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Get the crystal ball rolling at FutureFest this weekend

Posted at 1:30 pm, March 13, 2015 in Arts & Entertainment


How will we live, work and play in London in years to come? Sara O’Reilly previews FutureFest and what lies ahead. Illustration Alex Gamsu Jenkins.

A mash-up of persuasive speakers, provocative performances and immersive experiences is heading our way. Hosted by Vinopolis at Bankside, FutureFest promises the shape of things to come. An eclectic programme juxtaposes scholarship and spectacle and there’s an impressive a line-up of speakers. They include NSA whistleblower Edward Snowden (by video link), fashion’s eccentric grande dame Vivienne Westwood, funk original George Clinton, author Jon Ronson and Helena Kennedy QC.

So what’s on offer, and what will it mean for London? Well, if Smell-o-vision takes off, we predict a return of the Great Stink, which plagued the capital back in 1858. The original was caused by the combination of high temperatures and untreated human and industrial waste. But the effect of Great Stink 2.0 could be much worse if everyone with a smartphone starts sharing the odours of their life the way they currently bombard each other with pictures. What child would be able to resist the potential of a fartphone?


Then there’s mayhem that could follow in the wake of the introduction of mixed-reality thrill rides controlled by brain waves. If virtual roller coasters do replace the real thing, then what other activities might also be conducted entirely in our heads? Consider the daily commute. Not exactly a thrill ride. But what if all 8.7 million of us decided to do it while ensconced within a virtual reality headset?

The daily chaos would be more apocalyptic than your worst ever rush hour. Though at least you’d never have to talk to another stranger. On the bright side, when we finally crowdsource political parties, the diverse makeup of the capital will be accurately represented and we’ll have politicians in hoodies and burqas instead of a bunch of identikit blokes in the same suit.

As for the impending chocolate famine (which you’ll hear a lot about about at FutureFest), it sounds bad, but at least we’ll all get effortlessly slender and spend less time at the dentist.

One thing that we are sure about is that none of this is going to happen overnight. So nip along to FutureFest, check out the highlights, and get a sneak preview of what your grandkids will be reading about in Time Out.


Mixed-reality thrill ride Neurosis
Developed by Professor Brendan Walker with Middlesex University and others, Neurosis, which gets its world premiere at Futurefest, is a motion simulator with a virtual-reality headset that immerses the user in a surreal environment controlled by their own brain activity.
Sat Mar 14 and Sun Mar 15, all day.
Time Out predicts The death of conversation, once everyone retreats into their own heads.

Adrian Cheok, professor of Pervasive Computing at City University London, will be talking about developments in the relationship between humans and technology. He’ll explain some of the new developments that will allow people to communicate using all their senses, including touch, taste and smell. He’ll also be presenting a number of working prototypes, including one that brings smell-o-vision to life.
Sat Mar 14 and Sun Mar 15, 11.45am-12.35pm.
Time Out predicts Phonecalls accompanied by an overpowering waft of Chanel No 5 and the eyewatering odour of onion.

‘Emporius: Sweetshop of the Future’
Chocolatier Paul A Young and food futurologist Morgaine Gaye, who runs a consultancy and trend-forecasting bureau, will be offering visitors a taste of the future. The world they envisage is one in which chocolate, water and traditional sources of protein are in short supply and they’ll be contemplating alternative sensations and flavours that might be available instead.
Sat Mar 14 and Sun Mar 15, 2.30pm-4.30pm.
Time Out predicts People stop moaning that confectionery is shrinking. No one wants a big bar made of bugs.

Edward Snowden
Appearing via a web link, the NSA whistleblower will be airing his views on the laws, institutions and technologies we need to protect our privacy and maintain people’s faith in democracy and accountability. He’ll be talking to a panel including Geoff Mulgan, CEO of innovation charity Nesta (the organiser of FutureFest) and Vivienne Westwood.
Sat Mar 14, 5pm (live) and Sun Mar 15, 3.30pm: ‘Reflections on Edward Snowden’ (edited rebroadcast).
Time Out predicts Vivienne Westwood will invite Edward Snowden to walk in an online fashion show for her.


Political parties of the future
Representatives of some of Europe’s newest political will take part in panel discussion about potential ways to harness the power of technology to gather support and increase people’s involvement in democracy parties. M5S from Italy, Iceland’s Pirate Party and Podemos from Spain will be represented. A panel of UK politicians will respond to their ideas immediately afterwards.
Sun Mar 15, 2.30pm-3.15pm: ‘Networks, Movements and Parties: D-Cent and the Challenges of Net-era Politics’. Sun Mar 15, 3.15pm-4pm: ‘Caught in the Net Yet? UK Politicians Respond’.
Time Out predicts Once all political debates are conducted online, the dilapidated Palace of Westminster will become a ‘House of Cards’ theme park.


‘Humans 0, Machines 1’
Jon Ronson has been travelling America interviewing robots . Not the two tin-cans-and-an-aerial variety but the most sentient versions ever created. In Vermont he met Bina48, which is based on a human woman, Bina Rothblatt, whose reclusive billionaire partner Martine Rothblatt commissioned a robot capable of bringing to life the essence of the real Bina. In this talk, Ronson will play excerpts from his conversations with Bina48.
Sat Mar 14 and Sun Mar 15, 2.30pm.
Time Out predicts The revelation that robots have been being substituted for footballers in post-match interviews for years. No one is surprised at all.

FutureFest is at Vinopolis, 1 Bank End, SE1 9BU. Sat Mar 14 and Sun Mar 15. £50 day pass, £80 weekend.

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