It’s easy to offer a simple positive vision for the future. We might aspire for greater human flourishing, for an end to human divisiveness, and for the advent of sustainable superabundance.
But things become harder when we need to turn our simple visions into realistic substantive hopes – a roadmap of steps that could, plausibly take place in sequence.
We may be tempted to narrow our gaze, and to focus on a smaller number of data points, such as the width of a transistor in nanometres, the decreasing cost of DNA analysis, or the number of parameters in the latest LLMs (Large Language Models).
The difficulty, again, is when we have to take the whole panoply of human experience into the picture. Plus the convulsions of an environment under distress. Plus the instabilities of geopolitics. Not to mention the poisonous output from press tycoons.
How can all these tensions be weighed up and handled?
How can we find a realistic substantive hope for the future?
1.) What if we did everything right for the next 60 years?
Our speaker at tomorrow’s London Futurists webinar, Michael Rogers, describes himself as a “practical futurist”. In that way of thinking, visions that cannot be actualised in the real world have limited value.
Accordingly, it’s important to explore, in advance, the kinds of interactions and complications that might derail a well-intentioned attempt to build a better future.
That’s what Michael considers in his recent new book Email from the Future: Notes from 2084. The book weaves together topics ranging from healthcare, education, and advanced AI, to space travel, marriage, mind preservation, gaming, and religion – as well as the next phase of human evolution.
Michael will be discussing themes from his book, as well as the general question of the pros and cons of “realistic utopian fiction”. I’m expecting a fascinating exchange of views.
2.) Revitalising the social and political landscape
As just noted, there’s limited value in considering the trajectory of technological development without also considering the interference from the social and political landscape.
- Level 1 features excitement about the positive possibilities of exponential surges. “Do you realise that things could get much better, faster than is generally thought possible?” “Look at this great technological breakthrough – more like this are coming soon!”
- Level 2 features apprehension about the negative possibilities of exponential surges. “Do you realise that things could get much worse, faster than is generally thought possible?” “Look at this drawback of disruptive technologies – more like this could come soon!”
- Level 3 features advice about how individuals and organisations can, and should, transform themselves, in order to improve their anticipation and management of exponential surges. “Here is how you can improve your foresight, become more agile, and strengthen your resilience.” “Here is a way of building a business to take advantage of an exponential surge.”
- Level 4 highlights desired transformations, not just for individuals and organisations, but in the social and political landscape. Unless these changes take place, the likelihood is much reduced of individuals and organisations being able to flourish in the times ahead.
The world is full of organisations and communities that operate at the lower three levels, but few that operate, as well, at the fourth level. That’s the focus of Future Surge.
What’s meant by “social and political landscape”? It includes:
- The infrastructure that we often take for granted – the systems that enable the flows and exchange of energy, people, finance, information, healthcare, food, consumer goods, services, and so on
- The set of legal contracts that govern our lives, our businesses, and our transactions – and the mechanisms that come into place when contracts are broken
- The ethical norms that guide our behaviours even when no legal contracts apply
- The incentives that society provides – including tax breaks, subsidies, prizes, and awards – to encourage various sorts of behaviour
- The set of public goods that are available – items created without direct monetary compensation in mind, but which are intended to assist the flourishing of a community – such as libraries, public broadcasters, public education, public healthcare, sanitation services, and basic scientific research
- The safety nets that can prevent individuals or organisations from (metaphorically) falling too hard, in case of missed connections or dropped handovers
- The political mechanisms by which potential changes in our social and political landscape are discussed – such as the processes for voting, for counting votes, for nominating people as candidates in elections, and for structuring debates
- The set of prevailing ideas about appropriate ways for all the above to operate.
The very latest news from Future Surge covers “three weeks of progress” and also contains an invite to an online audio (voice) meeting starting at 8pm UK time on Tuesday 4th October. Click on the following image to read that news posting.
3.) Videos of our two events from last Saturday
Last Saturday was a busy day, with two separate London Futurists webinars.
In case you missed them, please find below the videos of the recordings. Enjoy!
4.) Future Impact Summit
It’s been a long time since London Futurists have met in the real-world, as opposed to an online webinar.
That will change, on 29-30 October. These are the dates for the Future Impact Summit which will be taking place on the LSE Campus in Central London.
The Summit will be divided into six sections over the two days.
At time of writing, the Summit website still only has some preliminary information, but you’ll notice that, of the four speakers already highlighted, three of them have been London Futurists speakers.
I’m expecting quite a few friends and members of London Futurists to attend. Nearer the time, look out for news on how we can meet up, as part of the overall Future Impact Summit.
5.) Collective Futurists
The group has been established to review the provocative ideas of Balaji Srinivasan. Balaji was formerly the CTO of Coinbase and General Partner at Andreessen Horowitz. His book The Network State has the following description:
Technology has enabled us to start new companies, new communities, and new currencies. But can we use it to start new cities, or even new countries? This book explains how to build the successor to the nation state, a concept we call the network state.
Reviews of the book often find fault with parts of the argument, but say that the argument is nevertheless stimulating and thought-provoking.
I look forward to surely seeing a number of you at the meetup of the Collective Futurists. For more details of that meetup, click here.
// David W. Wood
Chair, London Futurists