essays collection By Author | A-Z

Understanding the Accelerating Rate of Change

May 2, 2003 by Ray Kurzweil, Chris Meyer

We’re entering an age of acceleration. The models underlying society at every level, which are largely based on a linear model of change, are going to have to be redefined. Because of the explosive power of exponential growth, the 21st century will be equivalent to 20,000 years of progress at today’s rate of progress; organizations have to be able to redefine themselves at a faster and faster pace.… read more

Utility Fog: The Stuff that Dreams Are Made Of

July 5, 2001 by J. Storrs Hall

Nanotech pioneer J. Storrs Hall’s original concept, the Utility Fog, consists of a swarm of nanobots (“Foglets”) that can take the shape of virtually anything, and change shape on the fly. Here he discusses the technical details and feasibility of this nanoconcept.… read more

Want to live to 200? Being a cyborg has advantages

November 2, 2001 by Garry Barker

Ray Kurzweil predicts that human identity will be called into question by the massive computers of the future.… read more

We Are Becoming Cyborgs

March 15, 2002 by Ray Kurzweil

The union of human and machine is well on its way. Almost every part of the body can already be enhanced or replaced, even some of our brain functions. Subminiature drug delivery systems can now precisely target tumors or individual cells. Within two to three decades, our brains will have been “reverse-engineered”: nanobots will give us full-immersion virtual reality and direct brain connection with the Internet. Soon after, we will vastly expand our intellect as we merge our biological brains with non-biological intelligence.… read more

We Are the Web

January 19, 2006 by Kevin Kelly

The planet-sized “Web” computer is already more complex than a human brain and has surpassed the 20-petahertz threshold for potential intelligence as calculated by Ray Kurzweil. In 10 years, it will be ubiquitous. So will superintelligence emerge on the Web, not a supercomputer?… read more

We Earth Neurons

September 18, 2001 by Daniel Dennett

Daniel Dennett on knowledge sharing and the fate of the planet, in which he contrasts individuals and their brains with the trillions of neurons that compose them. The planet has grown its own nervous system: us.… read more

What does it mean to have an educated mind in the 21st century?

January 21, 2002 by Roger Schank

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.” Roger Schank asks: what is an educated mind in the 21st Century?… read more

What Have We Learned a Year After NASDAQ Hit 5,000?

January 21, 2002 by Ray Kurzweil

The current recession reflects failure to develop realistic models of the pace at which new information-based technologies emerge and the overall acceleration of the flow of information. But in the longer-range view, recessions and recoveries reflect a relatively minor variability compared to the far more important trend of the underlying exponential growth of the economy.… read more

What I want to be when I grow up, is a cloud

July 6, 2001 by J. Storrs Hall

Uploading doesn’t necessarily mean consciousness on a chip. What if you could be anything: a lion or an antelope, a frog or a fly, a tree, a pool, the coat of paint on a ceiling? Nanotechnology may pave the way.… read more

What Is Artificial Intelligence?

February 21, 2001 by John McCarthy

What exactly is “artificial intelligence” (AI)? Stanford University Professor of Computer Science Dr. John McCarthy, a pioneer in AI, answers this question in depth for beginners.… read more

What is Friendly AI?

May 3, 2001 by Eliezer S. Yudkowsky

How will near-human and smarter-than-human AIs act toward humans? Why? Are their motivations dependent on our design? If so, which cognitive architectures, design features, and cognitive content should be implemented? At which stage of development? These are questions that must be addressed as we approach the Singularity.… read more

What is the missing ingredient — not genes, not upbringing — that shapes the mind?

January 21, 2002 by Steven Pinker

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.” Steven Pinker’s question: what shapes the mind?… read more

What is the Singularity?

March 30, 1993 by Vernor Vinge

Vernor Vinge

Originally published 1993 as an academic paper: Department of Mathematical Sciences, San Diego State University. The version that appears on Vernor Vinge’s website can be read here.

Vernor Vinge is a retired San Diego State University math professor, computer scientist, and science fiction author. He is best known for his Hugo Award-winning novels A Fire Upon the Deep, A Deepness in the Sky, Rainbows End, Fast Times at Fairmont High, and The Cookie Monster, as well as forread more

What is the Singularity?

February 27, 2001 by John Smart

This introduction to the Singularity includes a brief history of the idea and links to key Web resources.… read more

What is time, and what is the right language to describe change, in a closed system like the universe, which contains all of its observers?

January 21, 2002 by Lee Smolin

Since the observers are inside the universe itself, we must formulate a “background-independent” quantum theory of gravity and cosmology , as well as the notions of time and change, to apply to a system with no fixed background, which contains all its possible observers–perhaps even one in which the laws themselves evolve as the universe does. Lee Smolin responds to Edge publisher/editor John Brockman’s request to futurists to pose “hard-edge” questions that “render visible the deeper meanings of our lives, redefine who and what we are.”… read more

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