I was really excited to get a press pass to this year's FutureFest. Who wouldn't want to know what the future holds for our planet? This brilliant festival presents a range of speakers and installations to discuss exactly this. Everything from politics to food to culture, technology and the environment are analysed by experts so we can get a better understanding of where we're all heading and what the heck planet Earth will be like in the distant and not-so distant future. Held at Vinopolis, a huge venue under the Victorian arches of London Bridge, you're reminded of being in such a historic part of town, and yet walking in to an arena of all things futuristic.
As soon as you walk in you come face to face with Neurosis (top picture), a giant 'reality thrill ride' in which people are shaken in a chair whilst wearing a virtual headset to immerse them in a 3D world. The twist is, Neurosis is the first simulator in which activity is controlled by the rider's own brain. I didn't have go, it looked terrifying, more the fact that it was on such a high platform than anything else. I'm kind of curious about how it works and what you see in the scary headset. This is definitely the future of rides, and possibly gaming.
Very important to me is the future of chocolate. I've already heard terrifying reports of cocoa supplies running low because China, previously a country that wasn't all that in to choc, are now buying it left, right and centre. I don't blame you, China, it's addictive stuff! But also, could you not. Thanks. Superstar chocolatier Paul A. Young was on hand (above) in a very purple room to tell us his predictions. Working with food trend analyst Morgaine Gaye, they told us that chocolate will become so in demand and expensive that twenty years from now, a tiny bar of chocolate (what we consider 'fun size' now) will cost £10. Wat. Can I start growing cocoa beans? I'm going to look into this.
As someone who's current employment and studies revolve around the internet and social media, I was interested to find out what the future holds for them. We were told by an employment trend analyst that in the decades to come, one of the most secure jobs will be a social media officer. The brilliant Jon Ronson gave a talk about how social media has become an arena for public shaming, and at one point got into an argument with a member of the audience. It was tense! But over quickly. Jon had used an example of a woman who'd made a joke on Twitter that had been taken out of context, and her life had fallen apart due to the abuse and shaming that happened online. Audience guy said she deserved it, she'd been racist. Jon jumped down his throat about the extent to which she'd been punished and if that was okay? Everyone was left with food for thought, and if social media is tipped to become more prevalent in our jobs and lives in the future, what's to become of the online personas and attitudes that we see now?
Vivienne Westwood arrived in the most amazing shoes (of course), and gave a passionate speech about climate change. It's clearly a subject dear to her heart, and she asked everyone to try and educate themselves about it as much as possible. In a world where chocolate is running out (and more recently, my beloved prosecco is having an international shortage), there are way more important things to be concerned about with the planet. Even though it's quite overwhelming to think about, it's definitely something that needs to be addressed with urgency.
Dame Westwood stayed for a panel session that was definitely one of the oddest and most enthralling things I've seen at any festival or conference, ever. Whistleblower Edward Snowden spoke to the panel via a live link-up to his current Russian refuge. He talked about why he had done what he did in the most open and heartfelt terms, and the panel talked about what this could mean for the future of national security and transparency surrounding this. I left FutureFest feeling like my mind had been totally opened and blown if that's possible. You can't think about the future without full-on facing the present, and it's not always the most comfortable thing to do. As well as fantastic speakers there are many installations to see – robots, films, performances of futuristic music and dance. I really recommend FutureFest for anyone interested in people, life, what it all means, and where we're headed.
If you like the sound of this, you might also like the Web We Want Festival at the Southbank Centre this coming weekend – a four day festival all about how we use the internet and how we can make it a better place. I'm giving a talk about blogging, and chairing a panel of bloggers on the Saturday afternoon (May 30th), the details are here.