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pages: 294 words: 81,292

Our Final Invention: Artificial Intelligence and the End of the Human Era by James Barrat


3D printing, AI winter, Amazon Web Services, artificial general intelligence, Asilomar, Automated Insights, Bayesian statistics, Bernie Madoff, Bill Joy: nanobots, brain emulation, cellular automata, Chuck Templeton: OpenTable, cloud computing, cognitive bias, commoditize, computer vision, cuban missile crisis, Daniel Kahneman / Amos Tversky, Danny Hillis, data acquisition, don't be evil, drone strike, Extropian, finite state, Flash crash, friendly AI, friendly fire, Google Glasses, Google X / Alphabet X, Isaac Newton, Jaron Lanier, John Markoff, John von Neumann, Kevin Kelly, Law of Accelerating Returns, life extension, Loebner Prize, lone genius, mutually assured destruction, natural language processing, Nicholas Carr, optical character recognition, PageRank, pattern recognition, Peter Thiel, prisoner's dilemma, Ray Kurzweil, Rodney Brooks, Search for Extraterrestrial Intelligence, self-driving car, semantic web, Silicon Valley, Singularitarianism, Skype, smart grid, speech recognition, statistical model, stealth mode startup, stem cell, Stephen Hawking, Steve Jobs, Steve Wozniak, strong AI, Stuxnet, superintelligent machines, technological singularity, The Coming Technological Singularity, Thomas Bayes, traveling salesman, Turing machine, Turing test, Vernor Vinge, Watson beat the top human players on Jeopardy!, zero day

Psychologically and commercially, the stage is set for a disaster. What can we do to prevent it? * * * Ray Kurzweil cites something called the Asilomar Guidelines as a precedent-setting example of how to deal with AGI. The Asilomar Guidelines came about some forty years ago when scientists first were confronted with the promise and peril of recombinant DNA—mixing the genetic information of different organisms and creating new life-forms. Researchers and the public feared “Frankenstein” pathogens that could escape labs through carelessness or sabotage. In 1975 scientists involved in DNA research halted lab work, and convened 140 biologists, lawyers, physicians, and press at the Asilomar Conference Center near Monterey, California. The scientists at Asilomar created rules for conducting DNA-related research, most critically, an agreement to work only with bacteria that couldn’t survive outside the laboratory.

Researchers resumed work, adhering to the guidelines, and consequently tests for inherited diseases and gene therapy treatment are today routine. In 2010, 10 percent of the world’s cropland was planted with genetically modified crops. The Asilomar Conference is seen as a victory for the scientific community, and for an open dialogue with a concerned public. And so it’s cited as a model for how to proceed with other dual use technologies (milking the symbolic connection with this important conference, the Association for the Advancement of Artificial Intelligence [AAAI], the leading scholarly organization for AI, held their 2009 meeting at Asilomar). Frankenstein pathogens escaping labs recalls chapter 1’s Busy Child scenario. For AGI, an open, multidisciplinary Asilomar-style conference could mitigate some sources of risk. Attendees would encourage one another to develop ideas on how to control and contain up-and-coming AGIs.

none, except Omohundro: Relative to scientists engaged in the pursuit, Yudkowsky and MIRI are not trying to create AGI, though they consider the ethics of creating it and how to control it. AGI maker Ben Goertzel has frequently written about AI ethics, but that’s not the same as focusing on solutions to AI dangers. The scientists at Asilomar: Barinaga, Marcia, “Asilomar Revisited: Lessons for Today?” Science, March 3, 2000, (accessed October 10, 2011). 10 percent of the world’s cropland: International Service for the Acquisition of Agri-Biotech Applications, “Crop Biotech Update,” last modified February 22, 2011, (accessed October 10, 2011). programmed to die by default: Sterrit, Roy, Apoptotic Robotics Programmed Death by Default, “2011 Eighth IEEE International Conference and Workshops on Engineering of Autonomic and Autonomous Systems,” last modified February 11, 2011,

pages: 422 words: 113,525

Whole Earth Discipline: An Ecopragmatist Manifesto by Stewart Brand


agricultural Revolution, Asilomar, Asilomar Conference on Recombinant DNA, back-to-the-land, biofilm, borderless world, Buckminster Fuller, business process, Cass Sunstein, clean water, Community Supported Agriculture, conceptual framework, Danny Hillis, dark matter, decarbonisation, demographic dividend, demographic transition, Elon Musk, Exxon Valdez, failed state, Geoffrey West, Santa Fe Institute, glass ceiling, Google Earth, Hans Rosling, Hernando de Soto, informal economy, interchangeable parts, Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), invention of agriculture, invention of the steam engine, Jane Jacobs, jimmy wales, Kevin Kelly, Kibera, land tenure, M-Pesa, Marshall McLuhan, megacity, microbiome, New Urbanism, out of africa, Paul Graham, peak oil, Richard Florida, Ronald Reagan, Silicon Valley, smart grid, stem cell, Stewart Brand, The Fortune at the Bottom of the Pyramid, Thomas Malthus, University of East Anglia, uranium enrichment, urban renewal, wealth creators, Whole Earth Catalog, Whole Earth Review, William Langewiesche, working-age population, Y2K

The Cambridge and Berkeley city councils—both cities the home of major universities—outlawed recombinant-DNA research. The U.S. Congress began introducing restrictive legislation. That was the atmosphere that led to the Asilomar Conference on Recombinant DNA Molecules in California in February 1975. Coming from all over the world, some 146 genetic scientists and related professionals convened for four days to regulate their research. They instituted an array of laboratory containment practices and mandated the use of organisms that could not live outside the lab. Some experiments were banned entirely, such as tinkering with the genes of pathogenic organisms. The guidelines were soon adopted and enforced in the United States by the National Institutes of Health. Was Asilomar a good idea? The question was controversial then and remains controversial now. As it happened, I had an early window on the issue from an inside perspective.

Brown’s view was that “government may not always be the first to know about important new ideas, but it should not be the last.” Thus every few weeks I got to spend a day hosting the likes of organizational guru Peter Drucker, futurist Herman Kahn, farmer-poet Wendell Berry, and media celebrator Marshall McLuhan. In 1977, two years after Asilomar, the California legislature was threatening to regulate recombinant DNA research in the state, so James Watson, the codiscoverer of the structure of DNA and director of the renowned Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory, came to visit. Watson had been an early supporter of the moratorium on recombinant DNA research and had helped to organize Asilomar. In a short talk to a group including Brown, the governor’s staff, and some legislators and press, Watson said:My position is that I don’t regard recombinant DNA as a major or plausible public health hazard, and so I don’t think that legislation is necessary.

I do not worry about “monsters.” . . . Some people have said the [Asilomar] guidelines are capricious. I think they’re totally capricious and totally unnecessary. We must have wasted $25 million on those precautions by now and it’s on its way to $100 million. I think it’s the biggest waste of federal money since we built all those fallout shelters. . . . It’s silly to control where there’s no evidence of danger. I am totally agreed that the public should participate in any process where they can be given facts to think about. But the tradition is, you don’t call fire until you see it. Watson was right, it turned out. The authoritative book on the history of molecular biology is Horace Judson’s The Eighth Day of Creation (1996). A year after the Asilomar conference, Judson reports, “scientists’ fears were receding fast.

pages: 260 words: 84,847

P53: The Gene That Cracked the Cancer Code by Sue Armstrong


Asilomar, discovery of DNA, discovery of penicillin, double helix, mouse model, stem cell, trade route

In 1974 a number of leading scientists stopped their work on recombinant DNA pending a formal debate on the way forward for laboratories using this technology. The following year the intense soul-searching among scientists, and the equally volatile debate that had begun in the world’s media, culminated in an international conference held at the Asilomar Center, a magnificent old lodge built of warm local wood and stone overlooking the Pacific near Monterey, California. Writing for Science magazine in 2000 on the 25th anniversary of the Asilomar Conference, journalist Marcia Barinaga called it ‘the Woodstock of molecular biology: a defining moment for a generation, an unforgettable experience, a milestone in the history of science and society’. Looking back across the years, David Baltimore, who won the Nobel Prize for Medicine in 1975 for his work with viruses and was one of the organisers of the conference, said, ‘Recombinant DNA was the most monumental power ever handed to us.

In fact, so exciting was it, and so potentially scary, that the attempt to reach consensus on the way forward among the disparate group of 133 scientists gathered at Asilomar – debating under the watchful eyes and listening ears of 16 journalists and four lawyers – was extremely difficult. What eased the process was the decision to divide the types of experiments using recombinant DNA into several categories – depending on whether they involved organisms or fragments of DNA known to cause disease or pose other dangers, or used materials considered harmless – and making recommendations about how to proceed under different scenarios. These included taking measures to disarm living organisms used in experiments so that they could not interbreed nor survive outside of tissue cultures; and adopting specific safety measures in the design of labs. It fell to national governments to turn the recommendations of the Asilomar Conference into useable guidelines, and by 1976 scientists were able to resume their experiments with recombinant DNA, more or less reassured that they were not about to unleash Frankenstein species upon the world.

For information on Peyton Rous, I relied on the excellent archives of the Nobel Foundation, see:­nobel_prizes­/medicine/­laureates/­1966/­rous-bio.html Besides their autobiographical books already cited, the Nobel archive also was a rich source of information on Varmus and Bishop, who won the prize in 1989. See­nobel_prizes/­medicine/­laureates/1989 For the Asilomar debate see M. J. Peterson, 2010, Asilomar Conference on Laboratory Precautions. International Dimensions of Ethics Education in Science and Technology. Available at­sts/ethics Chapter 3: Discovery The epigraph comes from Judson’s book, The Eighth Day of Creation, cited above, page 10. The footnote quote is from Jeffrey Taubenberger; see­conversations Chapter 4: Unseeable Biology The epigraph comes from A Short History of Nearly Everything by Bill Bryson (London: Transworld Publishers, 2003), page 451.

pages: 428 words: 121,717

Warnings by Richard A. Clarke

active measures, Albert Einstein, algorithmic trading, anti-communist, artificial general intelligence, Asilomar, Asilomar Conference on Recombinant DNA, Bernie Madoff, cognitive bias, collateralized debt obligation, complexity theory, corporate governance, cuban missile crisis, data acquisition, discovery of penicillin, double helix, Elon Musk, failed state, financial thriller, fixed income, Flash crash, forensic accounting, friendly AI, Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), Internet of things, James Watt: steam engine, Jeff Bezos, John Maynard Keynes: Economic Possibilities for our Grandchildren, knowledge worker, Maui Hawaii, megacity, Mikhail Gorbachev, money market fund, mouse model, Nate Silver, new economy, Nicholas Carr, nuclear winter, pattern recognition, personalized medicine, phenotype, Ponzi scheme, Ray Kurzweil, Richard Feynman, Richard Feynman, Richard Feynman: Challenger O-ring, risk tolerance, Ronald Reagan, Search for Extraterrestrial Intelligence, self-driving car, Silicon Valley, smart grid, statistical model, Stephen Hawking, Stuxnet, technological singularity, The Future of Employment, the scientific method, The Signal and the Noise by Nate Silver, Tunguska event, uranium enrichment, Vernor Vinge, Watson beat the top human players on Jeopardy!, women in the workforce, Y2K

THE MOTHER OF CRISPR BECOMES ITS CASSANDRA As the group of biologists gathered in Napa, California, in late January 2015, several couldn’t help but recognize the similarities to a conference that had taken place almost exactly forty years earlier. In February 1975, about 150 leading professionals gathered at the Asilomar Conference Grounds that overlooks the Pacific Ocean on California’s Monterey Peninsula. The meeting had been called to discuss a recent breakthrough discovery that allowed scientists to artificially manipulate the genome. Those in attendance were mostly molecular biologists, but the broad implications and wide-ranging discussions also brought physicians, lawyers, journalists, and government policy makers to Asilomar.14 The topic of discussion was recombinant DNA technology. Several years earlier, scientists had discovered restriction enzymes, enzymes that cut DNA at a single, specific sequence of nucleotides.

Fears that recombinant DNA experiments could unleash a public health disaster were never realized. Moreover, early excitement at the promise of recombinant DNA also gave way to the reality that manipulating DNA, precisely specifying the cutting location, proved surprisingly tricky. It remained that way until Professor Doudna’s CRISPR breakthrough. Still, Asilomar is credited with serving an even more important role. Dr. Berg explained to us in his Stanford office, where he still serves as a professor emeritus, that “what Asilomar accomplished was establishing trust between the public and the science.” Over 10 percent of the attendees were from the media, “who were there as participants,” he stressed, “not just as observers.” The journalists took part in all of the discussions, asked questions of the panelists, joined in for late-night beer drinking and debating with the scientists and bioethicists, and were given the freedom to write about the conference as they saw fit.

Berg and recombinant DNA technology, Professor Doudna, the inventor of CRISPR, was now a leader in the effort to understand and prevent the possible unintended consequences that could result from its unfettered deployment and adoption. Given the type of experimentation already underway using CRISPR, the questions the scientists at Napa tackled were markedly different from those at Asilomar. “We never discussed ethics,” Dr. Berg told us, “and we did it on purpose.” The darker questions were still beyond the horizon, and biohazard concerns were paramount at the time. While Asilomar focused on establishing broad safety protocols, those gathered at Napa discussed the risks of modifying the human genome. Professor Doudna and the others in attendance saw their Napa conference as a prelude to a broader international and public dialogue on the practical, ethical, social, and legal implications of CRISPR.

pages: 350 words: 96,803

Our Posthuman Future: Consequences of the Biotechnology Revolution by Francis Fukuyama


Albert Einstein, Asilomar, assortative mating, Berlin Wall, bioinformatics, Columbine, demographic transition, Fall of the Berlin Wall, Flynn Effect, Francis Fukuyama: the end of history, impulse control, life extension, Menlo Park, meta analysis, meta-analysis, out of africa, Peter Singer: altruism, phenotype, presumed consent, Ray Kurzweil, Scientific racism, selective serotonin reuptake inhibitor (SSRI), sexual politics, stem cell, Steven Pinker, The Bell Curve by Richard Herrnstein and Charles Murray, Turing test

Silver, Remaking Eden: Cloning and Beyond in a Brave New World (New York: Avon, 1998), p. 268. 10 Leon Kass, Toward a More Natural Science: Biology and Human Affairs (New York: Free Press, 1985), p. 173. 11 On this general topic, see James Q. Wilson, Bureaucracy: What Government Agencies Do and Why They Do It (New York: Basic Books, 1989). 12 Eugene Russo, “Reconsidering Asilomar,” The Scientist 14 (April 3, 2000): 15–21; and Marcia Barinaga, “Asilomar Revisited: Lessons for Today?,” Science 287 (March 3, 2000): 1584–1585. 13 Stuart Auchincloss, “Does Genetic Engineering Need Genetic Engineers?,” Boston College Environmental Affairs Law Review 20 (1993): 37–64. 14 Kurt Eichenwald, “Redesigning Nature: Hard Lessons Learned; Biotechnology Food: From the Lab to a Debacle,” The New York Times, January 25, 2001, p.

In 1970 Janet Mertz, a researcher at Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory in New York, wanted to splice genes from a monkey virus into a common bacteria, E. coli, in order to better understand their function. This led to a dispute between Mertz’s supervisor, Paul Berg, and Robert Pollack over the safety of such experiments; Pollack feared they could lead to the creation of a new and highly dangerous microbe.1 The eventual result was the Asilomar Conference, held in Pacific Grove, California, in 1975, at which the leading researchers in the field met to devise controls over experiments in the burgeoning field of rDNA.2 A voluntary ban on this type of research was put into place until the risks could be better appreciated, and a Recombinant DNA Advisory Committee was established by the National Institutes of Health. The NIH published guidelines for NIH-funded research in 1976 that, among other things, required the physical containment of rDNA organisms in the laboratory and restricted their release into the environment.

Indeed, the massive government-funded Human Genome Project was upstaged by Craig Venter’s privately held Celera Genomics in the race to map the human genome. The first embryonic stem cell lines were cultivated by James Thompson at the University of Wisconsin, using nongovernment funding in order to comply with the ban on federally funded research that would harm embryos. Many of the participants at a workshop held on the twenty-fifth anniversary of the Asilomar Conference on rDNA concluded that while the RAC had served an important function in its day, it could no longer monitor or police the present-day biotech industry. It has no formal enforcement powers and can bring to bear only the weight of opinion within the elite scientific community. The nature of that community has changed over time as well: there are today many fewer “pure” researchers, with no ties to the biotech industry or commercial interests in certain technologies.12 This means that any new regulatory agency not only would have to have a mandate to regulate biotechnology on grounds broader than efficacy and safety but also would have to have statutory authority over all research and development, and not just research that is federally funded.

pages: 285 words: 78,180

Life at the Speed of Light: From the Double Helix to the Dawn of Digital Life by J. Craig Venter


Albert Einstein, Alfred Russel Wallace, Asilomar, Barry Marshall: ulcers, bioinformatics, borderless world, Brownian motion, clean water, discovery of DNA, double helix, epigenetics, experimental subject, Isaac Newton, Islamic Golden Age, John von Neumann, Louis Pasteur, Mars Rover, Mikhail Gorbachev, phenotype, Richard Feynman, Richard Feynman, stem cell, the scientific method, Thomas Kuhn: the structure of scientific revolutions, Turing machine

I hope that, in some small way, this book will help readers to make sense of the spectrum of recent developments. Safety, of course, is paramount. The good news is that, thanks to a debate that dates back to Asilomar in the 1970s, robust and diverse regulations for the safe use of biotechnology and recombinant-DNA technology are already firmly in place. However, we must be vigilant and never drop our guard. In years to come it might be difficult to identify agents of concern if they look like nothing we have encountered before. The political, societal, and scientific backdrop is continually evolving and has shifted a great deal since the days of Asilomar. Synthetic biology also relies on the skills of scientists who have little experience in biology, such as mathematicians and electrical engineers. As shown by the efforts of the budding synthetic biologists at iGEM, the field is no longer the province of highly skilled senior scientists only.

The first transgenic mammal was created in 1974 by Rudolf Jaenisch and Beatrice Mintz, who inserted foreign DNA into mouse embryos.14 Because of the growing public unease over the potential dangers of such experimentation, Berg played an active role in debating to what degree such studies should be constrained and limited. In 1974 a group of American scientists recommended a moratorium on this research. Voluntary guidelines were drawn up at a highly influential meeting organized the following year by Berg at the Asilomar Conference Grounds, in Pacific Grove, California. The fear of some was that recombinant organisms might have unexpected consequences, such as causing illness or death, and that they might escape the laboratory and spread. This concern was balanced by arguments in support of the potential of genetic engineering, notably those of Joshua Lederberg, a Stanford professor and Nobel laureate.15 In 1976 the National Institutes of Health issued its own guidelines for the safe conduct of recombinant-DNA research, the repercussions of which are still being felt in the ongoing debates about genetically altered crops and the more recent discussion about the use and misuse of research on the genetics of influenza.

But a February 2012 meeting by the World Health Organization concluded that the benefits of the work outweighed the risks and expressed doubts about redacting the papers. Later an FBI report offered a number of suggestions to get the balance right between making progress with research and minimizing risks, and between scientific freedom and national security. The FBI report begins by pointing out that the Janus-like nature of innovation has surfaced again and again during the past several decades, underscoring the significance of such initiatives as Asilomar, which I dealt with earlier, and the adoption of the Biological and Toxin Weapons Convention of 1972. I believe that the issue of the responsible use of science is fundamental and dates back to the birth of human ingenuity, when humankind first discovered how to make fire on demand. (Do I use it to burn a rival’s crops or to keep warm?) Every few months, another meeting is held to discuss the conundrum that powerful technology cuts both ways.

pages: 281 words: 79,958

Denialism: How Irrational Thinking Hinders Scientific Progress, Harms the Planet, and Threatens Our Lives by Michael Specter


agricultural Revolution, Anne Wojcicki, Any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic, Asilomar, carbon footprint, Cass Sunstein, clean water, Drosophila, food miles, invention of gunpowder, out of africa, personalized medicine, placebo effect, profit motive, randomized controlled trial, Richard Feynman, Richard Feynman, Richard Feynman: Challenger O-ring, Ronald Reagan, Simon Singh, Skype, stem cell, Ted Kaczynski, the scientific method, Thomas Malthus, Upton Sinclair, X Prize

By the 1970s, recombinant DNA technology permitted scientists to cut long, unwieldy molecules of nucleotides into digestible sentences of genetic letters and paste them into other cells. Researchers could suddenly combine the genes of two creatures that would never have been able to mate in nature. In 1975, concerned about the risks of this new technology, scientists from around the world convened a conference in Asilomar, California. They focused primarily on laboratory and environmental safety, and concluded that the field required only minimal regulation. (There was no real discussion of deliberate abuse—at the time it didn’t seem necessary.) In retrospect at least, Asilomar came to be seen as an intellectual Woodstock, an epochal event in the history of molecular biology. Looking back nearly thirty years later, one of the conference’s organizers, the Nobel laureate Paul Berg, wrote that “this unique conference marked the beginning of an exceptional era for science and for the public discussion of science policy.

Scientists at the meeting understood what was at stake. “We can outdo evolution,” said David Baltimore, genuinely awed by this new power to explore the vocabulary of life. Another researcher joked about joining duck DNA with orange DNA. “In early 1975, however, the new techniques hardly aspired to either duck or orange DNA,” Michael Rogers wrote in the 1977 book Biohazard, his riveting account of the meeting at Asilomar and of the scientists’ attempts to confront the ethical as well as biological impact of their new technology. “They worked essentially only with bacteria and viruses—organisms so small that most human beings only noticed them when they make us ill.” That was precisely the problem. Promising as these techniques were, they also made it possible for scientists to transfer viruses—and cancer cells—from one organism to another.

Early in 2009, the results of a California Academy of Sciences poll that was conducted throughout the nation revealed that only 53 percent of American adults know how long it takes for the earth to revolve around the sun, and a slightly larger number—59 percent—are aware that dinosaurs and humans never lived at the same time. Synthetic biologists will have to overcome this ignorance and the denialism it breeds. To begin with, why not convene a new, more comprehensive version of the Asilomar Conference, tailored to the digital age and broadcast to all Americans? It wouldn’t solve every problem or answer every question—and we would need many conversations, not one. But I can think of no better way for President Obama to begin to return science to its rightful place in our society. And he ought to lead that conversation through digital town meetings that address both the prospects and perils of this new discipline.

pages: 224 words: 91,918

The Electric Kool-Aid Acid Test by Tom Wolfe


Asilomar, Bonfire of the Vanities, Buckminster Fuller, edge city, Electric Kool-Aid Acid Test, Golden Gate Park, Haight Ashbury, haute couture, Menlo Park, Ronald Reagan, stakhanovite, Stewart Brand, strikebreaker, the scientific method, Thorstein Veblen

Noah's destination Is where it's at: Now showing at the Mount Ararat, Apis the Bull in Après le déluge, Groovy movie with a thousand castoffs: Whose Angels? — Hell's Angels ... Dear Lord, prepare to blast off Into the Angel blue. Oh, the vi-bra-tions... So Kesey was invited to come take part in the annual California Unitarian Church conference at Asilomar, beautiful state park by the sea in Monterey. The theme this year was: "Shaking the Foundations." The fact that Kesey had lately been arrested on a narcotics charge couldn't have mattered less to the Unitarians assembled on the greeny glades of Asilomar by the sea, not even the older ones. The Unitarians had a long tradition of liberalism in such matters and, in fact, were in the vanguard of the civil-rights movement in California. There was a good deal of civil disobedience and scrapes with the police in that fight; yes, sir.

THE FOLLOWING YEAR THERE WERE TWO CONFERENCES OF THE Unitarian Church. One, as always, was at Asilomar. And the Sport Shirts were there, as always. The other was in the High Sierras. The Young Turks held their own conference, in the High Sierras, up in the thin air. Somehow it wasn't quite what they expected, however. A certain psychic decibel level was lacking. Nevertheless, the age of bullshit was over. They were on the bus for good. The next year Sawyer spent a month living in Haight-Ashbury, to explore the possibilities of a new kind of ministry for the young people; on the bus, as it were. OH, THE VI-BRA-TIONS . . . IT SO HAPPENED THAT ONE OF THE FEMALE DELEGATES TO THE Unitarian conference at Asilomar had her own little résumé of the conference printed up, and she mailed it out. The Pranksters read it out loud in the living room at Kesey's: "So the Prophet Kesey came before us"—and did such and such.

By Friday, Kesey had done a lot of talking, on stage, off stage, down by the bus, and things had gotten to the point where people might start saying, well, for a guy who says talking won't get the job done, he has done an awful lot of talking. Kesey emerged from the bus that afternoon with a huge swath of adhesive tape plastered across his mouth. He went around the whole day like that, silent, plastered over, as if to say, I'm through talking. All the kids at Asilomar thought this was great, too. More and more of them were hanging around the bus, while the Pranksters flung kelp about and played like very children themselves. Nighttime and one girl really feels into the thing, and she wants nothing more in this world than to go on an acid trip with the Pranksters. She has never taken acid before. So they give her some and a group of them take acid, down by the bus, by the ocean, and christ, she starts freaking out.

pages: 413 words: 119,587

Machines of Loving Grace: The Quest for Common Ground Between Humans and Robots by John Markoff


A Declaration of the Independence of Cyberspace, AI winter, airport security, Apple II, artificial general intelligence, Asilomar, augmented reality, autonomous vehicles, basic income, Baxter: Rethink Robotics, Bill Duvall, bioinformatics, Brewster Kahle, Burning Man, call centre, cellular automata, Chris Urmson, Claude Shannon: information theory, Clayton Christensen, clean water, cloud computing, collective bargaining, computer age, computer vision, crowdsourcing, Danny Hillis, DARPA: Urban Challenge, data acquisition, Dean Kamen, deskilling, don't be evil, Douglas Engelbart, Douglas Engelbart, Douglas Hofstadter, Dynabook, Edward Snowden, Elon Musk, Erik Brynjolfsson, factory automation, From Mathematics to the Technologies of Life and Death, future of work, Galaxy Zoo, Google Glasses, Google X / Alphabet X, Grace Hopper, Gunnar Myrdal, Gödel, Escher, Bach, Hacker Ethic, haute couture, hive mind, hypertext link, indoor plumbing, industrial robot, information retrieval, Internet Archive, Internet of things, invention of the wheel, Jacques de Vaucanson, Jaron Lanier, Jeff Bezos, job automation, John Conway, John Markoff, John Maynard Keynes: Economic Possibilities for our Grandchildren, John Maynard Keynes: technological unemployment, John von Neumann, Kevin Kelly, knowledge worker, Kodak vs Instagram, labor-force participation, loose coupling, Marc Andreessen, Mark Zuckerberg, Marshall McLuhan, medical residency, Menlo Park, Mother of all demos, natural language processing, new economy, Norbert Wiener, PageRank, pattern recognition, pre–internet, RAND corporation, Ray Kurzweil, Richard Stallman, Robert Gordon, Rodney Brooks, Sand Hill Road, Second Machine Age, self-driving car, semantic web, shareholder value, side project, Silicon Valley, Silicon Valley startup, Singularitarianism, skunkworks, Skype, social software, speech recognition, stealth mode startup, Stephen Hawking, Steve Ballmer, Steve Jobs, Steve Wozniak, Steven Levy, Stewart Brand, strong AI, superintelligent machines, technological singularity, Ted Nelson, telemarketer, telepresence, telepresence robot, Tenerife airport disaster, The Coming Technological Singularity, the medium is the message, Thorstein Veblen, Turing test, Vannevar Bush, Vernor Vinge, Watson beat the top human players on Jeopardy!, Whole Earth Catalog, William Shockley: the traitorous eight, zero-sum game

“Eventually, I think human extinction will probably occur, and technology will likely play a part in this.”11 For an artificial intelligence researcher who had just reaped hundreds of millions of dollars, it was an odd position to take. If someone believes that technology will likely evolve to destroy humankind, what could motivate them to continue developing that same technology? At the end of 2014, the 2009 AI meeting at Asilomar was reprised when a new group of AI researchers, funded by one of the Skype founders, met in Puerto Rico to again consider how to make their field safe. Despite a new round of alarming statements about AI dangers from luminaries such as Elon Musk and Stephen Hawking, the attendees wrote an open letter that notably fell short of the call to action that had been the result of the original 1975 Asilomar biotechnology meeting. Given that DeepMind had been acquired by Google, Legg’s public philosophizing is particularly significant. Today, Google is the clearest example of the potential consequences of AI and IA.

The specter of machine autonomy either places human ethical decision-making at a distance or removes it entirely. In other fields, certain issues have forced scientists and technologists to consider the potential consequences of their work, and many of those scientists acted to protect humanity. In February of 1975, for example, Nobel laureate Paul Berg encouraged the elite of the then new field of biotechnology to meet at the Asilomar Conference Grounds in Pacific Grove, California. At the time, recombinant DNA—inserting new genes into the DNA of living organisms—was a fledgling development. It presented both the promise for dramatic advances in medicine, agriculture, and new materials and the horrifying possibility that scientists could unintentionally bring about the end of humanity by engineering a synthetic plague. For the scientists, the meeting led to an extraordinary resolution.

After a little more than a decade, the NIH had gathered sufficient evidence from a wide array of experiments to suggest that it should lift the restrictions on research. It was a singular example of how society might thoughtfully engage with the consequences of scientific advance. Following in the footsteps of the biologists, in February of 2009, a group of artificial intelligence researchers and roboticists also met at Asilomar to discuss the progress of AI after decades of failure. Eric Horvitz, the Microsoft AI researcher who was serving as president of the Association for the Advancement of Artificial Intelligence, called the meeting. During the previous five years, the researchers in the field had begun discussing twin alarms. One came from Ray Kurzweil, who had heralded the relatively near-term arrival of computer superintelligences.

pages: 523 words: 148,929

Physics of the Future: How Science Will Shape Human Destiny and Our Daily Lives by the Year 2100 by Michio Kaku


agricultural Revolution, AI winter, Albert Einstein, Asilomar, augmented reality, Bill Joy: nanobots, bioinformatics, blue-collar work, British Empire, Brownian motion, cloud computing, Colonization of Mars, DARPA: Urban Challenge, delayed gratification, double helix, Douglas Hofstadter,, friendly AI, Gödel, Escher, Bach, hydrogen economy, I think there is a world market for maybe five computers, industrial robot, Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), invention of movable type, invention of the telescope, Isaac Newton, John Markoff, John von Neumann, life extension, Louis Pasteur, Mahatma Gandhi, Mars Rover, mass immigration, megacity, Murray Gell-Mann, new economy, oil shale / tar sands, optical character recognition, pattern recognition, planetary scale, postindustrial economy, Ray Kurzweil, refrigerator car, Richard Feynman, Richard Feynman, Rodney Brooks, Ronald Reagan, Search for Extraterrestrial Intelligence, Silicon Valley, Simon Singh, speech recognition, stem cell, Stephen Hawking, Steve Jobs, telepresence, The Wealth of Nations by Adam Smith, Thomas L Friedman, Thomas Malthus, trade route, Turing machine, uranium enrichment, Vernor Vinge, Wall-E, Walter Mischel, Whole Earth Review, X Prize

But will it be to liberate the human race or enslave it? If one reads the headlines today, it seems as if the question is already settled: the human race is about to be rapidly overtaken by our own creation. THE END OF HUMANITY? The headline in the New York Times said it all: “Scientists Worry Machines May Outsmart Man.” The world’s top leaders in artificial intelligence (AI) had gathered at the Asilomar conference in California in 2009 to solemnly discuss what happens when the machines finally take over. As in a scene from a Hollywood movie, delegates asked probing questions, such as, What happens if a robot becomes as intelligent as your spouse? As compelling evidence of this robotic revolution, people pointed to the Predator drone, a pilotless robot plane that is now targeting terrorists with deadly accuracy in Afghanistan and Pakistan; cars that can drive themselves; and ASIMO, the world’s most advanced robot that can walk, run, climb stairs, dance, and even serve coffee.

As compelling evidence of this robotic revolution, people pointed to the Predator drone, a pilotless robot plane that is now targeting terrorists with deadly accuracy in Afghanistan and Pakistan; cars that can drive themselves; and ASIMO, the world’s most advanced robot that can walk, run, climb stairs, dance, and even serve coffee. Eric Horvitz of Microsoft, an organizer of the conference, noting the excitement surging through the conference, said, “Technologists are providing almost religious visions, and their ideas are resonating in some ways with the same idea of the Rapture.” (The Rapture is when true believers ascend to heaven at the Second Coming. The critics dubbed the spirit of the Asilomar conference “the rapture of the nerds.”) That same summer, the movies dominating the silver screen seemed to amplify this apocalyptic picture. In Terminator Salvation, a ragtag band of humans battle huge mechanical behemoths that have taken over the earth. In Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen, futuristic robots from space use humans as pawns and the earth as a battleground for their interstellar wars.

The human, not the Predator, is calling the shots. And the cars that drive themselves are not making independent decisions as they scan the horizon and turn the steering wheel; they are following a GPS map stored in their memory. So the nightmare of fully autonomous, conscious, and murderous robots is still in the distant future. Not surprisingly, although the media hyped some of the more sensational predictions made at the Asilomar conference, most of the working scientists doing the day-to-day research in artificial intelligence were much more reserved and cautious. When asked when the machines will become as smart as us, the scientists had a surprising variety of answers, ranging from 20 to 1,000 years. So we have to differentiate between two types of robots. The first is remote-controlled by a human or programmed and pre-scripted like a tape recorder to follow precise instructions.

pages: 482 words: 147,281

A Crack in the Edge of the World: America and the Great California Earthquake of 1906 by Simon Winchester


Albert Einstein, Asilomar, butterfly effect, California gold rush, Golden Gate Park, index card, indoor plumbing, Loma Prieta earthquake, Menlo Park, place-making, risk tolerance, Silicon Valley, South of Market, San Francisco, supervolcano, The Chicago School, transcontinental railway, wage slave, Works Progress Administration

Eldridge Moores, one of the great discoverers of the processes that led to the making of the American West, is shown here in suitably heroic pose, with a sequence of ophiolites, the key to the mystery, spread out before him. to the structural peculiarities there that led to all the San Francisco earthquakes, culminating in the disastrous event of 1906. Professor Moores remembers the moment of his realization only too well. It was 20 December 1969, and he was in Pacific Grove, California, at the Asilomar Conference Center. He was listening, fascinated, halfway through a session of the second of the annual Penrose Conferences that the Geological Society of America now holds to ruminate on the most important new developments in earth science.* At this legendary gathering ‘the full import of the plate tectonic revolution burst on the participants like a dam failure’, he later wrote. Paper after paper was being read that overlaid the new theories on top of virtually every major process of geology that had shaped the planet – the location of volcanoes, the folding of mountains, the distribution of earthquakes, the shape of the continents, the history of the oceans.

Everything was being answered by this devastatingly simple notion: that plates floated about on top of the plastic mantle and collided with one another, scraped alongside one another, broke into pieces or welled up under the influence of the immense heat from below. The ‘marvelous dance of the plates’ is how one of the conferees put it, with the rapture of the collective Eureka! It was, reflected Moores, ‘one of the most exciting moments of my life’, and everyone else at this most remarkable gathering of geologists appears to have felt the same. Asilomar was a turning-point in science like few had ever known. His own moment came as he was listening to the conference convener, Bill Dickinson, presenting his summary. Moores had drifted off message for a moment, thinking about a discussion the previous evening about just where the world’s ophiolite sequences were, when, ‘in a blinding flash of insight, it came to me’. What came to Eldridge Moores would make him famous, in two very distinct worlds.

Copyright 1956 Robert Frost Index Page references for maps and illustrations are in italics 1906 26–32 1906 earthquake xxv–xxvii, 32–3 books on 371–3 Chinatown 299–301 as divine intervention 304–5, 309–10, 311 effect on San Francisco’s supremacy 301–3 epicentre 149–52 eyewitness reports xxviii–xxxvi, 213–23 felt map 231 fire 261–71, 270 human response 272–93 insurance companies 293–9 maritime reports 223–5 measurement 235, 236, 237, 238, 239, 240–45 Olema 144–7, 146 outer areas 225–32 physical damage 245, 248–61 Adams, Ansel 23, 258, 259, 265 Adams, Henry 116 African Plate 36, 38 Agassiz, Louis 114, 248, 250 Agnew’s State Hospital for the Insane, Santa Clara 228 Aiken, Charles 209 Alaska 89, 337–40, 346, 350–51 Alaska Highway 341–5 Alcatraz 226, 312 Alliance 223 Althing 43 Amarillo, Texas 107, 112, 117 American Commonwealth, The (Bryce) 88 Ames, Frank 221 Amherst, Massachusetts 63 Anaheim 230 Anchorage 339, 340, 347–8 Anderson, J. 367 Angel Island 225–6, 312, 314–19, 318 Angmagssalik 47, 50 animals 213 Annalen der Physik 26 Annals of San Francisco 180, 191, 193 Annsville Event 63, 71 Antarctic 59 Antarctic Plate 36 Appraisers’ Building 281 ‘April’ (Watson) 1 Arctica 57, 58, 59, 61, 62 Ardsley, New York 85, 86 Argo 223–4 Argonaut 250–51 Armstrong, Neil xvii, xviii–xix, xxi art 319–24 aseismic creep 156 Asilomar Penrose 125–6 asperities 244 Assan, Marcelle 208, 210 Assembling California (McPhee) 126 asthenosphere 52 Atherton, Gertrude 319 Atlantic Ocean 46, 61 Atlantica 58, 59, 60 atmospheric pressure 355 Auden, W. H. 27 Audion 28 Azusa Street, Los Angeles 230, 305, 308–10, 308 Babes in Toyland (Herbert) 211 Baltica 58, 59, 60 Bam 65 banks 286 Barringer, Mr 109–110 Barrymore, John 209–10, 255 Bartleman, Frank 309–10 Bartlett, Washington 178–9 basalts 45–7, 48 Baudelaire, Charles 7 Bear Flag Revolt 89 Beaufort, Sir Francis 355 Bennett, Sir Courtney 215, 245, 261, 287–8, 301 Berkeley xxviii, xxxii–xxxiv, 105, 241 Berkshires 63 Betjeman, John 29 ‘Bhaja Govindam’ (Sankara) 60–61 Bible 304, 306, 309, 310 Bicknell, Ernest 291–2 Bidwell, John 93, 94–6 Bierce, Ambrose 197, 319 Big Bend 162, 164, 167, 172–3 Blosseville Coast 46, 52 Bohemian Club 320 Bohemians 319–21 Bolt, Bruce 149–50, 151 Bonneville, Benjamin 93 Bosch-Omori seismographs 238 Botanic Garden, The (Darwin) 337 Boyle, James 225 Bradbury, John 78–9 Branner, John 290 Brawley Seismic Zone 172 Brewer, William 21–2, 23 Brewer, Mount 22–3 Bristol’s Recording Voltmeter 235 Brooks, Jared 79 Browne, Sir Thomas xv Browns Park, Colorado 115 Bryce, James 88 Bulletin 197 Burke, William 285–6 Burnett, Peter 102 Burnham, Daniel 202, 324–5 Burnham Plan 202, 324–8 Burns, Robert xv, xix Burns, William 197 Bush, Reverend James 253 Bushveldt Intrusion 47 Butte Record 193 cable cars 188–9, 214 Caldwell, Charles 264 California 10, 23, 85 geology 17–20 history 13, 88–106 California Decorative 322 California Development Company 170 California Powder Works 281–2 California Star 178–9 Call Building 198, 217, 371 camels 165–6 Canada 57–8, 59, 343–5 Cape Ann, Massachusetts 84, 86 Carmel-by-the-Sea 320 Carmen 206, 208–9, 284 Caroline Plate 36 Carquinez Indians 11, 24 Carquinez Strait 11, 24 Carrier, Willis 66 Carrizo Plain 143, 160–62, 166 Caruso, Enrico 206–9, 207, 221, 222–3, 223, 268, 284 Cascadia Subduction Zone 141 Cerro Prieto Geothermal Area 171 chance-medley 221 Charleston xxxi, 62, 64–71, 69, 72, 84 Chiayi Earthquake 4 Chico, California 95–6 Chile 5, 338 chimneys 253–4 China 232–4, 236, 237 Chinatown 103, 190–95, 194, 264, 265, 267–8, 299–301, 312 Chinese 181, 191–5, 225, 311–19, 341 Chinese Exclusion Act 313, 315 chromium 48 Chronicle 326 City Gardens 189 City Hall 198, 252, 276, 277, 326, 327 destruction 218, 250–51, 255–6 ‘City that Will Not Repent, The’ (Vanchel) 174 Civil War 102 Claus Spreckels Building 198, 371 Clemens, Samuel 197 Clemens Well–Fenner–San Francisquito Fault 168 Clinopodium douglasii see yerba buena coal 13–14, 15, 18–19 Cocos Plate 36 Colima 141 Collins, Paul 371–2 Colombia 2, 31 Colorado River 119–21, 170 Colton, Walter 91, 92, 97, 101 Columbia 59, 61 concrete 252–3 Congo 61 construction vulnerability 359–60 continents 45–6, 49–50, 52–5, 56, 57–62 Cook, Constable Jesse B. 216–17, 244 Copeland, Ada 116 coping strategies 265–6 Coquille, Oregon 229–30 Cordilleran Geology 122 corruption 196–7, 251, 327 Cowell, Harry 321 Crater Lake, Oregon 340 Crespi, Juan 169 cribs 186, 187 crimps 186, 187 Crocker, Charles 198 crush zone 136 Daisy Geyser 350, 351 Daly City 146, 150–52, 231 Dana, Richard Henry 91, 98, 177 Darwin, Charles xxiv Darwin, Erasmus 337 Davidson, George xxix–xxx, xxxii, 241 Davis, Richard Harding 210 De Forest, Lee 28 De Young, Charles 326 De Young, Michael 326 ‘Death of King George V’ (Betjeman) 29 Delano, Alonzo 99 Delmonico’s 210 Denali Fault 340, 346, 351 Denny, James 224–5 Diablo, Mount xxviii, 7–17, 8, 19–20, 21–2 Diablo Beacon 21 Dickinson, Bill 126 Dictator, The (Davis) 210 Diego Garcia 83 Dixon, Maynard 320–21 Domengine Formation 13–14, 18–19 Douglas, David 174 Drake, Sir Francis 90 dynamite 281–2 Eagle 191 earthquakes Alaska 337–40, 346, 350–51 Bam 6, 65 California 169 Charleston 62, 64–71, 69 Chiayi 4 Chile 5 Ecuador–Colombia 1–2 Elastic Rebound 153–5 epicentre 144–5, 147–9 intensity 355–63 intraplate events 84–7 Lisbon 32, 33, 33 magnitude 363–9 Meers 83–4 New Madrid 71, 72, 75–7, 77, 79–81 Parkfield 159–60 prediction 84, 332–3 St Lucia 3, 359 San Francisco 173, 204–6, 328–30 San Miguel 130–32 seismographs 232–8, 233 Shemakha 3–4 Sumatran Tsunami 6, 61, 66, 213, 273–4, 333, 338 Tejon 164–7 United States 63–4, 70–71 see also 1906 earthquake EarthScope 158 East Gondwana 59 East Pacific Rise 138, 139 Ecuador 2 Ehlert Triples 235 Einstein, Albert 26–7, 29, 240 El Cabo de San Francisco 2 Elastic Rebound 153–5 EMS-98 (European Macroseismic) Intensity Scale 359–63 epicentre 144–5, 147–52, 244 Euphemia 183 Eurasian Plate 36, 41, 43 Eureka, California 232 Everybody’s Magazine 213 Ewing, James 235 Exclusion Act 313, 315 Fairbanks, Charles 275 fallen building clause 297–8 Farallon Islands 225 Farallon Plate 36, 128, 138–9, 140, 141, 171 Farquhar, Francis 23 faults 139–40 see also San Andreas Fault Filben, Thomas 300 Fireman’s Fund Insurance Company 298–9 fires 184–5, 195, 199–201, 212, 297 1906 earthquake 245, 248–9, 256, 261–71, 270, 276 Fisk, Missouri 79 Flamsteed, John 55 Flaugergues, Honoré 75 Flood, James 198 Forel, François 357, 369 Formosa 4 Fort Sill 81–2, 83 Fort Tejon 164–7 Fremstad, Olive 208 Freud, Sigmund 27 Frost, Robert 204 Funston, Frederick 274–7, 275, 280, 281 gabbro 124 Gadsden Purchase 90 Gaia Theory xviii, 6, 337 Galitzin-Wilip instrument 237 Genthe, Arnold 188, 194, 267–70, 270, 321 Geologic and Geographic Survey of the Fortieth Parallel 113–16 Geologic and Geographic Survey of the Rocky Mountain Area 118–22 Geologic and Geographic Survey of the Territories 112–13 Geologic and Geographic Survey West of the 100th Meridian 116–17 geology xvii, xviii, xx–xxv ophiolites 123–9, 125 surveys 110–23 geysers 113, 350–51, 352 Gieseke, Christy 130–31, 133 Gilbert, Grove Karl xxviii, xxxii–xxxiv, xxxvi, 109, 117, 118, 145, 146, 147, 218 Glenallen, Alaska 345–6 glossolalia 306 Goerlitz, Ernest 221 gold 14, 48, 82, 111 Gold Rush 13, 96–102, 98, 179–83, 190–91 Golden Gate Park 190 Goldstein and Co. 267 Gondwanaland 49, 50, 59, 60, 62 Good Friday Earthquake 337–8, 339 Goodnow, New York 85 Gorda Plate 36, 140 Gracie S. 224 Grady, Constable Michael 217 Grand Banks Earthquake, 1929 85, 86 Grand Canyon 119–21, 122 Grant, Ulysses S. 113 Great Comet 75 Great Western Surveys 112–23 Greely, Major-General Adolphus Washington 274, 275, 276, 279 green rocks 127 Greenland 44–9, 50, 52, 55, 57, 59, 61 Gregori–Hosgri Fault 140 Grenada 3 Gunn, Lewis 101 Haines Junction, Yukon 344 Hall of Justice 276, 277, 281 Hamburg-Bremen Company 299 Hansen, Gladys 291–2 Harbor View Camp 283 Harding, Warren G. 207 Harlocker, Judge 229–30 Harte, Bret 12, 14, 197, 319 Hay, John 116 Hayden, Ferdinand Vandeveer 112–13 Hayes Valley Fire (Ham and Eggs Fire) 263 Hayward Fault 173, 205, 332 Hearst, William Randolph 209 Heath, Cuthbert Eden 295–7, 296 Hecker, Dr 235 Heimaey 42 Hekla 42 Herbert, Victor 211 Hertz, Alfred 222 Hewitt, Fred xxviii, xxxiv–xxxv, xxxvi Holy Bible 304, 306, 309, 310 hoodlums 187, 195 Hopkins, Mark 198, 200 Hopper, James Marie 213 horizontal cut 298 Hotaling, A.

Devil's Teeth: A True Story of Obsession and Survival Among America's Great White Sharks by Susan Casey


Asilomar, Maui Hawaii, upwardly mobile, young professional, zero-sum game

No schooner; no change in the weather; tobacco giving out, and not a grain of good humour to be had in the market. —CHARLES WARREN STODDARD, WITH THE EGG PICKERS OF THE FARALLONES, 1881 OCTOBER 10–11, 2003 The ocean is filled with unfinished stories: endings with unknown beginnings, blind guesses where there are usually facts. On a blustery and frigid December day in 1981, the nineteenth to be exact, a yellow surfboard washed ashore at Asilomar Beach, near Monterey. Two men, who happened by on their way to do some surfing of their own, stumbled across it. The board sent a ghastly message: A massive, ragged half circle had been ripped from its center. And its provenance was all too well known: It had belonged to a twenty-four-year-old surfer named Lewis Boren, who had last been seen taking advantage of a fifteen-foot storm swell, surfing by himself just north of Pebble Beach.

Now, more people can be accommodated on each trip, and the divers have the benefit of Mick’s experience with the island waters. (There’s one downside to the larger boat, however: The sharks aren’t as likely to approach it.) Groth himself has been spending much of his time in Guadalupe, where the water is a crystal-clear seventy degrees, and clients sign up for three-thousand-dollar weeklong trips in the sunshine. Everyone continues to surf. Yesterday, in fact, Kevin had ridden waves at Asilomar, near the site of Lewis Boren’s attack, and had a fantastic session despite a near closeout, with surf breaking close to the beach. Sidelined for most of the fall after slipping in his boat and bruising a rib while trying to tag a shark, Scot says he intends to make up for lost time when the season winds down. Peter arranges his days according to surf conditions in Bolinas and a few local places that he refuses to divulge, for fear that others will discover them.

pages: 677 words: 206,548

Future Crimes: Everything Is Connected, Everyone Is Vulnerable and What We Can Do About It by Marc Goodman


23andMe, 3D printing, active measures, additive manufacturing, Affordable Care Act / Obamacare, Airbnb, airport security, Albert Einstein, algorithmic trading, artificial general intelligence, Asilomar, Asilomar Conference on Recombinant DNA, augmented reality, autonomous vehicles, Baxter: Rethink Robotics, Bill Joy: nanobots, bitcoin, Black Swan, blockchain, borderless world, Brian Krebs, business process, butterfly effect, call centre, Chelsea Manning, cloud computing, cognitive dissonance, computer vision, connected car, corporate governance, crowdsourcing, cryptocurrency, data acquisition, data is the new oil, Dean Kamen, disintermediation, don't be evil, double helix, Downton Abbey, drone strike, Edward Snowden, Elon Musk, Erik Brynjolfsson, Filter Bubble, Firefox, Flash crash, future of work, game design, Google Chrome, Google Earth, Google Glasses, Gordon Gekko, high net worth, High speed trading, hive mind, Howard Rheingold, hypertext link, illegal immigration, impulse control, industrial robot, Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), Internet of things, Jaron Lanier, Jeff Bezos, job automation, John Harrison: Longitude, John Markoff, Jony Ive, Julian Assange, Kevin Kelly, Khan Academy, Kickstarter, knowledge worker, Kuwabatake Sanjuro: assassination market, Law of Accelerating Returns, Lean Startup, license plate recognition, lifelogging, litecoin, M-Pesa, Mark Zuckerberg, Marshall McLuhan, Menlo Park, Metcalfe’s law, mobile money, more computing power than Apollo, move fast and break things, move fast and break things, Nate Silver, national security letter, natural language processing, obamacare, Occupy movement, Oculus Rift, off grid, offshore financial centre, optical character recognition, Parag Khanna, pattern recognition, peer-to-peer, personalized medicine, Peter H. Diamandis: Planetary Resources, Peter Thiel, pre–internet, RAND corporation, ransomware, Ray Kurzweil, refrigerator car, RFID, ride hailing / ride sharing, Rodney Brooks, Satoshi Nakamoto, Second Machine Age, security theater, self-driving car, shareholder value, Silicon Valley, Silicon Valley startup, Skype, smart cities, smart grid, smart meter, Snapchat, social graph, software as a service, speech recognition, stealth mode startup, Stephen Hawking, Steve Jobs, Steve Wozniak, strong AI, Stuxnet, supply-chain management, technological singularity, telepresence, telepresence robot, Tesla Model S, The Future of Employment, The Wisdom of Crowds, Tim Cook: Apple, trade route, uranium enrichment, Wall-E, Watson beat the top human players on Jeopardy!, Wave and Pay, We are Anonymous. We are Legion, web application, Westphalian system, WikiLeaks, Y Combinator, zero day

There are good examples in history where we as a society have brought together expertise in anticipation of catastrophic risk before it occurred. One such case was the 1975 Asilomar Conference on Recombinant DNA, which was held at Asilomar State Beach in Monterey, California. The event gathered 140 biologists, lawyers, ethicists, and physicians to discuss the potential biohazards of emerging DNA technologies and drew up voluntary safety guidelines. As a result of the event, scientists agreed to stop experiments involving mixing the DNA from different organisms—research at the time that held the potential to have radical, poorly understood, and potentially disastrous consequences. The lessons and successes of Asilomar are well worth repeating. Though we are racing full speed ahead with synthetic biology, artificial intelligence, swarming robotics, and nanotechnology, we are dedicating precious few resources to understanding the concomitant risks of technologies that could replicate beyond our control.

pages: 736 words: 147,021

Safe Food: The Politics of Food Safety by Marion Nestle


Asilomar, biofilm, butterfly effect, clean water, double helix, Fellow of the Royal Society, illegal immigration, out of africa, Ralph Nader, Ronald Reagan, software patent, Upton Sinclair

In looking at these issues, we will see that despite protestations of industry and government to the contrary, it is impossible to separate science from politics in matters related to the safety of these foods. HEALTH CONCERNS When scientists first discovered how to move genes from one organism to another, they wondered whether such manipulations could be harmful to health or to the environment. In 1975, researchers met in Asilomar, California, to review the potential hazards of genetic manipulations. To prevent unanticipated problems that might emerge from the new recombinant DNA techniques, they proposed stringent research guidelines. The National Institutes of Health (NIH) soon required recipients of its research grants to follow such guidelines. In an extreme example of caution, residents of Cambridge, Massachusetts, debated whether such experiments should be allowed within the city limits.

See USDA Agrobacteria, 301, 331n35 Alcohol, 35, 56 Alexander, Stuart, 111 Allergic reactions, 2, 3, 4–5, 9–11, 13, 14, 16–17, 19–20, 25, 142, 172–76, 192, 208, 241, 243 Alliance for Bio-Integrity, 244 Alliance for Food Security, 269 Alto Dairy, 89 American Cancer Society, 29 American Cheese Society, 128, 323n38 American Corn Growers Association, 224, 245 American Council on Science and Health (ACSH), 24, 123 American Dietetic Association, 120, 165 American Federation of Government Employees, 108 American Meat Institute, 71, 76, 77, 81, 82, 83, 91, 100, 124, 134, 254, 295 American Medical Association, 206 American Public Health Association (APHA), 66–67, 76, 80–81, 106, 271–72 American Seed Trade Association, 4 American Veterinary Medical Association, 295 Amino acids, 9, 147, 174, 183–84, 185, 196, 198, 300, 301, 331n35, 343n5 See also Tryptophan Anemia, 160 Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS), 56, 58 Animal feed, 3, 4, 5, 6, 11, 43, 47, 56, 113, 146, 147, 151, 174, 175, 251–55, 288 Animal rights, 200, 229 Animals as carriers of pathogens, 29, 34, 37, 42, 43, 44–48, 52, 62, 250–57, 342n4 cattle, 25, 28, 40, 41, 42, 44–45 (See also Cattle, infected) poultry, 34, 37, 46, 54, 57–59, 95, 115, 134 Anthrax, 25, 33, 126, 248, 249, 250, 257–60, 265, 301, 344n23 Antibiotics, 176–77 farm animals treated with, 43, 46–48, 113, 176, 177, 179, 199, 259, 295 and protection against anthrax, 258–60 resistance to and genetically modified products, 142, 176–79, 192, 221, 229, 238, 243 microbial, 19, 41, 43, 45–47, 118, 127–28, 176, 199, 259, 265, 279, 294–95, 301 Antitrust laws, 232, 244 APHA v. Butz, 66–67, 76, 80–81, 106 Archer Daniels Midland, 8 Argentina, 150, 237, 238, 239, 240 Armour company, 90 Army, U.S., 122 Arsenic, 136 Arthritis, 40 Artisanal cheese, 128 Asilomar conference on biotechnology, 171 AstraZeneca, 159–60 Australia, 109, 238, 239 Austria, 238, 278 Aventis CropScience, 2–8, 11–14, 16, 139, 234, 260 Azteca Milling, 6, 8 Bacillus thuringiensis (Bt), 3, 6, 151, 180–81, 183, 196, 207, 216–19, 220, 301 Bacteria genetically modified, 139 mutations in, 184 Bacteria, foodborne, 27, 28, 35, 36, 37, 40–42, 57–59 antibiotic-resistant, 19, 41, 45–47, 118, 127–28, 176–77, 199 and safe handling labels, 66–67, 76–77, 82, 83, 90 spread by processing practices, 49, 50, 117–20 spread by production practices, 43, 44–45 and warning labels, 66–67, 98–99 See also Microbes, foodborne; names of bacterial species Bayer, 5, 259, 260 Bayer CropScience, 260 Beachy, Roger, 151, 326n13 Beef ground, 29, 40, 45, 77, 78, 81–84, 97, 101, 102, 104, 125, 283, 284, 286, 288–90, 294–95 imported, 114 irradiated, 122–26, 136 nonintact, 103 rare, 29, 35 See also Hamburger Beef America, 101 Beef industry accountability of, 83, 124, 129 and cattle diseases, 44–45, 135, 187, 249, 250–57, 289 government alliance with, 62, 63, 65, 70–71, 74, 84, 253, 255 government influenced by, 31, 46, 76, 77, 79–80, 91–92, 94 through lobbying, 62, 64, 65, 71, 79, 80, 91, 118 government inspection of, 50–54, 59, 65–66, 70, 71–72, 73, 79, 80–84, 86, 87, 100, 101, 107–11, 134, 136, 257 government regulation of, 62, 63, 65–67, 74–76, 80–84, 283 and fragmentation of regulatory authority, 55, 56, 57, 58, 59, 70 by HACCP, 63, 67–71, 68, 69, 75, 75, 76, 81, 84–85, 86–92, 94–99, 104–10, 112 largest producer in, 79, 101 and recalls of food products, 53, 87, 100–102, 121, 123, 288–90, 294–95 and resistance to government regulation, 28, 63, 65, 70, 71, 72, 76–77, 82–84, 86, 92, 94, 97, 103–7, 110–12, 120, 295 responsibility denied by, 63, 73, 75–76, 102, 103, 110, 112, 124, 136 and safe handling labels, 66–67, 76–78, 78 and science-based approach, 63 See also Meat processing Beef Packers, Inc., 294 Beets, 278 Belgium, 3, 4, 7, 47 Ben & Jerry’s ice cream, 198, 200, 203–4, 204 Berkeley.

pages: 235 words: 65,885

Peak Everything: Waking Up to the Century of Declines by Richard Heinberg, James Howard (frw) Kunstler


anti-communist, Asilomar, back-to-the-land, clean water, Community Supported Agriculture, deindustrialization, delayed gratification, demographic transition, ending welfare as we know it, energy transition, Fractional reserve banking, greed is good, Haber-Bosch Process, happiness index / gross national happiness, income inequality, Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), land reform, means of production, oil shale / tar sands, peak oil, Plutocrats, plutocrats, post-oil, reserve currency, ride hailing / ride sharing, Ronald Reagan, the built environment, the scientific method, Thomas Malthus, too big to fail, urban planning

To this day I do not know whether my article was rejected, whether my messages were intercepted by Federal agents, or whether the magazine’s editors’ ambivalence about technology rendered them unable to manage their communications responsibly. The essay was later published in the anthology Living a Life of Value, edited by Jason A. Merchey.16 “Fifty Million Farmers” is the edited text of a speech delivered in November, 2006 to the E. F. Schumacher Society (which has published the full version).17 Over the past few months I have offered essentially the same message to the Ecological Farming Association in Asilomar, California, the National Farmers Union of Canada in Saskatoon, and the Soil Association in Cardiff, Wales. Each time I discussed the likely impacts of Peak Oil and gas for modern agriculture, and emphasized the need for dramatic, rapid reform in our global food system. “Five Axioms of Sustainability” came from many years of frustration over the widespread, careless use of the terms sustainable and sustainability.

The Singularity Is Near: When Humans Transcend Biology by Ray Kurzweil


additive manufacturing, AI winter, Alan Turing: On Computable Numbers, with an Application to the Entscheidungsproblem, Albert Einstein, anthropic principle, Any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic, artificial general intelligence, Asilomar, augmented reality, autonomous vehicles, Benoit Mandelbrot, Bill Joy: nanobots, bioinformatics, brain emulation, Brewster Kahle, Brownian motion, business intelligence,, call centre, carbon-based life, cellular automata, Claude Shannon: information theory, complexity theory, conceptual framework, Conway's Game of Life, cosmological constant, cosmological principle, cuban missile crisis, data acquisition, Dava Sobel, David Brooks, Dean Kamen, disintermediation, double helix, Douglas Hofstadter,, epigenetics, factory automation, friendly AI, George Gilder, Gödel, Escher, Bach, informal economy, information retrieval, invention of the telephone, invention of the telescope, invention of writing, Isaac Newton, iterative process, Jaron Lanier, Jeff Bezos, job automation, job satisfaction, John von Neumann, Kevin Kelly, Law of Accelerating Returns, life extension, lifelogging, linked data, Loebner Prize, Louis Pasteur, mandelbrot fractal, Mikhail Gorbachev, mouse model, Murray Gell-Mann, mutually assured destruction, natural language processing, Network effects, new economy, Norbert Wiener, oil shale / tar sands, optical character recognition, pattern recognition, phenotype, premature optimization, randomized controlled trial, Ray Kurzweil, remote working, reversible computing, Richard Feynman, Richard Feynman, Robert Metcalfe, Rodney Brooks, Search for Extraterrestrial Intelligence, selection bias, semantic web, Silicon Valley, Singularitarianism, speech recognition, statistical model, stem cell, Stephen Hawking, Stewart Brand, strong AI, superintelligent machines, technological singularity, Ted Kaczynski, telepresence, The Coming Technological Singularity, Thomas Bayes, transaction costs, Turing machine, Turing test, Vernor Vinge, Y2K, Yogi Berra

Other viruses, such as smallpox, have both negative characteristics—they are easily contagious and deadly—but have been around long enough that there has been time for society to create a technological protection in the form of a vaccine. Gene engineering, however, has the potential to bypass these evolutionary protections by suddenly introducing new pathogens for which we have no protection, natural or technological. The prospect of adding genes for deadly toxins to easily transmitted, common viruses such as the common cold and flu introduced another possible existential-risk scenario. It was this prospect that led to the Asilomar conference to consider how to deal with such a threat and the subsequent drafting of a set of safety and ethics guidelines. Although these guidelines have worked thus far, the underlying technologies for genetic manipulation are growing rapidly in sophistication. In 2003 the world struggled, successfully, with the SARS virus. The emergence of SARS resulted from a combination of an ancient practice (the virus is suspected of having jumped from exotic animals, possibly civet cats, to humans living in close proximity) and a modern practice (the infection spread rapidly across the world by air travel).

As I mentioned above, the Foresight Institute, as one example, has devised a set of ethical standards and strategies for assuring the development of safe nanotechnology, based on guidelines for biotechnology.43 When gene-splicing began in 1975 two biologists, Maxine Singer and Paul Berg, suggested a moratorium on the technology until safety concerns could be addressed. It seemed apparent that there was substantial risk if genes for poisons were introduced into pathogens, such as the common cold, that spread easily. After a ten-month moratorium guidelines were agreed to at the Asilomar conference, which included provisions for physical and biological containment, bans on particular types of experiments, and other stipulations. These biotechnology guidelines have been strictly followed, and there have not been reported accidents in the thirty-year history of the field. More recently, the organization representing the world's organ transplantation surgeons has adopted a moratorium on the transplantation of vascularized animal organs into humans.

Jim Henson: The Biography by Brian Jay Jones


Asilomar, clean water, corporate raider, financial independence, haute couture, Menlo Park, rolodex, Saturday Night Live

For now, she would remain an active performer for as long as she could—and would always stay involved with the company even as she devoted herself nearly full-time to the children. But with the Muppets showing no signs of waning in popularity—and Jim increasingly anxious to expand into other media—Jim was going to need help sooner rather than later. That summer, Jim, one-year-old Lisa, and a very pregnant Jane made the trip to the Puppeteers of America convention in Asilomar, California, driving out this time in a much more comfortable but significantly less flashy station wagon. While Jim didn’t necessarily regard this as a recruiting trip, he was always interested in watching others perform and making contacts. His trip to the Detroit convention had sparked a professional friendship with Burr Tillstrom and led him to Bernie Brillstein. The journey to California, however, would mark the beginning of an even more extraordinary relationship.

At age fourteen, then, he had joined Lettie Schubert’s traveling Vagabond Puppets team at the Oakland Recreation Department, then performed regularly—and without pay—at Fairyland Amusement Park, where he struck up a friendship with a young man named Jerry Juhl, five years his senior, and an equally talented performer who had lately become a regular in the Oznowicz home “salon.” Oz had come to the Asilomar convention mainly to perform with Juhl and another Vagabond puppeteer in a show Juhl had written called The Witch Who Stole Thursday; he also wanted to participate in a talent contest, which, predictably, he won. While his parents had met Jim in Detroit a year earlier, Oz knew nothing about him, though he was slightly familiar with the Muppets, thanks to the Wilkins and Wontkins commercials Jim had produced for the regional carbonated drink CalSo.

pages: 417 words: 109,367

The End of Doom: Environmental Renewal in the Twenty-First Century by Ronald Bailey


3D printing, additive manufacturing, agricultural Revolution, Albert Einstein, Asilomar, autonomous vehicles, Cass Sunstein, Climatic Research Unit, Commodity Super-Cycle, conceptual framework, corporate governance, creative destruction, credit crunch, David Attenborough, decarbonisation, dematerialisation, demographic transition, diversified portfolio, double helix, energy security, failed state, financial independence, Gary Taubes, hydraulic fracturing, income inequality, Induced demand, Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), invisible hand, knowledge economy, meta analysis, meta-analysis, Naomi Klein, oil shale / tar sands, oil shock, pattern recognition, peak oil, phenotype, planetary scale, price stability, profit motive, purchasing power parity, race to the bottom, RAND corporation, rent-seeking, Stewart Brand, Tesla Model S, trade liberalization, University of East Anglia, uranium enrichment, women in the workforce, yield curve

Is this the answer to Dr. Frankenstein’s dream?” There is no little irony that today Cambridge promotes itself as “one of the world’s major biotech centers.” Needless to say, more than forty years after gene splicing was invented, no plagues, much less epidemics of infectious cancer, have emerged from the world’s biotech labs. In the context of this furor, some 140 molecular biologists convened in 1975 at the Asilomar Conference Grounds in Pacific Grove, California, to draft guidelines for conducting gene-splicing experiments. They self-consciously thought that they were avoiding what they saw as the mistakes made a generation earlier by Manhattan Project nuclear physicists when they unleashed the power of the atom. The initially restrictive guidelines have been greatly relaxed, not least because it turns out that microorganisms are natural and promiscuous exchangers of genes.

pages: 332 words: 109,213

The Scientist as Rebel by Freeman Dyson

Albert Einstein, Asilomar, British Empire, Claude Shannon: information theory, dark matter, double helix, Edmond Halley, Ernest Rutherford, experimental subject, Fellow of the Royal Society, From Mathematics to the Technologies of Life and Death, Henri Poincaré, Isaac Newton, John von Neumann, kremlinology, Mikhail Gorbachev, Norbert Wiener, Paul Erdős, Richard Feynman, Richard Feynman, Ronald Reagan, Silicon Valley, Stephen Hawking, Thomas Kuhn: the structure of scientific revolutions, traveling salesman

Why did they not at least try to achieve a consensus of physicists against nuclear weapons before it was too late? Perhaps they would have acted, if Joseph Rotblat had been there to urge them on. Thirty-six years later, the sudden discovery of recombinant DNA technology presented a challenge to biologists, similar to the challenge which the discovery of fission had presented to physicists. The biologists promptly organized an international meeting at Asilomar, at which they hammered out an agreement to limit and regulate the uses of the dangerous new technology. It took only a few brave spirits, with Maxine Singer in the lead, to formulate a set of ethical guidelines which the international community of biologists accepted. What happened at George Washington University in 1939 was quite different. No brave spirits emerged from the community of physicists at the meeting.

pages: 659 words: 203,574

The Collected Stories of Vernor Vinge by Vernor Vinge


anthropic principle, Asilomar, back-to-the-land, dematerialisation, gravity well, invisible hand, Machinery of Freedom by David Friedman, source of truth, spice trade, technological singularity, unbiased observer, Vernor Vinge

What he really wanted to ask was why Bertie had pushed him into this, but he knew that any sort of direct question along those lines might provoke a Freeze Out. “Don’t worry, Juan. She’d do good work on any team. I’ve been watching her.” That last was news to Juan. Aloud he said, “I know she has a stupid brother over in senior high.” “Heh! William the Goofus? He is a dud, but he’s not really her brother, either. No, Miri Gu is smart and tough. Did you know she grew up at Asilomar?” “In a detention camp?” “Yup. Well, she was only a baby. But her parents knew just a bit too much.” That had happened to lots of Chinese-Americans during the war, the ones who knew the most about military technologies. But it was also ancient history. Bertie was being more shocking than informative. “Well, okay.” No point in pushing. At least, Bertie let me on his unlimited team. Almost home.

pages: 568 words: 174,089

The Power Elite by C. Wright Mills, Alan Wolfe

affirmative action, Albert Einstein, anti-communist, Asilomar, collective bargaining, creative destruction, cuban missile crisis, desegregation, full employment, Joseph Schumpeter, long peace, means of production, Monroe Doctrine, one-China policy, Plutocrats, plutocrats, profit motive, Ralph Waldo Emerson, Ronald Reagan, Simon Kuznets, Thorstein Veblen, Vilfredo Pareto

See Walter Lippmann, Public Opinion (New York: Macmillan, 1922), which is still the best account of this aspect of the media. Cf. especially pp. 1–25 and 59–121. 8. Cf. Gerth and Mills, Character and Social Structure (New York: Harcourt, Brace, 1953), pp. 84 ff. 9. J. Truslow Adams, The Epic of America (Boston: Little, Brown, 1931) p. 360. 10. Cf. Mills, ‘Work Milieu and Social Structure,’ a speech to ‘The Asilomar Conference’ of the Mental Health Society of Northern California, March 1954, reprinted in their bulletin, People At Work: A Symposium, pp. 20 ff. 11. A. E. Bestor, Educational Wastelands (Urbana, Ill.: University of Illinois, 1953), p. 7. Cf. also p. 80. 14. The Conservative Mood 1. Cf. Karl Mannheim, Essays on Sociology and Social Psychology (Edited and translated by Paul Kecskemeti) (New York: Oxford University Press, 1953), Chapter II: ‘Conservative Thought,’ pp. 74 ff. 2.

USA Travel Guide by Lonely, Planet

1960s counterculture, active transport: walking or cycling, Affordable Care Act / Obamacare, Albert Einstein, Asilomar, Bay Area Rapid Transit, Berlin Wall, Big bang: deregulation of the City of London, big-box store, bike sharing scheme, Bretton Woods, British Empire, Burning Man, California gold rush, call centre, car-free, carbon footprint, centre right, Chuck Templeton: OpenTable, cuban missile crisis, desegregation, Donald Trump, Donner party, East Village, edge city, El Camino Real, Fall of the Berlin Wall, feminist movement, Frank Gehry, glass ceiling, global village, Golden Gate Park, Guggenheim Bilbao, Haight Ashbury, haute couture, haute cuisine, Hernando de Soto, Howard Zinn, illegal immigration, immigration reform, information trail, interchangeable parts, intermodal, jitney, license plate recognition, Mars Rover, Mason jar, mass immigration, Maui Hawaii, McMansion, Menlo Park, Monroe Doctrine, new economy, New Urbanism, obamacare, off grid, Ralph Nader, Ralph Waldo Emerson, RFID, ride hailing / ride sharing, Ronald Reagan, Rosa Parks, Saturday Night Live, Silicon Valley, South of Market, San Francisco, stealth mode startup, stem cell, supervolcano, the built environment, The Chicago School, the High Line, the payments system, trade route, transcontinental railway, union organizing, Upton Sinclair, upwardly mobile, urban decay, urban planning, urban renewal, urban sprawl, walkable city, white flight, working poor, Works Progress Administration, young professional, Zipcar

InterContinental–Clement HOTEL $$$ ( 831-375-4500;; 750 Cannery Row; r $200-455; ) Like an upscale version of a millionaire’s seaside clapboard house, this sparkling resort presides over Cannery Row. For utmost luxury, book an ocean-view suite with a balcony and private fireplace, then breakfast in bayfront C Restaurant. Parking $18. Asilomar Conference Grounds LODGE $$ ( 831-372-8016;; 800 Asilomar Ave, Pacific Grove; r incl breakfast $115-175; ) Coastal state-park lodge has buildings designed by architect Julia Morgan, of Hearst Castle fame. Historic rooms are small and thin-walled, but charming nonetheless. The lodge’s fireside rec room has ping-pong and pool tables. Bicycle rentals available. Monterey Hotel HOTEL $$$ ( 831-375-3184;; 406 Alvarado St; r $70-310; ) Right downtown, this quaint 1904 edifice harbors small, somewhat noisy but freshly renovated rooms sporting reproduction Victorian furniture.