impact on the world.

Residents will have the opportunity to:

  • Learn from leading expert practitioners working in senior positions across UK institutions
  • Get immersed in a wide variety of emerging civic communities of practice
  • Develop strong relationships with a close cohort of peers while living together in centrally located college accommodation
  • Learn the theory behind how our social and political world changes through a range of lectures, seminars, and reading groups
  • Work on your own projects with the guidance and mentorship of our faculty

Upon completing the course, you will be invited to join the Newspeak House fellowship, the start of a lifelong relationship with the institution and its networks.

We are looking for a diverse, interdisciplinary group that brings a mix of backgrounds, methodologies, fields, and professions — practitioners, researchers, developers, lawyers, advocates, activists, educators, entrepreneurs, journalists, technology industry actors, those coming out of a government office or position, policy analysts, public intellectuals, and those whose practice doesn’t fit squarely into conventional categories.

Residents must be open to living in close proximity to other people, and be enthusiastic about sharing their knowledge and network, and developing mentoring relationships. We prioritise applicants who are excited about connecting with and contributing to other residents, fellows, members, organisers, and the growing communities working on political technology.

4.) Why I’ve been rather quiet recently

The acknowledgement pages of books often feature authors thanking their families for enduring long periods of isolation whilst the author was focused on the new creation.

I feel the same, regarding my own new book, The Singularity Principles. Except that the “family” I’ve been neglecting is the London Futurists community. And I’ve let too many important emails rest unanswered for too long. Sorry!

The ebook version was released at the beginning of this month. Since then, responding to popular demand, I’ve been creating an audio book version. Recording narrations for all the chapters was relatively straightforward. But editing the resulting footage into a publication-ready format has taken lots more of my time.

One small example: I thought I was finally ready last night to upload the audio files (all eight and a half hours) and press the Publish button. To my surprise, Amazon told me that all my audio files were too quiet. I opened my Audacity sound editing software again, to raise the volumes as requested, and found that in most cases I couldn’t do so easily, since that would have made some parts of the files too loud.

So it seems I shouldn’t have varied my speaking volume so much.

Anyway, I hunted down all the sections where my voice had been too loud, and reduced these, before uniformly raising the volume of all the files as Amazon requested.

That led me to press the Publish button at around 2am in the morning. And now I need to await the next round of Amazon review and approval. (They say it might take “10 business days”.)

Hopefully I’ll have better news to share on that front soon. In the meantime, I’ll crack on with preparing the files for the paperback version. And also in the meantime, the Kindle version is available for anyone who cannot wait for the other formats!

// David W. Wood
Chair, London Futurists

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