Not exactly returning to normal

Dear Futurists,

I hesitate to say London Futurists is “returning to normal”, since the world in April 2023 is different in so many ways from the world in February 2020.

February 2020 was the last time there was a London Futurists event in Birkbeck College – the topic on that day being “The future of personal implantables”.

April 2023 – Saturday 29th to be precise – will see us gathering once again in that venue. We’ll also be holding a post-event informal gathering in the nearby Marlborough Arms. In some ways, it will be just like the old days – though we’re all three years wiser (hopefully), there will be many new attendees, and there have been many surprises in the meantime in technology and in human relationships around the world.

For more details, please read on.

1.) Birkbeck College: “The case for Singularity Activism”

One big change since 2020 is that we’ve all heard of GPTs – generative pretrained transformers, which are a new kind of AI with some unexpectedly powerful characteristics.

As I’ve been emphasising in my presentations at a number of conferences since late last year, these GPTs have the potential to accelerate all kinds of changes in various fields of human experience. Just as the Deep Learning revolution of 2012-2016 disrupted the assumptions of people who kept an eye on AI prior to that time, the Transformer revolution of 2017-2023 is disrupting assumptions again – this time even more fully.

One response has been the open letter from the Future of Life Institute calling for a “pause on giant AI experiments”.

In our meeting in Birkbeck on 29th April, I’ll be leading a discussion on the pros and cons of this “pause” initiative, as well as other responses that have been raised in the face of GPTs.

For more details, click here.

It’s a hugely important topic, which deserves a good turn out.

The choice of room within Birkbeck will be made closer to the date of the event, once it is clearer how many people are likely to attend.

2.) Marlborough Arms: London Futurists in the Pub

Another partial return to “normal” on 29th April is that we’ll be meeting informally in the Marlborough Arms pub, after the close of the session earlier that afternoon in Birkbeck.

Indeed, we’ll welcome people to come to the second gathering even if they couldn’t manage to join us for the first one. (And vice versa.)

These “in the Pub” sessions are where discussions can flow in broader directions – and where friendships can be formed and deepened.

There’s a separate meetup page for this gathering – here – in order that we can gauge the likely attendance for it. In turn, that will allow us to ask the management of the Marlborough Arms to reserve a given number of tables for us – ideally in the room at the back of the main area.

3.) The future of crime – Discord Voice Channel Fireside Conversation

For those of you keen to take part in online discussions of futurist topics, let me mention the Fireside Conversation that will be taking place on the Future Surge Discord Voice Channel tomorrow (20th April).

The headline topic for this is “The future of crime”.

For more details, visit the #general channel of the Future Surge Discord.

You can find an invite to that Discord here.

4.) SingularityNet Decentralized Governance Summit

Here’s an extract from the description of the SingularityNET Decentralized Governance Summit which is taking place online on Friday:

Humanity faces challenges on an unprecedented scale.

Climate change. Geopolitical unrest. Corruption of political and economic systems. The unpredictable potential of AI, and its development in the wrong hands. Many of these can be traced back to large, central governments, corporations, and principles of perpetual growth and profit. They are rooted in the intrinsic difficulties of organizing and governing diverse groups of humans. Our realities are rapidly changing from what the human mind – and our organizing systems – have evolved to cope with

At SingularityNET, we believe there is another way.

We believe that, among all the challenges and opportunities presented by the world today, AI is at the top rank in terms of importance. It follows that there is no task more important than creating a resilient, sustainable, adaptive open model for the future of AI. And to do this, we believe, it is necessary to decentralize not only the AI itself, but also the infrastructure, the processes, and the management of the funds that enable its creation.

This has been part of the mission and mandate of SingularityNET from its founding in 2017. We want to distribute power among our community. We want to create open, democratic AI that works for all, not just a few. We recognise that together, we are greater than the sum of our parts. We want to create the space for our collective intelligence to flourish.

The software infrastructure we have created in the SingularityNET ecosystem brings us partway there. There is more technical work to be done. But there is also a need for further advancement in governance mechanisms that exist at the boundary of human and automated systems.

A decentralized future

The summit is about bringing our community together and creating a vision for a decentralized future for SingularityNET. Over the course of this one-day event, we will explore the core concepts of decentralization. A combination of speakers and panels will share their expertise and experience in decentralization, including its benefits, risks, and known challenges.

An impressive set of speakers is lined up. The opening keynote is by Ben Goertzel, and later appearances include Charles Hoskinson, Deborah Duong, David Orban, Esther Galfalvi, Mihaela Uliero, Grace Rachmany, Penny Wong, Jan Horlings, and many more.

I’ll be speaking there too, on the subject “Vital decentralization: the adaptive, resilient pathway to sustainable superabundance”.

It’s free to register and attend. Click here for all the details.

5.) Our podcast: 35 not out

Finally, in case you missed any of our recent podcast episodes, here are handy links to these episodes.

Episode 35: A defence of human uniqueness against AI encroachment, with Kenn Cukier
Episode 34: Against pausing AI research, with Pedro Domingos
Episode 33: Facing our Futures, with Nikolas Badminton
Episode 32: GPT-4 and the Two Singularities

We have already recorded several other fascinating conversations, which we will continue to release on a regular weekly schedule.

// David W. Wood
Chair, London Futurists

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