essays collection By Author | A-Z

The Physical Constants as Biosignature: An anthropic retrodiction of the Selfish Biocosm Hypothesis

February 28, 2006 by James N. Gardner

Two recent discoveries have imparted a renewed sense of urgency to investigations of the anthropic qualities of our cosmos: the value of dark energy density is exceedingly small but not quite zero; and the number of different solutions permitted by M-theory is, in Susskind’s words, “astronomical, measured not in millions or billions but in googles or googleplexes.”… read more

THE AGE of INTELLIGENT MACHINES | Knowledge Processing–From File Servers to Knowledge Servers

February 21, 2001

This chapter from The Age of Intelligent Machines (published in 1990) addresses the history and development of AI, and where it was headed, circa 1990.… read more

When Machines Outsmart Humans

April 30, 2001 by Nick Bostrom

Artificial intelligence is a possibility that should not be ignored in any serious thinking about the world in 2050. This article outlines the case for thinking that human-level machine intelligence might well be appear in that time frame. It then explains four immediate consequences of such a development, and argues that machine intelligence would have a revolutionary impact on a wide range of the social, political, economic, commercial, technological, scientific and environmental issues that humanity will face in the next century.… read more

The Storm Before the Calm

July 2, 2001 by Robert Wright

Are we on the verge of an apocalyptic era? Robert Wright applies game theory to evolution, illustrating how the interdependence and competition between organisms lead to biological, cultural and technological evolution, with chaos and upheaval thrown in the mix.… read more

The Paradigms and Paradoxes of Intelligence, Part 1: Russell’s Paradox

August 6, 2001 by Ray Kurzweil

An exploration of Russell’s Paradox, written for “The Futurecast,” a monthly column in the Library Journal.… read more

Remarks at The Celebration, A Gala to Celebrate the Groundbreaking of the National Research and Training Institute for the Blind

October 22, 2001 by Ray Kurzweil

Ray Kurzweil’s remarks given at the groundbreaking of the National Research and Training Institute for the Blind… read more

Why is beauty making a comeback now?

January 21, 2002 by Joel Garreau

The 5th Annual Edge Question reflects the spirit of the Edge motto: “To arrive at the edge of the world’s knowledge, seek out the most complex and sophisticated minds, put them in a room together, and have them ask each other the questions they are asking themselves.” Joel Garreau asks: why is beauty back in?… read more

After the Singularity: A Talk with Ray Kurzweil

March 27, 2002 by Ray Kurzweil

John Brockman, editor of Edge.org, recently interviewed Ray Kurzweil on the Singularity and its ramifications. According to Ray, “We are entering a new era. I call it ‘the Singularity.’ It’s a merger between human intelligence and machine intelligence that is going to create something bigger than itself. It’s the cutting edge of evolution on our planet. One can make a strong case that it’s actually the cutting edge of the evolution of intelligence in general, because there’s no indication that it’s occurred anywhere else. To me that is what human civilization is all about. It is part of our destiny and part of the destiny of evolution to continue to progress ever faster, and to grow the power of intelligence exponentially. To contemplate stopping that–to think human beings are fine the way they are–is a misplaced fond remembrance of what human beings used to be. What human beings are is a species that has undergone a cultural and technological evolution, and it’s the nature of evolution that it accelerates, and that its powers grow exponentially, and that’s what we’re talking about. The next stage of this will be to amplify our own intellectual powers with the results of our technology.”… read more

A myopic perspective on AI

September 2, 2002 by Ray Kurzweil

In a recent Red Herring magazine article, writer Geoffrey James said “pundits can’t stop hyping the business opportunities of artificial intelligence” and described AI as a “technological backwater.” Ray Kurzweil challenges this view, citing “hundreds of examples of narrow AI deeply integrated into our information-based economy” and “many applications beginning to combine multiple methodologies,” a step towards the eventual achievement of “strong AI” (human-level intelligence in a machine).… read more

Glitches Reloaded

June 2, 2003 by Peter B. Lloyd

In Matrix Reloaded, how can Neo fly and use telekinesis if the Matrix is supposed to a physics simulation? Peter Lloyd decodes this and other technical enigmas–reverse-engineering the design of the Matrix and the “Meta-Matrix” of the underground Zion. And he delves into the rich philosophical and mythic elements of the film, such as the question of free will and who is the Architect and what does his speech tell us?… read more

Nano-Guns, Nano-Germs, and Nano-Steel

March 29, 2006 by Mike Treder

Within our lifetimes, we are likely to witness battles on a scale never before seen. Powered by molecular manufacturing, near-future wars may threaten our freedom, our way of life, and even our survival. Superior military technology allowed the Spanish to conquer the Incan empire in 1532. Could today’s most powerful civilization, the United States, be just as easily conquered by a nano-enabled attacker?… read more

How the Mind Works

February 21, 2001 by Steven Pinker

In this William James Book Prize Lecture, presented to the Annual Meeting of the American Psychological Association, August 1999, Steven Pinker, Department of Brain and Cognitive Sciences, MIT, attempts to describe how the mind works, using three key ideas: computation, evolution, and specialization.… read more

Wild Cards: The Nature of Big Future Surprises

March 7, 2001 by John Petersen

In the coming years, the world could experience a series of massively transformative events, or “wild cards,” brought on by radical developments in areas such as AI and nanotechnology. Futurist John Petersen suggests strategies for dealing with them proactively.… read more

Ambiguous Words

May 15, 2001 by George A. Miller

Understanding how humans process the subtlety of language is crucial to recreating the ability to understand natural language in computers. Dr. George Miller investigates the cognitive processes of resolving the vagueness in human language.… read more

Excerpts from The Spike: How Our Lives Are Being Transformed By Rapidly Advancing Technologies

July 26, 2001 by Damien Broderick

Damien Broderick takes us to the edge of a technological Singularity, where the Internet reaches critical mass of interconnectivity and “wakes up,” and mountain ranges may mysteriously appear out of nowhere. Then again, is the rampant techno-optimism surrounding the imminent Singularity just exponential bogosity?… read more

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