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Technology vs. Humanity, with Gerd Leonhard

(This event is completely full and is now closed to new Yes RSVPs, sorry.)

Futurist Gerd Leonhard's new book has the provocative title "Technology vs. Humanity: The coming clash between man and machine". This book brings together mankind’s urge to upgrade and automate everything - including human biology itself - with our timeless quest for freedom and happiness.

Fast Future Publishing writes: Before it’s too late, we must stop and ask the big questions: How do we embrace technology without becoming it? When it happens - gradually, then suddenly - the machine era will create the greatest watershed in human life on Earth. Technology vs. Humanity is one of the last moral maps we’ll get as humanity enters the Jurassic Park of Big Tech.

This meetup is being organised as a bonus London Futurists event, in which Gerd will convey key highlights of his thinking and answer questions from the audience.

Please note that:

• This event is happening on the same day and in the same room as another London Futurists event - "The End of Banking? with Jonathan McMillan" - and will start after that one has finished

• Specifically, this event will start at 4.15pm, after a short comfort break following the previous event, and will finish by 5pm

• There is no charge to attend this event, but in case of too many people wanting to attend it, priority will be given to London Futurists members who are also signed up for the preceding event

• For a longer event earlier in the same week, featuring more of Gerd's thinking - on the evening of Thursday 8th September - sign up for this FutureScapes meetup.

About the book "Technology vs. Humanity":

For more details of the book "Technology vs. Humanity", see:

• http://www.techvshuman.com/

• The publisher's website (Fast Future Publishing)

• This three minute video.

About the speaker:

Gerd Leonhard is a widely-known and top-rated futurist, with over 1500 engagements in 50+ countries since 2004 and a combined audience of over 1 million people.

Gerd focusses on near-future, ‘nowist’ observations and actionable foresights in the sectors of humanity, society, business and commerce, media, technology and communications.

Gerd is also an influential author, a sought-after executive ‘future trainer’ and a trusted strategic advisor. He is the co-author of the best-selling book The Future of Music and the author of 5 other books including ‘The Humanity Challenge’ (June 2016). Gerd is also the host of the web-TV series TheFutureShow and the CEO of TheFuturesAgency, a global network of over 30 leading futurists. 

For more details, see http://www.futuristgerd.com/.

Meeting logistics:

4pm-5pm, Saturday 10th September 2016.

Venue: Room B20, Birkbeck College, Torrington Square WC1E 7HX, London.

Room B20 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.

Event hashtag:

#LonFut

Join or login to comment.

  • Tony C.

    It took me a while to digest David’s comments on Gerd’s presentation. It’s a well balanced view on both Gerd’s and Transhumanists’ approaches to preserve the ethics of Humans in the best possible way and ultimately, maintain our control on the advancement of AGI. The task is probably the most difficult the Humanity has ever encountered because failure may mean the end of civilisation as we know it.
    The debate is largely philosophical than technological and that’s why it is so difficult. I value Gerd’s cautious approach and clearly apparent wish, and at times a bit naïve belief, that Humans can remain the Masters of the game. But I would rather expect David’s prediction to become reality. However, before the world becomes occupied by Transhumans only, today’s people, Gerd’s “improved” human beings”, various types of cyborgs and transhumans will have to co-exist. For a peaceful transition we will need “improved higher level ethics” of which David writes in his comment.

    1 · September 23

  • David W.

    For my own assessment of Gerd's book see my blogpost, "Two cheers for 'Technology vs. Humanity'", https://dw2blog.com/2016/09/15/two-cheers-for-technology-vs-humanity/

    1 · September 15

    • David W.

      >Invite a wide range of 'progressive' stakeholders for a 'deliberative democracy' event to propose an open, shared, worldwide 'Constitution for Progressive Ethics'...

      Done! See https://londonfuturist...­ - with support material at https://hpluspedia.org...­

      2 · September 19

  • David W.

    The video recording of this event is now available at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=It3O65ddJq0. Thanks to Gerd for taking us through this vision of the future, and to Kiran Manam for operating the camera.

    1 · September 14

    • David W.

      As a reminder - in case you go looking on these meetup pages for videos of past events, but can't easily find them - the page at https://londonfuturist...­ contains links to all available recordings.

      September 14

    • David W.

      For the fast-paced three minute introductory video which Gerd showed at the start of the meetup - but which is excluded from the above recording (to avoid any risk of YouTube flagging London Futurists as a copyright violator...) see https://www.youtube.co...­.

      September 14

  • Dil G.

    I was encouraged by the repeated mention of ethics throughout the talk - echoed in Tony's comment below. As someone with no personal interest in becoming more transhuman than I need to be, I am nevertheless convinced that I will soon be sharing the planet with an increasing number of people that could be thus described (in fact, I already am - electronic brain implants are increasingly used for a wide range of conditions).
    I'm happy to do this, and keen that we should all be able to share the biosphere in relative peace. I'd also like to co-exist peacefully with any AIs that achieve anything approaching sentience / self-determination.
    It is obvious to me that technical questions about how to manage the mechanical or programmable aspects of these 'non-bio-basic' entities are moot, unless and until we arrive at some widely shared base understanding of how 'good' and 'ethical' behaviours can be reliably adjudged relative to 'bad' and 'unethical' ones - deep principles need to be agreed.

    1 · September 12

  • Dil G.

    I am less convinced that the current wave of technology is a complete a change in kind when compared to previous ones - that is, I don't think that the implementation of technologies that interact directly with our bodies is an outright step-change.
    I will illustrate my thinking with a personal example. Some years ago I worked at a large firm of architects, churning out CAD images non-stop during long weeks. I realised that this had to stop when I found myself unconsciously searching for the 'UNDO' key combination after making a mistake in real life. I had incorporated aspects of the cyborg relationship I had with my workstation during working hours into some semi-permanent brain 'wiring'.
    In a looser but wider way, the incorporation over centuries into the currency of language of many terms that derive from contemporaneous technological drivers shows deep absorption.
    Thus I think the boundary is more one of degree, not of kind - and that humanity is more resilient than we think.

    September 12

  • David W.

    Many thanks to Gerd for making available his slides from this event: visit his website at http://www.futuristgerd.com/2016/09/11/slides-presentation-london-futurists-event-birkbeck-college-technology-versus-humanity/

    September 12

  • Tony C.

    The only organization that could do that would be UN and the best initial input would be the existing UN Universal Declaration of Human Rights from 1948 (signed then by just 48 nations) and later on transformed into the International Bill of Human Rights, which became law in 1976. That International Bill of Human Rights would have to be significantly modified. However, approving such a modified Declaration by all nations on the planet seems to me an impossible task.
    We have probably no more than about 20 years to complete such a task, which would become the cornerstone of future species “ethics”. So, as Eliezer Yudkowsky, an AI expert said at an AI conference in 2014, Humanity will most probably be saved not by technologists but by philosophers. Tony Czarnecki

    1 · September 11

  • Tony C.

    Part 2

    What is likely to happen, is that the Transhumanist vision will simply lead to the creation of a new species – Transhumans, who would live next to Gerd’s “exponential humans”, as well as, human beings as we know today. However, in the longer-term, it is the Transhumans that will be the only post-human species.
    Regarding the philosophical aspects of the debate, i.e. the ethics of Humanity, I think both camps are pretty close. For Transhumanists the preservation of human values is as important as to visionaries like Gerd. Much more difficult, practical question is how to define generic values of Humanity that constitute ethics, who would do it, and then how would they be upheld. Continued in part 3...

    September 11

  • Tony C.

    I loved every bit of yesterday’s presentation on “Technology vs. Humanity”. However, for me the most interesting part was the opening of discussion on how the approach proposed by Gerd Leonhard differs from the concept of Transhumanism. For me, the difference comes down to two points:
    1. The role of death as one of the key aspect of a Human being, i.e. you cannot be called a human being if you were to live for ever
    2. Being part of a machine (transhumanism), i.e. an augmented Human being with uploaded mind and consciousness, several backup copies and theoretically living forever, versus largely unaltered human being perhaps with increased facilities, such as bigger and faster memory, who may live several hundred years but will ultimately die.
    I believe that both Gerd’s vision (which he calls exponential humanism) and Transhumanists’ concept will be fulfilled, at least during the next 100 years. Continued in Part 2....

    September 11

  • Dil G.

    Great exposition - but wanted more beef at the end!

    September 10

  • David W.

    The link for the Future Scapes meetup, happening on the Thursday earlier in that week, featuring more of Gerd Leonhard's thinking, is http://www.meetup.com/FutureScapes/events/233288468/

    August 19

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