essays collection

In Response to

July 25, 2001 by Ray Kurzweil

Although George Gilder and Richard Vigilante share Ray Kurzweil’s grave concerns about Bill Joy’s apparently neo-Luddite calls for relinguishing broad areas of technology, Kurzweil is critical of Gilder and Vigilante’s skepticism regarding the feasibility of the dangers.… read more

The Age of Knowledge

August 6, 2001 by Ray Kurzweil

An illustration of the second industrial revolution written for “The Futurecast,” a monthly column in the Library Journal… 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

How Can We Possibly Tell If It’s Conscious?

April 18, 2002 by Ray Kurzweil

At the Tucson 2002: Toward a Science of Consciousness conference, Ray Kurzweil addressed the question of how to tell if something is conscious. He proposed two thought experiments.… read more

The Alcor Conference on Extreme Life Extension

November 21, 2002 by Ray Kurzweil

On November 15-17, 2002, leaders in life extension and cryonics came together to explore how the emerging technologies of biotechnology, nanotechnology, and cryonics will enable humans to halt and ultimately reverse aging and disease and live indefinitely.… 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

How To Make a Nanodiamond: A Simple Tool for Positional Diamond Mechanosynthesis, and its Method of Manufacture

January 27, 2006 by Robert A. Freitas Jr.

Robert A. Freitas Jr. has filed the first known patent application on positional mechanosynthesis, which is also the first on positional diamond mechanosynthesis. The “Freitas process” — more fully described here — is a method for building a tool for molecularly precise fabrication of physical structures. Methods of making diamondoid structures are detailed here, but the same toolbuilding process can be extended to other materials, mechanosynthetic processes, and structures. And those tools can be used to create bigger structures, which ….… read more

From The Enlightenment to N-Lightenment

May 8, 2006 by Michael Buerger

The criminal potentials inherent in molecular manufacturing include powerful new illegal drugs, mass murder via compromised assembly codes, and a “killer virus” crossing out of cyberspace into the physical realm. A criminal-justice futurist examines the possibilities.… read more

Words and Rules

February 21, 2001 by Steven Pinker

An important problem in AI in understanding how language works. In this paper, presented in his Colin Cherry Memorial Lecture on March 23, 1999 at Imperial College, London, Dr. Steven Pinker suggests that we use a combination of memory and grammatical rules to convey information.… read more

Singularity Math Trialogue

March 28, 2001 by Ray Kurzweil, Vernor Vinge, Hans Moravec

Hans Moravec, Vernor Vinge, and Ray Kurzweil discuss the mathematics of the Singularity, making various assumptions about growth of knowledge vs. computational power.… read more

Existential Risks: Analyzing Human Extinction Scenarios and Related Hazards

May 29, 2001 by Nick Bostrom

Nick Bostrom defines a new category of risks that could threaten humanity and intelligent life with extinction: existential risks. The future could be a dangerous place indeed.… 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


August 13, 2001 by John Searle

Can consciousness be measured scientifically? What exactly is consciousness? John Searle approaches the scientific investigation of consciousness and its possible neurobiological roots from a philosophical perspective.… read more

Rethinking Operating Systems

February 11, 2002 by Bob Frankston

We know hardware has become exponentially faster, cheaper and smaller since the advent of the operating system, yet the interface hasn’t changed much. In this draft of an essay, Bob Frankston proposes a rethink of the assumptions that went into user interface design thirty years ago.… read more

Consciousness in Human and Robot Minds

June 6, 2002 by Daniel Dennett

AI skeptics offer several reasons why robots could never become conscious. MITs’ humanoid Cog robot project may give them pause.… read more

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