"The point is that the era of exponential growth in science is already over.
... In the meantime, the real crisis that is coming has started to produce a
number of symptoms, some alarming and some merely curious. One of these is
what I like to call The Paradox of Scientific Elites and Scientific
Illiterates. ... The crises that face science are not limited to jobs and
research funds. Those are bad enough, but they are just the beginning. Under
stress from those problems, other parts of the scientific enterprise have
started showing signs of distress. One of the most essential is the matter
of honesty and ethical behavior among scientists."
"Far from being just "objective indicators of knowledge", each rung on the
ladder of professionalism carries a political component with it as well. It
is those who buy into the system, and those who play by the rules, that will
successfully climb this ladder. At each successive level - high school
graduation, entrance into a four year college, and then a J.D./M.D./Ph.D
after that, there is a successive weeding-out of those who are different,
those who could pose a possible problem to maintaining the status quo."
I got weeded out at the Ph.D level -- even though I tried three or four
places (I can be persistent if also naive :-) until I learned the above.
Almost everyone I met back then (on the East Coast :-) in the late 1980s
thought talking about space settlement or decentralized sustainability or
computer information webs was nutty (even in a building called "Von Neumann
"Von Neumann also created the field of cellular automata without the aid of
computers, constructing the first self-replicating automata with pencil and
graph paper. The concept of a universal constructor was fleshed out in his
posthumous work Theory of Self Reproducing Automata. Von Neumann proved
that the most effective way of performing large-scale mining operations such
as mining an entire moon or asteroid belt would be by using self-replicating
machines, taking advantage of their exponential growth."
And even when I could find an accepting advisor, other faculty could make
trouble down the road. :-(
As my undergrad advisor once told me: "The reason academics fight so much
is that there is so little to fight over." :-)
That advisor was George A. Miller;
My 1985 UG senior thesis work ("Why Intelligence: Object, Evolution,
Stability and Model") with him may have very slightly help inspired Wordnet
and so even more indirectly Simpli and Google AdSense:
in the sense of my enthusiastically talking to him a lot about networks of
concepts for AI I wanted to put on a hard disk for a Commodore PET using
Pointrel triads. That hard disk had eaten a document George was writing in
his office on a deadline so he let me have it in the lab to play with
(rather than throw it out) -- that file incident was the probably the only
time I heard him swear. :-) Of course, the actual idea and all the hard
work and the psycholinguistic design behind WordNet is all his.
That's one reason I previously wrote:
Still, you both bring an enthusiasm and energy and playfully experiment that
I lose in my aging technical conservatism. :-(
But there are compensations:
"Does Age Really Matter?"
Being around young people can be inspiring in many ways that are not
"plagiarism". Young people bring a hopefulness which can be infectious --
even if in retrospect my plan to build a human level AI using a Commodore
PET and an unreliable 10MB harddisk was absurd. George's brilliance lay in
maybe later thinking, "What AI-ish thing can I build with all I know and the
tools at hand?" He may well have done WordNet whether he had met me in my
enthusiastic unreasonableness or not. Still, it is often the annoying
seemingly ignorant questions of youth that make us old geezers think. :-)
And it is from good questions than come good answers. And in that sense, the
Virgle project is a good question -- even if the answer is yet to come.
And it may well be that by going to college and asking challenging questions
you can do some good to for some future space billionaire. :-)
Even Gerry O'Neill (another undergrad prof)
called me a "dreamer" :-) for wanting to focus on building just *one*
post-scarcity self-replicating space habitat that could duplicate itself
from sunlight and lunar or asteroidal (or Martian) ore:
rather than his plan to promote a slow capitalistic expansion into space. So
deep disagreements even among people with similar aims.
But I *did* get a better appreciation from academia about networks and
diversity (example, Island Biogeography).
"The theory of island biogeography holds that the number of species found on
an island (the equilibrium number) is determined by two factors, the effect
of distance from the mainland and the effect of island size. These would
affect the rate of extinction on the islands and the level of immigration."
So now I like to think in terms of a network of space habitats exchanging
people and information and a few specialized goods (wine? violins? IC's?
biomedical?) which might take a lot of learning to produce well. So, even if
they each may not be 100% self-replicating in their mature specialized forms
(so, more like a bacterial mat ecology or human cells). But they would still
have long time constants of self-reliance and be mostly self-replicating in
the initial stages.
This book is my biggest inspiration:
_The Two Faces of Tomorrow_ by James P. Hogan
and has an excellent description of a space habitat with an automated
manufacturing core. And no need for college to read it. :-) Though in
fairness to college, I only met the author (after reading it) because a
college sci-fi group arranged his visit and let me tag along. But was that
worth years of my life when he speaks at conventions?
"What should you do in college to become a good hacker? There are two main
things you can do: become very good at programming, and learn a lot about
specific, cool problems. These turn out to be equivalent, because each
drives you to do the other."
"Fussell was right when he wrote that Class was a very contentious subject
in the US, that many more people thought of themselves as middle-class than
was actually the case, and that simply discussing this matter was thought of
as offensive. Reading some of the ratings for this book I have no doubt that
this is the case. Some of the commentators appear personally offended by
Fussell's opinions and think that "he's just a guy setting himself up as the
standard for class, so we'll bring him down a peg or two". He does nothing
of the sort. The only class with which he seeks to align itself is Class X,
which is a bit like David Brooks' BoBos (Bourgeouis Bohemians), and he
argues that only by stepping away from the class structure can we be totally
"Could college attendance be a sign of cowardice? Could it be a way to duck
from the scary thought of being who we really are inside? Could we do the
college thing mainly because that's what's expected of us, or what everyone
else is doing, not because it's what we truly should do? At one time, I
bought into the conventional wisdom that although college wasn't the only
option, most young people should aim for it. Then I met my wife, Mandy. She
grew up in Canada and England. Her father's military career gave her the
advantage of living in a variety of places. She is well-read, writes better
than most college graduates I know, and is well-informed on a variety of
subjects. And, she has never completed a college course. In addition to
Mandy's influence, my choice to be "downwardly mobile" had a major impact.
After more than a generous helping of institutional higher education, and
having launched a successful white-collar career, I felt confined. My
freedom came from quitting my job and opting for manual labor. That step,
more than any other factor, opened my mind to a new perspective."
Note re "manual labor": I am basically am a part-time stay at home Dad at
this point -- which is what gives me (some) time and freedom (no resume
worries :-) for OpenVirgle. At NASA or Google, I'd have to watch (more) what
I said and did. :-) And this way I get to play with Legos. :-) And read Mr.
Rodgers' beautiful advice for parents: :-)
Though, like any pioneer, I have to hope I don't get sick. :-)
""People are stunned when they dial 9-1-1 and an ambulance doesn't show up
right away, because all the ambulances are out being diverted to other
hospitals due to closed or above-capacity ERs," Kellermann states. "They
think the system is still fine until they test it in a moment of crisis."
... "You could be making a half-million a year with the CEO health plan,"
Kellermann says. "But if you develop crushing sub-sternal chest pain at 2
a.m., you and your tax cut are out of luck if your hospital doesn't have a
cardiologist on duty or your hospital is on diversion because every one of
its critical care bays is full with patients who got there ahead of you." "
_Choosing a college: Why the Best Colleges May Be Your Worst Choice_
The book used to be online here (no archive):
"The book _Choosing a college: Why the Best Colleges May Be Your Worst
Choice_ by Robert D. Honigman discusses things like why university housing
is so bad, why it is profitable to lose 50% of students after freshman and
sophomore years, why a sense of community would be damaging to the profit
making or faculty/grad incomes of most universities, and so on.
Finding a good college that fits your means, personality, abilities, and
ambition is not easy. There is no magic solution. The best four year liberal
arts colleges are too expensive, and going into debt just to get a degree
from a prestigious college may be a financial mistake. But once you
understand what a real college education involves you can make the best
choice available and get a solid college education at a reasonable price."
Having attended as both Stony Brook (a large research university frequently
cited in the book) and Princeton, each in the roles of undergrad, grad, and
faculty/staff (never formally administrator though :-), I definitely feel
there is a lot of truth to what the book says. Key is the financial aspects
of the tug of war between researchers wanting to do research (and seeing
teaching any but academic oriented apprentices as a chore to be minimized)
versus college kids expecting value for money beyond a piece of paper at the
The author does concede that small liberal arts colleges may foster
community and more student/teacher interaction as part of their different
profit making positioning, and from what I know anecdotally of my age cohort
people who went to teach at such small liberal arts colleges, I think that
is generally true, though even in that situation, there is a big gap between
the training the typical young professor has just received at a typical PhD
research university and what a small liberal arts college demands of him or her.
Paul, I take this to mean you don't agree that college is necessary; but
on the other hand, how will I have access to the scientific paper
databases, and how else can I get into some labs to access tools and
machinery? I would be glad to do my own startups and so on so that I
can get access to more equipment and more of my own time, and perhaps
even skip undergrad, but how would I go about doing this without
screwing myself over?
> this ladder. At each successive level - high school graduation,
> entrance into a four year college, and then a J.D./M.D./Ph.D after
> that, there is a successive weeding-out of those who are different,
> those who could pose a possible problem to maintaining the status
I should have been weeded out of high school a long time ago. ;)
> I got weeded out at the Ph.D level -- even though I tried three or
> four places (I can be persistent if also naive :-) until I learned
> the above.
So what's the alternative? To just sit around and wait for open access?
I need resources, materials, contacts, and probably some money until I
get my artificial meat projects working.
> Almost everyone I met back then (on the East Coast :-) in the late
> 1980s thought talking about space settlement or decentralized
> sustainability or computer information webs was nutty (even in a
> building called "Von Neumann Hall" :-)
Those are some mega geek points.
> That's one reason I previously wrote:
> Still, you both bring an enthusiasm and energy and playfully
> experiment that I lose in my aging technical conservatism. :-(
> But there are compensations:
> "Does Age Really Matter?"
I have argued for the past decade "no" - when I was young I had some
sort of personal grudge against the whole age problem, so within a year
of getting on the net I proceeded to gobble up as much programming
knowledge as I could possibly handle. I recently found a 2001 post that
I made to a gaming forum, it had this freakishly long list of
programming languages that I was playing with.
> Being around young people can be inspiring in many ways that are not
> "plagiarism". Young people bring a hopefulness which can be
> infectious -- even if in retrospect my plan to build a human level AI
> using a Commodore PET and an unreliable 10MB harddisk was absurd.
Heh. Markram's ideas seem to be a good alternative. He does 400
simulation packages per neuron, then does about 10,000 neurons on a
supercomputer (2k boxes).
> And it may well be that by going to college and asking challenging
> questions you can do some good to for some future space billionaire.
I need college for (1) labs and (2) the net access to libraries. I am
trying to not get shuffled into the undergrad category, but I am just a
number so far.
> Even Gerry O'Neill (another undergrad prof)
> called me a "dreamer" :-) for wanting to focus on building just *one*
> post-scarcity self-replicating space habitat that could duplicate
> itself from sunlight and lunar or asteroidal (or Martian) ore:
> rather than his plan to promote a slow capitalistic expansion into
> space. So deep disagreements even among people with similar aims.
Yep. I am bruteforcing my self-replicating machine. And if not, I have
some synthetic biology backups -- we are living evidence that
self-replication can work; there's no way that we can fail.
> So now I like to think in terms of a network of space habitats
> exchanging people and information and a few specialized goods (wine?
> violins? IC's? biomedical?) which might take a lot of learning to
> produce well. So, even if they each may not be 100% self-replicating
> in their mature specialized forms (so, more like a bacterial mat
> ecology or human cells). But they would still have long time
> constants of self-reliance and be mostly self-replicating in the
> initial stages.
Right, there's definitely ecology to consider. Given enough preparation,
anything can 'self-replicate', but the trick is transferring the
preparation strategies to the system itself.
> This book is my biggest inspiration:
> _The Two Faces of Tomorrow_ by James P. Hogan
> and has an excellent description of a space habitat with an automated
> manufacturing core. And no need for college to read it. :-) Though in
> fairness to college, I only met the author (after reading it) because
> a college sci-fi group arranged his visit and let me tag along. But
> was that worth years of my life when he speaks at conventions?
What was stopping you from designing the machines?
> "What should you do in college to become a good hacker? There are two
> main things you can do: become very good at programming, and learn a
> lot about specific, cool problems. These turn out to be equivalent,
> because each drives you to do the other."
Maybe I should send in some ideas to ycombinator (Paul Graham and Kevin
> "Could college attendance be a sign of cowardice? Could it be a way
> to duck from the scary thought of being who we really are inside?
That strikes deep. I should have ran away from home years ago (it's the
financial incentive of some money for college that has kept me here,
otherwise I'd refuse to go to school and run away).
> Could we do the college thing mainly because that's what's expected
> of us, or what everyone else is doing, not because it's what we truly
> should do? At one time, I bought into the conventional wisdom that
> although college wasn't the only option, most young people should aim
Boy have I tried over the years ...
> Also see:
> _Choosing a college: Why the Best Colleges May Be Your Worst
> Choice_ http://books.google.com/books?hl=en&id=joAIkDE7CQYC
> The book used to be online here (no archive):
I did a recursion through MSTP-compatible universities and then selected
based off of course offerings and whether or not they allow
specialization customization (i.e, if I can choose which courses I want
for a degree program); then, I double checked my 12,000 bookmarks for
schools that are 'high impact' on stuff that interests me: mit.edu and
wisc.edu showed up a lot; wisc has accepted me, but for some reason I
have opted for utexas.edu largely because of parental pressure and a
possible lab position there over the summer.
> Finding a good college that fits your means, personality, abilities,
> and ambition is not easy. There is no magic solution. The best four
> year liberal arts colleges are too expensive, and going into debt
> just to get a degree from a prestigious college may be a financial
> mistake. But once you understand what a real college education
> involves you can make the best choice available and get a solid
> college education at a reasonable price."
Right: avoid debt. And searching for a university is hard, since you
need to already know what you want and who the people are in order to
know where you want to end up; and who says that the prof has a lab
opening in time for when you arrive there? It's all very variablized
and maybe it's not a game worth playing.
> college kids expecting value for money beyond a piece of paper at the
Some of us are not delusional. ;)
> The author does concede that small liberal arts colleges may foster
> community and more student/teacher interaction as part of their
> different profit making positioning, and from what I know anecdotally
> of my age cohort people who went to teach at such small liberal arts
> colleges, I think that is generally true, though even in that
> situation, there is a big gap between the training the typical young
> professor has just received at a typical PhD research university and
> what a small liberal arts college demands of him or her.
Yep, where's the labs/library accessibility? So it looks like I either
need to do some kickass startups that can get some serious venture
capital, or get some philanthropist in on my projects, or get into a
university where I can opt to skip undergrad and get straight to work.
Depends on the person, their circumstances, and their goals.
But there is a difference in playing a game when you know the bigger picture
IMHO -- especially if you have non-mainstream interests like space settlement.
> on the other hand, how will I have access to the scientific paper
> databases, and how else can I get into some labs to access tools and
"How to Become As Rich As Bill Gates"
"William Henry Gates III made his best decision on October 28, 1955, the
night he was born. He chose J.W. Maxwell as his great-grandfather. Maxwell
founded Seattle's National City Bank in 1906. His son, James Willard Maxwell
was also a banker and established a million-dollar trust fund for William
(Bill) Henry Gates III. In some of the later lessons, you will be encouraged
to take entrepreneurial risks. You may find it comforting to remember that
at any time you can fall back on a trust fund worth many millions of 1998
But seriously -- think about what is most important to you. And which games
you want to play. But remember that incrementally earned "trust" is
important to a lot of them. :-)
A lot of research is done on the computer these days by simulation.
"BioSim is a Network of Excellence established by the European Commission
under its 6th Framework Programme. BioSim was initiated on December 1, 2004.
The main objective of the Network is to demonstrate how the use of modern
simulation technique through a deeper and more qualitative understanding of
the underlying biological, pathological and pharmacological processes can
lead to a more rational drug development process, improved treatment
procedures, and a reduction in the needs for animal experiments. With its 26
academic, 10 industrial and 4 regulatory partners, the BioSim Network
commands a wide range of biomedical expertise. At the same time, the network
involves leading experts in pharmacokinetics, computer simulation, and
complex systems theory. The purpose of the network is to develop in silico
simulation models of cellular, physiological and pharmacological processes
to provide a deeper understanding of the biological processes and help the
pharmaceutical industry maintain its competitive power."
And a lot of public libraries exist with interlibrary loan.
Even tiny ones.
I had an organic chemist as a housemate once. He joked that their average
life expectancy was mid 50s. :-( Dangerous stuff to play with for real. So,
worth a good apprenticeship with a caring academic if you really want that.
One who won't use up your health for their career. :-( So, then the old
advice -- pick professors (or mentors), not courses.
> I would be glad to do my own startups and so on so that I
> can get access to more equipment and more of my own time, and perhaps
> even skip undergrad, but how would I go about doing this without
> screwing myself over?
Creative challenge -- focus on what you *do* have, not what you *don't* have.
But realistically -- if you want to play around in highly regulated areas:
you have to slowly prove you can be trusted.
Reading this book:
is the best advice I can give you (ever).
"At the school, Sparrowhawk masters his craft with amazing ease, but his
pride and arrogance grow even faster than his skill and, in his hubris, he
attempts to conjure a dead spirit - a dangerous spell which goes awry. He
inadvertently summons a spirit of darkness which attacks and scars him. The
being is driven off by the Archmage, who exhausts himself in the process and
dies shortly thereafter."
And reading anything else by the same author (Ursula K. Le Guin).
You may have many strengths, but without serving the balance in all things
(including yourself) those strengths may become weaknesses. IMHO Ursula K.
Le Guin's writings have what you or any "intense" (your word) person needs
to succeed as a human being among human beings.
"Moderation in all things, including moderation" :-)
Although your transhumanism roadmap seems to involve speeding past being
See this post I wrote in 2000:
"First let me summarize: there is more to living than "intelligence".
Intelligence doesn't call one to act, "desire" does that. "Intelligence"
doesn't define why one should do one thing rather than another, unless
one already has "values". One can make a rational choice, but the desire
and values that cause that choice to be made and acted on are to a large
extent outside of the realm of "intelligence". As an outgrowth of
"intelligence", knowledge management will neither lead to choices or
cause actions in the absense of "values" or "desire". We are talking
about putting ever more powerful "intelligence" in the hands of
organizations that have already shown themselves capable of building
50,000 nuclear warheads, letting close to a billion people starve, and
dumping PCBs in water bodies and resisting attempts to clean them up.
One must question the desires and values of such organization, even if
to an extent some of those decisions may have also been due to faulty
reasoning or lack of knowledge (i.e. nukes=MAD, starvation=racism,
For over a decade I have wanted to build a library of human knowledge
related to sustainable development. I as a small mammal am using the
crumbs left over by the dinosaurs to try to do so (not with great
success, but a little, like our garden simulator intended to help people
learn to grow their own food). I spent a year hanging around Hans
Moravec's Mobile Robot Lab at CMU, and I turned my back on
self-replicating robotics work -- not because I thought it was sci-fi,
but because I saw it was quite feasible, and wanted to do something else
that was more likely to ensure human survival (self-replicating
habitats, for space, water, and land). I also did not want to speed the
process along. Now fifteen years later, this process is effectively
unstoppable, so I have fewer qualms about doing a little that might
hasten it if the payoff might be some type of refugia for humans.
The way to put it is that "bootstrapping" has linked itself conceptually
to an exponential growth process happening right now in our
civilization. Almost all explosions entail some level of exponential
growth. So, in effect, our civilization is exploding. The meaning of
that as regards human survival is unclear, but it is clear people are
only slowly coming to take this seriously. ..."
>> this ladder. At each successive level - high school graduation,
>> entrance into a four year college, and then a J.D./M.D./Ph.D after
>> that, there is a successive weeding-out of those who are different,
>> those who could pose a possible problem to maintaining the status
> I should have been weeded out of high school a long time ago. ;)
I left it the middle of 11th grade for college when I turned 16. But Reagan
had just changed a law meaning less aid if I did not -- plus a sibling
worked there (making it easier).
"Underground History of American Education"
Our problem in understanding forced schooling stems from an inconvenient
fact: that the wrong it does from a human perspective is right from a
systems perspective. You can see this in the case of six-year-old Bianca,
who came to my attention because an assistant principal screamed at her in
front of an assembly, "BIANCA, YOU ANIMAL, SHUT UP!" Like the wail of a
banshee, this sang the school doom of Bianca. Even though her body continued
to shuffle around, the voodoo had poisoned her.
Do I make too much of this simple act of putting a little girl in her place?
It must happen thousands of times every day in schools all over. I’ve seen
it many times, and if I were painfully honest I’d admit to doing it many
times. Schools are supposed to teach kids their place. That’s why we have
age-graded classes. In any case, it wasn’t your own little Janey or mine.
Most of us tacitly accept the pragmatic terms of public school which allow
every kind of psychic violence to be inflicted on Bianca in order to fulfill
the prime directive of the system: putting children in their place. It’s
called "social efficiency." But I get this precognition, this flash-forward
to a moment far in the future when your little girl Jane, having left her
comfortable home, wakes up to a world where Bianca is her enraged meter
maid, or the passport clerk Jane counts on for her emergency ticket out of
the country, or the strange lady who lives next door.
I picture this animal Bianca grown large and mean, the same Bianca who
didn’t go to school for a month after her little friends took to whispering,
"Bianca is an animal, Bianca is an animal," while Bianca, only seconds
earlier a human being like themselves, sat choking back tears, struggling
her way through a reading selection by guessing what the words meant.
>> I got weeded out at the Ph.D level -- even though I tried three or
>> four places (I can be persistent if also naive :-) until I learned
>> the above.
> So what's the alternative? To just sit around and wait for open access?
> I need resources, materials, contacts, and probably some money until I
> get my artificial meat projects working.
Again. you can focus on what you *do* have, not what you *don't* have.
Check out some of the money making *small* business ideas in the
(disagreeing) comments here:
"Free" is Killing Us--Blame The VCs
Essentially, niche web-based small businesses made possible by Google. :-)
"An excellent plumber is infinitely more admirable than an incompetent
philosopher. The society which scorns excellence in plumbing because
plumbing is a humble activity, and tolerates shoddiness in philosophy
because it is an exalted activity, will have neither good plumbing nor good
philosophy. Neither its pipes nor its theories will hold water." — John W.
And plumbers make more than most programmers in Silicon Valley. :-)
Maybe focus not on "needs" but what you have to "give" (for free or fee).
Most supposed "needs" are optional anyway:
Maybe just doing one good thing is enough? There are billions of other
people in the world who can help too.
>> Almost everyone I met back then (on the East Coast :-) in the late
>> 1980s thought talking about space settlement or decentralized
>> sustainability or computer information webs was nutty (even in a
>> building called "Von Neumann Hall" :-)
> Those are some mega geek points.
Thanks. They are also examples of how the lightbulb than seems so bright at
night is unneeded after the sun rises. From my experience, all the possible
good things you outline in your roadmap will happen with or without you. So
pick the ones most fun to you and worthwhile to someone else. :-)
>> And it may well be that by going to college and asking challenging
>> questions you can do some good to for some future space billionaire.
> I need college for (1) labs and (2) the net access to libraries. I am
> trying to not get shuffled into the undergrad category, but I am just a
> number so far.
>> Even Gerry O'Neill (another undergrad prof)
>> called me a "dreamer" :-) for wanting to focus on building just *one*
>> post-scarcity self-replicating space habitat that could duplicate
>> itself from sunlight and lunar or asteroidal (or Martian) ore:
>> rather than his plan to promote a slow capitalistic expansion into
>> space. So deep disagreements even among people with similar aims.
> Yep. I am bruteforcing my self-replicating machine. And if not, I have
> some synthetic biology backups -- we are living evidence that
> self-replication can work; there's no way that we can fail.
You might want to reflect on what you mean by "my" (not just here).
>> This book is my biggest inspiration:
>> _The Two Faces of Tomorrow_ by James P. Hogan
>> and has an excellent description of a space habitat with an automated
>> manufacturing core. And no need for college to read it. :-) Though in
>> fairness to college, I only met the author (after reading it) because
>> a college sci-fi group arranged his visit and let me tag along. But
>> was that worth years of my life when he speaks at conventions?
> What was stopping you from designing the machines?
Years spent thinking I needed a PhD. :-)
Years letting myself be exploited for vaguely specified future rewards.
Thinking I had to do it for profit. Or own it as "my" thing. :-)
An inability to be thankful enough for the help I did get:
"The Field of Plenty always has a way putting the needed item into the hands
of the person who needs it. The keys to manifesting what is needed are
gratitude and trust, balanced with action. There is no need for scarcity in
the Fifth World. Abundance for all the Children of Earth is manifesting
Thought always precedes form. If ideas of sharing and equality precede that
reality in the hearts of Two-leggeds, the manifestation of physical needs
being met will follow."
Plus computers used to be expensive. :-)
Plus there is so much to learn. And so much to do. Just making an
agricultural simulation towards that end took *six* *person years*:
when I thought it would take a few months.
It was hard to learn to prioritize.
Perfectionism -- in part unfortunately learned from otherwise boring schooling.
Plus other things in life come up.
And in the end, "designing the social processes" turn out to be more
important than "designing the machines": :-)
"At this moment nearly every engineer on earth has a powerful and globally
networked computer in his or her home. Collaborative volunteer efforts are
now possible on an unprecedented scale. Moores's Law predicts continued
reductions See for example the writings of Raymond Kurzweil at
http://www.kurzweilai.net/ or Hans Moravec at http://www.frc.ri.cmu.edu/~hpm
in the cost of bandwidth, storage, CPU power, and displays - which will lead
to computers a million times faster, bigger or cheaper in the next few
decades. Collaboration software such as for sending email, holding real-time
video conferences, and viewing design drawings is also reducing in cost;
much of it is now effectively free. This means there are now few technical
or high-cost barriers to cooperation among engineers, many of whom even now
have in their homes (often merely for game playing reasons) computing power
and bandwidth beyond anything available to the best equipped engineers in
the 1970s. However, the internet is already littered with abandoned
collaborative projects. Productive collaboration requires more than
technology; it requires the sustained energy of many positive contributions
and interactions, which arise from common goals and mutual trust. The
refinement of commonly shared purposes and principles takes time and work.
Intellectual property licensing is often overlooked, primarily because
collaborators would rather be working toward a common goal than arguing
legal issues. An appropriate licensing strategy based on a shared purpose
and principles helps to build and maintain trust and promote spontaneous
participation. But there are many licensing options, each with compelling
arguments for its use, making it difficult for collaborators to choose the
best licensing strategy for their needs. In the long term, these issues can
make or break a collaborative effort. It is our hope that more spontaneous
productive collaboration will occur if the entire space-settlement community
is better informed on these issues."
>> "Could college attendance be a sign of cowardice? Could it be a way
>> to duck from the scary thought of being who we really are inside?
> That strikes deep. I should have ran away from home years ago (it's the
> financial incentive of some money for college that has kept me here,
> otherwise I'd refuse to go to school and run away).
Heavy stuff I don't know what to say about.
A platitude: it is better to run towards something you do want than run away
from something you think you don't want.
Money in doing stuff like that for others? :-)
>> The author does concede that small liberal arts colleges may foster
>> community and more student/teacher interaction as part of their
>> different profit making positioning, and from what I know anecdotally
>> of my age cohort people who went to teach at such small liberal arts
>> colleges, I think that is generally true, though even in that
>> situation, there is a big gap between the training the typical young
>> professor has just received at a typical PhD research university and
>> what a small liberal arts college demands of him or her.
> Yep, where's the labs/library accessibility? So it looks like I either
> need to do some kickass startups that can get some serious venture
> capital, or get some philanthropist in on my projects, or get into a
> university where I can opt to skip undergrad and get straight to work.
Or you can watch the movie Mystery Men. :-)
"It starred William H. Macy, Ben Stiller, and Hank Azaria as a trio of
lesser superheroes with fairly unimpressive superpowers who need to save the
Or look at clouds. :-)
Or read this wonderful book:
_On Caring_ by Milton Mayeroff
"I stumbled onto this text while reading Nel Noddings "The Challenge to Care
in Schools." I believe that Milton Mayeroff's work provides a wonderful
foundational look at what caring means. With great theoretical depth he
paints a picture that shows how caring can change not only the world, but
our intimate self. Caring begins with our desire to help someone grow,
whether that is our self, another, an entity. In the end perhaps Mayeroff
suggests to us that by caring we change how we view the world and that in
itself foments change. I recommend this book highly as a life changing volume."
"In the sense in which a man can ever be said to be at home in the world, he
is at home not through dominating, or explaining, or appreciating, but
through caring and being cared for." — Milton Mayeroff, from On Caring
Probably a good thing then than that I decided to learn Dvorak touch typing
a few weeks ago and so my output bandwidth is still only a fraction of what
it used to be. :-)
While informative, I didn't feel, say, just linking to this book to be a
good enough an answer from a post-scarcity world view:
"The Teenager's Guide to the Real World"
"Have you ever wondered why so many adults spend so much time worrying about
money? Why do millions of adults get up every morning and go to work for 8
or 10 hours a day? Why do adults spend so much time discussing taxes and
prices and the cost of living? Why are news shows and newspapers so full of
economic news? Why do married couples frequently fight about money? To
understand adults, you have to understand money. Once you understand money,
adults make a lot more sense. For any normal adult living in America today
money ranks right up there next to oxygen. Without money you cannot eat. You
have no place to sleep. You cannot drive. You have no freedom. If you don't
have money, you are forced to live in a homeless shelter or on the street.
If you have ever been to a homeless shelter, you can understand why that is
not an appetizing option. It is this simple reality that causes adults to be
so concerned about money. ... At the same time you were forgetting to grab
$5,000 as you walked out your parents' door, you probably also forgot to
grab the $1,300 you need for this month. Or the $1,300 you need for next
month. Therefore, you need a job. ... Since you dropped out of high school
to run away, you don't have a high school diploma. Therefore, the only place
you can get a job is at a fast food place. [Or write AdSense or Facebook
apps :-)] ... Remember that at one point in their lives your parents were
teenagers. They had all of the dreams you have now -- nice cars, fancy
trips, expensive stereos and so on. They wanted it all, just like you. All
of it has been put aside so that the family budget will balance. Whenever
you ask for an expensive Christmas gift and get it, that is a gift that your
parents cannot give to themselves. It is when you begin to realize the level
of sacrifice your parents made to raise you and the amount of financial
juggling they did to give you what you wanted that you begin to truly
respect and appreciate them. That process starts perhaps at age 20 or 25,
but doesn't really hit you until you are into your 30s and raising your own
family. It is not something you, nor your peers, ever realize or appreciate
as a teenager."
Obviously, some small fraction of parents instead have more money than time.
:-( It is especially rare they have both especially when kids are young. It
is a tragedy of our society that so much time and money and emotions are
directed at college and retirement when it it the first five years of a
kid's life that matter the most in many ways (even as we are always
learning). Why not five year "scholarships" up front for new parents and
their kids so they all can spend more time together? :-)
BTW I've been learning Dvorak touch typing here (free, browser-based):
I found this Dvorak Keyboard diagram has better fingerings for numbers though:
Learning it before college may be a help. And Dvorak is much easier to learn
> Paul wrote something at the end which I think sums up his position:
>> Our problem in understanding forced schooling stems from an inconvenient
>> fact: that the wrong it does from a human perspective is right from a
>> systems perspective.
Actually I was quoting John Taylor Gatto:
"[Gatto] climaxed his teaching career as New York State Teacher of the Year
after being named New York City Teacher of the Year on three occasions. He
quit teaching on the OP ED page of the Wall Street Journal in 1991 while
still New York State Teacher of the Year, claiming that he was no longer
willing to hurt children."
> What about the biological perspective?
"Indeed, one must resist the temptation to make hierarchies into villains
and meshworks into heroes, not only because, as I said, they are constantly
turning into one another, but because in real life we find only mixtures and
hybrids, and the properties of these cannot be established through theory
alone but demand concrete experimentation."
Or in other words, life exists in the balance between fire and ice. :-)
> Isn´t it possible that many of the things we do is because up until
> say 30000 years ago we walked around in small groups where everyone
> knew eachother?
> With that perspecive you can find the right places to patch. Like
> knowing that putting a percentage of a population in prison won´t fix
> a problem of violence. That giving young guys at risk antother outlet
> for violence will.
There is also a spectrum of possibilities between "fit the people to the
system" to "fit the system to the people". :-)
Pacemakers and hearing aids and glasses and so on already put many of us in
Google, for example, is in some ways augmenting part of my mind already. :-)
As an indirect realization of this dream:
"The National Medal of Technology, the highest award in its class in the
United States. On December 1, 2000. The White House bestowed the medal on
Douglas Engelbart essentially for his technological achievements, including
the invention of the computer mouse. Still to be recognized is that
Engelbart's technological career is but part of a humanitarian career. His
dream is to get society to buy into a means of boosting its ability to
successfully cope with complex and urgent problems. He first acted on this
dream by entering a PhD program in 1951 to learn about computers. During two
decades from 1957 on, he had an opportunity (mostly as Director of his
Augmentation Research Center of Stanford Research International) to act on
the technological and applied psychological underpinning of his dream. In
1977, commercial forces chiseled out the humanitarian part for seven years
running. Then, from 1984 until 1989, while in the employ of McDonnell
Douglas as senior scientist, he was able to continue from where he left off.
Seeing no commercial value in Engelbart's work, the company's executive
fired him and his staff, and closed down his laboratory. It was his darkest
hour, but bouncing back, Engelbart continued to propagate his ideas through
his Bootstrap Institute."
The MEMEX idea preceded that and J. C. R. Licklider funded Engelbart:
"Licklider was instrumental in conceiving, funding and managing the research
that led to modern personal computers and the Internet. His seminal paper on
Man-Computer Symbiosis foreshadowed interactive computing, and he went on to
fund early efforts in time-sharing and application development, most notably
the work of Douglas Engelbart, who founded the Augmentation Research Center
at Stanford Research Institute and created the famous On-Line System. He
played a similar role in conceiving of and funding early networking
research, most notably the ARPAnet. His 1968 paper on The Computer as a
Communication Device predicts the use of computer networks to support
communities of common interest and collaboration without regard to location."
There is so much left to do with those systems. And young people at risk
could play such a vital role. And we are *all* still at high risk:
The race is on to make the human world a better (and more resilient) place
before one of these overwhelms us:
* Autonomous military robots out of control
* Nanotechnology virus / gray slime
* Ethnically targeted virus
* Sterility virus
* Computer virus
* Asteroid impact
* Other unforseen computer failure mode
* Global warming / climate change / flooding
* Nuclear / biological war
* Unexpected economic collapse from Chaos effects
* Terrorism w/ unforseen wide effects
* Out of control bureaucracy (1984)
* Religious / philosophical warfare
* Economic imbalance leading to world war
* Arms race leading to world war
* Zero-point energy tap out of control
* Time-space information system spreading failure effect (Chalker's
* Unforseen consequences of research (energy, weapons, informational,
But somehow I don't feel the "lifeboat" metaphor is the right way to think
about the problem:
even if that group may be doing good work and every big ship needs
lifeboats. A distant relative: :-)
But every, say, firefighter or paramedic is as much of a hero in my mind as
I feel "trimtab" is a better metaphor (Buckminster Fuller):
The engineer Buckminster Fuller is often cited for his use of trim tabs as a
metaphor for leadership and personal empowerment. ... Fuller said:
"Something hit me very hard once, thinking about what one little man
could do. Think of the Queen Mary -- the whole ship goes by and then comes
the rudder. And there's a tiny thing at the edge of the rudder called a trim
It's a miniature rudder. Just moving the little trim tab builds a low
pressure that pulls the rudder around. Takes almost no effort at all. So I
said that the little individual can be a trim tab. Society thinks it's going
right by you, that it's left you altogether. But if you're doing dynamic
things mentally, the fact is that you can just put your foot out like that
and the whole big ship of state is going to go.
So I said, call me Trim Tab.
So how can we be Trim Tabs? And even at colleges? :-)
> Or like in the example of the special forces unit which rescues downed
> airmen whose motto is "So that others may live". Where the notoriety
> of being in that select group outweighs the risk. 30000 years ago,
> that notority would have been a big deal in your tribe.
> We are not perfect creatures, we can´t be expected to be.
> We are what evolution built.
Absolutely (as least as far as we know :-)
I liked your special forces example -- though building on the Virgle humor
theme, I'd rather compare our work here with the Mystery Men. :-)
I used to be a (mild mannered) "Mr. Furious", but I'd like to think I have
mellowed into a "Doc Heller". :-)
Google obviously is in danger of becoming a "Captain Amazing" (profit driven
and "positioned" :-). Where is the export option for all of your Google docs
at once, for example?
"Face it: If you use Google services like Gmail, Calendar, Docs and
Spreadsheets, Reader, or Blogger, you've got a life's worth of data on
Google's servers. Unless you back up your stuff locally, Google holds the
keys to your digital life and you're out of luck if and when Google loses or
denies you access to that data. Rather than run screaming for the hills, a
few steps to back up your Google-hosted data can ensure that you're in
control of your stuff and not the big G. There isn't one easy, universal
backup for all Google Apps, but there are methods that work."
I won't risk alienating anyone else here by pinning labels. But as an
exercise, it can be worth doing privately for yourself. :-)
> Splicer the biopunk
I've spent too many years around highly regulated universities and known of
accidents or poor practices leading to contamination of areas I passed
through or used regularly with stuff like radioactive phosphorus and PCR
chemicals to be excited at the thought of neighbors doing that next door,
sorry. :-( I'd rather seen that done in isolated space habitat modules.
With that said, on reflection I agree with Bryan that biological
technologies can be really helpful in space settlement (even mundane seeming
ones like gardening)
and that eventually -- out there -- all sorts of diverse social, technical,
and biological experiments will happen. :-) One transhuman vision by J.D.
Bernal from the 1920s(!):
"In the alteration of himself man has a great deal further to go than in the
alteration of his inorganic environment. ... The eugenists and apostles of
healthy life, may, in a very considerable course of time, realize the full
potentialities of the species: we may count on beautiful, healthy and
long-lived men and women, but they do not touch the alteration of the
species. To do this we must alter either the germ plasm or the living
structure of the body, or both together. ... Starting, as Mr. J. B. S.
Haldane so convincingly predicts, in an ectogenetic factory, man will have
anything from sixty to a hundred and twenty years of larval, unspecialized
existence - surely enough to satisfy the advocates of a natural life. In
this stage he need not be cursed by the age of science and mechanism, but
can occupy his time (without the conscience of wasting it) in dancing,
poetry and love-making, and perhaps incidentally take part in the
reproductive activity. Then he will leave the body whose potentialities he
should have sufficiently explored. ... The next stage might be compared to
that of a chrysalis, a complicated and rather unpleasant process of
transforming the already existing organs and grafting on all the new sensory
and motor mechanisms. ... The complex minds could, with their lease of life,
extend their perceptions and understanding and their actions far beyond
those of the individual. Time senses could be altered: the events that moved
with the slowness of geological ages would be apprehended as movement, and
at the same time the most rapid vibrations of the physical world could be
separated. As we have seen, sense organs would tend to be less and less
attached to bodies, and the host of subsidiary, purely mechanical agents and
preceptors would be capable of penetrating those regions where organic
bodies cannot enter or hope to survive. The interior of the earth and the
stars, the inmost cells of living things themselves, would be open to
consciousness through these angels, and through these angels also the
motions of stars and living things could be directed. "
But I *am* concerned about healthy young people not giving the "larval" :-)
human form at least five or ten decades to explore its possibilities before
planning to discard it for something new and maybe(*) as yet unproven. :-)
(*) On "maybe":
"This paper argues that at least one of the following propositions is true:
(1) the human species is very likely to go extinct before reaching a
“posthuman” stage; (2) any posthuman civilization is extremely unlikely to
run a significant number of simulations of their evolutionary history (or
variations thereof); (3) we are almost certainly living in a computer
simulation. It follows that the belief that there is a significant chance
that we will one day become posthumans who run ancestor-simulations is
false, unless we are currently living in a simulation. A number of other
consequences of this result are also discussed."
I have dealt with the Lifeboat Foundation before. A few months ago when
I was releasing the aggregated bio information through Sourceforge,
just before it I actually contacted Lifeboat and asked them if they
wanted a say in things. So James Clement and Phillipe van Nedervalde
looked into it, upped it up to Eric Klein at Lifeboat, and they
apparently made an announcement on their website for their teams to
Eric Klein got back to me within a day, laughed at my age, and said go
ahead and release it. But then later that evening I began to get
some 'angry' (but well intentioned) emails from some lifeboaters saying
that I should have given them more time to review the package. So it
looks like they aren't quite up to their own name.
The "human condition" stuff is techno-humanism, while the personal
modifications and so on is more type-1 transhumanism, as I call it, or
aka extropianism. I have had the fortunate experience of meeting with
Max More and Natasha Vita-More here in Austin a few times: they are
both kind, caring, knowledgable people much more interested in small
groups than radical 'human condition' altering.
> To start fixing things would imply that we´re heading for some
> destination and that making one choice instead of another would
> hinder us from getting there.
The people implying that destination are actually talking about
governments and sociology and politics, stuff like that, which frankly
I ignore. No matter how hard you try to ban a bacteria, that will not
change the fundamental physics of self-replication or fabrication of
virgle spacecraft. ;)
> We´re not really on our way anyhere, there is no final goal for
> nature or evolution. They just are.
Nonzerosumness might disagree.
My list of computational biology software packages inc. BioSim:
> And a lot of public libraries exist with interlibrary loan.
> Even tiny ones.
It is kind of slow. Would be interesting if there's an automated ILL
system out there on the net somewhere ... especially if they could
automatically ask for specific papers from an institution, and get
those back as if it's a one-click system.
> > I would be glad to do my own startups and so on so that I
> > can get access to more equipment and more of my own time, and
> > perhaps even skip undergrad, but how would I go about doing this
> > without screwing myself over?
> Creative challenge -- focus on what you *do* have, not what you
> *don't* have.
> But realistically -- if you want to play around in highly regulated
> areas: http://biohack.sourceforge.net/
> you have to slowly prove you can be trusted.
Agreed re: building trust networks.
> Although your transhumanism roadmap seems to involve speeding past
> being human: :-)
Think of it as becoming more human.
> See this post I wrote in 2000:
> "First let me summarize: there is more to living than "intelligence".
Maybe, but intelligence and attention go hand-in-hand, and what's the
point of living if you are not 'there' and in the moment? If you are
not able to focus and be attentive?
> Maybe focus not on "needs" but what you have to "give" (for free or
> >> Almost everyone I met back then (on the East Coast :-) in the late
> >> 1980s thought talking about space settlement or decentralized
> >> sustainability or computer information webs was nutty (even in a
> >> building called "Von Neumann Hall" :-)
> > Those are some mega geek points.
> Thanks. They are also examples of how the lightbulb than seems so
> bright at night is unneeded after the sun rises. From my experience,
> all the possible good things you outline in your roadmap will happen
> with or without you. So pick the ones most fun to you and worthwhile
> to someone else. :-)
They happen with or without me, but I want that functionality, cached.
> > Yep. I am bruteforcing my self-replicating machine. And if not, I
> > have some synthetic biology backups -- we are living evidence that
> > self-replication can work; there's no way that we can fail.
> Good point.
> You might want to reflect on what you mean by "my" (not just here).
Only in the sense of distinguishing it from the previous attempts, like
Freitas', or von Neumann, Merkle, etc. A pointer for others who are
interested so that they can find the notes on the net. Or do you mean
the use of 'my' even more broadly? (starting to get philosophical?)
> Thinking I had to do it for profit. Or own it as "my" thing. :-)
Okay, yeah, it's definitely not 'mine' - but don't I work on it? So
wouldn't it be valid to reference it as mine to distinguish it from the
other previous failed attempts?
> And in the end, "designing the social processes" turn out to be more
> important than "designing the machines": :-)
I agree completely. This is why I call it the 'societal knowledge'
database as opposed to just a model database; it's because I understand
that most of this knowledge is locked up in people's brains, and in
fact it is even illustrated in the problem of searching. To start
searching you have to know a term/query, and no matter what you must
always begin with a social context for that query, no? And from there
you can click around, but as you click you're still being influenced by
the social map of the internet, not some magical 'universal index' (no
matter how awesome Google is, hehe).
> A platitude: it is better to run towards something you do want than
> run away from something you think you don't want.
> > http://heybryan.org/school/edu.html
> Wow! Money in doing stuff like that for others? :-)
I think ChaCha does this, sort of, but it's more real time. Asimov did
it, but he started writing his wide range of books and massive
compilations of information only once he established his name. I'd like
this to work out, so I'll put some time into this.
Btw, I am enjoying your emails.
The whole thing? Impressive.
> I'm not sure I know enough about transhumanism to have an educated
> opinion about it. From what I've seen they seem to be a bit stuck. My
> impression is that they are missing out on a revolution while
> waiting for the singularity. There is much about brainuploading and
> nanobots in the bloodstream still. They are not what they could be,
> and it surprises me a bit.
You're spot on. I was talking with Natasha about this on the phone
earlier today. She was explaining the situation to me ... it has been
going on for the past decade (the stuckness). There is a reason why
it's 'stuck': a nasty, malacious case of parasitic troll infestation,
and these trolls have resources, the resources to publish books and
have pulled off their own spin.
After all, this is the internet-age, isn't it? There are tens of
thousands of people that should be more interested in these
technologies. There are tons of biotech companies, there's tons of
students going into universities each year, many people reading and
browsing the internet, people needing medication, research scientists,
postdocs, educators, knowledge enthusiasts, technologists, etc. etc.,
it's ridiculous to assume that it's reached maximum exposure. And it
The problem is that the original folks are all too kind and nice of
people to want to ban anybody, to silence ideas or anything like that.
And what if somebody *was* banned? The results would be disasterous,
cultism stuff. So, since the trolls have resources and have even
written books, the influx of new people are largely from those who
agreed with the books, the techno-humanist approach (which is
called 'transhumanism' by the trolls), the stuff about 'alleviating
human stupidity and government health care programs' and other nonsense
like that (more politics, sociology, etc., than techies generally care
about). So. It's unfortunate. Even the Wikipedia article is under the
control of the same trolls.
All of this is completely useless crap-- I would much rather spend my
time working on the tech than debate the issue. But! Isn't that why the
trolls are still able to have control over the title? Because those of
us who 'get it' are busy doing other things? Yet, the concept is
clearly useful for discussion, even for getting more people interested
and aware of tech, biotech, etc., and it's even helped me to make my
ideas more clear and my writing better at times.
I don't know what to suggest.