The first Soma Salon in Beirut will be held on February 24th from 7 to 9.30 pm at Ashkal Alwan's library.

Soma Salon, first held in London, is a regular group meeting to discuss the philosophical implications of new technology and its wider impact on future society. Each meeting discusses several topics related to technology, with reading materials provided in advance. Soma Salon is not a networking event, but rather a platform to discuss ideas around the technologies of our day.

Two visions of the future continue to play out.

Orwell’s ‘Nineteen Eighty Four’ surveillance state, based on forceful coercion not democratic persuasion.

In Aldous Huxley’s ‘Brave New World’ the drug Soma is served to pacify the population, reminiscent of the ‘dopamine effect’ many privately-owned social networks have on us. For the most part, there is a more sinister persuasion in operation, used instead of overt coercion.

We’ve seen both forms of societal ‘shaping’ appear in our world, and both are massively aided by new technology, because technology can be used for anything.

We’ve also seen a mix of these societies appear. We live in what appears to be a free democracy and yet there is often enormous persuasion going on underneath.

At the same time, people who actually work in technology are often obsessed with tiny tactical movements in the market rather than the “big picture”.

What future do we choose? Where do we take our society, now driven by technology?

Soma Salon is about people who actually work in technology looking at these big, philosophical issues, and not just leaving media and marketing people to control the conversation.

Soma Salon will range far wider than the tech 'startups' discussion many of us are used to.

The venue will change on a regular basis. This group is not for doing business, it’s for 'doing ideas’.

The group will be based on discourse.

There will be combative argument, but full and polite respect for all views.

Nothing will be taken personally.

Civility will be the order of the day.

Difficult issues will be discussed.

Passions will rise.

We live in extreme times.

But we must be civil to each other.

Soma Salon is at its heart a series of physical meetings.

Ideally, each Salon Meeting is preceded with a Reading List of 2-5 main topics in tech that are current and have “future” implications.

The more current these topics are the better, because technology keeps coming up with new things.

So, perhaps it might be about the powers of the newest drones, or the latest revelations from Mr. Snowden. Or an interesting new Social Network than might in the long term make us behave differently in human relations. Anything new is good.

If there is no Reading List or the organiser has not had time, the opening session of the group will vote on the 4 or 5 best topics to be discussed.

An organiser will list all the suggestions and then ask people to vote on the top 3/4/5 topics.

Please note: Soma Salon is NOT about having speakers. This is not an event with formal speakers. This is about group discussion.

When the Salon starts, do NOT introduce yourselves.

Talk about the topics to be discussed FIRST.

(At the END of the meeting, everyone can stand up and say who they are, briefly).

Once you have topics, you break up into smaller groups of up to 12 people (more is too much), then discuss those topics for what seems the right amount, perhaps 45 mins to 1 hr.

You could even write / illustrate on a whiteboard during the process (especially the end findings).

Then the whole, wider group comes together at the end and one person from each smaller group shares what was discussed in their group.

Civil and polite discussion of a high-minded nature. The personal abuse of others will not be tolerated.

Conclusions/wrap up with shared link for follow-on thoughts.

There might be perhaps even a desired outcome from each topic.