• Brooke Roberts-Islam

Back to the future: Wired's mext generation and reflections on Prometheus

Looking back to look forward, here’s the first instalment in a round-up of inspiring and enlightening talks from Wired Next Generation at London’s Tobacco Docks. 2015 offered up a hint of what’s to come in 2016. Brace yourselves. It’s techtastic!

Start early, said Jordan Casey, the teen from Waterford in Ireland. He taught himself to code aged 9 after convincing his grandma to buy him a book about building websites. He was playing a game called Club Penguin at the time and wanted to make his own video games. He learnt HTML code then decided he wanted to make apps – but he’d need a mac for that. Jordan asked his parents for one, but they didn’t understand why he needed a Mac – he already had a perfectly decent computer. Jordan’s entrepreneurial spirit extended to writing a fake letter from an ‘Apple executive’ to his parents explaining he needed a Mac to progress with coding and create apps. They promptly bought said Mac. Jordan then went on to create his first app, the game Alien Ball VS Humans, which shot to the top of the iTunes chart, with Minecraft slotted in below at number three. Not bad.

I watched the film Prometheus last night (better late than never) and it strikes me that humans messing with the aliens is a recurring theme and point of interest as we hurtle into our tech-driven future. More on that later.

Jordan is currently growing his business, Casey Games, travelling around the world and encouraging teens to follow their dreams. “If you know what you want to do, don’t wait!” he says. Now 15, he admits his age means he’s not always taken seriously, particularly when trying to gain investment, but he is firmly focussed on the end goal and that motivates him to continue. I was lucky enough to grab a snap with Jordan after his inspiring talk.

Hyeonseo Lee offers a personal and moving insight into life under the oppressive North Korean regime. Following a life well into her teens of seeing people tortured and publicly executed for speaking out about injustice, she secretly watched TV broadcasts from neighbouring China on her television while shielding herself from the outside world in her bedroom, sealing the windows with thick curtains so that the flickering light couldn’t be seen. By viewing Chinese TV broadcasts she realised that she had been brain-washed by her government and that oppression, human suffering and murder were wrong – until then they were a ‘normal’ part of daily life. Looking around the audience at Wired Next Generation I see hundreds of bright eyes apparently trying to process the difficulty and horror Hyeonseo has experienced. I also sense a collective understanding of how important her story is and that opportunity and freedom are the most important privilege and right that we have. Hyeonseo’s talk can inspire us to appreciate, aim high and share our stories. Given that she had to unlearn 17 years of false propaganda-driven education in order to begin her tertiary education in South Korea and eventually share her experiences further abroad, her story is an extraordinary one.

The propulsion of rockets in space hasn’t innovated much since the 1920’s and our current rockets are propelled chemically and electrically. Ryan Weed’s company Positron Dynamics proposes a new type of fuel – energy generated by combining antimatter (positrons) and matter, which results in huge amounts of energy that if harnessed, could reduce the duration of a flight to Mars from months to minutes. Currently it takes 10 years to get to Pluto. Antimatter-generated energy would make this journey 1000 times faster. By my calculation, that means the journey to Pluto would be reduced from 3642.5 days (87,420 hours) to 3.64 days (87.5 hours). Voyager One currently takes 45 minutes to travel around the world but using this new energy source it would take 3 seconds.

In a nutshell, this means that with our existing understanding of physics we could use this antimatter-generated energy to travel to outer-space within our lifetime – you, me, our friends and family. It’s exciting stuff and brings us another leap closer to outer space and life beyond Earth. It also makes me think about sci-fi film portrayals of outer space. As mentioned, I watched Prometheus last night. Set in 2089-2093 and with a 2.5 year fictional journey back to Earth from an unnamed planet (suggested to be in outer space) I wonder whether this ‘futuristic’ estimation is already vastly outdated. In 2093 it will almost certainly take only days or weeks to reach outer space, based on antimatter energy calculations. The overriding suggestion of impending doom and desolation brought by isolation and distance between planets will no longer hold up as outer space becomes accessible – It will be an extension of our lives on earth.

Ryan Weed explains the phenomenon of antimatter annihilation in his Jaguar sponsored video with Wired, filmed at the European Space Station. This is quite literally rocket science and we are going Interstellar! I’m inclined to start designing a collection of space flight-ready jumpsuits right now (I am a huge fan of pilot, boiler and jump suits, as documented on my Instagram feed and that of my fashion label).

Janty Yates’ space suits for Prometheus: pics-about-space.com

Bradley L. Garrett is a social geographer and urban adventurer with a penchant for exploring the derelict and condemned. He scours the underbelly of our great city, revealing forgotten spaces and initiating dialogues about how those spaces could be used in the future. The spaces he has explored (without permission, he says adding to the thrill and excitement of the adventure) include 14 abandoned tube stations, see Aldwych (below) and Battersea Power Station. The underground cavities of London tell us about the infrastructure of our city and how things function above ground. He encourages all of us to go and explore (cue horrified faces on parents of eager teens in the audience).

Bradley's mages of power cables and an intact section of Aldwych station

Finsbury Park Reservoir, North London: bradleygarrett.com

Aldwych disused Tube station, London : bradleygarrett.com

See more incredible images from Bradley’s European-wide adventures on his website.

Stand by for the second instalment. And Happy New Year!

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