Thursday 2 May 2013

Yesterday I was in London for the “Write the future” event followed by the Clarke awards in the company of Dave Gullen & Gaie Sebold.

Write the Future was a really eclectic and interesting mix of speakers:

Lauren Beukes spoke on the somewhat difficult history of South Africa, censorship and the narratives the country sought to stop, with a surprising twist on P.W. Botha’s real reason for banning the TV show V. Really looking forward to nabbing a copy of her book The shining girls and love the picture of her murder wall, as featured in Wired.

In a speech titled Free Your Words and Your Mind Will Follow. Language as Technology and Ludwig’s Talking Lion Ben North (creative director at HarperCollins) spoke about the technology of language and how could I not enjoy a speech that featured Orwell so heavily – 1984 is speculative fiction after all (as we all knew it was)

Molly Flatt’s speech was interesting but I’m not sure I agreed with her take on social media, but then I think she was being deliberately provocative since she’s made her living with social media.

It’s arguable whether Matt Webb’s talk got the most laughs or that the picture of a lizard on a jet ski during Molly Flatt’s talk did. What he did outline though was that we all need to be subscribing to twitterfic and that anthropomorphising our technology would be really really interesting sociologically. If you wanted a little printer with a face then you should go here:

Melissa Sterry chose not to use slides preferring her audience to visualise what they would during her speech made to inspire on the subject of Bionic cities. Her website here looks really interesting.

In the break it was a chance to catch up with a few familiar faces and realise that there was a significant “Bristol Posse” at the event with Emma Newman, Tim Maughan, Jonathan Wright and Kevlin Henney amongst others.

Arc Magazine editor Simon Ings collected an interesting mix of panellists to talk about the nature of truth over an hour with guest authors Joanna Kavenna, Jane Rogers and Paul Graham Raven as well as Icelandic pirate Smári McCarthy. Really interesting discussion which ranged far and wide from childbirth to societal collapse.

We were then given a scary insight into ocean acidification by Bristol Uni researcher Dr Daniela Schmidt. I learned about this at Uni in the 90’s about how if atmospheric CO2 got to a certain level and if the ocean warmed then the pH would drop and carbonate building organisms (anything with a shell basically) would find it ever more difficult. Dr Schmidt’s challenge to the audience was that since we are entering a phase that has happened so quickly it’s without precedent and the situation has not been seen for 65 million years.

Finally Dr Darren Cosker gave a talk that was much more hopeful about the future, specifically the future of computer animation and making realistic faces.

After some quick refreshments close by and having the opportunity to have a chat with Sumit Paul Choudhury, who I find also has a bit of a Bristol connection, it was back to the Royal society for the Clarke awards.

The evening started with another panel which was titled 2001 days later chaired by David Bradley of SFX and including Professor Shiela Rowan who is investigating gravitational waves, Ian Stewart who collaborated on the science of Discworld, Rachel Armstrong who is working on an utterly amazing project to build a world ship within the next 100 years and Adrian Hon who is one of the team that brought us Zombies, Run! And is writing a future history of the world in 100 objects. Again the conversation ranged far and wide and ended with interesting perspectives on “Oil Shock” including the quote that “The stone age didn’t end due to lack of stones”. Armstrong was particularly inspirational during this panel.

The countdown to the award announcement was a bit odd and seemed to be dragged out but the announcement of Chris Beckett’s Dark Eden was met with a lot of joy from the crowd and seemed to be a popular choice. There was just time to rub shoulders in the crowded bar and start plotting for the BFL/Kitschies secret project for October before having to jump on a train and come back to Bristol, which we determined was THE place outside London to live J Tired and happy, a good day.

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