essays collection By Author | A-Z

Engineering Humans, Part 1

March 28, 2001 by Rachel Massey

Genetic engineers are starting to modify human genes, using cloning, somatic cell manipulation, germline manipulation. The potential financial and health rewards are huge, but so are the risks.… read more

Tangible Nanomoney

July 9, 2002 by Robert A. Freitas Jr.

Robert Freitas, author of the recently-published groundbreaking technical book Nanomedicine, reflects on how we might pay for very advanced medicine — or indeed, pay for anything at all — in a world where artificial molecular machine systems are commonplace. Hint: Perhaps we’ll be using coins made of tantalum or ununquadium!… read more

Richard A. Clark’s Breakpoint: the future of terrorism?

May 18, 2007 by Richard A. Clarke


Former counterterrorism czar Richard Clarke’s BREAKPOINT novel, set in the year 2012, is based on emerging technologies. “Globegrid,” a high-speed global network, links supercomputers worldwide. Combined with advanced AI software, it promises to reverse-engineer the brain, revolutionize genomics, enable medical breakthroughs, develop advanced human-machine interfaces, and allow for genetic alterations and even uploading consciousness. But it spurs a terrorist-fundamentalist Luddite backlash against transhumanists, as hackers take down the power grid, and destroy vital international data and telecom links, communications satellites, and biotech firms.… 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

How different could life have been?

January 21, 2002 by Richard Dawkins

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.” Richard Dawkins asks: how different could it all have been?… read more

Millennium 3000 Scenarios

March 13, 2002 by Theodore J. Gordon, Jerome C. Glenn

Experts in various areas were asked to speculate on life in the year 3000. Their ideas were compiled into six scenarios by two leading futurists for the Millennium Project of the American Council for the United Nations University. “The authors provide some insightful scenarios,” says Ray Kurzweil. “However, I feel that their time frames do not adequately reflect the accelerating pace of progress inherent in what I call the law of accelerating returns. The types of changes they describe for 2050 and 3000 respectively will arrive much earlier in my view, but the issues raised by such developments as femtotechnology and nonbiological intelligence are compellingly described.”… read more

What Shape are a German Shepherd’s Ears?

July 17, 2002 by Stephen M. Kosslyn

There is a gigantic project yet to be done that will root psychology in natural science and providing a better understanding of human nature. Once this is accomplished, you’ll be able to go from phenomenology to information processing to the brain, down through the workings of the neurons, including the biochemistry, all the way to the biophysics and the way genes are up-regulated and down-regulated.… read more

Molecular Manufacturing: Societal Implications of Advanced Nanotechnology

April 10, 2003 by Christine Peterson

The best way to reduce risks from molecular manufacturing would be an open, international R&D program with broad cooperation by the democracies, including a parallel arms control verification project. This requires a decision to pursue the goal and substantial funding. But both of these are currently blocked by the lack of consensus on the technical feasibility of molecular manufacturing. So we urgently need a basic feasibility review by unbiased scientists.… read more

Foresight call to action

December 16, 2003 by Christine Peterson

Despite the revolutionary promise of molecular nanotechnology (MNT), the U.S. National Nanotechnology Initiative (NNI) excludes explicit funding for MNT. The recent Drexler-Smalley debate in Chemical & Engineering News offers an opportunity to correct that. Foresight president Christine Peterson suggests how.… read more

THE AGE of INTELLIGENT MACHINES | Brother Giorgio’s Kangaroo

February 21, 2001

Scientist-painter Harold Cohen reveals the mystery works behind his famous “artificially” intelligent AARON program, which draws landscapes and portraits. A profound symbiosis of man and machine, as computer imitates art and art imitates life, it demonstrates the growing capacity of technology to reflect the subtlety of human experience. From Ray Kurzweil’s revolutionary book The Age of Intelligent Machines, published in 1990.… read more

How Long Before Superintelligence?

April 30, 2001 by Nick Bostrom

This paper outlines the case for believing that we will have superhuman artificial intelligence within this century. It looks at different estimates of the processing power of the human brain; how long it will take until computer hardware achieve a similar performance; ways of creating the software through bottom-up approaches like the one used by biological brains; how difficult it will be neuroscience figure out enough about how brains work to make this approach work; and how fast we can expect superintelligence to be developed once there is human-level artificial intelligence.… read more

Techies vs. Neo-Luddites: Progress Action Coalition Formed

June 26, 2001 by Amara D. Angelica

The neo-Luddites are out in force to block new technologies such as genetic engineering, nanotechnology and artificial intelligence. The extropians are organizing to defend progress.… read more

Another Formula for Intelligence: The Neural Net Paradigm

August 6, 2001 by Ray Kurzweil

The neural net approach to artificial intelligence explained, written for “The Futurecast,” a monthly column in the Library Journal.… read more

Intelligence, Computer and Human: A Discussion with Howard Gardner

October 2, 2001 by Howard Gardner, Ray Kurzweil

Ray Kurzweil and Howard Gardner discuss education, technology, pattern recognition and collecting electronic parts on Canal Street.… 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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