FutureFest considers ideas for coming decades

Academics will join a host of well-known names for a festival this weekend encouraging each of us to cast our “mind forward 25 years to the 2030s”.

September 28, 2013

Organised by innovation charity Nesta, FutureFest takes place in Shoreditch Town Hall, London, and will feature contributions from author George Monbiot, model and activist Lily Cole, comedian Robin Ince and a number of others.  

A session on “Humanity 2.0” will see Steve Fuller, Auguste Comte professor of social epistemology at the University of Warwick, arguing that we ought to aim for “the abolition of medicine” as bioengineering creates the possibility of “a brave new ‘post-medical’ world”.

Meanwhile, Anders Sandberg, James Martin research fellow at the University of Oxford’s Future of Humanity Institute will consider the implications of living in the “enhanced society” likely to be with us by mid-century as we develop “new methods of boosting brains”.  

“Cognitive enhancement is something we already do to some extent, with morning coffee, smartphones and mental training,” he said. “But we have likely seen nothing yet…how do we decide what kind of enhancement is appropriate for what uses - and how do we push development in that direction?”

Charles Spence, professor of experimental psychology at the University of Oxford, will look at how restaurants are “going to fundamentally change dining experiences in the years to come”, with innovations on the menu including “gin and sonics” and “sound-of-sea seafood dishes”.

Francesca Bria, a teaching associate at Imperial College London, will challenge much of the rhetoric surrounding the idea of the “smart city, built around the idea of a technology fix to social and environmental problems”, suggesting that “there are no smart cities or smart objects but just smart citizens…what is smart is the way they inhabit the city and the way they contribute to enhance its services”.

Echoing her call for “bottom-up civic engagement, participation and democratic governance”, David Runciman, professor of politics at the University of Cambridge, will consider “why there has been so little political change since 1989 when there has been so much technological change” – and why “that’s not sustainable in the long run…we need to rescale democracy, to give it the power to manage a technologically complex and interrelated world.”

But although “democracies have adapted in the past to new challenges”, he worries that “it has usually taken a war or financial catastrophe”.


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