It’s good to talk

If only we knew what we knew.

Collectively, we humans know lots of important things. But that knowledge often fails to travel to the point where it is most needed.

For example, a set of ideas that would solve a particular health problem aren’t known to the team attending to the patient, so the patient dies.

Sometimes the blockage is more subtle. One group of people are desperately trying to solve a problem. In fact, no-one in the world has produced an answer to that problem. So Internet searches come up blank. But there’s another group of people who could, if asked, work out a good answer, based on their own unique knowledge, skills, tools, and processes. It’s just that the second group isn’t even aware of the problem which is causing the first group so much trouble. No-one has hooked them into the relevant conversations.

In both cases, it would be better if we could all talk to each other in more productive ways.

The principle applies, not just for the population as a whole, but also for futurists. If we futurists talk together, with helpful facilitation, we can help each other understand various future scenarios in important new ways.

For some ways in which this can happen, read on!

1.) World Futures Day, 1st March

The information on the meetup page for this event is a bit misleading.

The event is described as happening on Tuesday 28th February. But that’s because it starts at 12 noon New Zealand time on Wednesday 1st March. And that time maps to 11pm London time on the previous evening.

In reality, the event lasts 24 hours, as the earth turns once right around its axis, and as noon marches westward all the way through Australasia, Asia, Africa, Europe, the Atlantic, the Americas, and the Pacific.

Attendees are not expected to sit glued to Zoom for the entirety of 24 hours. Instead, the idea is that you can come and go whenever it suits you throughout the day.

Each hour will feature a different set of facilitators – usually three (or four) per timeslot, with a few brave souls facilitating more than one timeslot.

The facilitators come from a variety of futurists organisations, as listed on the image above.

There’s no pre-set agenda. Each hour, the conversation will progress in accordance with whatever themes emerge from the participants – with occasional prompting by the facilitators.

For example, whenever I will be paying attention to the conversation, and there happens to be a lull (or I judge that we’re getting bogged down an unhelpful rabbit hole), there are a couple of questions I may inject into the conversation:

  • What are the best examples of futurists actually changing the world?
  • What issue isn’t being taken care of, which deserves more attention from futurists?

A big thanks go to the members of the World Futures Day team from the Millennium Project, who have been laying the groundwork for this round-the-clock conversation.

Afterwards, the same team will be working through a transcript of the conversation, the text chat log, and summary notes supplied by the various facilitators, to identify the themes and ideas which have emerged as the most significant. We’ll be producing a report – with the various quotes from participants anonymised, as per Chatham House rules (which are intended to enable a more open dialog). In a future newsletter, I’ll share a link to this report once it has been produced.

Then we’ll all have more valuable knowledge about the most valuable things each of us know.

Click here for more information on the event and its supporters, and to register to take part (there’s no payment involved).

2.) Future Surge Fireside Conversations

As I said, it’s good to talk.

The World Futures Day event, just mentioned, is one approach.

But consider also the online Fireside Conversations that are being organised by Future Surge, the activist wing of London Futurists.

These events are taking place on a voice channel in the Future Surge Discord. Click on the links for more information:

There’s no pre-registration for these events. But you will need to join the Future Surge Discord beforehand. There’s a (free) invitation here.

Here’s a comparison between the World Futures Day (WFD) event and these Future Surge (FS) Fireside Conversations:

  • The participants in the WFD event will be diverse, but I expect the majority philosophical position to be humanism
  • The participants at the FS events will also be diverse, but I expect the majority philosophical position to be transhumanism.
  • The WFD has no specific outcomes in mind, beyond allowing people to deepen connections and to share insights
  • The FS events have similar aspirations, coupled with a particular desire to “revitalise the social and political landscape” – in other words, to revitalise the world by first revitalising politics.

3.) Four excellent recent podcast episodes

Calum Chace and I continue to release a new episode of London Futurists podcast each Wednesday morning. They all consist of a three-way conversation about a topic with a big impact on the future. In case you missed any of them, here are links to the four most recent episodes:

Episode 27: Assessing the AI duopoly, with Jeff Ding

Episode 26: Peter James, best-selling crime author and transhumanist

Episode 25: Curing aging: $100B? with Andrew Steele

Episode 24: Overcoming limitations, with Natasha Vita-More

We have several more episodes in various stages of preparation ahead of their release in forthcoming weeks. Watch this space!

4.) Talking about AGI risks

It’s good to talk, but sometimes the conversation goes through a depressing phase before it reaches a more productive phase.

That’s my reflections on a large number of online conversations I’ve had over the past few days on the subject of the risks posed by advanced AI systems that operate beyond full human understanding.

I’ve blogged twice about the issues arising. They’re probably the most serious issues facing humanity in the 2020s. If you’re prepared to think seriously about the remarkable opportunities and risks enabled by advanced AI, here are the two links:

Nuclear-level catastrophe: four responses (denial, sabotage, trust, hustle)

Ostriches and AGI risks: four transformations needed

5.) Humanity, before and after AI

Our webinar next Saturday, March 4, will provide a chance for an extended conversation about the impact of advanced AI on humanity.

Our speaker will be Pawel Pachniewski, who I’ve noticed posting a string of articles and tweets recently on the subject of AI that I assess as being unusually thoughtful and well-informed.

Pawel describes what he will talk about as follows:

What does the future of humanity look like with rapidly developing AI and AGI on the horizon?

What does the future look like for any civilization on the eve of radical-self modification and introduction of transformative AI?

Click here for more details about the speaker and the event, and to register to take part.

// David W. Wood
Chair, London Futurists

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