December 28, 2011 7:58 PM   Subscribe

On November 22, 2011, TEDxBrussels held an all day event whose theme was: "A Day in the Deep Future." Speakers were asked to try and contemplate what life will be like for mankind in 50 years. Overview.

The Talks: (Playlist)

* Paddy Ashdown (British politician and diplomat): Why the world will never be the same & what we should do about it
* Eileen Bartholomew (Senior Director Life Sciences at X PRIZE Foundation): The XPrize Foundation of 2061
* John Bohannon (Dancer, biologist and journalist): Dance Your PhD
* Lorenz Bogaert (Online media entrepreneur): The European Dream
* David Brin (Astrophysicist and science fiction author): Target 2061: Reinventing Civilization Across Half a Century
* Kushal Chakrabarti (Founder of Vittana, turning global education into opportunity): Literacy is not enough
* Leila Janah (Founder of Samasource, giving digital opportunity to impoverished people): The microwork revolution
* Peter Cochrane (Futurologist, researcher and engineer): Not HAL9000
* David Cuartielles (Microchip inventor, co-founder of Arduino): Open Source Hardware
* David Ewing Duncan (Journalist, Author, Medical Technologist): When I'm 164
* Sebastien de Halleux (Belgian engineer, Co-Founder of Playfish): Games the Next Billion will play
* Alain De Taeye (Co-founder of Tele Atlas): Five Minutes into the Future
* David Deutsch (Quantum Physicist): The Unknowable & how to prepare for it
* Hasan Elahi (Interdisciplinary media activist, privacy artist): Hiding in Plain Sight
* Peter Fenwick (Neuropsychiatrist): The Art of Dying Well
* Carl Flink and Edward Oroyan (Choreographers and Artists): Black Label Movement - Zero Gravity Dance
* Ken Haase (Engineer-scientist-philosopher): The Singularity is Here
* Kaliya Hamlin (Identity Researcher): Identity, the Contexts of the Future
* Charles Hazlewood (Conductor and advocate for access to orchestral music): Music of the Future
* Andrew Hessel (Biologist and Author): Making Worlds
* Peter Hinssen (Thought leader, the impact of technology on society): The Tiger and the Rock
* Mikko H. Hypponen (Chief research officer at F-Secure Corporation in Finland): Defending the Net
* Julie Meyer (Founder and CEO of Ariadne Capital, Founder - Entrepreneur Country, Managing Partner - Ariadne Capital Entrepreneurs Fund [ACE]): Entrepreneurs 2061
* Marc Millis (NASA deep space expert): Space Flight Predictions: After AI & Transhumanism
* Raul Rojas (Specialist in artificial neural networks) Cars that Think
* Rudy Rucker (Founder of the cyberpunk literary movement): Beyond Machines: The Year 3000
* Henrik Scharfe (Director at the Center for Computer-mediated Epistemology): Geminoid-DK
* John Shirley (American fantasist, author of BioShock Rapture): False Singularities...
* Rob Spence (Eyeborg and enhanced human): Eyeborg, the Enhanced Self
* Luc Steels (Director of the Artificial Intelligence Laboratory): The Robot Culture
* Jack Tuszynski (Computational biophysician): From eDx to eRx The digital future of personalized diagnostics and pharmaceuticals
* Jacques Vallee (Computer scientist and ufologist, Mars mapping for NASA): A Theory of Everything (else)...
posted by zarq (29 comments total) 44 users marked this as a favorite
The Playlist indicates that these videos are just under 6 hours of footage combined.

The blog entry linked in the FPP under "overview" mentions that Nobel Prize winner Luc Montagnier (discoverer of HIV,) Daniel Kraft (medical chair of NASA Ames-based Singularity University,) and astronaut Esther Dyson were all supposed to have spoken as well. If they did, those videos are not yet online.
posted by zarq at 8:09 PM on December 28, 2011

Awesome post. I'm excited to go through it.
posted by codacorolla at 8:15 PM on December 28, 2011

Kill it with fire.
posted by eugenen at 8:18 PM on December 28, 2011

I wish with all my heart that what Mark Millis describes would be reality by 2061, but... I'm skeptical.
posted by eugenen at 8:26 PM on December 28, 2011

My time-travelling friend from "the amazing year One Hundred Billion" (he claims John K. got the term from him but I am dubious), when asked about what happens 50 years from now, says how should he know? He was too busy running from the Death Cats like everyone else in that distant age. But he did manage to remember two horrible facts about the coming decades:

One: Regis Philbin will not want to die, and when faced with the prospect will commit unspeakable acts.

Two: the United States passes a Constitutional amendment that removes the requirement that the U.S. President be native-born, obsentisibly to permit the election of Schwartzenegger (he loses), but ultimately paving the way for both our first Japanese-native and non-human president: the turtle called 'Gamera.'
posted by JHarris at 8:37 PM on December 28, 2011 [6 favorites]

but ultimately paving the way for both our first Japanese-native and non-human president: the turtle called 'Gamera.'

Or as William Goldman commented on the vagueries of the film biz (but he was really talking about everything): "Nobody knows anything."

Words to live by.
posted by philip-random at 8:46 PM on December 28, 2011

50 years is the "deep future" now?
posted by hattifattener at 8:49 PM on December 28, 2011 [3 favorites]

CBC's Quirks and Quarks covered the same theme last week with different speakers, and the whole hour is now available as a podcast. 2050: What If We Get It right? (Link goes to the episode summary page, with both streaming and download links).
posted by maudlin at 9:08 PM on December 28, 2011 [2 favorites]

Jet-packs or GTFO
posted by From Bklyn at 9:09 PM on December 28, 2011 [2 favorites]

(Well, a similar theme, not the same theme: a little closer in time and determinedly optimistic.)
posted by maudlin at 9:10 PM on December 28, 2011

Yeah, because such speculation was so shrewd and canny back in the 50's....
posted by Greg_Ace at 9:12 PM on December 28, 2011 [2 favorites]

I appreciate your exhaustive tagging.
posted by Hargrimm at 10:13 PM on December 28, 2011

Will I have a lawn? Will there be young people? Will i tell them to gtfoml? Will we ever defeat crabgrass and ground ivy? Come one futurists these are important questions.
posted by humanfont at 12:09 AM on December 29, 2011

So... 1961 was also the distant past? O_o

What's 2061 going to be like? Here, i'll answer that. Wars will be happening, things will be more expensive, music will be annoying to those over 30, entertainment will be stupid yet make tons of money, etc. Little actually changes, only the dressing of the things. In the 50s and 60s it was comics leading to the moral decay of society, now it's videogames and the internet, in 50 years it will be whatever. The things that lead to real hard to predict things are basically that, hard to predict. Look at how people viewed computers in the 60s, would they have seen how almost everyone has what is really an amazing computer in their pocket? Maybe we'll discover something that changes everything, or not. Maybe there will be something drastic that basically makes the United States not exist in it's current form. Maybe there will be a world war, or two (world wars one and two happened in less than 50 years). Maybe a gamma ray burst will wipe out all life on earth.

It's good to imagine, and think, but really, these types of things bug the hell out of me at the end of the day with how much people fawn over them.
posted by usagizero at 12:32 AM on December 29, 2011

Remember, in 1962, the cartoon series The Jetsons presented a version of one-hundred years later, which was 2062. We're halfway there. Just sayin'.

I believe it was the pop culture prognosticator Kresgin who used the catchphrase "the Future is where we will spend the rest of our lives!"

All things considered, I actually find it comforting that, at the age of 56 and in very imperfect health, there is almost zero chance I'll be around to witness 2061. Because I know that I will have almost zero influence over what is going to happen.
posted by oneswellfoop at 1:24 AM on December 29, 2011 [1 favorite]

Here's hoping that, in fifty years' time, people don't organise conferences where only four out of the thirty-four speakers are women.
posted by creeky at 2:00 AM on December 29, 2011 [9 favorites]


Just wondering: did Brian Eno's invite get lost in the Christmas mail, or something?
posted by Prince Lazy I at 2:24 AM on December 29, 2011

The poor will still be poor and working shit jobs for low pay, while the rich swan around living high off the fat of the land. Easy.
posted by marienbad at 2:32 AM on December 29, 2011

I hopped on the identity one but was disappointed in how superficial it was. There has been a clear line in the past few generations of making identities more rigid, first by issuing government ID then requiring ID to work/participate in society (working "under the table" is almost unheard of now where I live compared to twenty years ago). It is also something that is having effects right now, so not really "in the future" as much. I freely admit to google-stalking lots of different people to gain leverage in [business] negotiations by understanding their motivations. That the government, and corporations, want accountability linked to identity and the erosion of pseudonyms isn't really news. Even pseudonyms of the past tended to be stable, authours publishing under the same name to retain their audience and idenity in the group. And there were always dedicated people trying to discover the "real identity" behind the "fake one". My husband was the one who introduced me to the Ramones tradition of band mates naming themselves with a first (often nick- or joke-) name plus their current bands name. As a result, there is a huge swath of my social circle that I know by multiple names (and I am actually unsure what their "real" or preferred names are.

I was surprised that she did not talk about being lost in the sea of the same "official" name. I work with official records of the Sikh community in Canada and the duplication of names (especially since so many first names are gender neutral) means narrowing down WHICH Rupinder Singh/Kaur I am looking for can be challenging to say the least. (Says the person with a unique name who purposefully gave her children unique names to create individualisation in search engine results. Sigh.)
posted by saucysault at 5:25 AM on December 29, 2011 [1 favorite]

I believe it was the pop culture prognosticator Kresgin who used the catchphrase "the Future is where we will spend the rest of our lives!"

Kreskin, not Kresgin. In any event, no: that would be Criswell.
posted by ricochet biscuit at 6:10 AM on December 29, 2011 [2 favorites]

In fifty years, we'll all know who this guy was ...
posted by philip-random at 6:50 AM on December 29, 2011 [1 favorite]

I just want to know if rock and roll will still be alive.
posted by LastOfHisKind at 6:50 AM on December 29, 2011

I saw a fantastic post on this issue on LessWrong about a week ago. It was a Cliffs notes extraction of a long document written by Mike Darwin and Steve Harris, written in 1988, forecasting detailed medical progress by 2008.


They were way off.
posted by bukvich at 7:17 AM on December 29, 2011

One of the speakers was Dr. David Brin, who wrote Earth. The book was released in 1989, and set in 2038 -- approximately 50 years in the future. It's a complex, deep novel that touches on a wide range of themes.

The book's afterword is interesting. Brin talks about the challenges facing a sci-fi author who sets a book 50 years in the future: the world you're describing can't be that different. It has to be sufficiently plausible, identifiable and understandable, because you're writing a novel that depicts and extrapolates events and advances that are likely to come during the lifetimes of those reading about them. He also notes that authors nearly always get major predictions wrong. There are a ton of classic scifi novels written in the 50's and 60's that depicted computers the size of rooms, or using magnetic tape, for example.

I tend to think there's a lot of creative value in the exercise, though. It's easy to become tunnel visioned in day to day life. By taking a few minutes to think ahead we might be able to see a bigger picture, or even consider new, innovative possibilities.
posted by zarq at 7:39 AM on December 29, 2011 [1 favorite]

Oh yeah, looking at the future within your current context is fascinating, especially as the two options are usually "things get really bad!" or "the future is wonderful!". I have a book on my nightstand I am dipping into occasionally that is primary sources of 1920s-1930s futurism. The world they thought we would live in can sometimes be way off the mark, and then so close at other times.
posted by saucysault at 7:46 AM on December 29, 2011 [1 favorite]

The world they thought we would live in can sometimes be way off the mark, and then so close at other times.

Definitely! One example I've always found hilarious shows up in Murray Leinster's Med Ship series. The main character is an itinerant physician, traveling from planet to planet and solving their populations' medical crises. He's in a one-man ship. There are spaceports and landing grids. The ship has hyperdrive.

And every time the main character comes out of hyperdrive, he has to calculate his current position and trajectories with a pen, paper and slide rule, because the books were written in the 1960's, before the advent of personal computers. :)
posted by zarq at 8:18 AM on December 29, 2011 [1 favorite]

ultimately paving the way for both our first Japanese-native and non-human president: the turtle called 'Gamera.'

At last a President who will take children's issues seriously.

This year, one of my in-laws ordered nearly everything online, from the Christmas gifts to the Christmas dinner. Very "Housewife of the Future," I thought.

(I wish the organizers of these video symposia would provide abstracts with each talk. It'd help filter out the complete nonsense.)
posted by octobersurprise at 11:58 AM on December 29, 2011

Youtube playlist for those who want to watch on xBox or whatever.
posted by Happy Dave at 2:31 PM on December 29, 2011 [1 favorite]

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