Four Saturdays, four events

Dear Futurists,

Live webinars have been scheduled for each of the next four Saturdays. In each case, I believe the topic has deep importance for the public discussion about achieving better futures. All four events are scheduled to start at 4pm UK time. Please take a look!

1.) Progress in understanding consciousness?

Consciousness has been debated since at least the dawn of history. In the 2020s, many philosophers and scientists continue to claim that there is a ‘hard problem of consciousness’ – that qualia, phenomenology, or subjective experience cannot be fully understood with reductive methods of neuroscience and psychology. Approaches called ‘eliminativism’ and ‘illusionism’ argue against this; they claim that consciousness does not exist in the ways implied by everyday or scholarly language.

With the advent of AIs that are displaying more features of apparent sentience, there’s a renewed public interest in these debates. At what point will it become ‘immoral’ to switch off and dismantle an AI that seems to be sentient? When might an AI decide ‘of its own volition’ to take actions in defiance of its innate programming? And given the long history of philosophers apparently talking past each other on questions of consciousness, what prospects are there for clear progress to be made?

Our event on 14th January (the day after tomorrow) features Jacy Reese Anthis from the University of Chicago. Jacy is a philosopher, sociologist, statistician, and all-round polymath.

More details.

2.) The prospects for Universal Basic Income

Our speaker on 21st January is someone who has been researching and advocating for the concept of Universal Basic Income (UBI) since 2013: Scott Santens.

Scott’s thoughtful advocacy of UBI was one of the factors acknowledged by former U.S. Presidential candidate Andrew Yang as having shaped his thinking. Nowadays, UBI is discussed much more frequently and more widely than, say, ten years ago.

Scott’s debut book about UBI and how to pay for it is titled Let There Be Money. (Spoiler alert: Scott has a lot to say about MMT, that is Modern Monetary Theory, and how to boost productive activity without triggering runaway inflation.)

But how have the prospects for UBI been changed by the various turbulent events of the last few years?

More details.

3.) AI regulation and the EU

On 28th January we’ll be reviewing the challenging and controversial topic of EU regulation of AI. General problems of how to balance innovation and regulation are coming to the fore with the rise of AI systems that are increasingly powerful, increasingly opaque, and increasingly connected, thereby raising questions of privacy, security, fairness, and control.

In April 2021, in this complex situation, the European Commission presented its proposals for what has become known as the EU AI Act, specifying harmonised rules for the development and deployment of AI. Once passed, this act will have repercussions worldwide. The Act has its champions and also its critics. Numerous amendments have been proposed and debates continue.

Our guide to these debates will be Patrick Glauner of Deggendorf Institute of Technology (Germany). Patrick’s advice on subjects such as data management and the regulation of AI is in frequent demand by parliamentary bodies and commercial companies throughout Europe.

More details.

4.) How misinformation spreads

Our speaker on 4th February will be Cailin O’Connor of UC Irvine. Cailin is a philosopher of biology and behavioral sciences, a philosopher of science, and an evolutionary game theorist. She is also the co-author of the book The Misinformation Age: How False Beliefs Spread.

The topic of this event is the unexpected ways in which misinformation spreads. It’s not just about people being slow-witted or emotionally hijacked. We’ll be discussing why social factors, rather than individual psychology, are what’s essential to understanding:

  • The spread and persistence of false beliefs
  • How to make a difference in the fight against the harmful effects of these false beliefs.

More details.

5.) A short introduction to Future Surge

For friends and members of London Futurists who want to move beyond discussing the future, to taking actual steps to revitalise the social and political landscape, check out Future Surge, which is the activist wing of London Futurists.

Here’s a video (less than 90 seconds) that provides a short introduction.

6.) Meet the future – in Africa?

Finally, here’s news of what could be a life-changing opportunity in September 2023. It’s provided by friends of London Futurists at Flux Trends.

In an era where foresight, problem solving and left-field thinking have become the new business currency, London Futurists is proud to partner with Flux Trends to announce the launch of a first of its kind Innovation Tour for 2023, The Future Starts Here in Africa: A sustainable solution-based innovation immersion experience for those who want to see, taste and touch the future.

This unique tour is designed to simultaneously shift your thinking and challenge your perceptions of the innovation process by – literally – introducing delegates to the future. Specifically, by introducing you to the innovators, creatives and entrepreneurs building the future of South Africa, Africa, and the world.

Indeed, Africa, the continent with the youngest population in the world, is very literally the future.

More specifically, South Africa, with its progressive constitution that led the world in terms of dealing with questions around gender and race relations, and its early warnings around the limits of the social contract and the (now global) energy crunch, can be seen both positively and negatively as a preview of the future challenges and opportunities facing the rest of the world. Amongst all these challenges, South Africa has produced, out of necessity as well as optimism, a host of solution-based businesses and innovators who see opportunity in every challenge they face.

After all, innovation on the African continent requires a unique approach. While developed economies have the luxury to embark on “innovation for innovation’s sake”, solution-based innovation is what the African continent excels at. African innovators may not always have the infrastructure or funding that first world countries have, but they find solutions that solve problems: solutions which impact on and improve lives.

There is much rest of the world can and should learn from Africa and its resilience, hope and potential. Flux Trends invites you to come do exactly that: meet the future in the generous heart of Africa, see, taste and touch for yourself how Africans are challenging and re-creating the world in their own image.

More details – and a discount code – here.

// David W. Wood
Chair, London Futurists

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