It’s been a bit of a tricky year for Gather Festival. The tech and futurism conference and music festival has had to leave Sickla, after their old venue Nobelberget was demolished, and then move back, after their proposed new home in Slakthusområdet wasn’t completed in time. Now safely re-homed at the Atlas Copco exhibition hall, aka ‘Expohuset’ back in Sickla, they’re preparing another round of interesting and attention-drawing speakers and debates for this year’s conference (along with their exhibitions, workshops, labs and music festival Gather Night). We asked programme curator Paulina Modlitba to pick out some of her highlights from the speaker programme.
Mark K Sargent in conversation with David McRaney (writer and podcaster with You Are Not So Smart) about the Flat Earth movement.
David released an episode about the Flat Earth movement in April, which made us want to book him to interview one of our four keynote speakers – the Flat Earth movement spokesperson Mark K Sargent. We’re hoping for an incisive conversation with the focus on what actually makes people believe and follow movements based on delusions, conspiracy theories and ideas that lack grounding in real science, and are easy to disprove with facts and research. What’s driving these people? And how should one handle these movements in a way which doesn’t lead to their spreading even further? Mark K Sargent is our most controversial booking yet, a real Marmite booking. We have made the decision that the Flat Earth movement is a sufficiently ‘harmless’ way in to dissecting, illuminating and discussing how important it is to address both seemingly harmless and directly dangerous conspiracy theories and fact-resistant movements. It’s one of our time’s biggest challenges, especially in light of the climate change situation.
Elsa Sotiriadis is an obvious Gather speaker, with her diverse background and rockstar aura. She is a biotechnology researcher who has become a world-famous biofuturist, investor, entrepreneur, keynote speaker and sci-fi author, and lectures on the ethical issues in hacking the human body and becoming ‘cyborgs’. She has, amongst other things, developed nano-robots that can swim in the body’s bloodstream to discover cancer, dubbed ‘programmable anti-cancer agents’, and has biohacked her hand with a chip live on stage. She is a perfect keynote speaker who covers all five of our key topics, not least ‘Ethics Of Human Development’. It’s now, when people and machines are merging for real, and our biodata is becoming the ‘new oil’ that companies can use to make money, that we must create clear ethical guidelines for how this data will be owned and handled.
I found Anushka Sharma through the tech and hacker community Geek Girl Meetup, and fell head-over-heels. Anushka has a background in engineering and as a programmer, and has, amongst other things, started the space company Naaut to explore the future of space travel and space technology, not least how AI and the block chain will play a role in aerospace. A list of her cooperation partners includes the NASA Frontier Development Lab, an AI-accelerator for space researchers. In our space session ‘Gather Galactic’ we will focus on the individuals and organisations who are taking part in the preparation of society for a multi-planetary future in a concrete manner with their projects, which is a typical Gather issue. New technologies, forms of co-operation and financing models are the focus.
Elizabeth Jochum is another of our rockstar researchers who covers a lot of different areas. Day-to-day she’s a professor and researcher on the intersection between performance and stage art and robotics and technology; robot-human interaction; how exo-skeletons can be used in dance; cyborg technology’s role in stage art and much more. Her Twitter alias @danceswithrobot tells you everything. At Gather, Elizabeth will lecture on the big questions, connected to a book she’s writing right now – ethical aspects of AI, robotics, drones, cyborgs, whether the future will really be the ‘Golden Age Of AI; and what we should already be preparing for.
Deborah Navarro is a speaker I found at SXSW in Austin in March, and also fell head-over-heels for. Deborah is an engineer and a researcher, and right now is a member of the engineering and research collective Texas Guadaloop, based in Austin. Texas Guadaloop is developing an entirely new hyperloop solution, based on air-levitation instead of magnetics. Texas Guadaloop and Deborah have won several prizes and competitions, and were recently invited to MIT to develop the concept further. I think it’s super great to see how hyperloop technology is developed for real, hands-on, and tested in SpaceX and MIT’s testing centres. Moreover, Deborah is great at explaining how hyperloop can be used in reality in the future, so that everyone can understand, regardless of background. This is the future, for real!
Gather Conference, Sep 12-13, Expohuset Sickla. For more info see www.gatherfestival.com
Photo: Izabella Englund. All speaker photos courtesy of Gather.