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Futurism, Spirituality, and Faith

How should rationalist futurists regard movements promoting religion, spirituality, and faith?

Rationalist futurists share a profound respect for the potential of science, engineering, and critical thinking to improve the human condition. New technology places power in our hands which formerly would be regarded as miraculous, divine, or the preserve of gods.

But rationalist futurists differ markedly among themselves in their attitudes towards movements that promote religion, spirituality, and faith.

Given the power and influence of these movements, some critically important questions deserve attention:

• Should rational futurists ignore, sidestep, oppose, imitate, collaborate with, reason with, or seek to merge with or transform those movements?

• Are there elements of religion, spirituality, and faith which can (and perhaps should) usefully be combined into futurist, techno-progressive, and transhumanist projects?

• Or are the notions of religion, spirituality, and faith too tied up with irrationalism and the denial of personal responsibility?

This meeting will hear a number of short presentations from panellists - Carl Youngblood, Gennaro Giannini, Imtiaz Salam, and Giulio Prisco - who cover a range of key opinions. There will then be time for contributions from the floor, Q&A, and group discussion.

About Carl Youngblood:

Carl has been an avid technology enthusiast since early childhood, and has been earning a living as a software engineer since 1997. He was a Mormon missionary for two years in Brazil, where his newfound aptitude for language led him to eventually get a degree in Portuguese from Brigham Young University, and later a masters in Computer Science from the University of Washington.

Carl's struggle to apply his faith meaningfully in today's rapidly-changing world led him to co-found The Mormon Transhumanist Association in 2006, where he currently serves as a director. Carl is passionate about science, technology, religion, philosophy and the performing arts.

Carl writes:

The secularisation hypothesis is now showing signs of age. Though religion is experiencing rapid change and upheaval, rumours of its death have been greatly exaggerated.

I will share a brief survey of some salient features of religion and the forms it has taken throughout history, as well as some of its (perhaps surprising) manifestations today. A successful transition to posthumanity will not occur without greater awareness of and accommodation for human religiosity, which (I will argue) is one of our most powerful social technologies.

About Gennaro Giannini:

Gennaro is a passionate rationalist based in London.

Gennaro writes:

I will talk about how the world really works, and why there's no place in it for religion or mystical philosophy - forces which have slowed down scientific and humanitarian progress.

About Imtiaz Salam:

Imtiaz Salam has a strong background in science, technology and social movements since his childhood, and has been actively working in these areas for over 6 years. As a partner at a solar energy company, he works on deploying high concentration solar power plants. His personal struggle with anti-intellectualism and anti-entrepreneurship in some facets of his community pushed him to found Tackle: London, an organisation that helped >900 students with long term direction, and was awarded “TimeBank’s Most Innovative Volunteering Project” in 2009.

Imtiaz had been an advocate of Science and Islam from an early age as a Muslim. After leaving his religion, he built an underground railroad, of sorts, for others. The movement he started has grown across the UK and has helped hundreds with issues including coming out of the closet (religion wise), safe havens to stay, people to talk to etc. The movement has also played a part in helping Muslims and non-Muslims to reach common grounds.

Imtiaz writes:

The Muslim world is changing, and with it comes new challenges and opportunities, for Muslims and non-Muslims alike. Futurists cannot ignore these developments.

How will an intellectually, culturally and religiously diverse demographic deal with developments in transhumanism, the technological singularity and education? I will share the views of Muslims (from various philosophies) and apostates of Islam. I will also briefly outline the growing challenge to traditional Muslim thinking posed by progressive Muslims (particularly Quranites & secular Muslims) and apostates, and how this could play out in the mix of technological development.

About Giulio Prisco:

Giulio Prisco is a writer, technology expert, futurist, cosmist, and transhumanist. A former manager in European science and technology centres, he writes and speaks on a wide range of topics, including science, information technology, emerging technologies, virtual worlds, space exploration and future studies. He is especially interested in the convergence of science, religion, technology, and spirituality.

Giulio writes:

I will argue that future science may achieve all the promises of religion, including benevolent gods and resurrection, and that a worldview informed by this possibility offers the same mental benefits of religion, while at the same time being based on and fully compatible with science.

Meeting Logistics:

2pm-4pm, Saturday 21st September

Venue: Room 541, Birkbeck College, Torrington Square WC1E 7HX, London.

Room 541 is on the 5th floor 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

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.

Covering meeting costs:

A small fee (£5) is payable to attend this meetup. This fee covers room costs. Please pay in advance, online.

This will be refunded if the meeting is cancelled or rearranged, or if the attendee cancels at least 3 days before the meetup.

Alternatively, if there are still seats available, payment can be made in cash at the door on the day. (Requesting payment in advance assists with accurate planning of the event.)

Journalists are welcome to attend the meeting free-of-charge - please contact the organiser, notifying us in advance of your plans to attend.

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  • David W.

    I see that London's venerable RSA (whose foundation predates London Futurists by around 250 years!) is starting a series of events called "Taking Spirituality Seriously". The opener is on 16ht October, http://www.thersa.org/events/our-events/social-brain-and-spirituality, which unfortunately I'll miss due to being on overseas client work that week

    1 · October 2, 2013

  • Giulio P.

    Any good photos or videos of the talks and/or the good time at the pub after the talk? Please post here.

    September 24, 2013

  • May A.

    Disappointed with the quality of the speakers! This is not what I'm used to see in the meetings!

    September 21, 2013

    • A former member
      A former member

      Somayeh, thanks for your feedback, and I apologize if my presentation wasn't up to your standards. I had prepared my notes in advance, but they were my own thoughts, formulated beforehand due to the extreme time constraints. It's true that I did include a few long quotes. In my defense, I was talking about how scientists sometimes unwittingly wax religious, and I felt like it was impossible to demonstrate without sharing instances of their actual words.

      I do agree that some of the concepts in my presentation needed better explanation, more connecting of the dots. I hope to do better next time.

      Regardless, thanks for the feedback.

      September 23, 2013

    • May A.

      Carl, I didn't think you or any other speakers will check this, perhaps I should have :) My comment was more from a disappointed member of the group to David as the organiser; rather than to the speaker, so not much of detailed about why I thought your presentation was not engaging. If you are ever interested to know a detailed feedback, I am more than happy to discuss in emails

      September 23, 2013

  • Peter M.

    And here's what IBM are doing to build a human mind:

    http://www.research.ibm.com/cognitive-computing/neurosynaptic-chips.shtml?lnk=ushpls1

    My question is, will consciousness/awareness/spirituality emerge naturally from the complexity of the neural networks they and others like them are building?

    September 23, 2013

  • David W.

    A complete audio recording of the event, along with pointers to the slides used by presenters, is now available at http://londonfuturists.com/2013/08/30/futurism-spirituality-and-faith/.

    That site also includes a number of links to follow-up reading material which I have mentioned in a number of individual discussions since the meetup with people who attended. If anyone finds some of that material helpful, or if you have other questions you'd like to raise about it, please let me know!

    1 · September 23, 2013

  • A former member
    A former member

    Here is a video of my slides and audio:

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gyA-LSn8cPE

    There are a number of places where I didn't connect the dots well enough due to lack of time. I hope to maybe post more extensive slides and possibly an extended version of the video soon. Thanks to everyone for their participation.

    September 22, 2013

  • Roland S.

    I liked the arrangement of having four speakers with four completely different approaches to the subject. This conveyed the essence of the subject much better than any single speaker could have done.

    2 · September 22, 2013

  • A former member
    A former member

    Really enjoyed the exchange of ideas around a subject which I'm obviously passionate about. Thanks to all who participated!

    September 22, 2013

  • Peter M.

    Great meetup - Giulio has changed my outlook forever!

    September 21, 2013

  • Giulio P.

    Great meeting, a great pleasure to see you all, thanks David for inviting me.

    September 22, 2013

  • Imtiaz

    Thank you for having me as a speaker, the questions were quite interesting and the post-talk questions and comments really made me think. Hopefully I will come down as soon as my work-load drops and continue with some of the conversations that started.

    September 21, 2013

  • Yissar Lior I.

    Religion is one of the most loaded issues of human mind.
    It answers many needs social as well as psychological.
    So no wonder the discussion became a bit heated.

    One of the people speaking after the speakers suggested removing all the ‘mystical’ part of religion and leaving only the ‘good parts’.
    I'm wondering, why call it then religion.
    If we take set of values, a narrative/mythos and way of life why should we continue calling this religion?
    Wouldn't’ it serve us all better calling it a way of life, philosophy, thought vehicle or any other description that will not carry the heavy load of meaning that is called religion?

    1 · September 21, 2013

  • Sarah S.

    Hiya, I'd like to pay on the door because I don't have access to a secure internet connection at the moment! Thanks, Sarah

    September 19, 2013

    • Anna

      For me the same, I would also like to pay at the door!

      September 21, 2013

    • David W.

      That will be fine, Anna-Luise

      September 21, 2013

  • David W.

    For brief comments and questions about this meeting, please use the "conversation" feature on this Meetup.com page. But if you have any longer questions, or want your comments to be visible more widely for longer, please visit http://londonfuturists.com/2013/08/30/futurism-spirituality-and-faith/.

    September 21, 2013

  • Gianni

    Hi all!
    My name is Gianni. I am Italian living in Rome. In October from 23rd to 27 morning I will be in London. I would like to meet you. Could you reply to me, please?

    September 20, 2013

  • Sharky - Shariq P.

    Shame I'm missing 2 in a row but I'll be at a workshop.

    September 20, 2013

  • Calum

    Can't make this one, but looking forward to attending a future one. Hope it goes well.

    September 19, 2013

  • A former member
    A former member

    I would love to attend but out of the country, will any part of the meeting be recorded for a video or podcast ?

    September 17, 2013

    • David W.

      Hi Lee, There will definitely be an audio recording, which will be posted at http://londonfuturist...­, along with any slides that the speakers provide. I'm not yet sure whether anyone will be making a video recording too.

      September 17, 2013

    • A former member
      A former member

      Great, I will definitely be at the next meetup....

      September 18, 2013

  • David W.

    See http://londonfuturists.com/2013/08/30/futurism-spirituality-and-faith/ for a short video introduction to the topics to be discussed at this event.

    August 31, 2013

  • David W.

    Leo - Hopefully relations between pro-technology and pro-spirituality movements in the future will be progressed by means that are less destructive and dangerous than military conflict and fighting biomechanoids

    August 27, 2013

56 went

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