#danacentre #futopia (Future Worlds, Dana Centre, 21 June 2011)

A massive thanks to Noel Sharkey, Jack Klaf, Peter Jukes and Robery Llewellyn for their talks tonight. The Dana Centre has rediscovered its previous form – and long may it continue.

So, was there anything not to like about this evening’s session? No way! Fantastic guests, great host (thanks LJ Rich), stimulating and engaging presentations and conversation, and breakaway groups featured again too. I only wish it could have run on for longer.

So here’s a brief synopsis of what was presented;

Prof. Noel Sharkey (http://staffwww.dcs.shef.ac.uk/people/N.Sharkey/) , presented a warning of a not-too bright future where robots more akin to the hunter killer types seen in Terminator Salvation are altogether more likely to be appearing sometime soon rather than the more affable C3P0 variety. However, we’re still a way off from the likes of the Nexus 6 model envisioned by Philip K. Dick in his book Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep (probably more widely known as the film Blade Runner, which is still awesome by the way). And that is a good thing.

As a founder of the International Committee for Robot Arms Control (http://www.icrac.co.uk/), Prof. Sharkey and others are standing up for the application of good sense and drastic limitations on the use of autonomous military hardware. Robots are just too stupid right now, and even in the longer term, will probably be missing the human qualities needed for combat decision making.

He didn’t share too much with us about the creation of sex-bots though. There was a photo of a “large rubber doll” that is the worlds first such efforts at this, but it was a small and not-too-clear photo. Just be careful if you’re googling for it in front of the kids!

Jack Klaff, former Professor of Public Understanding at StarLab in Brussels, among other accolades, discussed some of the key moments of insight and unbridled imagination that have enabled the science fiction of the not-too-distant past to edge towards, and in some cases achieve or surpass the fictional technologies with the science fact of today.

Peter Jukes, actor, screenwriter and playwright, described the relationship between science fiction and the era in which it was created, noting that for the most part, what we imagine as the future totally constrained by what we understood at the time of imagining.

He also posited that as we grow more technically capable and assemble machines that can become subservient to us, we move toward a state of Godlessness while assuming the role of creator ourselves and at the same time deny that we’re really involved.

Robert Llewellyn, television presenter, author and deep-future android Kryten in BBC’s Red Dwarf told us of his fondness of electric cars, and his passion for sustainability and efficiency. And wind. Apparently the UK has 40% of Europe’s wind, and we should be putting it to much better use. He admitted to liking wind turbines, at least in part, “because they annoy people”.

Offshore wave-powered generators are also a big favourite simply because of the amount of power they can provide. Yet we’re just not doing enough as a nation, and instead rely on nuclear and imported electricity supplies.


So, all in all this was a tremendously fun evening. No doubt some of the other attendees will be writing  up their own versions of events, and it’s highly likely that I’ve made a few memory recall errors in this post, for which I apologise now. See, a robot wouldn’t do that 😉

There’s a Facebook page for continued discussion about this event here: http://www.facebook.com/pages/FutureWorldNow/208519449190958?sk=wall

and the Dana Centre website is here: http://www.danacentre.org.uk/



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