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The Symbiosis Of Man And Machine. With Peter Cochrane

The Symbiosis of Man and Machine

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)

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.


2pm-4pm, Saturday 19th January 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 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.


This meeting was originally scheduled for 16th February, but due to change in speaker plans, the meetings for 16th February and 19th January have been switched.

Join or login to comment.

  • Kathryn B.


    January 28, 2013

  • A former member
    A former member

    Interesting to hear the point of view and some anecdotes from a former BT CTO.

    January 22, 2013

  • Brian From C.

    Hey does anyone know who the chap is who talked about their interest and work in cognitive biases (blind spots)? I wanted to talk to him after the talk but he was gone too quick! Thanks.

    1 · January 20, 2013

    • Jamie

      Hi Brian, that would be me! Sorry I shot off, I had prior engagements I needed to attend. Rest assured this was my first of many and I've already signed up for the next two! I intend to make sure to leave extra time for the extended pub discussion on the next one. Always nice to meet someone with similar interests. Was there something particular you wanted to discuss further?

      1 · January 22, 2013

    • Brian From C.

      Whew :-D ttys

      January 22, 2013

  • Jose M.

    Very well prepared presentation.

    January 20, 2013

  • Brent M.

    This was my first London Futurists meetup, and the first of many if they're all of this quality. Great lecture, and really enjoyed chatting with some very smart and switched on people in the pub meetup afterwards.

    January 20, 2013

    • Stephen A.

      Hi Brent, I just felt that I needed to point out that this series is a collaboration between London Futurists (who are supplying the venue and the organisation) and the World Future Society Europe Chapter (who are supplying the speakers).

      January 20, 2013

    • Brent M.

      Thanks Stephen. I just checked out the The European Futures Observatory website, lots of thought provoking content there.

      January 20, 2013

  • Eva

    David, thank you for organising this talk - it was fascinating. It raises so many interesting points for further discussion. The fact that there were so many of us at the pub afterwards having such a passionate exchange of views, shows how this lecture captured our imagination.
    I am already looking forward to the February meeting.
    Thanks again.

    January 20, 2013

  • Matias C.

    Very interesting

    January 20, 2013

  • Eugene B.


    January 20, 2013

  • Thomas Q.

    I enjoyed the talk yesterday and thanks to everyone that made it happen! I was particularly intrigued by the equations regarding intelligence. That they show a linear progression was particularly interesting, especially in comparison to the more exponential indicators that are typically used (e.g., Kurzweil). I'm looking forward to the presentation being posted by Dr. Cochrane.

    January 20, 2013

  • Alex T.

    Fully agree on the need to move toward collaborative strategy. As the pace of development increases so do the complexities of society's problems, mandating ever smarter solutions. I've recently co-founded a new site that's focused on this area. It's effectively a social network for ideas and problem solving. We're in closed beta right now but accepting invite requests. Check it out at

    If anyone else from this group requests an invite just mention London Futurists and we'll fast-track you in.

    1 · December 26, 2012

    • Brent M.

      We don't have any UK specific debates at the moment, but please feel free to start one yourself. And of course feel free to contribute to the US debates.

      January 20, 2013

    • Stephen A.

      Hi Alex, I agree with Brent. If we want a more European slant, then it is up to us to populate the site with discussions. If I get a moment next week, I will try to start a debate. It will be in the economy section, because that's what i really know about.

      January 20, 2013

  • Uri G.

    Excellent lecture and thoughtful discussion. Enjoyed it very much, thank you!

    January 20, 2013

  • terence f.

    Lively and circumspect challenging concepts

    January 20, 2013

  • Steve L.

    People of influence were aware of impending systemic problems in the 1990s. Rather than mitigating these they chose instead to enrich themselves. As for an emerging vision relying upon intelligent machines, I am keen to know more, but suspicious. Machines are even less moral and prone to flawed input, due to real world non-linearities. In most situations, machines need to be seen as potential ‘enablers’, not arbiters (Think Satnavs). Although ‘controversial’, global weather models grow in authority. This is the kind of level at which machines can operate and we have to be realistic: it will be years before models to inform environmental, economic and social policies are sufficiently authoritative to silence important critics, prior to some kind of renaissance.

    The Internet is a huge ‘enabler’ and we have yet to scratch the surface with crowd-sourcing. This is where our focus needs to be: technology enabled human intelligence.

    Still, my view may change once I have heard Peter.

    2 · January 4, 2013

    • Brent M.

      The huge enabling power of the internet will be used, like all technologies, as a lever, magnifying human effort, to both constructive and destructive ends.

      1 · January 4, 2013

    • Eli A.

      Greetings. When the "enabling mechanisms" are seen as absolute systems, people and communuties die. OL.

      January 19, 2013

  • Maneesh J.

    Flight delayed due to snow, might get there for the final 15 minutes!

    January 19, 2013

  • Eli A.

    Greetings. The most insighrful & exciting lecture I've attended in years! OL.

    2 · January 19, 2013

  • Hammad S.

    is the venue now google campus,

    plz confirm.

    January 19, 2013

    • Rupesh

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

      January 19, 2013

  • Technoshaman

    The symbiosis of man & machine is already happening. It can make us more co-intelligent but not necessarily wiser. To avert the looming perfect storm of humankind's intertwined global crises, we need the widespread cultivation of collective intelligence & wisdom practices. To that end, I started writing the Blog of Collectiveintelligence in 2006 and more recently, established a CI&CW community on Google Plus here: .

    I'd love to meet and chat tomorrow with anyone interested in moving the edge of what is possible at the intersection of electronic, inner, and social technologies.


    1 · January 18, 2013

    • Phil S.

      I'd be very interested to meet you for chat George...

      January 18, 2013

    • Technoshaman

      I love your emphasis on "not artificial intelligence, but computer-enhanced human intelligence," and harnessing "new ideas that generate pioneering sustainable global philanthropic action." It seems we have a lot to talk about...

      2 · January 18, 2013

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