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Hangout on Air: Ramez Naam discusses Nexus, Crux, and The Infinite Resource

  • Jan 12, 2014 · 7:00 PM

Ramez Naam is arguably one of today's most interesting and important writers on futurist topics, including both non-fiction and fiction.

For example, praise for his Nexus - Mankind gets an upgrade includes:

• "A superbly plotted high tension technothriller… full of delicious moral ambiguity… a hell of a read." – Cory Doctorow, Boing Boing

• "A sharp, chilling look at our likely future." - Charles Stross

• "A lightning bolt of a novel. A sense of awe missing from a lot of current fiction." - Ars Technica.

This London Futurists Hangout on Air will feature a live discussion between Ramez Naam and an international panel of leading futurists: Randal Koene, Michell Zappa, and Giulio Prisco. 

The discussion aims to cover:

• The science behind the fiction: which elements are strongly grounded in current research, and which elements are more speculative?

• The philosophy behind the fiction: how should people be responding to the deeply challenging questions that are raised by new technology?

• Finding a clear path through what has been described as "the best of times and the worst of times" - is human innovation sufficient?

• What lies next - new books in context.

Live questions 

Viewers of the live broadcast on Google+ will be able to vote in real time on questions and suggestions to be discussed by the panellists as the Hangout proceeds. Give '+1' votes to the suggestions you most like.

Event logistics:

This event will take place between 7pm and 8.30pm UK time on Sunday 12th January.

You can view the event:

• On Google+, via the page https://plus.google.com/+DavidWood_dw2/posts - where you'll also be able to vote on questions to be submitted to the panellists 

• Via YouTube (the URL will be published here 15 minutes prior to the start of the event).

There is no charge to participate in this discussion.

Note: There is no central physical location for this meetup.However, you may consider meeting with a few friends in the same locality, and watching the event together.

About Ramez Naam:

From http://rameznaam.com/

Ramez Naam was born in Cairo, Egypt, and came to the US at the age of 3. He’s a computer scientist, futurist, and award-winning author. 

Ramez spent 13 years at Microsoft, where he led teams developing early versions of Microsoft Outlook, Internet Explorer, and the Bing search engine. His career has focused on bringing advanced collaboration, communication, and information retrieval capabilities to roughly one billion people around the world, and took him to the role of Partner and Director of Program Management within Microsoft, with deep experience leading teams working on cutting edge technologies such as machine learning, search, massive scale services, and artificial intelligence.

Between stints at Microsoft, Ramez founded and ran Apex NanoTechnologies, the world’s first company devoted entirely to software tools to accelerate molecular design.  He holds 19 patents related to search engines, information retrieval, web browsing, artificial intelligence, and machine learning.

Ramez is also the H.G. Wells Award-winning author of four books:

• The Infinite Resource: The Power of Ideas on a Finite Planet (non-fiction), which looks at the environmental and natural resource challenges of climate change, energy, water, and food, and charts a course to meet those challenges by investing in the scientific and technological innovation needed to overcome them, and by changing our policies to encourage both conservation and critical innovations. 

• Nexus and Crux (fiction). These philosophical science fiction thrillers look at the impact of an increasingly plausible technology that could link human minds, and the impact such a technology could have on society and on the human condition, for both good and ill.  Along the way, issues of civil liberties, surveillance, Buddhist conceptions of mind, and responsibilities of scientists to society are explored. Nexus has been optioned for a film by Paramount pictures and director Darren Aronofsky (The Black Swan).

• More Than Human: Embracing the Promise of Biological Enhancement (non-fiction), which looks at the science of enhancing the human mind, body, and lifespan, and the effects that will have on society.

Ramez lectures on energy, environment, and innovation at Singularity University, where he serves as Adjunct Faculty.  He’s spoken to audiences from Illinois to Istanbul and from corporate boardrooms to Harvard University.  He’s appeared on Sunday morning MSNBC, repeatedly on Yahoo! Finance, on China Cable Television, on BigThink, and Reuters.fm.  His work has appeared in, or been reviewed by, The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal, The Los Angeles Times, The Atlantic, Slate, Business Week, Business Insider, Discover, Popular Science, Wired, and Scientific American.  He’s a graduate of the University of Illinois at Urbana Champaign and the Illinois Mathematics and Science Academy at Aurora Illinois.

About the panellists:

Randal Koene, Science Director, 2045 Initiative, and Founder, Carboncopies.org

Dr. Randal A. Koene has been focusing on the functional reconstruction of neural tissue since 1994. He introduced the multi-disciplinary field of whole brain emulation and is lead curator of the scientific roadmap with which its technological development is promoted.

Working with the VU University Amsterdam, Dr. Koene led the creation of NETMORPH, a computational framework for the simulated morphological development of large-scale high-resolution neuroanatomically realistic neuronal circuitry.

Dr. Koene is CEO and Founder of the science foundation Carboncopies.org and neural interfaces company NeuraLink Co. He is Science Director of the 2045 Initiative and advises several neurotechnology companies and organizations.

In previous roles, Dr. Koene was Director of Analysis at Silicon Valley nanotechnology company Halcyon Molecular [masked]) and Director of the Department of Neuroengineering at Tecnalia, the third largest private research organization in Europe [masked]). Dr. Koene was a research professor at Boston University's Center for Memory and Brain.

He earned his Ph.D. studying memory mechanisms at McGill University, after obtaining an M.Sc. in Electrical Engineering with a specialization in Information Theory at Delft University of Technology.

Dr. Koene’s publications, presentations and interviews are available at http://randalkoene.com

Michell Zappa, Founder and executive director of Envisioning

Michell Zappa describes himself as "Tinkerer, thinker, builder, breaker, designer, hacker and related to the other Zappa; sci-fi fan, photo buff, music lover, future shocked & loving it".

Born in Stockholm & raised around the world (he is currently based in São Paulo), Michell's previous professional lives include ad-man, video-editor, art-director & web-designer.

He is the founder and executive director of Envisioningan independent technology research foundation based in Brazil. The mission of Envisioning is to raise understanding about the implications of accelerating change.

Michell is perpetually fascinated by tech and how it shapes society. He sees technology sprawling out of control and believes that given the right framework and tools, technological evolution can explained in predictable terms. He believes Envisioning to be vessel for achieving this vision, and that the better we question the fundamental nature of technology, the better of an understanding and more control we will have over the future of humanity.

Giulio Prisco, Director of the the Institute for Ethics and Emerging Technologies

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

For more details of Giulio's ideas and projects, see http://turingchurch.com/giulio-prisco/. For Giulio's writing for the IEET, see http://ieet.org/index.php/IEET/bio/prisco/. For Giulio's book reviews on the science/fiction website skefi’a, see http://skefia.com/author/giulio/.

Join or login to comment.

  • david s.

    interesting but not inspiring

    January 12, 2014

    • Sharky - Shariq P.

      Allocate some time at the end where each remaining unanswered question can be taken by any single panelists.... so not shorter quite the opposite. :-)

      January 19, 2014

    • David W.

      As a practical step, I'll try to leave time in the next HOA to request audience feedback on ways that the HOAs might be changed (e.g. making them shorter, longer, or whatever...)

      January 19, 2014

  • david s.

    i really enjoyed reading nexus and crux over the Christmas period. The problem for me last Sunday was that the guys were just too sensible!
    The spark of inspired (or inspiring) madness seemed missing (I'd contrast it with that presentation from the Venezuelan guy at Singularity university).
    Keep up the good work!

    January 19, 2014

    • David W.

      It's a sign of good progress that the opinions being expressed by Ramez, Randal, and Giulio can be described as "just too sensible"; for most audiences in the world (until fairly recently), their opinions would be laughed away as naive, wishful thinking, etc :-)

      But I take the point that a greater element of disagreement (dialectic) will make these hangouts more engaging to audiences.

      The one next Sunday should feature a wider diversity of opinion.

      January 19, 2014

  • Calum

    Superb discussion. Thanks for organising, David.

    1 · January 12, 2014

  • Sharky - Shariq P.

    Mind uploading is expected but does the philosophical concern about the divergent consciousness still exist?

    I've got an idea to work around this but I'm looking to see if there are better ideas already published.

    Any pointers greatly appreciated!

    I’m attending a Meetup with London Futurists http://meetu.ps/23ybJ4

    3 · December 26, 2013

    • Calum

      Oops, I forgot that hitting the "Return" key would send the post rather than starting a new line. It's not surprising that the debate is stuck - it's been a hot philosophical potato since the ancient Greeks. There are a few steps after you go through the Ship of Theseus, but pretty soon you end up at a brick wall. I think you're right that if and when uploading becomes possible the debate will become unstuck again. However, in the meantime it still seems to me that the issue is vitally important, and for presentational reasons as well as purely intellectual ones. One of the things that turns many people off this branch of transhumanism is the fear that uploading does not preserve identity. Making light of that concern won't persuade them to engage.

      January 10, 2014

    • Sharky - Shariq P.

      I think it's a good idea to think about connectome migration or remapping as a possible way to experience consciousness continuity instead of seemingly duplicating the consciousness via a future copy based mind upload.

      I'm principle of the remapping is done gradually we can demonstrate continuity.

      January 12, 2014

  • David W.

    You can watch the event on YouTube at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=WijUWLM3dBQ, in case you can't access the Google+ interface

    January 12, 2014

  • Iver J.

    Thank you David for making the video available! Am in San Francisco and something came up.Also love the stuff on Singularity U. - just at their medicine event in San Diego. These are great people feet on ground and heads in space, a good location for both feet and heads.

    1 · January 12, 2014

  • Richard B.

    Has a location been fixed?

    January 11, 2014

    • David W.

      Hi Lilian, The video recording of this Hangout On Air will be available afterwards, available on my G+ page, https://plus.google.co...­, my channel on YouTube, http://www.youtube.co...­, and on the LondonFuturists page gathering all HOAs together, http://londonfuturist...­.

      Refresh either of the first two URLs within the five minutes before the event is due to start, and you should see the new stream there.

      January 12, 2014

    • David W.

      The advantage of watching the event live, rather than recorded, is that you get to take part in the online raising and voting of suggested questions, via the Google+ interface.

      January 12, 2014

  • terence f.

    A friend will be preaching this evening so I will be late/absent. Apologies. Will there be a recording?

    January 12, 2014

    • David W.

      Hi Terence, Yes, the video recording of this Hangout On Air will be available afterwards, available on my G+ page, https://plus.google.co...­, my channel on YouTube, http://www.youtube.co...­, and on the LondonFuturists page gathering all HOAs together, http://londonfuturist...­.

      Note this is a Hangout On Air event, so there's no physical location you need to rush to try to reach. You just need to find a location with good local Internet connectivity :-)

      January 12, 2014

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