The 21st century: every day in every way, weirder and weirder. Think the net has changed the world, economically and politically? You're right, but compared to what's coming, we ain't seen nothin' yet.
As kids, we'd calculate our age in the year 2000, expecting things to be futuristic by then. We were right, they are, and getting more so every day. Not to worry there's still time to tweak this early phase of the "run-up to Singularity".
In the next one-to-three decades we expect to see these capabilities:
genetic engineering of humans
the end of aging
advanced machine intelligence (call it what you will)
encrypted private currencies
thorough surveillance and sensing, able to detect what you ate, drank, and smoked last night
bio/chem/nano weapons of mass destruction
human civilization expanding into space
Such a future is so different from human history that we can barely imagine it. Some call it a "Singularity" beyond which our best projections are useless. Foresight disagrees, and at this event we'll be exploring what can be known about the world we're being pushed intocloser every secondand how we can influence the outcome by influencing initial conditions. Our tools? Memesinfectious ideaswhich we create and launch, with excellent success to date. Come help improve the next batch, and help design open-source software to refine and spread them.
We'll be aiming to influence:
who gets nanotechnology first public or private, secret or open, in which country?
intellectual property in nanotechnology tightly held or widely available?
ownership of space resources (i.e. most of the universe) government or private? winner take all, or distributed?
which entities will have "human rights"?
openness vs. privacy can we find a balance that works?
encrypted private currencies can government panic be headed off?
open source can we spread the model beyond software?
Join Foresight and our special guests as we picture our preferred future, design a pathway there, and implement using all the tools available:
sheer pigheaded determination to make things work out well
When you leave you'll have the clearest picture possible of what's on the horizon, who's stepping up to the challenges in each area, and what your options are for optimizing how nanotechnology and other powerful technologies play out.
Find this all a little overwhelming? Not for us as a group. While it might feel intimidating to sit alone, watching as this future comes charging at us, we've found that jumping in and trying to tweak things for the better is great fun.
200 of the most forward-looking people around those who are paying the most attention to what's coming and how it will affect you and yours over the next 10-30 years and beyond.
May 19 evening through May 21, 2000
Friday 7-10 pm, Saturday 8 am-9 pm, Sunday 8 am-5 pm
Palo Alto in Silicon Valley, the eye of the technological
Most conferences have "talking heads", with a little Q&A discussion if you're lucky. Not this time: instead, launch yourself into the topics of your choice in workshop-style sessions of 10, 25, or 80 participants. Explore the edges of what we know today and can reasonably project over the coming decades:
Figure out which scenarios are preferred, and how to get there by influencing the process now: still early on
Design an action plan based on the skills and resources available to us start a company, write a constitution...whatever it takes.
See how all this affects you personally your career, your investments of time and funds, your health and life expectancy, your family.
Think we've missed a major issue? No problem add a session on that topic. Your group's output gets folded in as input to the next stage of the process, equal in priority to output from pre-scheduled groups.
How the process works:
Select your personal pathway through parallel workshop-style sessions taking on the topics you're most interested in, from nanotechnology to AI to surveillance.
Explore widely, then focus down, and finally drive for consensus on these tough, exciting issue. Produce a result, your "product": a recommendation, a warning, an estimate, a graphic, an unresolved controversy, or whatever your group feels needs to be communicated on this issue. A condensed example: "Public surveillance data must be kept confidential except under court order" or "Public surveillance data must be made publicly available".
Your results are fed into the next round, where they're used to tackle the next stage of problem.
By Sunday night, we'll have an action plan with specific goals, dates, and commitments. Work continues online throughout the year to implement then in spring 2001, we "course-correct", folding in new reality checks, new resources, new ideas, new skills from new people. It's an ongoing adventure, running right up to Singularity itself. Check out the "Engines of Creation 2000" pages for more detail.
Because it's the year 2000 and sure enough, just as we expected, things are getting technologically weird.
Because even though we're in the "run-up to Singularity", there are things we can do now to help ourselves, our organizations, our fellow homo sapiens, and our (current) biosphere to survive and prosper through the bizarre times to come.
Because this meeting is the Burning Man of ideas on our technological future. It's the TED of 2020, held today. If the ideas described here intrigue you, there is no better place in the world to explore their interactions, with help and moral support from others who share your interests.
Because you'll meet some of the folks implementing these goals, and maybe get invited to join them. Ya gotta meet 'em before they can offer you that dream job in nanotechnology R&Dthis has already happened to a few of us.
Dan Gillmor: technology and business columnist, San Jose Mercury News
Robert Grudin: humanities author/philosopher, "of all the work being done in the academic humanities today, Grudin's writings are the most relevant to real-world efforts to improve the human condition"
Friday, 6-8 pm: Off-site no-host dinner for Fellows, dual Senior Associates (i.e. both Foresight and IMM), and invited Special Guests. RSVP by May 1.
Friday, 2-4 pm: Off-site non-technical discussion for readers of books by special guest Robert Grudin, leading foresighted philosopher. RSVP by May 1.
Special thanks go to Matt & Gail Taylor and friends at MG Taylor, and to Christopher Allen and team at Alacrity Ventures, for underwriting the 1999 Foresight Group Genius event, on which this year's meeting is modeled. (Group Genius, DesignShop, and PatchWorks are trademarks of MG Taylor.)