A digital democratic future powered by new ‘orgware’? FutureFest reflections

Showcasing a contested future: musings on Nesta’s FutureFest 2015

(*originally published on 20 March 2015 on the homepage of the Institute for Global Prosperity at UCL).

Is the future to be celebrated or dreaded? The beauty of Nesta’s 3rd FutureFest conference was that it tried hard to err neither on the side of exuberant techno-optimism nor on that of gloomy doomsday scenarios. Instead, it made a point of showcasing a deeply contested future that cannot be tamed with catchy prefixes such as ‘digital’, ‘smart’, ‘resilient’ or even ‘sustainable’. As such, it delivered an event with both strong public appeal and a critical consciousness—a genuinely rare achievement.

As was to be expected, FutureFest came embellished with some ingenious artistic and technological offerings, from a brain-controlled virtual reality machine called Neurosis to a sensual robot with nimble fingers that gently explore people’s faces (see photographs below). It was nevertheless clear from the start that the uncertain future of our digital democracies occupied the core of the conference agenda.

Access the remainder of the article here (you may need to scroll down a bit):

audience participation dance debate Helena Kennedy music neurosis robot hands Snowden


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