The Edinburgh Centre for Carbon Innovation (ECCI) is presenting a series of events at the 2015 Edinburgh International Science Festival. These inspiring, future-facing events will appear under the banner:
What does a low carbon future look like?
The kick-off event on the evening of Friday 17th April will be a bike-powered screening of ‘Future My Love’ (http://www.futuremylove.com). The film unlocks and explores many themes relevant to future technologies and ECCI’s work more generally:
At the brink of losing the idealistic love of her life, filmmaker Maja Borg takes us on a poetic road trip through financial collapse, exploring a radically different economic and social model proposed by 99-year-old futurist Jacque Fresco, challenging collective and personal utopias in search of freedom.
The panel includes the film’s producer, Sonja Henrici, and creative thinkers from the world of politics, journalism, science, art and technology, including Lesley Riddoch, Austin Tate, Simon Gage (Director of the Edinburgh Science Festival) and Phillip Bruner (Chair). Audience members will also be invited to participate.
Details of the event are available via:
The film has an interesting contrast between the personal anguish of the film maker, Maja Borg, and her journey to Venus in Florida as she reflects on her situation and is exposed to the forward looking thinking of Jacque Fresco who has his base there. I like the film’s portrayal of the optimism and shared social outlook of Jacque Fresco and his collaborators, though I feel that some of his social ideas are far too centralised and technocentric. I like optimistic people who look forward and not back, and who engage on a global scale to improve the world and see the positive potential of science and technology to help achieve that.
I have grown up with an interest in computers since my school days. From my early twenties, I have seen the development of the Internet and during my PhD studies in 1972 at Edinburgh I was a user of one of the very first international machines, a PDP-10, connected to the original ARPANet to allow communication and knowledge sharing [See my Blog Post on recollections of the early “net”]. The earlier ARPANet and its protocols on which the Internet is based, and the later 1990s World-Wide Web from CERN and Sir Tim Berners-Lee have been made freely available by those with the grand vision to see its potential for good. But as always there are those that do not have such a social outlook and only seek to exploit for their own interests any invention that they are given. Technology can be a force for good and help everyone, or can be misused for control and to spread fear by aggressive governments and greedy individuals or corporations.
I am a member of the panel discussing the film with the audience after the screening, and some of my interests are in visions of the future and ways to bring them about. I am an optimist for the future, while still being deeply cynical about commercial and government activities which are risking the environment, and eroding personal freedoms and spoiling good social cohesion, and diminishing the value of the core aims of the early internet and world-wide web pioneers, and many who contributed to its development.
My own research includes Artificial Intelligence, robotics and telecommand and control of deep spacecraft. I work on planning, collaboration and team work especially for emergency response. I am exploring distributed teams connected via physical co-location and teleremote virtual reality, and especially mixed reality combinations. This strongly supports a more sustainable future where people need to travel less and can operate effectively together in spaces wherever they are and however remote they are from one another and from the devices and sensors they might use to conduct operations. Practical examples of such a vision in use are for mixed reality operations centres for emergency response on scales from local to regional to international, and for massive open online educational communities studying together on topics of interest (MOOCs). This vision also lends itself to operation of deep space robotic and human missions, and eventually to remote interstellar travel.
Helpful Environment – Search and Rescue – Emergency Response – Interplanetary Spacecraft – Interstellar Starships – Virtual Worlds – Virtual Reality – Mixed Reality – Intelligent Interaction – Artificial Intelligence – Robots – Distance Education – MOOCs.
Contrary to views of AI and robotics in popular SciFi films, such as “The Terminator” (see 2011 Edinburgh Film Festival Podcast), the doom-laden worries of people like Stephen Hawking and Elon Musk, and the actions of governments and commercial enterprises to misuse technology, I can (even with my worries) envisage a “nice” social and international community that seeks to assist and help others and that may be able to be realised in spite of the dangers. I call this vision “The Helpful Environment” – see http://openvce.net/helpful-environment
As a side note, the 1972 Film “Silent Running” has a central plot that includes many of my interests. A future where scientists have sought to protect the environmental diversity of Earth’s natural resources by creating a protected “island” in space – on converted commercial space freighters. The featured spaceship, the “Valley Forge”, has biodomes with service robots – Huey, Dewey and Louie – looking after the spaceship and the plant life on board. SciFi and futurist novels and films give us a way to explore our own joint future and to consider the consequences of our actions.
Jacque_Fresco‘s writings on his vision of the future also are positive about the potential of machine intelligence and robotics working alongside mankind. His book “Designing the Future” (PDF) includes the design of future cities, sea habitats and social environments and the construction machines that may be employed to build them. This is an interest I share – see my Sea City web page – which already referred to his “Venus Project“.
Austin’s roles and related interests…
Fellow of the Royal Academy of Engineering (FREng)
Fellow of the Royal Society of Edinburgh (FRSE)
Director, Artificial Intelligence Applications Institute (AIAI)
Professor of Knowledge-Based Systems, University of Edinburgh
Coordinator for the Virtual University of Edinburgh (Vue)
Coordinator for Distance Education, School of Informatics, University of Edinburgh
Senior Visiting Research Scientist, Institute of Human & Machine Cognition (IHMC), Florida
Fellow of the British Interplanetary Society (FBIS)
Senior Researcher, Initiative for Interstellar Studies (I4IS)
Images from Participants
Image of the film’s producer, Sonja Henrici, with Simon Gage, Head of the Edinburgh International Science Festival, and Austin Tate by Joshua Smythe, ECCI Social Media
Images from Virginia De, ECCI Social Media
A Public Radio International (PRI) “Science Friday” panel on “The Future of Artificial Intelligence” dated April 10th, 2015 with Eric Horvitz (Microsoft), Stuart Russell (Berkley) and Max Tegmark (MIT). This covered aspects of the risks of developing AI and the responsibility of AI scientists and developers.
Stuart Russell and Max Tegmark were co-authors with Stephen Hawking of an article in The Independent on 1st May 2014 on risks associated with AI which led to media comments quoting Hawking’s concern over the possible pitfalls of advanced AI.
ECCI photos and blog post about the event are at:
ECCI’s Annabel Cooper wrote: