Posted: Sun, June 15, 2014 | By:
On a sunny recent Saturday (June 14, 2014) in San Francisco’s East Bay, several dozen futurists gathered indoors for a 10-hour conference with 14 speakers discussing “Global Catastrophic Risks and Radical Futures.”
Doom-and-Gloom, right? We’re All Gonna Die! Yikes! Apocalyptic warnings of looming destruction via Unfriendly AI, pandemics, nuclear war, gray goo, climate change, asteroids, aliens, simulation breakdowns, human empathy disintegration, etc.?
Yes, that’s an accurate description, but the conference was also…. Very Fun.
Mixed in with the worst-case scenarios were speakers offering optimistic tomorrows, via technology like 3D printing, or emerging phenomenons like transhumance activism and Global Brains (Neuro Web).
IEET (The Institute of Ethics and Emerging Technology) was amply represented. Keynote Speaker Seth Baum is an IEET Fellow; he delivered an overview of the planet’s most imminent threats (in his opinion, Nuclear War remains #1). Another IEET Fellow - novelist David Brin - delivered - via Skype - an eloquent, amusing presentation on the virtues of democracy and the failure of progressives to brag sufficiently about their ideology’s accomplishments. The conference was also co-produced by IEET Affiliate Scholar Hank Pellissier, who asked for a “radical future” that would eradicate poverty.
Multiple Russians appeared at the event, swarming like it was Crimea. The Cold War foes were eminently helpful, providing 5 speakers (Alexei Turchin, Pavel Luksha, Anya Petrova, Anatoly Karlin, Michael Anissimov), 1 moderator (Turchin), 2 co-producers (Petrova and Turchin), 1 cartoonist (Ariadne Arendt, see below), plus numerous audience members. The Russians also steered two carloads of attenders to a motorcycle bar afterwards, for some post-conference inebriation and laughter-in-the-face-of-disaster.
Non-Russian speakers at the conference were Darshan Elena Campos, John Gertz, Bryce Lynch, Yoni Binstock, Susan Kuchinskas, Romana Machado, Baum, and Pellissier.
Scattered dark humor lightened the terror, like the frequent reminder that for each us, Aging remains the greatest threat to our existence.
The conference was tri-produced by Petrova’s new website FuturismX.com, Turchin’s Facebook page Stop existential risks! and Pellissier’s Brighter Brains Institute. Petrova and Pellissier are producing another conference on July 26, sponsored by IEET again - the topic will be The Future of Emotional Health and Intelligence. IEET Affiliate Scholars Mikey Siegel, Andrea Kuszewski, and Pellissier will speak at that event, plus contributing writers Zoltan Istvan and Carol Lloyd.
Below are multiple cartoons by Ariadne Arendt, of several Global Catastrophic Risk speakers, including the Fellows and Affiliates of IEET.