essays collection

The hows and whys of what led to us

January 21, 2002 by Keith Devlin

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.” Keith Devlin’s question is so fundamental that it is arguably not a scientific question at all: It’s the big how and why question of existence itself.… read more

Thought Experiments: When the Singularity Is More than a Literary Device: An Interview with Futurist-Inventor Ray Kurzweil

January 16, 2006 by Cory Doctorow

Is the Singularity a spiritual or a technological belief system? Perhaps it is the melding of both, says science fiction author Cory Doctorow in this dialogue with Ray Kurzweil. “After all, this is a system of belief that dictates a means by which we can care for our bodies virtuously and live long enough to transcend them. It’s no wonder that the Singularity has come to occupy so much of the science fiction narrative in these years. Science or spirituality, you could hardly ask for a subject better tailored to technological speculation and drama.”… read more

Diary of an Immortal Man

May 22, 2001 by Richard Dooling

What would it be like to live forever? Writer Richard Dooling explores this question in this fictional piece from Esquire.… read more

An Open Letter to Richard Smalley

April 16, 2003 by K. Eric Drexler

Dr. Richard Smalley has voiced criticisms of Dr. Eric Drexler’s concept of molecular assemblers, which could be used to implement self-replicating nanobots. Smalley, who discovered “fullerenes” (aka “buckyballs”), is Chairman of the Board of Carbon Nanotechnologies, Inc. and former director of Rice University’s Center for Nanoscale Science and Technology. Drexler, who coined the term “nanotechnology” and is Chairman of the Board of Foresight Institute, responds to these criticisms.… read more

Dialogue between Ray Kurzweil, Eric Drexler, and Robert Bradbury

December 3, 2002 by K. Eric Drexler, Ray Kurzweil, Robert Bradbury

What would it take to achieve successful cryonics reanimation of a fully functioning human brain, with memories intact? A conversation at the recent Alcor Conference on Extreme Life Extension between Ray Kurzweil and Eric Drexler sparked an email discussion of this question. They agreed that despite the challenges, the brain’s functions and memories can be represented surprisingly compactly, suggesting that successful reanimation of the brain may be achievable.… read more

Drexler Counters

December 1, 2003 by K. Eric Drexler

In this third in a series of letters addressing molecular assemblers, Eric Drexler responds to Prof. Richard Smalley’s response to Drexler’s original open letter. Countering Smalley’s argument that solution-phase chemistry is required, Drexler explains that nanofactories are instead based on mechanosynthesis — “machine-phase” chemistry — and “need no impossible fingers to control the motion of individual atoms within reactants.”… read more

Nanotechnology: Six Lessons from Sept. 11

December 13, 2001 by K. Eric Drexler

The Sept. 11 attacks confirmed the ongoing terrorist threat and the importance of proactive development of methods to prevent nanotech abuse, K. Eric Drexler, Chairman of the Foresight Institute said in a statement sent to institute members. The “nanotechnology boom” is beginning, he said, urging members to use their brains and their wallets to “ensure that the field of nanotechnology never has its own Sept. 11.”… read more

The Future of Nanotechnology: Molecular Manufacturing

April 14, 2003 by K. Eric Drexler

The future generations of nanotechnology will rely on being able to effectively arrange atoms. Molecular manufacturing, and the use of molecular assemblers to hold and position molecules, will be key to the future, controlling how molecules react and allowing scientists to build complex structures with atomically precise control. In this essay, Dr. Drexler discusses the benefits and challenges of future molecular manufacturing.… read more

Toward closure: Open letter to Prof. Smalley

July 18, 2003 by K. Eric Drexler

Prof. Richard Smalley has criticized Dr. Eric Drexler’s concept of molecular assemblers. But in recent testimony, Smalley appears to have reversed this position. Drexler, who coined the term “nanotechnology” and is Chairman of the Board of Foresight Institute, again calls for Smalley to clarify his position on what is “perhaps the most fundamental issue in the field today.”… read more

Technology Fear Factor

July 21, 2002 by Daintry Duffy, Sari Kalin

Three futurists — George Gilder, Ray Kurzweil, and Jaron Lanier — agree that emerging dangerous technologies will require smarter defenses, such as standards diversity, decentralized systems, a transparent society, better communications between factions, and mutually beneficial collaboration of business leaders.… read more

Techno-Utopia and Human Values

February 3, 2006 by Richard Eckersley

It is our preordained fate, Ray Kurzweil suggests, to advance technologically “until the entire universe is at our fingertips.” The question then becomes, preordained by whom or what? Biological evolution has not set this course for us. Is technology itself the planner?… read more

Some Challenges And Grand Challenges For Computational Intelligence

July 15, 2003 by Edward Feigenbaum

The Turing Test is a very ambitious Grand Challenge. The “Feigenbaum Test” is more manageable: focus on natural science, engineering, or medicine with conversation in the jargonized and stylized language of these disciplines. There are two other grand challenges in achieving Computational Intelligence: Build a large knowledge base by reading text, reducing knowledge engineering effort by one order of magnitude; and the “Grand Vision”: distill from the WWW a huge knowledge base, using ontologies and building a system of “semantics scrapers” that will access the semantic markups, integrate them appropriately into the growing knowledge base, and set up the material for the scrutiny of an editorial process.… read more

Review: Vernor Vinge’s ‘Fast Times’

September 5, 2002 by Hal Finney

Vernor Vinge’s Hugo-award-winning short science fiction story “Fast Times at Fairmont High” takes place in a near future in which everyone lives in a ubiquitous, wireless, networked world using wearable computers and contacts or glasses on which computer graphics are projected to create an augmented reality.… read more

Robot: Child of God

May 9, 2001 by Anne Foerst

Sometimes computers act as if they are possessed–does that mean they may have souls? Probably not right now, but Anne Foerst explores the possibility of soulful robots.… read more

Connectivity: What it is and why it is so important

February 11, 2002 by Bob Frankston

The difference between the network and the application is crucial to the future of the Internet. Bob Frankston points out that connectivity is the basic resource, telephony and television are simply applications built on connectivity, and that we should replace complex regulation with the power of the marketplace.… read more

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