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Round-up, 2015

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After the invigorating and frankly terrifying experience of speaking at (and to) IBM Watson in New York, I went back to conversing in meatspace. The remainder of 2015 closed out with talks about:

– the history of Virtual Reality at the innovative Dialogue event in London, organized by Shama Rahman;

– biology as technology at #RE_IMAGINE, at the University of the Arts London;

– the human of the future at Warwick University’s 50th anniversary, the Festival of the Imagination;

– a splendid Virtual Futures salon about robot sex at Lights of Soho, London;

– and on ‘Reading Blood Meridian: The Judge is Dead. Long Live the Judge’ at a truly illuminating conference on Cormac McCarthy at Warwick University (though to understand the title you’ll have to watch the subsequent and meticulous hour-long round-table discussion right to the end.)

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IBM Watson, Futurism NYC

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This summer I spoke about Artificial Intelligence at IBM Watson’s new headquarters at 51 Astor Place in Manhattan, as part of a panel with Douglas Rushkoff, Martine Rothblatt, Steve Fuller, and Michael Krasnicki. It was apparently the first time any ‘outsiders’ – other than corporate clients and press – have been permitted to enter the inner sanctum of the new IBM building.

Trying to explain to the makers of a real Artificial Intelligence what the concept of ‘intelligence’ means turned out to be not so easy, especially when the audience at the small, crazily-high-security event turned out to be more expert than the panel. NYC A-List Hari Kunzru, Lee Child, Kevin Slavin, Carla Gannis, the faculties from NYU, NYTU, Pratt, CUNY – not to mention the IBM insiders… If I’d known in advance who’d be in the audience I might have quailed.

The evening before, I gave a talk about the history of AI at Futurism NYC on Wall Street. A couple of the participants there persuaded me to shave my head so that I could have my cranium scanned, and I’m now apparently 20% of the Megadome, which is the template for the Ultracortex. No, I can’t explain. But the Open Brain-Computer Interface founders at @OpenBCI can.

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NESTA Hot Topics – Futurefest – London Tech Week

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…and back in London, finally, I spoke at the NESTA/Futurefest event Ready Player Two. It was about the future of Virtual Reality, but I tended more towards the past, talking about Ancient Egyptian belief systems that simulated an AI-like surveillance system and, to the mild consternation of the audience, what Immanuel Kant has to say about VR.

The panel consisted of Jess Bland moderating, Luciana Haill, Rob Morgan, and Zillah Watson – a really adventurous combination of journalistic, artistic, and gaming narrative competence. More panels should be this varied.

NESTA did a great job on this one, though the attendees made the day: when the audience realized that the event wasn’t being livestreamed, they simply self-organized themselves into a team using Periscope to stream it themselves! A Storify is here, and photos are on NESTA’s FB page.

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Brain Bar Budapest

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Last week I was in Budapest to talk about the history of AI at the astonishing Brain Bar Budapest. It’s only their first year, but @BrainBarBP already looks like a world-class festival. Alongside my NCH colleague Niall Ferguson (as a hologram!), Sugata Mitra, Benjamin Bratton, Philip Zimbardo, Pia Mancini, and Steve Fuller, among others, we debated the many possible futures of humanity.

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Artificial Intelligence and HowTheLightGetsIn

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Early in May, I took part in a roundtable discussion about AI and the future of work hosted by the marvellous Red and Click Software. The event was covered widely, so no need for me to describe it: Computing have an excellent article on it, as do The Inquirer and IT Pro.

Later in May I was at the amazing HowTheLightGetsIn festival in Hay-on-Wye. It’s the world’s biggest philosophy and music festival, and it looked like it. I spoke on a couple of days: one talk on the history of AI, the other on evolution and technology. The Institute for Art and Ideas will post videos shortly.