How to Create a Mind

Both hardware and software are progressing exponentially.  If logical thinking were the essence of intelligence, then computers would already be superior to us.  The area where humans still have an edge is our emotional intelligence.  Emotion is not some sideshow or distraction to intelligence.  Being funny, being sexy, expressing love – those are the cutting edge of human intelligence.

   ~ “Can We Reverse-engineer the Brain”, interview with Ray Kurzweil, by Brian O’Keefe, Fortune Magazine, January 2013


Computing Form Factor

Computers have been getting smaller and closer to our faces since their very beginning.

First they were in big rooms, then they sat on desktops, then they sat on our laps, and now they’re in our palms. Next they’ll be on our faces.

(Eventually they’ll be in our brains.)

   ~ “The end of the smartphone era is coming”, Nicholas Carlson

The Essence of the Hacker Ethic

The technology has to be considered as larger than just the inanimate pieces of hardware.  The technology represents inanimate ways of thinking, objectified ways of thinking.

The myth we see in War Games and things like that is definitely the triumph of the individual over the collective dis-spirit.  The myth is attempting to say that the conventional wisdom and common understandings must always be open to question.  It’s not just an academic point.  It’s the very fundamental point of, you might say, the survival of humanity, in a sense that you can have people merely survive, but humanity is something that’s a little more precious, a little more fragile.  So that to be able to defy a culture which states that “Thou shalt not touch this,” and to defy that with one’s own creative powers is…the essence.

   ~ Hackers, Steven Levy


We are data

…data is just a dumb kind of programming.  We are data, pieces of a cosmic computer program that is the universe.

   ~ Hackers, heros of the computer revolution, Steven Levy


…but as the TMRC [MIT’s “Tech Model Railroad Club”] people used the word, there was serious respect implied.  While someone might call a clever connection between relays a “mere hack”, it would be understood that, to qualify as a hack, the feat must be imbued with innovation, style, and technical virtuosity.  Even though one might self-deprecatingly say he was “hacking away at The System” (much as an axe-wielder hacks at logs), the artistry with which one hacked was recognized to be considerable.

   ~ Hackers: Heroes of the Computer Revolution, Steven Levy

We Are Already the Borg

Science fiction’s cyborg was a literal chimera of meat and machine. The world’s cyborg was an extended human nervous system: film, radio, broadcast television, and a shift in perspective so profound that I believe we’ve yet to understand it.  Watching television, we each became aspects of an electronic brain.  We became augmented.  In the Eighties, when Virtual Reality was the buzzword, we were presented with images of…television!  If the content is sufficiently engrossing, however, you don’t need wraparound deep-immersion goggles to shut out the world.  You grow your own. You are there.  Watching the content you most want to see, you see nothing else.

The physical union of human and machine, long dreaded and long anticipated, has been an accomplished fact for decades, though we tend not to see it.  We tend not to see it because we are it, and because we still employ Newtonian paradigms that tell us that “physical” has only to do with what we can see, or touch.  Which of course is not the case.  The electrons streaming into a child’s eye from the screen of the wooden television are as physical as anything else.  As physical as the neurons subsequently moving along that child’s optic nerves.  As physical as the structures and chemicals those neurons will encounter in the human brain.  We are implicit, here, all of us, in a vast physical construct of artificially linked nervous systems.  Invisible.  We cannot touch it.  We are it.  We are already the Borg, but we seem to need myth to bring us to that knowledge.

 ~ William Gibson, Distrust That Particular Flavor


I was thinking about how much computation is represented by the ocean. I mean, it’s all these water molecules interacting with each other; that’s computation. It’s quite beautiful; I always found it very soothing and that’s really what computation is all about. To capture these transcendent moments of our consciousness.

~ Ray Kurzweil, Transcendent Man


I remember the people I’ve heard complain about the very texture of digital images, filmless film:  how it lacks richness, depth.  I’ve heard the same thing said about CDs.  Someone once told me that it was Mark Twain who turned in the first typewritten manuscript, and this was generally thought to be a Bad Thing:  Work composed on a machine would naturally lack richness, depth.

But surely, says a very American part of me, things (if not people) can get better, and what the early stages of one technology take away can be restored in a later stage, or by a newer technology piggybacking on the first.

   ~ William Gibson, Filmess Festival, Distrust That Particular Flavor

A New Era

I think the biggest innovations of the twenty-first century will be the intersection of biology and technology.  A new era is beginning, just like the digital one was when I was his [Reed] age.

Steve Jobs, Walter Isaacson


New Technologies

One thing’s for sure: it would be unwise to rely on tried-and-true approaches that don’t fit the times. Trend lines, market sizing, and competitive benchmarks that served companies well during periods of gradual market evolution do little good in industries where new technologies create seismic shifts, demand is uncertain, and rivals emerge from left field.

~ Harvard Business Review, Six Strategy Insights RIM’s New CEO Can Use by Stephen Wunker