Edward Snowden fired the imagination at FutureFest with a call to arms to stop state surveillance and protect the freedom of the world’s citizens.
In a powerful talk via videolink from Moscow, he set out a compelling case for why we should not sleepwalk into a mass surveillance world.
Edward Snowden’s vision of the future
In a discussion chaired by Nesta’s chief executive Geoff Mulgan, Snowden argued that our governments have deceived us about the benefits of surveillance as a form of protection.
Watch the highlightsWatch the full-length interview
Despite intercepting messages from everyone in the US for more than ten years, these surveillance programmes haven’t stopped terrorism. In fact, he said, these programmes are not public safety programmes at all, they are spying programmes.
"The only way to fix it", said Snowden, "is to admit we are doing it, that it’s a problem, and that citizens' rights are being violated".
Looking to the future, he said that making information private will win, and we’ll see a more liberal future, instead of an authoritarian one.
End Vulture Capitalism
Another star guest, Vivienne Westwood, set out a compelling case against what she called “Vulture Capitalism”. She described an economic system that supports the top 1% of society and continues to protect and support itself at the expense of the rest.
Westwood encouraged everyone to join in a great social uprising that she said was taking shape across the world. She described third world debt as a giant Ponzi scheme, and criticised our government for demolishing social housing, and rebuilding luxury flats in their place.
FutureFest fires the imagination
Nesta chief executive Geoff mulgan welcomed this year’s FutureFest attendees by inviting them to touch, see, taste and argue about the future.
Watch the festival highlights
Baroness Helena Kennedy kicked off our Future Democracy theme by pointing out that democracy is about far more than voting. A sound legal system, free press and the ability to challenge political ideas all contribute to the health of a democratic state and provide the early warning signals when things start to go wrong.
She questioned the lifespan of the nation state, and argued that effective international legal institutions and new forms of deliberation would be the key challenges for the future of democracy.
Thrills, robots and future sweets
The first ever thrill ride controlled just by the mind was unveiled as guests came through reception. Neurosis allowed attendees to experience a rollercoaster controlled only by their mind.
And there was good news for robots and robot activists alike. Between a quick show of hands, and data taken from our interactive survey, the vast majority of FutureFesters aren’t scared of losing out to a robot workforce. Instead they see robots as our future helpers and colleagues.
Those with a sweet tooth were given a glimpse of the future of confectionery from food futurologist Morgaine Gaye. The last 40 years has been about novel and juxtaposed flavours but according to Morgaine, the future is all about texture.
Vitalik Buterin, founder of web 3.0 publishing platform Ethereum, set out a compelling argument for decentralising the power of the internet.
He demonstrated how a few huge tech companies, like Google and Facebook, have made it more difficult to change your digital identity in 2015 than your country of residence.
Vitalik also took part in a panel responding to Edward Snowden's talk earlier in the weekend. He joined cyber researcher Primavera de Filippi and Ian Brown from Oxford University's Cyber Security Centre.
The panel tackled questions about the ethics of surveillance, and challenged the still prevalent idea that the web is free. "We're still living in this dream that the internet is open, transparent and free. We need to wake up from that dream, or face the consequences."
One nation under a groove
Ekow Eshun closed an amazing FutureFest weekend with an interview with funk legend George Clinton.
Watch the interviewA captioned version of this video will be available on 27/3/15
The trailblazing musician talked about how he used his music to transform perceptions of what black music could be.
His most extraordinary creation – a $0.5 million spaceship – demonstrated how black acts could compete with – and outdo - the biggest white acts of the time, from Pink Floyd to The Who.
He spoke about how the music of his youth started being divided down ethnic lines, and how his response was to keep mixing different influences together: “In the 1960s Rock n Roll became white music, and I couldn’t work it out because I grew up with one music. I believe in one nation under one groove.”
You can recap on some of our other keynote FutureFest talks soon – we’ll be releasing them over the next two weeks on the Nesta website.