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Tagged with “long now” (47) activity chart

  1. Anne Neuberger: Inside the NSA - The Long Now

    The NSA reaches out

    Of her eight great-grandparents, seven were murdered at Auschwitz.

    “So my family’s history burned into me a fear of what occurs when the power of a state is turned against its people or other people.”

    Seeking freedom from threats like that brought her parents from Hungary to America.

    By 1976 they had saved up to take their first flight abroad.

    Their return flight from Tel Aviv was high-jacked by terrorists and landed at Entebbe Airport in Uganda.

    Non-Jewish passengers were released and the rest held hostage.

    The night before the terrorists were to begin shooting the hostages, a raid by Israeli commandos saved most of the passengers.

    Anne Neuberger was just a baby in 1976.

    “My life would have looked very different had a military operation not brought my parents home. It gives me a perspective on the threats of organized terror and the role of intelligence and counterterrorism.”

    When she later entered government service, she sought out intelligence, where she is now the principal advisor to the Director for managing NSA’s work with the private sector.

    The NSA, Neuberger said, has suffered a particularly “long and challenging year” dealing with the public loss of trust following the Snowden revelations.

    The agency is reviewing all of its activities to determine how to regain that trust.

    One change is more open engagement with the public.

    “This presentation is a starting point."

    “My family history,” she said, "instilled in me almost parallel value systems – fear of potential for overreach by government, and belief that sometimes only government, with its military and intelligence, can keep civilians safe. Those tensions shape the way I approach my work each day.

    I fully believe that the two seemingly contradictory factors can be held in balance.

    And with your help I think we can define a future where they are.”

    The National Security Agency, she pointed out, actively fosters the growth of valuable new communication and computing technology and at the same time “needs the ability to detect, hopefully deter, and if necessary disable lethal threats.”

    To maintain those abilities over decades and foster a new social contract with the public, Neuberger suggested contemplating 5 tensions, 3 scenarios, and 3 challenges.

    The tensions are…

    1) Cyber Interdependencies (our growing digital infrastructure is both essential and vulnerable); 2) Intelligence Legitimacy Paradox (to regain trust, the NSA needs publicly understood powers to protect and checks on that power); 3) Talent Leverage (“the current surveillance debates have cast NSA in a horrible light, which will further hamper our recruiting efforts”); 4) Personal Data Norms (the growing Internet-of-things—Target was attacked through its air-conditioning network—opens vast new opportunities for tracking individual behavior by the private as well as public sector); 5) Evolving Internet Governance (the so-far relatively free and unpoliticized Internet could devolve into competing national nets).

    Some thirty-year scenarios… 1) Intelligence Debilitated (with no new social contract of trust and thus the loss of new talent, the government cannot keep up with advancing technology and loses the ability to manage its hazards); 2) Withering Nation (privacy obsession hampers commercial activity and government oversight, and nations develop their own conflicting Internets); 3) Intelligent America (new social contract with agreed privacy norms and ongoing security assurance).

    Initiatives under way from NSA…

    1) Rebuild US Trust (move on from “quiet professionals” stance and actively engage the public); 2) Rebuild Foreign Trust (“extend privacy protections previously limited to US citizens to individuals overseas”); 3) Embrace Collective Oversight (reform bulk collection programs in response to the President’s Privacy and Civil Liberties Oversight Board).

    As technology keeps advancing rapidly, the US needs to stay at the forefront in terms of inventing the leading technical tools to provide public services and maintain public security, plus the policy tools to balance civil liberties with protection against ever-evolving threats.

    “My call to action for everyone in this audience is get our innovative minds focussed on the full set of problems.”

    A flood of QUESTION CARDS came to the stage, only a few of which we could deal with live.

    Anne Neuberger wanted to take all the questions with her to share with NSA colleagues, so Laura Welcher at Long Now typed them up.

    I figure that since the questioners wanted their questions aired on the stage to the live and video audience, they would like to have them aired here as well.

    And it would be in keeping with the NSA’s new openness to public discourse.

    Ms. Neuberger agreed…

    —Huffduffed by adactio

  2. Adrian Hon: A History of the Future in 100 Objects - The Long Now

    Thinking about the future is so hard and so important that any trick to get some traction is a boon.

    Adrian Hon’s trick is to particularize.

    What thing would manifest a whole future trend the way museum objects manifest important past trends?

    Building on the pattern set by the British Museum’s great book, A History of the World in 100 Objects, Hon imagines 100 future objects that would illuminate transformative events in technology, politics, sports, justice, war, science, entertainment, religion, and exploration over the course of this century.

    The javelin that won victory for the last baseline human to compete successfully in the Paralympic Games for prosthetically enhanced athletes.

    The “Contrapuntal Hack” of 02031 that massively and consequentially altered computerized records so subtly that the changes were undetected.

    The empathy drug and targeted virus treatment that set off the Christian Consummation Movement.

    Adrian Hon is author of the new book, A History of the Future in 100 Objects, and CEO and founder of Six to Start, creators of the hugely successful smartphone fitness game “Zombies, Run!”

    His background is in neuroscience at Oxford and Cambridge.

    —Huffduffed by adactio

  3. The Wow! Signal Podcast: Season 2 Episode 3 - Oblique Strategies

    The speculative science podcast that explores the past, present and future of sentient beings everywhere.

    The podcast is commercial free and free to download or subscribe to.

    Host Mike Mongo talks to futurist librarian Heath Rezabek about preserving humanity’s knowledge

    into the far future. Paul Carr talks to economist and former AI researcher Robin Hanson about a possible future in which humans exist, but aren’t very important. Will AI put us all out of a job, and what will that mean to us if so?

    —Huffduffed by adactio

  4. Mariana Mazzucato - The Entrepreneurial State: Debunking Private vs. Public Sector Myths

    Where do the boldest innovations, with the deepest consequences for society, come from?

    Many business leaders, entrepreneurs, and libertarians claim that the private sector leads the way always, and government at best follows by decades and at worst impedes the process with bureaucratic regulations.

    Mariana Mazzucato proves otherwise. Many of the most profound innovations—from the Internet and GPS to nanotech and biotech —had their origin in government programs developed specifically to explore innovations that might eventually attract private sector interest. Ignoring this entrepreneurial risk taking role of government has fuelled a very different story about governments role in the economy, and also fuelled the dysfunctional dynamic whereby risk is socialised—with tax payers absorbing the greatest risk—- but rewards are not. Mazzucato will argue that socialization of risk, privatization of rewards is not only bad for the future of innovation eco-systems but also a key driver of inequality. What to do about it?

    Mazzucato is a professor of the Economics of Innovation at Sussex University and author of The Entrepreneurial State: debunking private vs. public sector myths.

    —Huffduffed by adactio

  5. George Dyson, Freeman Dyson, Esther Dyson: The Difficulty of Looking Far Ahead - The Long Now

    Finessing the future

    Instead of one podium there were four chairs on the stage of Wednesday’s seminar. In three seats, three Dysons: Esther, George and Freeman. They were appearing together on stage for the first time. The fourth held Stewart Brand who led the three through an evening of queries. The questions came from Stewart himself, from the audience, and from one Dyson to another Dyson — a first for this format in a Long Now seminar.

    George introduced his dad with an exquisite slideshow of Freeman’s prime documents. He began with a scan of a first grade school paper Freeman wrote on “Astronimy.” Besides the forgivable misspellings, the essay was full of fantasy. Freeman did not just copy material from an encyclopedia. He imagined what should be and wrote it as fact. George then showed a later blue-book essay of Freeman’s fiction, but it was studded with numbers and calculations. Right there was the pattern for Freeman’s many other publications (first pages shown by George): speculations built upon calculations. We saw one paper inscribed by Freeman with the note: “From one crackpot to another!” His most famous speculation is for a solar system-sized enclosure around a sun now called a Dyson Sphere. George’s presentation on Freeman ended with a video clip of a Star Trek episode where the befuddle Captain Piccard ponders a mysterious hollow solar-sized ball blocking their way and gasps, “Could it be a dyson-sphere?!!”

    Freeman followed this with a few minutes of musing on the difficulty of long term predictions. When Von Neumann and others were working on the first computers, none of them could imagine they would be used in toys for 3-year olds. In a theme that he would return to the rest of the evening, Freeman compared that surprise with the coming surprises we’ll see in biotech. He said, “It is unfortunate that Von Neumann used the first computers to build nuclear weapons, because computers became associated with institutional destruction. The same thing is happening now with biotech. It is unfortunate that the first biotech is being used for institutional destruction of weeds, but soon biotech will become smaller scale, user-friendly, and employed by gardeners, naturalists, and kids to make their own creations. People’s feelings about biotech will also change.”

    “I misjudged a lot of things. Like nuclear power took much longer than I thought. We also thought we had a wonderful spaceship that was going to take us to Saturn (we were really going to go ourselves). The hardest thing to foresee is how long things take.” Freeman sang the praises of science fiction as hugely important for science. “It’s where the most radical ideas come from first.” He wishes he read more of it, a sentiment echoed by George and Esther.

    Esther chimed in with her interpretation of future study. Freeman, she said, tried to understand things now by speculating on their future, while George mined the past to try to understand the future. She, on the contrary, wasn’t interested in understanding the future. She chiefly wanted to affect it. “What good is it to have a conference about future technologies unless you can in some way make things happen?”

    What won’t change? That was a question from the audience. George told about spying inhabited islands off the coast of the northwest 30 years ago and expecting that technology would transform them into places full of humans. But they are still deserted; cities are ever more enticing. The early native tribes he studied would have 12 good friends and 30 close acquaintances. He says that if you check people’s cell phones they have on average 12 intimate friends always allowed to ring and 30 names to call out. We haven’t changed much.

    Freeman continued that thread saying he is a skeptic of the singularity notion. “My mother saw more change in her life than I have. She went from traveling in a pony cart to flying across the ocean in a jet. I don’t see things going faster. It is an illusion.”

    I asked, “What have you changed you mind about?” Esther said she changed her mind about anonymity. She used to think it was hugely important, but now she believes everything works out better when there is transparency, including in people. “We may become more tolerant because everything is visible.”

    Freeman admitted he was a skeptic on global warming. His problem was not change in the climate. “In the long view we ARE changing the climate.” He felt that climate was hugely complex, that we understand very little of it and many people are reducing this unknown complexity into one data point — the average temperature somewhere. Until we understand what kind of changes we are making in our “solutions” he says he believes the best action on global climate change right now is inaction.

    Of course this is only a sample of the wide-ranging conversation, which lasted 90 minutes. (Like all past talks, this one will be posted for download streaming on the Long Now site.) The agile wit and intelligence of the three Dysons was in full gear by the end of the seminar. This exchange near the end is paraphrased from my rough notes, which I believe captures the tone of the evening:

    Stewart: You are 81, Freeman, and pro biotech. What’s your take on bio-engineered longevity?

    Freeman: The worst thing that could happen would be if doctors cured death. There would be no room for young people in power. It would be the end of science! For me it is a black cloud on the horizon. But I think it is unavoidable. First we’ll extend life to 100 years, then to 200 years, 300 and so on…

    George: Just like copyright!

    Freeman: Really. The only solution is to move far far away, to have other worlds, in space or on planets where the young can dominate.

    Esther: Even better, send the old guys to Mars!

    It was great to have the three Dysons on earth, young and old.

    —Kevin Kelly

    —Huffduffed by adactio

  6. Brian Eno, Danny Hillis: The Long Now, now

    Make the next legal U-turn

    "Bitching Betty," they call the robotic voice of the car’s GPS guidance system.

    Eno and Hillis, on their road trips, always become so engrossed in conversation that they get lost—one time, driving to Monterey they wound up in Sacramento, 200 miles wrong.

    So they turn on GPS, and Betty joins the conversation with helpful advice about U-turns.

    Hillis observed, "The GPS is very good at giving you instructions to get someplace.

    But Brian and I have no idea where we’re going; we just want some time together.

    What usually happens for us after a couple days of frustratingly looking at the tiny GPS map is that we stop and buy a big paper map.

    And the moment we open a map of Nevada or Arizona, it feels like we’re in a much bigger world.

    The big maps are not that useful to navigate by, but there’s a sense of relief of seeing the bigger context and all the possibilities of where we might go.

    That’s exactly what The Long Now Foundation is for."

    Culture is a long conversation, Eno proposed.

    "When I talk about the practice of art I often use the word "conversation" because I think that you never see a piece of art on its own.

    You look at a painting in relation to the whole conversation of paintings.

    Some things are completely meaningless outside of that kind of context.

    if you think about Kazimir Malevich’s "White on White" painting, it’s hardly a picture actually, but it’s an important picture in the history of painting up to that point."

    Hillis replied, "My plan for painting is to have my bones removed and replaced with titanium, and then I grind up my bones to make white pigment."

    Eno: "That’s very old-fashioned."

    Hillis talked about the long-term stories we live by and how our expectations of the future shape the future, such as our hopes about space travel.

    Eno said that Mars is too difficult to live on, so what’s the point, and Hillis said, "That’s short-term thinking.

    There are three big game-changers going on: globalization, computers, and synthetic biology.

    (If I were a grad student now, I wouldn’t study computer science, I’d study synthetic biology.)

    I probably wouldn’t want to live on Mars in this body, but I could imagine adapting myself so I would want to live on Mars.

    To me it’s pretty inevitable that Earth is just our starting point."

    Eno remarked, "Sex, drugs, art, and religion—those are all activities in which you deliberately lose yourself.

    You stop being you and you let yourself become part of something else.

    You surrender control.

    I think surrendering is a great gift that human beings have.

    One of the experiences of art is relearning and rehearsing surrender properly.

    And one of the values perhaps of immersing yourself in very long periods of time is losing the sense of yourself as a single focus of the universe and seeing yourself as one small dot on this long line reaching out to the edges of time in each direction."

    Hillis described some elements of surrender designed in to the visitor experience of the 10,000-year Clock being built in the mountains of west Texas.

    "You’ll be away from your usual environment for days to travel to the remote site.

    Because of where it is on the mountain, you have to wake up before dawn, and there’s the physical exertion of climbing up the mountain.

    As you climb, there’s some points of confusion, where you’re not sure if you’re in the right place.

    "For example, in the total darkness inside the mountain, as you go up the spiral stairs surrounding the Clock mechanism for hundreds of feet, you think you know where you’re going because there’s light at the top of the shaft that you’re climbing toward, but as you get up there, the stairs keep becoming narrower, and you see they’re tapering off to smaller than you could possibly walk on.

    And you realize, ‘My plan isn’t going to work.’

    "You have to get away from the idea of direct progress and surrender that kind of control in order to find your way."

    —Stewart Brand

    —Huffduffed by adactio

  7. Daniel Kahneman: Thinking Fast and Slow - The Long Now

    On taking thought

    Before a packed house, Kahneman began with the distinction between what he calls mental “System 1”—-fast thinking, intuition—-and “System 2”—-slow thinking, careful consideration and calculation.

    System 1 operates on the illusory principle: What you see is all there is.

    System 2 studies the larger context.

    System 1 works fast (hence its value) but it is unaware of its own process.

    Conclusions come to you without any awareness of how they were arrived at.

    System 2 processes are self-aware, but they are lazy and would prefer to defer to the quick convenience of System 1.

    “Fast thinking,” he said, “is something that happens to you. Slow thinking is something you do.“

    System 2 is effortful

    The self-control it requires can be depleted by fatigue.

    Research has shown that when you are tired it is much harder to perform a task such as keeping seven digits in mind while solving a mental puzzle, and you are more impulsive (I’ll have some chocolate cake!).

    You are readier to default to System 1.

    “The world in System 1 is a lot simpler than the real world,” Kahneman said, because it craves coherence and builds simplistic stories.

    “If you don’t like Obama’s politics, you think he has big ears.”

    System 1 is blind to statistics and focuses on the particular rather than the general: “People are more afraid of dying in a terrorist incident than they are of dying.”

    When faced with a hard question such as, “Should I hire this person?” we convert it to an easier question: “Do I like this person?“

    (System 1 is good at predicting likeability.)

    The suggested answer pops up, we endorse it, and believe it.

    And we wind up with someone affable and wrong for the job.

    The needed trick is knowing when to distrust the easy first answer and bear down on serious research and thought.

    Organizations can manage that trick by requiring certain protocols and checklists that invoke System 2 analysis.

    Individual professionals (athletes, firefighters, pilots) often use training to make their System 1 intuition extremely expert in acting swiftly on a wider range of signals and options than amateurs can handle.

    It is a case of System 2 training System 1 to act in restricted circumstances with System 2 thoroughness at System 1 speed.

    It takes years to do well.

    Technology can help, the way a heads-up display makes it possible for pilots to notice what is most important for them to act on even in an emergency.

    The Web can help, Kahneman suggested in answer to a question from the audience, because it makes research so easy.

    “Looking things up exposes you to alternatives.

    This is a profound change.”

    —Stewart Brand

    —Huffduffed by adactio

  8. Vernor Vinge: What If the Singularity Does NOT Happen? - The Long Now

    Non-Singularity scenarios

    Vinge began by declaring that he still believes that a Singularity event in the next few decades is the most likely outcome— meaning that self-accelerating technologies will speed up to the point of so profound a transformation that the other side of it is unknowable.

    And this transformation will be driven by Artificial Intelligences (AIs) that, once they become self-educating and self-empowering, soar beyond human capacity with shocking suddenness.

    He added that he is not convinced by the fears of some that the AIs would exterminate humanity.

    He thinks they would be wise enough to keep us around as a fallback and backup— intelligences that can actually function without massive connectivity!

    (Later in the Q&A I asked him about the dangerous period when AI’s are smart enough to exterminate us but not yet wise enough to keep us around.

    How long would that period be?

    “About four hours,” said Vinge .)

    Since a Singularity makes long-term thinking impractical, Vinge was faced with the problem of how to say anything useful in a Seminar About Long-term Thinking, so he came up with a plausible set of scenarios that would be Singularity-free.

    He noted that they all require that we achieve no faster-than-light space travel.

    The overall non-Singularity condition he called “The Age of Failed Dreams.”

    The main driver is that software simply continues failing to keep pace with hardware improvements.

    One after another, enormous billion-dollar software projects simply do not run, as has already happened at the FBI, air traffic control, IRS, and many others.

    Some large automation projects fail catastrophically, with planes running into each.

    So hardware development eventually lags, and materials research lags, and no strong AI develops.

    To differentiate visually his three sub-scenarios, Vinge showed a graph ranging over the last 50,000 and next 50,000 years, with power (in maximum discrete sources) plotted against human populaton, on a log-log scale.

    Thus the curve begins at the lower left with human power of 0.3 kilowatts and under a hundred thousand population, curves up through steam engines with one megawatt of power and a billion population, up further to present plants generating 13 gigawatts.

    His first scenario was a bleak one called “A Return to MADness.”

    Driven by increasing environmental stress (that a Singularity might have cured), nations return to nuclear confrontation and policies of “Mutually Assured Destruction.”

    One “bad afternoon,” it all plays out, humanity blasts itself back to the Stone Age and then gradually dwindles to extinction.

    His next scenario was a best-case alternative named “The Golden Age,” where population stabilizes around 3 billion, and there is a peaceful ascent into “the long, good time.”

    Humanity catches on that the magic ingredient is education, and engages the full plasticity of the human psyche, empowered by hope, information, and communication.

    A widespread enlightened populism predominates, with the kind of tolerance and wise self-interest we see embodied already in Wikipedia.

    One policy imperative of this scenario would be a demand for research on “prolongevity”— “Young old people are good for the future of humanity.”

    Far from deadening progress, long-lived youthful old people would have a personal stake in the future reaching out for centuries, and would have personal perspective reaching back for centuries.

    The final scenario, which Vinge thought the most probable, he called “The Wheel of Time.”

    Catastrophes and recoveries of various amplitudes follow one another.

    Enduring heroes would be archaeologists and “software dumpster divers” who could recover lost tools and techniques.

    What should we do about the vulnerabilities in these non-Singularity scenarios?

    Vinge ’s main concern is that we are running only one, perilously narrow experiment on Earth.

    “The best hope for long-term survival is self-sufficient off-Earth settlements.”

    We need a real space program focussed on bringing down the cost of getting mass into space, instead of “the gold-plated sham” of present-day NASA.

    There is a common critique that there is no suitable place for humans elsewhere in the Solar System, and the stars are too far.

    “In the long now,” Vinge observed, “the stars are not too far.”

    (Note: Vinge’s detailed notes for this talk, and the graphs, may be found online at: /longnow/index.htm ) —Stewart Brand

    —Huffduffed by adactio

  9. 10,000 Year Clock Challenges Approach To Time : NPR

    In this final interview in our series of conversations about the future, Morning Edition co-host Steve Inskeep talks to Danny Hillis, a scientist and engineer and the inventor of a clock designed to last 10,000 years. The clock is meant to encourage people to think about the long-range future; the "long now" as Hillis calls it.

    —Huffduffed by adactio

  10. Peter Schwartz: The Art Of The Really Long View - The Long Now

    The art of the really long view

    For such a weighty subject there was a lot of guffawing going on in the Seminar Thursday night.

    The topic was "The Art of the Really Long View."

    Peter Schwartz chatted through his slides for tonight’s lecture, then the discussion waded in.

    Present were Danny Hillis, Leighton Read, Angie Thieriot, Ryan Phelan, David Rumsey, Eric Greenberg, Kevin Kelly, Anders Hove, Schwartz, and me.

    The event was very well audio and video taped, so we can link you to a fuller version later.

    For now, here’s a few of my notes.

    Much of discussion circled around Schwartz’s assertion that the most durable and influential of human artifacts are IDEAS.

    And a distinction worth drawing is between POWERFUL ideas and GOOD ideas. Not all powerful ideas turn out to be good, in the long run.

    For example, Schwartz proposed that monotheism has been an extremely powerful idea, dominating all kinds of human activity for millennia, but its overall goodness is increasingly questionable.

    Or take the powerful idea of Communism and the powerful idea of Capitalism.

    Looking at them when both were being touted as world solutions around, say, 1890, how would you distinguish which one was likelier to play out as good?

    Most of us, then, would probably have given the nod to Communism, particularly in light of robber-baron excesses in the US, etc.

    Danny Hillis proposed that bad powerful ideas are essentially collective hallucinations which mask reality, whereas good powerful ideas have built into them all kinds of reality checks.

    So Capitalism—-expressed as markets—-has prevailed so far because it is an emergent, distributed, out-of-control feedback system.

    Some notable quotes (among many):

    "The future is the ONLY thing we can do anything about."


    "Denial is a special case of optimism."

    —Leighton Read.

    Revisiting Long Now’s frequent chant that multiplying options is the great good to do for future generations, we examined the idea of "toxic choice"—-for instance the stupefying multiplicity of choices in a supermarket or department store that make you long for a good boutique.

    "But lots of boutiques," said Ryan Phelan.

    "I’ve got it! " said Read, "We’ll have two big toxic choice emporiums, connected by a bunch of boutiques!

    I think we’ve just invented the mall."

    Contemplating work to be done, Schwartz said:

    "We know it would be a good idea to have the rule of law extended to include ecological systems, but we haven’t figured out how to make that a powerful idea yet."

    —Stewart Brand

    —Huffduffed by adactio

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