Forward-thinking Brooklynites gather to discuss the future

Looking forward to it: Mike Taubleb organizes the Brooklyn Futurist Meetup, where the borough’s forward-looking citizens discuss topics such as bioethics in modern warfare and 3D-printed Rubik’s Cubes.
Photo by Elizabeth Graham

Next Monday night, they’re sending you back to the future.

Since 2008, a group of forward-thinking Brooklynites has been gathering on a semi-regular basis to discuss the way the world will look 10 or more years from now. Seven years later, the Brooklyn Futurist Meetup claims it is now the largest futurist group in the country, with more than 3,000 members signed up.

“We’re the largest futurist meetup in the country, and the second-largest in world,” said organizer Mike Taubleb. “And we’re always looking for organizations to partner with to produce events or to develop programming.”

The group has a storied history. Techie Sam Lessin first started the collective, but left two years later after Facebook acquired his Dumbo file-sharing startup Drop.io. Then Ditmas Parker Mike Taubleb took up the reins in 2011.

Turnout for a given talk runs from 50 to 250 people — depending on the topic at hand and the weather that day, Taubleb said. Previous topics have included a proposed underground park in Manhattan, web security, and the future of porn.

Taubleb said he has also been trying to expand the coterie beyond its tech-bro roots.

“They were heavily males in their 20s — probably working in tech and living in Brooklyn or Manhattan,” said Taubleb, who runs a speakers’ bureau. “I wanted to extend the group, making it more balanced gender-wise, age-wise.”

Talks on women in innovation and the future of chocolate drew crowds that were predominantly women, he said.

The group’s next gathering will take place at Brooklyn Law School on March 2, where a New York University professor will talk about the future of brain-mapping and its implications for science and medicine. Science put man on the moon, gave us cricket protein bars, and determined the Gowanus Canal has the clap. But it has yet to unravel the mysteries of the human mind, the lecturer said.

“The brain is the most complicated thing in the universe,” said Gary Marcus, director of the New York University Center for Language and Music. “We’ve collected a lot of facts but don’t know how to put them together. What we need to understand is what individual neurons are doing.”

It’s only a matter of time before researchers bridge those gaps, but that doesn’t mean it will happen tomorrow, he said.

“In 10 years, we’ll be setting the table,” he said. “We couldn’t even find the table before.”

After the lecture, attendees can pick Marcus’s own brain and mingle with fellow future enthusiasts.

And another meetup slated for April will feature “Star Trek: The Next Generation” writer Morgan Gendel on the future of artificial intelligence and the singularity, Taubleb said.

The Future of the Brain with Gary Marcus at Brooklyn Law School Feil Hall [205 State St. between Court Street and Boerum Place Downtown, (718) 780–0383, www.meetup.com/BLKNY30]. Mar. 2 at 7 pm. $5.

Reach reporter Max Jaeger at mjaeger@cnglocal.com or by calling (718) 260–8303. Follow him on Twitter @JustTheMax.

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