essays collection By Author | A-Z

Wolfram and Kurzweil Roundtable Discussion

February 24, 2006 by Ray Kurzweil, Stephen Wolfram

“The most dramatic possibility is the universe started from a simple initial condition that had some simple geometrical symmetry. It might be the case that if we turn our telescope off to the west, and look at the configuration of the universe in the west, it might be identical to the configuration of the universe in the east [...]“… read more

Excerpts from “One Half of a Manifesto”

July 30, 2001 by Jaron Lanier

Does the optimism of technologists blur the question of quantitative improvements in hardware versus a lack of qualititative improvements in software? Do they point the way towards an eschatological cataclysm in which doom is imminent?… read more

Postscript Re: Ray Kurzweil

July 30, 2001 by Jaron Lanier

This postscript to his One Half of a Manifesto is a further discussion and criticism of exponential trends. Do these trends exist as predictive models, or are we playing connect-the-dots based upon an arbitrary selection of milestones and paradigm shifts?… read more

The Central Metaphor of Everything?

December 4, 2001 by Jaron Lanier

Jaron Lanier’s Edge article takes a skeptical look at Moore’s Law and its application to trends outside of computer hardware. Will computers become smarter than us in twenty years? Is the computational metaphor actually impeding progress?… read more

Man-Computer Symbiosis

December 11, 2001 by J.C.R. Licklider

Written in 1960, this essay foresaw the growing dependence upon computers for more and more intelligent functions, and an age of human/computer interdependence in which the distinction between the two becomes increasingly blurred.… read more

Memorandum For Members and Affiliates of the Intergalactic Computer Network

December 11, 2001 by J.C.R. Licklider

This memo sent from J.C.R. Licklider to his colleagues in 1963 explores the early challenges presented in trying to establish a time-sharing network of computers with the software of the era–ultimately, this vision would lead to ARPANet, the precursor of the Internet in use today. Will the future iterations lead to an Intergalactic Computer Network?… read more

The Computer as a Communication Device

November 9, 2001 by J.C.R. Licklider, Robert Taylor

This landmark 1968 essay foresaw many future computer applications and advances in communication technology, such as distributed information resources and online interactive communities that are commonplace today as Internet chat rooms and peer-to-peer applications.… read more

Nanoethics and Human Enhancement

March 31, 2006 by Patrick Lin, Fritz Allhoff

Radical nanotech-based human enhancements such as bionic implants and “respirocyte” artificial red blood cells will become technologically viable in the near future, raising profound ethical issues and forcing us to rethink what it means to be human. Recent pro-enhancement arguments will need to be critically examined and strengthened if they are to be convincing.… read more


March 2, 2003 by Peter B. Lloyd

Why, exactly, do the rebels have to enter the Matrix via the phone system (which after all doesn’t physically exist)? And what really happens when Neo takes the red pill (which also doesn’t really exist)? And how does the Matrix know what fried chicken tastes like? Technologist and philosopher Peter Lloyd answers these questions and more.… 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

How Fast, How Small and How Powerful? Moore’s Law and the Ultimate Laptop

August 2, 2001 by Seth Lloyd

A laptop that looks like a thermonuclear explosion inside of a liter bottle of coca cola? Or a black hole? Read Seth Lloyd’s follow up to a Nature article that pushes Moore’s Law to the limit.… read more

Is the universe a quantum computer?

January 21, 2002 by Seth Lloyd

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.” Seth Lloyd asks: Is the universe a quantum computer?… read more

The Computational Universe

October 25, 2002 by Seth Lloyd

The amount of information you could process if you were to use all the energy and matter of the universe is 10^90 bits and the number of elementary operations that it can have performed since the Big Bang is about 10^120 ops. Perhaps the universe is itself a computer and what it’s doing is performing a computation. If so, that’s why the universe is so complex and these numbers say how big that computation is. Also, that means Douglas Adams was right (the answer is “42″).… read more

Intelligence Augmentation

August 6, 2001 by Pattie Maes

Machine consciousness may not be a matter of replicating total human thought capacity–it may come in several small, specialized parts. In this discussion with the Edge’s John Brockman, Pattie Maes discusses IA (Intelligence Augmentation) as opposed to AI.… read more

How can a small number of genes build a complex mental machine?

January 21, 2002 by Gary F. Marcus

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.” Gary F. Marcus asks: how can genes build a mental machine?… read more

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