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A Singularitarian Utopia Or A New Dark Age?

No Comments » February 3rd, 2013 Posted in Meetings

A Singularitarian Utopia Or A New Dark Age? With Ian Pearson

2pm-4pm, Saturday 16th February, 2013

Venue: B34, Basement Level, Birkbeck College, Torrington Square WC1E 7HX, London

Organised via London Futurists. Attendance at the last London Futurist meetup was around 200. I expect a similar turnout for this one.

Ian Pearson writes:

We’re all familiar with the idea of the singularity, the end-result of rapid acceleration of technology development caused by positive feedback. This will add greatly to human capability, not just via gadgets but also through direct body and mind enhancement, and we’ll mess a lot with other organisms and AIs too. So we’ll have superhumans and super AIs as part of our society. But this new technology won’t bring a utopia.

We all know that some powerful people, governments, companies and terrorists will also add lots of bad things to the mix. The same technology that lets you enhance your senses or expand your mind also allows greatly increased surveillance and control, eventually to the extremes of direct indoctrination and zombification. Taking the forces that already exist, of tribalism, political correctness, secrecy for them and exposure for us, and so on, it’s clear that the far future will be a weird mixture of fantastic capability, spoiled by abuse.

Even without deliberate abuse, many people tend towards illogical thinking processes that result in bad decisions and that will both delay good things and worsen them when they finally come.

The big question (that I can’t answer and will need some debate) is what are the relative strengths of these forces? And will the future be a whole lot better than today, worse, or just different?

About the speaker:

Ian Pearson is a full time futurologist, tracking and predicting developments across a wide range of technology, business, society, politics and the environment. He is a Maths and Physics graduate and has worked in numerous branches of engineering, from aeronautics to cybernetics, sustainable transport to electronic cosmetics.

His inventions include text messaging and the active contact lens. He was BT’s full-time futurologist from 1991 to 2007 and now works for Futurizon, a small futures institute. He writes, lectures and consults globally on all aspects of the technology-driven future. He has written several books and made 500 TV and radio appearances.

Ian is a Chartered Fellow of the British Computer Society, the World Academy of Art and Science, the Royal Society of Arts and the World Innovation Foundation, with a Doctor of Science and a US Army Award for Excellence.


2pm-4pm, Saturday 16th February 2013.

Venue: B34, Birkbeck College, Torrington Square WC1E 7HX, London.

Room B34 is on the basement level in the main Birkbeck College building, in Torrington Square (which is a pedestrian-only square). Torrington Square is about 10 minutes walk from either Russell Square or Goodge St tube stations.

Coffee and other light refreshments can be purchased from the Costa Coffee shop in the reception area of the building, either ahead of or after the meeting.

The event will be followed by a chance to continue the discussion in informal settings in a nearby pub - The Marlborough Arms, 36 Torrington Place, London WC1E 7HJ. The rear “restaurant room” has been reserved for London Futurists from 4.30pm onwards.

The meeting is free to attend – no charge.

Optional pre-meeting rendezvous – please feel free to join a small number of regular London Futurist attendees at the Marlborough Arms any time from 12.30pm onwards, for general chat over a light lunch and/or drinks. To find us, look out for a table with a futurist book on it.

The Symbiosis Of Man And Machine. With Peter Cochrane

No Comments » December 25th, 2012 Posted in Meetings

Time: 2pm-4pm, Saturday 19th January

Venue: B34, Basement Level, Birkbeck College, Torrington Square WC1E 7HX, London

(relocated from the originally advertised venue – the Google Campus – in order to accommodate a significantly larger audience)

RSVP: Please RSVP here before attending this meeting.

Peter Cochrane writes:

In 2000 it was clear that mankind was building a networked world of people and things that was non-linear, chaotic, highly unpredictable not well understood, and probably impossible to control and manage. Signs of increasing instability and management difficulty culminated in global stagnation and recession by 2010. Throughout this period it was clear that bankers, financiers, economists and politicians did not understand what was happening and could not adapt to the situation.

It was also clear that the old industries and management methods were unsustainable and fundamentally unmanageable in the long term. Something new was needed, something radically different!  A new era for industry, economics and management was being forecast that relied upon the tools and wisdom provided by intelligent machines, and by 2012 a vision of what was needed and why was beginning to emerge.  And perhaps for the first time it seemed that the machines were ready but people were not.

So what will be the state of play by 2035?  Will we have made it or not?  What is technologically possible, and what might humans accept?

In this presentation we therefore look at what looks to be technological possible and likely by 2020, 2030 and 2035, and speculate on the reaction and acceptance of people and political systems.

About the speaker:

Dr Peter Cochrane OBE, BSc, MSc, PhD, DSc, CGIA, FREng, FRSA, FIEE, FIEEE

As a seasoned professional with over 40 years of hands on management, technology and operational experience, Peter has been involved in establishing new companies, the creation and deployment of new technologies, products and management systems, plus the transformation of corporations.

His career in BT saw a progression from linesman and technician to engineer, Head of R&D and then CTO. His 1000 strong team engaged in studies spanning optical fibre, fixed and mobile nets, complex systems, human interface design, eCommerce, eLogistics, Artificial Life and Intelligence.

Peter has also been employed in the defence, logistics, travel, retail, energy, healthcare, transport, pharma, and consulting sectors.  As an investor and entrepreneur he has also engaged in the founding of new companies, and global investments.

He was appointed as the UK’s first Prof for the Public Understanding of Science & Technology @ Bristol in 1998.   A graduate of Nottingham Trent and Essex Universities, Peter has received notable recognition with the Queen’s Award for Innovation & Export in 1990, numerous Honorary Doctorates, and was awarded an OBE in 1999 for contributions to international communications.


Time: 2pm-4pm, Saturday 19th January 2013.

Suggested hashtag: Use #LonFut for tweets about London Futurist meetups


B34, Birkbeck College, Torrington Square WC1E 7HX, London.

Room B34 is on the basement level in the main Birkbeck College building, in Torrington Square (which is a pedestrian-only square). Torrington Square is about 10 minutes walk from either Russell Square or Goodge St tube stations.

Coffee and other light refreshments can be purchased from the Costa Coffee shop in the reception area of the building, either ahead of or after the meeting.

The event will be followed by a chance to continue the discussion in a nearby pub - The Marlborough Arms, 36 Torrington Place, London WC1E 7HJ.

The meeting is free to attend – no charge.
But please consider making a donation towards the costs of running the group:
- see How You Can Help London Futurists.

Optional pre-meeting rendezvous – please feel free to join a small number of regular London Futurist attendees at the Marlborough Arms  any time from 12.30pm onwards, for general chat over a light lunch and/or drinks. To find us, look out for a table with a futurist book on it.

Beyond Human – London, Sat 8th Oct

4 Comments » August 21st, 2011 Posted in Uncategorized

The event

Beyond Human:
Rethinking the Technological Extension of the Human Condition

Organised by Humanity+ UK,
with support from Virtual Futures, London Futurists, and Zero State.


Saturday, 8th October 2011: 9.30am-5.45pm.

This event will be held in lecture room B34 in the Malet Street building (the main building) of Birkbeck College.  This is located in Torrington Square (which is a pedestrian-only square), London WC1E 7HX.  (Map – PDF)  Torrington Square is about 10 minutes walk from either Russell Square or Goodge St tube stations.

The event is free to attend.  There’s no need to register in advance. However, the room may become full, so it would be prudent to arrive on time.


Details subject to minor revisions

09.30: Finding the room, networking, chatting

09.45: Opening remarks

10.00: Beyond human: The science and engineering

12.00: Lunch break

13.00: Beyond human: Implications and controversies

15.00: Extended coffee break

15.45: Beyond human: Getting involved

17.45: Room closes

Speakers and panellists

Note: speakers’ views are their own, and don’t necessarily reflect the views of the organisations supporting this event.

Amon Zero

Amon Zero is the founder and leader of Zero State: “a new transhumanist movement, exploring the impact of accelerating technical growth on society, economics, politics, and the human condition through science and art”.

Amon is also the founder of Xykogen, a London-based electronic band, which was established in 2004, and a researcher in Cognitive Science at University College London.

At Beyond Human, Amon will be one of two speakers representing Zero State (the other is David Pearce), and will be giving a talk entitled “A New Transhumanism”. He will be speaking about the current state of transhumanism as a movement, the role of Zero State within that movement, and emerging modes of transhumanist activism.  For more details, see Amon’s recent blogpost:

…As the old trope goes, technology is neither intrinsically good nor evil, oppressive or liberating. If you don’t want technology to end up being the tool of Transhumanism’s political and social opponents, you – and yes, I mean you – need to get personally active. Now.

…We are arguably now on the verge of a fourth phase in the development of the Transhumanist movement.

…To put it simply: I believe that the time is right to take our message to a much wider circle of people, and to apply Transhumanist logic to contemporary problems. The future is at the gates, and it is time for us to do something about it.

Anders Sandberg

Anders Sandberg is a James Martin research fellow at the Future of Humanity Institute at Oxford University. As a part of the Oxford Martin School he is involved in interdisciplinary research on cognitive enhancement, neurotechnology, global catastrophic risks, emerging technologies and applied rationality. He has been writing about and debating transhumanism, future studies, neuroethics and related questions for a long time. He is also an associate of the Oxford Centre for Neuroethics and the Uehiro Centre for Practical Ethics, as well as co-founder of the Swedish think tank Eudoxa.

At Beyond Human, Anders will talk on “Boosting Brains 2011: how far have we come?” This presentation will assess smart drugs and other biomedical techniques, as well as some broader methods of brain enhancement, such as collective cognition.

Ayesha Khanna

Ayesha Khanna is Founder and Director of the Hybrid Reality Institute, a research and advisory think tank focused on the intersection of technology trends, data intelligence and geopolitics. A technology and innovation strategy expert, Ayesha has over ten years of experience advising clients on scenario analysis, product development, digital branding and customer experience. Her clients have included Bank of America, JP Morgan Chase, UBS, American International Group, and Deutsche Bank. Ayesha is frequently interviewed in the media and was recently featured by the New York Times. She is a regular speaker at industry, marketing, and academic conferences related to emerging technology trends and intelligent cities.

Ayesha is the author of Straight Through Processing (Reed Elsevier, 2007), and was series editor of The Complete Technology Guides published by Reed Elsevier. She has written for publications such as BusinessWeek, TIME, Newsweek, Forbes, Strategy+Business, and Foreign Policy. She also blogs on human technology co-evolution at Big Think. In Aug 2011, she co-authored the lead essay on how technology comes to life for the Foreign Policy magazine issue titled “The Future is Now”.

Ayesha is on the Scientific Advisory Board of the Lifeboat Foundation, a Fellow at the Institute for Ethics and Emerging Technologies and co-curator of TEDxGotham. In 2010, she co-chaired the Innovation Advisory Board for the New York City congressional campaign of Reshma Saujani.  She has a BA (honors) in Economics from Harvard University, an MS in Operations Research from Columbia University and is writing her PhD in Information Systems and Innovation at the London School of Economics.

At Beyond Human, Ayesha will talk about “Designing Cities of the Future”.

Brian Degger

Brian Degger is a scientist, part time cryptozoologist,  interdisciplinary researcher, and artist, based in Newcastle-Upon-Tyne, UK with a doctorate in biotechnology from Queensland University of Technology.  He has contributed to research on a broad range of topics including fish growth factors, developmentally regulated proteins, freshwater fish population studies, artists use of cutting edge technology and locative technologies.

In interdisciplinary contexts in the arts, Brian has worked with Blast Theory(UK) on developing and performing I Like Frank in Adelaide,(Fringe Festival 2004). He assisted Ken Rinaldo with installing AutoTelematic Spiderbots as part of AVFest06Newcastle upon Tyne and recently been in the team that developed infected textiles with lead artist Anna Dumitriu as part of the LabLife project (lighthouse arts, 2011).  His ongoing research is on understanding the relationship between creators (artists and scientists) and their biofacts/model organism systems.

At Beyond Human, Brian will talk about “Getting to know your inner microbes”.

David Pearce

David Pearce is an independent researcher and vegan animal activist based in Brighton UK.  In 1995, he wrote an online manifesto, The Hedonistic Imperative, advocating the use of biotechnology to abolish suffering throughout the living world. He predicts that our descendants will be animated by gradients of cerebral bliss orders of magnitude richer than anything accessible today.  He has also written on the philosophy of mind and perception; utilitarian ethics; psychopharmacology; life extension; cognitive enhancement technologies; mood enrichment; genetic recalibration of the hedonic treadmill; ecosystem redesign; reprogramming predators; and – more speculatively – on a posthuman future based on “paradise engineering”.  In 1998, in collaboration with Nick Bostrom, David Pearce set up the World Transhumanist Association – subsequently rebranded as Humanity+.

At Beyond Human, David will speak on “The Anti-Speciesist Revolution”:

“Nothing more strongly arouses our disgust than cannibalism, yet we make the same impression on Buddhists and vegetarians, for we feed on babies, though not our own” – Robert Louis Stevenson

Each year humanity kills over 50 billion sentient beings. We confine and kill our animal cousins in ways that would earn the abuser a life sentence in prison if our victims were human. This talk will explore how Humanity+ can overcome the moral and cognitive limitations that have shaped our traditional relationship with members of other races and species. Can transhumanists consistently support the commitment in the Transhumanist Declaration to the well-being of all sentience without adopting a cruelty-free vegan lifestyle? How close are technologies that will allow us to abolish the biology of experience below hedonic zero throughout the living world? What kind of “sentience explosion” do we want to create in our forward light-cone?

David Wood

David Wood has spent 23 years designing, developing, and avidly using embedded software for mobile devices – helping to create PDAs at Psion and then smartphones at Symbian.  He is presently working on a major project for Accenture Mobility Services.  He has been Meetings Secretary of Humanity+ UK since March 2008.  He has a BA in Mathematics from Cambridge University and an honorary doctorate in science from the University of Westminster.  In September 2009 he was included in T3 magazine’s list of “100 most influential people in technology”.  In 2010 he featured in the world’s first Augmented Reality CV.

David’s talk at Beyond Human, “From superphones to superhumans?” will set the scene for the event:

The dramatic evolution of mobile technology from 2000-2010 supported the vision of “smartphones for all” – increasingly ubiquitous mobile handsets, delivering more and more functionality. These devices are now so powerful that they have been given a new name: “superphones”.

The period 2011-2015 will follow the additional vision of “smartphone technology everywhere” – increasingly inexpensive, miniature, and reliable technology components, matured in the heat of the smartphone revolution, can now be recombined in numerous new ways inside different product form factors – such as tablet computers, automobile dashboards, mobile medical equipment, wearable computers, and smart connected robots. Since these devices have smartphone technology submerged inside them, they have been called “subphones”.

With a slightly longer timescale in mind, the period 2011-2030 could be described as “from superphones to superhumans”. The same broad accelerating technology improvements which are resulting in superphones and subphones have the potential to provide humans with greater strength, speed, intelligence, and longevity.  The movement that champions this development is called “Humanity+”.  But what can the recent history of  technology accelerators and decelerators lead us to expect about future progress?  And aren’t there profound dangers of enabling powerful superhumans without first ensuring greater kindness, insight, wisdom, and cooperation?

Kerstin Dautenhahn

Kerstin Dautenhahn is Professor of Artificial Intelligence, Adaptive Systems Research Group, School of Computer Science, The University of Hertfordshire.  Her main areas of research are Human-Robot Interaction, Social Robotics, Socially Intelligent Agents, and Artificial Life.  With respect to robot-human interaction she thinks in terms of building robots as “friendly” partners, showing interesting behaviours and/or dynamic types of movement; robots as toys to entertain people and help children with special needs to relate to the environment (see project AURORA), or service robots as helpful assistants and companions in home scenarios.  As one of many examples of media interest in her work, the Guardian has published an article on “At home with the android family”, including a video featuring the robot KASPAR.

At Beyond Human, Kerstin will talk on the subject “Robots as helpful companions”.

Luke Robert Mason

Luke Robert Mason is a researcher, filmmaker and digital media artist. Having recently graduated from the University of Warwick, he will be joining Philter Phactory early next month as their Research Director, helping to develop their post-user software

His work deals with issues of cyberculture, the post-user web and infomorphology. Mason was also responsible for the revival of the cult cyber-conference conference Virtual Futures which aimed to reconnect the University of Warwick with one of the most important intellectual and cultural developments of our times – the technological extension of the human condition.

More details can be found here at the website Virtual Futures on the Warwick Knowledge Centre.

At Beyond Human, Mason will speak about “The post-user net: infomorphology and being human”.

Philip Moriarty

Philip Moriarty is a Professor of Physics and an Engineering & Physical Sciences Research Council (EPSRC) Fellow in the School of Physics and Astronomy, University of Nottingham. His research interests span a number of topical themes in nanometre scale science with a particular recent focus on single atom/molecule manipulation. He is currently Chair of the Institute of Physics Nanoscale Physics and Technology Group committee, a member of the Science Board of the Institute of Physics, and was a member of the EPSRC Strategic Advisory Team for Physics from 2005 – 2006.

Moriarty has a keen interest in public engagement/outreach activities and science funding policy and, in addition to being involved in a number of research council-funded projects in these areas, has interacted with national and international media (including The Independent, The Guardian, Times Higher Education, BBC Radio 4 and Die Zeit) on these issues. He is also a regular contributor to Nottingham’s Sixty Symbols YouTube project which has, as of August 2011, attracted a total of 6.2 million views (across ~150 videos).

At Beyond Human Moriarty will discuss the viability of a molecular manufacturing capability based on nanoassemblers and nanofactories – the essence of what is known as Drexlerian nanotechnology. His presentation “From single atom manipulation to nanofactories: An impossible or an improbable dream?” will focus on the fundamental science and technical challenges underpinning the manipulation of matter at the atomic and sub-atomic levels.

Sarah Marr

Sarah Marr is a co-founder and Executive Vice-President of SENS Foundation, dividing the majority of her time between London and California. She is also on the Advisory Board of the Lifeboat Foundation.

Sarah has a Bachelor’s Degree in Law, from the University of Oxford, and another in Theoretical Physics, from Imperial College London, where she also built the prototype web portal for the European grid computing network of the Large Hadron Collider.

Her postgraduate studies include a Master’s Degree in Social Anthropology from the University of Manchester, specializing in the nature of cultural misappropriation in Western subcultures and concepts of the body, the self and ‘belonging’. She has a PhD in Theoretical Physics from Imperial College London, covering the quantum and relativistic properties of black holes in discrete spacetimes.

Her previous position was as the Head of Operations of the UK political think-tank, Demos, where she also co-authored a global survey of public service design practices.

In the 1990s she spent several years as a business and IT consultant with Andersen Consulting (now Accenture), working on a variety of projects from systems analysis to the streamlining of European, Middle Eastern and Asian operations.

As well as writing about, and presenting, the Foundation’s work, she has previously been awarded a place on the Science Writing Project, run by The Arvon Foundation and the 1851 Commission, popularizing science concepts through their appearance in Shakespeare’s works. She has written for the Times Higher Education Supplement, and worked with artists from London’s Royal College of Art, providing publicity copy and reviews.

She is a keen photographer, with her last show, Pause, showing in London, in October, 2009.

At Beyond Human, Sarah will talk about “SENS Foundation and the Future of Rejuvenation Biotechnology”:

SENS Foundation works to develop, promote and ensure widespread access to rejuvenation biotechnologies which comprehensively address the disabilities and diseases of aging.

The Foundation catalyses progress toward a comprehensive panel of rejuvenation biotechnologies through its growing global networks and collaborations, and through key research projects, executed in its own Research Center and numerous affiliated universities, research organizations and other centers of excellence.

Stefano Vaj

Stefano Vaj is the secretary of the Associazione Italiana Transumanisti, and one of the organisers of Transvision 2010. He served as a professor in New Technologies Law at the University of Padua, is a journalist, a writer and a practising lawyer.

A member of the editorial board of Divenire: Rassegna di Studi Interdisciplinari sulla Tecnica e il postumano, Stefano Vaj is the author of, inter alia, of Biopolitica: Il nuovo paradigma ( An English translation of another book (Dove va la biopolitica?) will shortly become available.

Stefano Vaj will talk on “The End of Eschatological Narratives: From Posthumanism to a Posthuman Change, or How to Make A Singularity Happen”.

Steve Fuller

Steve Fuller is the Auguste Comte Professor in Social Epistemology, the Department of Sociology, the University of Warwick.  He graduated from Columbia University in History & Sociology before gaining an M.Phil. from Cambridge and PhD from Pittsburgh, both in the History and Philosophy of Science.  His major areas of research are the future of the University and critical intellectuals, science and technology studies, the interdisciplinary challenges in the natural and social sciences, and the political and epistemological consequences of the new biology.

Steve’s major publications are: Social Epistemology (1988), Philosophy of Science and its Discontents (2nd edn.)(1993), The Governance of Science: Ideology and the Future of the Open Society (2000), Thomas Kuhn: A Philosophical History of Our Times (2000), Knowledge Management Foundations (2002), Philosophy, Rhetoric and the End of Knowledge (2nd edn) (2003), Kuhn vs Popper: The Struggle for the Soul of Science (2003), New Frontiers in Science and Technology Studies (2007), and Science: The Art of Living (2010).

Steve’s talk at Beyond Human will highlight and extend some themes from his forthcoming book “Humanity 2.0: What it Means to be Human Past, Present and Future“:

Social thinkers in all fields are faced with one unavoidable question: what does it mean to be ‘human’ in the 21st century? As definitions between what is ‘animal’ and what is ‘human’ break down, and as emerging technologies such as artificial intelligence and nano- and bio- technologies develop, accepted notions of humanity are rapidly evolving.

Humanity 2.0 is an ambitious and groundbreaking book, offering a sweeping overview of key historical, philosophical and theological moments that have shaped our understandings of humanity.  Tackling head on the twin taboos that have always hovered over the scientific study of humanity – race and religion – Steve Fuller argues thar far from disappearing, they are being reinvented.

Fuller argues that these new developments will force us to decide which features of our current way of life – not least our bodies – are truly needed to remain human, and concludes with a consideration of these changes for ethical and social values more broadly.

Steve Lowe

Steve Lowe has been an academic policy analyst, IT manager, strategy consultant and corporate financier.  He is currently developing to deliver various projects associated with innovation and society as well as marketing a consortium of established small services businesses to major organisations.  He is the organizer for the London Futurists Meetup.  His website notes:

Few major corporations of a century ago survive; most failed to adequately prepare for their unfolding futures.  Successful organisations adapt dynamically to what they see ahead.  With masses of external and internal data to digest, key tasks are filtering, identifying and responding to ‘actionable information.  The future is steeped in opportunity.  A better future begins with better future thinking.

At Beyond Human, Steve will talk about “The Billion Year Project”:

The billion year project is a proposed crowd sourcing exercise seeking enthusiastic and knowledgeable supporters to take it forward. At its heart is a novel futures-mapping framework; a highly improbable story and an explanation of how these, plus ultimately input from ‘the crowd’ which can then be applied. The proposed benefits include conflict resolution and future-proofing businesses, through informing public policies, to helping to develop tomorrow’s multiplayer games and virtual worlds.

Food, drink, and refreshments

Due to space constraints at the venue, the event organisers are not able to provide food, drink, or refreshments.  There are a couple of nearby locations inside Birkbeck College (a Fairtrade Costa Coffee in the reception area, and a small kiosk opposite room B34) where some food and drink can be purchased, but these will not be able to cope with 150+ event attendees all arriving at the same time.

However, there are a number of other coffee shops, pubs, and restaurants within 5 minutes walk, such as on Torrington Place.  Simple lunch will also be on sale in the Lunchbox cafeteria in the ULU (University of London Union) building at the end of Malet Street (opposite Waterstone’s, where there’s another Costa Coffee).  Attendees may also wish to bring some refreshments with them.

Virtual Futures 2.0’11

No Comments » June 4th, 2011 Posted in Announcement

Note: Virtual Futures 2.0 is organised at the University of Warwick with support from the Institute for Advanced Teaching and Learning, the School of Theatre, Performance and Cultural Policy Studies, and the Centre for History of Medicine, in association with Humanity+ UK.

18-19 June 2011, University of Warwick

image dsc

Visit Virtual Futures Website


Cyber Conference on Art, Performance, Philosophy and Emerging Technology

Virtual Futures is an interdisciplinary conference. This year’s highlights will include presentations on artificial intelligence, bioengineering, bioethics, cybernetics, net security, performance art, social media, the future of copyright and virtual reality. Returning speakers will be joined this year by a fresh array of world-renowned practitioners.

Pass the word: Virtual Futures has rebooted!

We look forward to seeing you in June!

Register Now

You can purchase your tickets for the conference weekend here:

Availability is limited and we highly recommend pre-booking to avoid disappointment.

Warwick Student £10 | Student £12 | Academic/Waged £35

Warwick Student £6 | Student £7 | Academic/Waged £18.50


Virtual Futures will gather together leading academics and practitioners to discuss the implications of emerging communication and information technologies. The conference promises to reconnect audiences with one of the most important intellectual and cultural developments of our times – the technological extension of the human condition, and will serve to raise awareness about the continuing significance of the issues addressed by the original conferences.

The speakers bellow will be joined by a host of panel sessions and performances. A full list is available here:

Stelarc (Keynote Speaker)

Stelarc is a performance artist who is interested in the post-evolutionary architecture of the body. He has visually probed and acoustically amplified his body. In 1975-1976 He made three films of the inside of his body, 3 metres of probes into his lungs, stomach and colon. Between 1976-1988 he completed 25 body suspension performances with hooks into the skin, in different positions and varying situations and locations. He has used medical instruments, prosthetics, robotics, Virtual Reality systems, the Internet and biotechnology to explore alternate, intimate and involuntary interfaces with the body… Read More

FacebookBecome a fan of Virtual Futures on Facebook

FacebookFollow Virtual Futures on Twitter:@VirtualFutures

Visit Virtual Futures Website

Copyright © 2011 Virtual Futures

Inaugural UK Humanity+ Evening Salon

No Comments » April 12th, 2011 Posted in Announcement

Interested in an evening discussing the future of the human species & society? Aided by a drink or two?

This is the first “salon” event for the London branch of “Humanity Plus”, or H+ for short. It’s going to be an informal evening event involving a stimulating guest speaker, Q&A and lively discussion, all aided by a couple of drinks. It fits alongside H+UK’s larger Saturday afternoon lecture sessions, and occasional all-day major conferences.

It’s taking place on Wednesday, April 13, from 7:00pm - 10:00pm.

This first event will feature Russell Buckley. As well as being a leading practitioner, speaker and thinker about the mobile, Russell recently graduated from the Executive Program at the Singularity University, founded by Ray Kurzweil and Peter Diamandis to “educate and inspire leaders who strive to understand and facilitate the development of exponentially advancing technologies in order to address humanity’s grand challenges”.

This meeting will be held in Marylebone, in Central London, downstairs at Wood Pub (former Hobgoblin), 21 Balcombe Street, NW1 6HE.

Please contact Dean Bubley (, the convener & moderator, for more details.

Post Transcendent Man

5 Comments » February 20th, 2011 Posted in Uncategorized

Responding to Ray Kurzweil’s “Transcendent Man”

The next meeting organised by Humanity+ UK is a panel review and audience discussion on the afternoon of Saturday 9th April 2011.  The subject of the discussion will be the groundbreaking but controversial ideas and projects of Ray Kurzweil, especially as featured in the film Transcendent Man which has its London premier earlier in the same week:

Ray Kurzweil’s ideas are far-reaching.  They cover many aspects of the ways in which rapidly changing technology is impacting what it means to be human: computers may soon become more intelligent than humans, and humans may soon be able to live indefinitely long.  Biology is merging with technology.  A kind of unpredictable “singularity” in human evolution could be just around the corner.

How credible are these ideas?  What do expert reviewers think about these ideas – and about the way these ideas are portrayed in the film?  What are the highlights – and the lowlights – of the film?  What (if anything) should we do differently, as a result of these ideas? These (among others) are the questions the panellists are expected to tackle.

Speakers and panellists

The speakers and panellists represent a range of viewpoints about Ray Kurzweil’s projects and ideas, and a range of different walks of life:

Some online reactions to Ray Kurzweil’s life and work

Recommended as useful background reading:

For some light relief on the subject of the Singularity, this short video is hard to beat:

Event logistics

This event will be held in lecture room B34 in the Malet Street building (the main building) of Birkbeck College.  This is located in Torrington Square (which is a pedestrian-only square), London WC1E 7HX.  (Map – PDF)  Torrington Square is about 10 minutes walk from either Russell Square or Goodge St tube stations.

The first speaker will start speaking at 2pm, and the session will close at 4.15pm (although informal discussion is likely to continue for some time in the room afterwards – and subsequently in nearby pubs, for those who wish to explore the ideas further).


So that the organisers can keep track of likely attendance, please visit the associated registration site for the event, where you will have an option to:

  • Register as a guest attendee – for zero charge
  • Register as a supporter of the event – for a £10 charge, which will help to cover the costs of room hire and other event organisation.

More details of speakers and panellists

Dr Anders Sandberg is a James Martin research fellow at the Future of Humanity Institute at Oxford University. As a part of the Oxford Martin School he is involved in interdisciplinary research on cognitive enhancement, neurotechnology, global catastrophic risks, emerging technologies and applied rationality. He has been writing about and debating transhumanism, future studies, neuroethics and related questions for a long time. He is also an associate of the Oxford Centre for Neuroethics and the Uehiro Centre for Practical Ethics, as well as co-founder of the Swedish think tank Eudoxa.

Jaan Tallinn is one of the programmers behind Kazaa and a founding engineer of Skype. He is also a partner in Ambient Sound Investments as well as a member of the Estonian President’s Academic Advisory Board. He describes himself as singularitarian/hacker/investor/physicist (in that order). In recent years Jaan has found himself closely following and occasionally supporting the work that SIAI and FHI are doing. He agrees with Kurzweil in that the topic of Singularity can be extremely counterintuitive to general public, and has tried to address this problem in a few public presentations at various venues.

Nic Brisbourne is a partner at venture capital fund DFJ Esprit and blogger on technology and startup issues at The Equity Kicker.  As such he’s interested in when technology and science projects become products and businesses.  He has a personal interest in Kurzweil’s ideas and longevity in particular and he says he’s keen to cross the gap from personal to professional and find exciting startups generating products in this area, although he thinks that the bulk of the commercialisation opportunities are still a year or two out.

Paul Graham Raven is a writer, literary critic and bootstrap big-picture futurist; he prods regularly at the fuzzy boundary of the unevenly-distributed future at He is Editor-in-Chief and Publisher of The Dreaded Press, a rock music reviews webzine, and Publicist and PR officer for PS Publishing – perhaps the UK’s foremost boutique genre publisher. He says he’s also a freelance web-dev to the publishing industry, a cack-handed fuzz-rock guitarist, and in need of a proper haircut.

Russell Buckley is a leading practitioner, speaker and thinker about mobile and mobile marketing. MobHappy, his blog about mobile technology, is one of the most established focusing on this area. He is also a previous Global Chairman of the Mobile Marketing Association, a founder of Mobile Monday in Germany and holds numerous non-executive positions in mobile technology companies. Russell learned about mobile advertising startup, AdMob, soon after its launch, and joined as its first employee in 2006, with the remit of launching AdMob into the EMEA market. Four years later, AdMob was sold to Google for $750m. By night though, Russell is fascinated by the socio-political implications of technology and recently graduated from the Executive Program at the Singularity University, founded by Ray Kurtzweil and Peter Diamandis to “educate and inspire leaders who strive to understand and facilitate the development of exponentially advancing technologies in order to address humanity’s grand challenges”.

Videos from H+UK 2011

No Comments » February 6th, 2011 Posted in Announcement

Thanks to Adam Summerfield, a complete set of videos of Humanity+ 2011 are now available here.

Risks and responses

3 Comments » January 30th, 2011 Posted in Uncategorized

In the wake of all the positive momentum established by the presentations, ideas, networking, and connections at Humanity+ UK 2011, what next?

Here are two suggestions:

  1. Organise some kind of gathering in conjunction with the appearance of Ray Kurzweil at London’s Science Museum on 5th April for the premiere of his film “Transcendent Man”
  2. Run a conference broadly similar to H+UK 2011 later in the year, but with a more focused theme.

For the second suggestion, how about the following?

(Note: subject to change! No commitments made yet…)

Risks and responses

This conference brings together speakers to consider critical risks facing humanity (on both individual and collective levels), and the strengths and weakness of responses that can be offered from Humanity+ perspectives.

There will be a small number of keynote length (40 minute) presentations, along with a series of shorter presentations, panel discussions, and audience Q&A sessions.  The event will be followed by the option of networking drinks and dinner.

Venue: Conway Hall, Red Lion Square, Holborn.

Date: One Saturday during May, June, July, or August.

Feedback welcome!

Some recommended reading

2 Comments » January 29th, 2011 Posted in Announcement

We asked a few Humanity+ supporters in the UK for recommendations on books that had made a big impact on the evolution of their own thinking about transhumanism, the technological singularity, and related topics.

Here’s what they had to say:

<To be added>

21 questions for 2011

No Comments » January 2nd, 2011 Posted in Announcement

Video credits

Video Trailer Edited by Luke Robert Mason

Music by XYKOGEN

The 21 questions, in text format:

  1. How close are emerging technologies to making people radically smarter, stronger, healthier, longer-lived, kinder, more fulfilled, and more sociable?
  2. Which technologies offer the best hopes for improving human life expectancy faster than “one year per year” – that is, to achieving a “longevity escape velocity”?
  3. If people tend to live longer and longer, how should society change, so this becomes something to be welcomed, rather than something to be feared and resisted?
  4. What do recent changes in technology and business practice imply for the opportunity to travel away from the earth into the wider solar system?
  5. Can synthetic biology be the basis for new sources of energy, or for new kinds of megacities, in which people live more harmoniously in the midst of a “living technology”?
  6. When will it be practical to use technologies such as implants (of sensors, processors, or extra neural cells) to carry out self-enhancement?
  7. Can human brains and/or minds be transferred into robotic bodies?
  8. How soon will computers be able to convince observers that they are conscious?
  9. If computers become much more intelligent than humans (possibly via a near-overnight “intelligence explosion”), where will this leave humans?  Could humans survive in the “margins” left behind by super-intelligences, or might they want to keep us as pets?
  10. As we understand more about the varieties of human intelligence (including emotional intelligence and social intelligence), how should this change the way in which we program computers and robots?
  11. How is our engagement with pervasive digital platforms and ubiquitous technologies (such as mobile devices and social media networks) affecting the neuro-plasticity of our brains?
  12. How we can preserve and extend the insights and benefits of age-old techniques such as meditation, in the midst of the hectic, always-on technologies of social networks?
  13. Might we be able to awaken new intuitive abilities through meditation, if we have a better understanding of the brain, networks, synchronization, and emergence?
  14. What are the implications of rapidly changing technology for what it means to be human?
  15. In the midst of technological progress and greater scientific understanding, why do some societies seem to become less rational, less functional, and less humane?
  16. What are the most serious risks facing humanity over the next few decades, and what is the role of technology in both worsening and solving these risks?
  17. Given the potential of rapidly growing inequality from selective adoption of new technologies, what are the best ways to ensure the widest possible benefits from these technologies?
  18. How can we engage more people, from all walks of life, in serious discussion of where these technology trends could – and should – take us?
  19. What is the role of the arts to effectively inform, educate and engage the public in the legal, ethical and philosophical debates that are raised by the possibility of a transhuman future?  And what roles should we hope to see played by politicians, regulators, church leaders, and businesses?
  20. What are the pros and cons of aspiring to a “Humanity+” phase of evolution, with powers and experiences as far above those of present humans as human experience exceeds that of pre-human apes?
  21. If people want to become involved in activism supporting “Humanity+”, what are the best steps they can take?

These are hard questions – but important ones!

For some leading-edge attempts to answer these questions, attend Humanity+ UK 2011.