Event Review: Girl Geek Tea Party #17 – SkepLit Book Group, 28th August 2011

SkepLit photo from WonderCat Bakery

This month’s meeting was a tea party with a twist, as the Girl Geeks teamed up with Skeplit, the Greater Manchester Skeptics Society’s bookclub, to bring us an interesting afternoon of debate, future-predictions and of course tea.

Despite the rather grey weather there was a good turnout of both Girl Geeks and Skeptics to discuss Ray Kurzweil’s book “The Age of Spiritual Machines”, which was published in 1999 and predicts how technology will have shaped and changed the world in future decades.  The first set of predictions focus on the year 2009, so this was an opportunity to see not only which ones he got right or wrong, but also why he might have come to those conclusions when in practice the human race has done something completely different.

Some predictions have turned out to be essentially correct – wireless technology is in, CDs are out, and media such as books, films and music is often distributed electronically rather than associated with a physical object.  Other predictions have the right idea but the wrong implementation: Kurzweil predicted that we would all have at least a dozen computers on or around our bodies for different tasks, networked by “body LANs”, but as a quick glance around the room demonstrated, in reality we just have one multi-purpose object – the smartphone.

The discussion then ranged over a number of interesting philosophical questions – is art created by computers still truly art?  Will humans ever be willing to hand over complete control to a computer driving their car for them?  Should we use eye implants designed to help blind people see to upgrade a healthy pair of eyes, and how many such “upgrades” could you make before you stop being you?  Would such a thing even catch on beyond the geek community?

Few definite conclusions were reached (apart from laser-beam eyes, everyone was in favour of that!) but the discussion was always interesting and thought-provoking, and a good time was had by all.

(Guest post by Siân)