essays collection

The Age of Virtuous Machines

June 1, 2007 by J. Storrs Hall

In the “hard takeoff” scenario, a psychopathic AI suddenly emerges at a superhuman level, achieving universal dominance. Hall suggests an alternative: we’ve gotten better because we’ve become smarter, so AIs will evolve “unselfish genes” and hyperhuman morality. More honest, capable of deeper understanding, and free of our animal heritage and blindnesses, the children of our minds will grow better and wiser than us, and we will have a new friend and guide–if we work hard to earn the privilege of associating with them.… read more

Lunch with Mikhail Gorbachev

April 19, 2005 by Ray Kurzweil

With only 53,000 engineering graduates a year compared to Russia’s 200,000, the U.S. needs to “communicate the importance of science in today’s world,” Mikhail Gorbachev told Ray Kurzweil in a luncheon discussion that ranged from blogs to nuclear disarmament and longevity.… read more

The Gray Goo Problem

March 20, 2001 by Robert A. Freitas Jr.

In Eric Drexler’s classic “grey goo” scenario, out-of-control nanotech replicators wipe out all life on Earth. This paper by Robert A. Freitas Jr. was the first quantitative technical analysis of this catastrophic scenario, also offering possible solutions. It was written in part as an answer to Bill Joy’s recent concerns.… read more


May 20, 2002 by Robert A. Freitas Jr.

An artificial nanomedical erythrocyte, or “respirocyte” — intended to duplicate all of the important functions of the red blood cell — could serve as a universal blood substitute, preserve living tissue, eliminate “the bends,” allow for new sports records, and provide treatment for anemia, choking, lung diseases, asphyxia, and other respiratory problems.… read more

Psychology Today | Live forever, uploading the human brain, closer than you think

April 9, 2001 by Ray Kurzweil

Ray Kurzweil ponders the issues of identity and consciousness in an age when we can make digital copies of ourselves.… read more

The Virtual Thomas Edison

March 21, 2001 by Ray Kurzweil

As machines exceed human intelligence, will they threaten humanity? How will inventors keep up? Raymond Kurzweil lays out his vision of the future for Time Magazine’s special issue on the future.… 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

Taming the Multiverse

August 7, 2001 by Marcus Chown

In Ray Kurzweil’s The Singularity is Near, physicist Sir Roger Penrose is paraphrased as suggesting it is impossible to perfectly replicate a set of quantum states, so therefore perfect downloading (i.e., creating a digital or synthetic replica of the human brain based upon quantum states) is impossible. What would be required to make it possible? A solution to the problem of quantum teleportation, perhaps. But there is a further complication: the multiverse. Do we live in a world of schizophrenic tables? Does free will negate the possibility of perfect replication?… read more

Arthur C. Clarke Offers His Vision of the Future

December 3, 2001 by Sir Arthur C. Clarke, Ray Kurzweil

The science fiction visionary behind HAL offers his predictions of salient events to come in this century.… read more

Review of Lawrence Lessig’s The Future of Ideas

January 24, 2002 by Lucas Hendrich,

The fertile ground of the Internet has led to countless innovations, eliminating physical barriers and allowing a borderless, transparent source of information to flourish. How will the story of the Internet be played out in the 21st Century?… read more

Technotopia and the Death of Nature

May 22, 2002 by James John Bell

There is something missing from the discussion of the technological singularity, says James Bell: the true cost of progress will mean the unprecedented decline of the planet’s inhabitants — an ever-increasing rate of global extinction, some warn.… read more

The Cyclic Universe

January 22, 2003 by Paul J. Steinhardt

Is the universe expanding indefinitely–the Big Bang model–or does it go through cycles of expansion and contraction? Paul Steinhardt, who is Albert Einstein Professor of Science at Princeton University and on the faculty of both the Department of Physics and the Department of Astrophysical Sciences, suggests a cyclic model that could successfully compete with the Big Bang model.… read more

Molecular Manufacturing: Start Planning

October 9, 2003 by Chris Phoenix

Molecular nanotechnology manufacturing is coming soon. The economic value–and military significance–of a nanofactory will be immense. But if a well-designed plan is not in place, serious risks will very likely lead to military destruction, social or economic disruption or unnecessary human suffering on a large scale. Here’s what needs to be done.… read more

Nanofactories, Gang Wars, and “Feelies”

February 3, 2006 by Damien Broderick

In 30 years, a new intelligent species might share the planet with us and
dirt-cheap molecular manufacturing may end poverty and strife. But there exists a risk that a world of lotus-eaters will degenerate into gang wars among those for whom life
retains no discipline or meaning.… read more

Preparing for our posthuman future of artificial intelligence

March 9, 2017


By David Brin
“Each generation imagines itself to be more intelligent than the one that went before it, and wiser than the one that comes after it.” – George Orwell
What will happen as we enter the era of human augmentation, artificial intelligence and government-by-algorithm? James Barrat, author of Our Final Invention, said: “Coexisting safely and ethically with intelligent machines is the central challenge of the twenty-first century.”… read more

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