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From AI to future choc

What might the world be like in decades to come?

Anthony Gardner | March/April 2015

The star speaker at London’s FutureFest will not be there—which is hardly surprising, given that his name is Edward Snowden and he is wanted by numberless spooks and irate government officials. But perhaps it’s appropriate that he’s appearing by video link at a festival which asks, “What might the world be like in decades to come?” Staged at Vinopolis by the charity Nesta (National Endowment for Science Technology and the Arts), it promises a weekend of “immersive experience” covering everything from a mixed-reality thrill ride to music that can be felt and smelt. Snowden and Helena Kennedy QC will be discussing the shape of democracy to come, while John Lanchester, the writer who explains the City for the layperson, mulls financial inventions with Amir Taaki, inventor of the Dark Wallet programme to hide bitcoin transactions. Jon Ronson, author of “The Men Who Stare at Goats”, considers social media and artificial intelligence, and the musician Matthew Herbert introduces Country X, a nation defined by principles rather than borders. But some things never change, and a large turn-out of chocolate-lovers can be predicted for the Sweetshop of the Future, presented by a food-trend expert, Morgaine Gaye, and a confectioner, Paul A. Young. ~ Anthony Gardner

FutureFest Vinopolis, London, Mar 14th-15th; futurefest.org


TALKS AT A GLANCE

Tennessee Williams New Orleans Literary Festival (Mar 25th-29th). John Waters, the cult film-maker, hits the French Quarter, along with Williams’s latest biographer, John Lahr. On a more sober note, General Russel Honoré—the man who led the US Army response to Hurricane Katrina—talks about his book “How a Culture of Preparedness Can Save You and Your Family from Disasters”.

Oxford Literary Festival (Mar 21st–29th). Philip Pullman marks 20 years of Lyra; David Lodge talks about his memoir; Alan Bennett quizzes Nicholas Hytner; Amitav Ghosh gives the chancellor’s lecture, on history and fiction. As a prelude, Kazuo Ishiguro unearths “The Buried Giant” (Town Hall, Mar 12th).

Words by the Water (Keswick, Mar 6th-15th). Michael Frayn, Ben Okri and Margaret Drabble grace the banks of Derwent Water, and Penrith and The Border’s MP, Rory Stewart, discusses his time in Afghanistan and Iraq. ~ AG

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