This event is the first of an envisioned series of joint meetups between GlobalNet21 (http://www.meetup.com/GlobalNet21/) and London Futurists (http://www.meetup.com/London-Futurists/). We plan to hold four joint events each year, around the general subject of our digital futures. What will the world look like in ten or twenty years time as the digital revolution explodes around us? And how might we best steer this revolution for positive social outcome?
The meeting will be chaired by Francis Sealey of GlobalNet21 who will explain the collaborative venture. David Wood, chair of London Futurists, will set the context by providing a critical evaluation of one of the most significant and controversial books of 2016: "Homo Deus - A brief history of tomorrow" (https://www.amazon.co.uk/Homo-Deus-Brief-History-Tomorrow/dp/1910701874/), by historian Yuval Noah Harari (http://www.ynharari.com/).
Harari's book is a good starting point for this discussion as it raises raises some significant questions (https://www.amazon.co.uk/Homo-Deus-Brief-History-Tomorrow/dp/1910701874/) about our digital futures:
"Homo Deus explores the projects, dreams and nightmares that will shape the twenty-first century – from overcoming death to creating artificial life. It asks the fundamental questions: Where do we go from here? And how will we protect this fragile world from our own destructive powers? This is the next stage of evolution. This is Homo Deus."
And to quote from The Guardian (https://www.theguardian.com/lifeandstyle/2016/aug/27/yuval-noah-harari-we-are-quickly-acquiring-powers-that-were-always-thought-to-be-divine),
"Just as the 19th century created the working class, the coming century will create the useless class. Billions of people are likely to have no military or economic function. Providing food and shelter should be possible but how to give meaning to their lives will be the huge political question."
Among the destructive powers that Harari highlights is the accumulation of data by companies such as Google and Facebook, and our increasing reliance on data-crunching algorithms in more and more areas of life. At the same time, online networks, with all-seeing powers of information gathering, are replacing traditional institutions. It's perhaps no surprise that voters around the world have sensed a disturbing "loss of control" - control now lies with algorithms, rather than with conscious human deliberation.
In his review of Homo Deus, David Wood will assess the strengths of Harari's argument, and issue a call to steer the digital revolution for positive social outcome.
This review will be followed by a group discussion to identify a number of specific topics for priority attention in future joint meetups - topics that the audience assess to be inadequately understood or to lack meaningful action plans. Examples could be drawn from the thinking of Harari, other recent writers, and the collective insight of the members of GlobalNet21 and London Futurists.
We are grateful to Newspeak House (https://www.nwspk.com/) for hosting this event, free of charge to attendees. The address is[masked] Bethnal Green Road, Shoreditch, London E2 7DG. Doors will open at 6.30pm and the event will start promptly at 7pm.
This is an ideal location for this meeting, given that Shoreditch plays host to many developments of the digital revolution, and given the particular focus of Newspeak House. Here's what Ed Saperia, founder of Newspeak House, has to say (https://www.nwspk.com/about):
"I am increasingly worried about the way that we make collective decisions as a country, and about the effectiveness of the institutions that govern public life in Britain - our government, our political parties, our newspapers, our unions, our universities, our schools. The status quo causes unnecessary suffering. These are hard, systemic problems, and ideology only gets us so far. I believe we will not fix this by getting angrier, but by getting smarter."
This event is free to attend, but to avoid over-crowding, entrance will be strictly limited to people who sign up in advance.
So come and join us and help us plan how we can best explore our digital futures.
No food or drink is available at Newspeak House itself, but there are plenty of diners, pubs, and coffee shops in the vicinity. (For example, between Shoreditch High Street station and Newspeak House, you can find a Pret a Manger and a Costa Coffee.)
IMPORTANT - we have reserved a couple of booths downstairs in the 5cc Well and Bucket pub (http://www.wellandbucket.com/), 143 Bethnal Green Road, E2 7DG (less than a minute from Newspeak House) from 9pm onwards. This is to cater for around 30 people choosing to continue the discussion there, after our event in Newspeak House finishes.
(London Futurists unable to join us at Newspeak House are welcome to join this after-discussion, if that fits their personal schedule that day.)
From http://www.meetup.com/GlobalNet21/ :
"GlobalNet21 is the leading forum in the UK for discussing the major issues in the 21st Century. We share a common concern for the sustainability of both our planet and the people on it. With almost 20,000 network members in the UK and abroad, we are making the debate, and democracy, more accessible by enlarging the Public Square and using social networks.
"As well as a network of individuals we have also set up a collaborative network of organisations to exchange good practice and transfer knowledge so that we can learn from each other. This network is cross boundary and includes local authorities, housing associations, universities, community groups and social enterprises. Our aim is through dialogue to celebrate diversity and develop community self-resilience and sustainability at a time of unprecedented social and environmental change."