In 30 years time, the very essence of who we are may shift in directions we can only imagine right now – every visceral emotion and human need from what we eat to how we express love for each other and how we interact with machines is all changing. These far-reaching ideas, and many more, which aren’t just science fiction fantasies, were demonstrated and explored over two days (September 17-18) for innovation foundation Nesta’s FutureFest 2016.
The third year of FutureFest attracted 4,000 people to Tobacco Dock in London and turned the venue into a playground of possibility. Talks from Brian Eno, DJ Spooky, Will Self, Sherry Coutu CBE, Mustafa Suleyman, Ghislaine Boddington (also a curator of Future Love happenings), Ruth Amos, Claire Lomas, Laurie Penny, Anjali Ramachandran, Kate Russell, Pat Kane (who curated the Futre Play programme), Cindy Gallop, Es Devlin, Bill Burnett, Dr. Trudy Barber, Rhyannon Styles and many, many more fascinating speakers, took place, along with a mix of digital art and performances.
What was most striking is the exploration of the absolute most basic of human existence with discussions on how we will all love, play, work and thrive taking centre stage in conversations. While big questions of politics (Caroline Lucas MP with the Green Party participated in this discussion about where things are headed politically), how we’ll use data, combat disease, consider gender identity, and more, were bantered about among the guest experts, their on-stage conversations inspired attendants to tackle monstrous ideas, and debate between themselves about the positive and negative consequences future life may bring.
Some may have found these beyond-the-now explorations a little bit creepy, such as taking a visit to the Love After Death exhibit, where 15 minute conversations with counsellors helped people chart a course for extending your presence, digitally, after you die and discussing how you want your body to be treated post-death. Also for thought exploration was a fertility exhibit about the pros and cons, and questions and concerns, of egg freezing. These topics may make some squeamish or uncomfortable, but are all good for thought provocation, and important, for thinking about future scenarios.
In fact, it is letting your brain tackle sometimes unnerving concepts that leads to amazing innovation, such as was demonstrated in the Cybathlon exhibit where examples of assistive technology and robotics showed how futuristic technology is helping people with disabilities become mobile again. Or, when cyber-athlete Claire Lomas walked onto the stage in a fully robotic exoskeleton. Bravo! This is where the future gets so exciting, and promising.
Cyber-athlete Claire Lomas walks on stage at FutureFest 2016 in exoskeleton. *Photo courtesy of FutureFest
Kicking things off at FutureFest on the Saturday morning, in the mission to push your thinking into new boundaries, was Hannes Sjoblad (a biohacking and human augmentation activist) who led a “Implant Party” on stage by having two volunteers get computer chips inserted into their hands. The chips allow them to interact with digital devices, such as finding lost keys or activating other technologies.
Among the high energy speaker presentations were appearances by Cindy Gallop (an influential woman in the advertising business and founder of IfWeRanTheWorld and MakeLoveNotPorn) who challenged work place structures and gender roles with commentary in sessions that set the room on fire, such as proclaiming “You will never own the future if you care what other people think!” and living up to her reputation of blowing things up, as “the Michael Bay of business”.
Cindy Gallop on the Debate stage at FutureFest 2016
Headlining FutureFest was Brian Eno who discussed the importance of play in learning, and criticized traditional education for turning the process into something that becomes un-fun, when A-Level exams take place. Also a popular speaker was super smart DJ Spooky who offered some interesting insight into how music and technology wrap around the theme of love.
When the futuristic ideas all filled your head to overload, there were plenty of calming places to retreat to, especially the beautiful Collective Reality (an installation by body>data>space), where you could dance and move with others in a space of swirling visuals, or perch on a comfortable bean bag chair and watch professional dancers perform. Or, relax outside the venue and enjoy street food while looking at an old ship docked in the canal.
Dancer Eliza DeLite in Collective Reality at FutureFest 2016
So what does 2030 hold? It is fantastic that Nesta and all the involved partners and organizers and curators provided a place to unleash what is a smorgasbord of inspiring ideas for the future. Much discussed is so far ahead from our known existence today, that it is difficult to visualize the reality, but unless we all think about it, and act toward positive, well-calibrated, outcomes –progress will never happen.
Like they say in Star Trek, FutureFest encourages us “to boldly go where no man (or woman!) has gone before.”
FutureFest 2016 was supported by innovation partner Nissan and the University of Greenwich, Oxford Martin School at the University of Oxford, D3 Technologies and EUNIC London.
The two-day event takes place every 18 months and details can be found at: futurefest.org
Twenty years into the future, how we love, work, play and thrive may change drastically, and be enhanced and entwined with technology,
Pat Kane, FutureFest 2016 curator
future thinkers and leaders will discuss at the annual FutureFest, brought to London by Nesta. The event takes place this weekend (September 17-18) and promises to deliver a mind-opening collection of talks, debates and immersive experiences that will get you contemplating far ahead to what’s in store for humanity, and how individuals can alter and influence the course of things to come.
The line-up this year includes music pioneers Brian Eno and DJ Spooky, writing pioneer Will Self, and AI pioneer Mustafa Suleyman – the co-founder of Google DeepMind. Attendants will also hear from must-see radicals like Cindy Gallop, the entrepreneur actively shaking up the workplace gender debate, and Claire Lomas, the cyber-athlete who completed the London Marathon in an exoskeleton. Others on the bill include the Green Party’s Caroline Lucas, MP, and journalists Kate Russell and Bill Thompson and body technologist Ghislaine Boddington.
While visions of the future may be utopian or dystopian, many attending FutureFest will enjoy using their imaginations to explore both scenarios, along with the science that can offer concrete insights of how we are progressing. Research released ahead of FutureFest by Nesta reports that 60% of people in the UK think that technology will improve their future wellbeing. European neighbours, however, revealed more pessimism toward future tech, with French people believing it will lead to unemployment and Spaniards expressing concern it will lead to a breakdown of trust. More details about the research findings are here.
One topic sure to be of interest is how we will love in the future, with Ghislaine Boddington (see her thoughts on this topic here) sharing how we can think toward the most universal of all emotions, exploring what happens to romance, dating, identity and even skin when we move beyond the physical and merge with the virtual, by inviting pioneers, innovators and future thinkers to share their visions. More about the Future Love programme schedule for FutureFest can be found here.
FutureFest happens at The Dock, Tobacco Quay, London. Social media fans can follow the discussion with the hashtag #FutureFest16. Tickets are available from £25 (students) up to £80 for the weekend.
Hai Media Group will be in attendance, live tweeting as talks and debates happen from our Twitter (@HaiMediaGroup) and Instagram (@HaiMediaGroup) channels.
FutureFest 2016: Food for your brain
NESTA‘s second FutureFest is being held March 14-15 at Vinopolis in London.
Robots will be at FutureFest 2015
FutureFest is a weekend of immersive experiences, compelling performances and radical speakers to excite, and challenge perceptions of the future. FutureFest is not designed as a traditional static event but as a multi-format festival, which gives visitors ample opportunity to take self-guided journeys. The programme will span debate, discussion, performances, installations and immersive experiences.
The content is anchored by six themes, which examine the future of: democracy, global cities, machine and human interaction, money, music and thrills.
Speaker highlights include NSA whistle-blower Edward Snowden, visionary musician George Clinton, journalist and best-selling author Jon Ronson, human rights lawyer Baroness Helena Kennedy QC, and musician Matthew Herbert. The event will also feature innovative installations and demonstrations including NEUROSIS – the world’s first neurological thrill ride, Paul A. Young and Morgaine Gaye’s Sweetshop of the Future and Emotive City by architecture firm Minimiaforms.
Also in store are robots!
body>data>space is thrilled to announce that Blind Robot, My Robot Companion and Robot World will be exhibited at FutureFest 2015. body>data>space Creative Director Ghislaine Boddington has curated the Future Machines part of the FutureFest exhibition.
Blind Robot is an interactive robotics artwork developed by Louis Philippe Demers. In this installation, visitors are invited to sit down in front of and engage into a non-verbal dialogue with the Blind Robot. The robot delicately explores the body, mostly the face, of the visitor in a manner that recalls the beauty of the touch of blind people wishing to familiarise themselves with a person or an object. This is the first showing of Blind Robot in the UK. The Blind Robot is a 2011-12 development commission for the Robots and Avatars project (body>data>space, KIBLA, AltArt). Commissioned by body>data>space and the National Theatre, it premiered at KIBLA, Slovenia in October 2012.
‘My Robot Companion: Familiar’ is a project exploring social-robotics by Anna Dumitriu and Alex May. This robot is able to take on the appearance of any face it sees or even combine features from a group of faces in order to promote bonding with it. A previous version of this project was exhibited in September 2012 as part of the Robot and Avatars Exhibition at 12 Star Gallery in London.
Robot World is a non-verbal documentary by Martin Hans Schmitt which depicts the evolution of robots from a mechanical somnambulist to an autonomous sensorium. An hypnotic journey exploring robots as our alternate doubles, Robot World was exhibited as part of Robots and Avatars Exhibition at FACT, Liverpool and at KIBLA, Slovenia.
More artworks and panels curated by body>data>space with FutureFest to be revealed soon.
We are East London based digital pioneers specialised in the visionary integration of the body at the centre of digital interaction. We create innovative connections between performance, architecture, virtual worlds and new media. A long term associate artist of body>data>space, Nick Rothwell is a composer, performer, software architect, programmer and sound artist. www.bodydataspace.net
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