Dyson Spheres

XIX: The Dyson Sun
By Anders Sandberg

Kepler struggled for many years with his model of the solar system. Since there were six planets orbiting the sun, and five platonic polyhedra, should their distances not be related? He attempted inscribing the polyhedra in spheres marking the circular orbits, placing the solar system in perfect mathematical harmony. It made wonderful hermetic sense – and it never worked.

When Kepler finally discarded his cherished model and looked at what the data had been truly saying, he discovered something else entirely. Three simple laws:

The orbits of the planets are ellipses, with the Sun at one focus of the ellipse.

The line joining the planet to the Sun sweeps out equal areas in equal times as the planet travels around the ellipse.

The ratio of the squares of the revolutionary periods for two planets is equal to the ratio of the cubes of their semimajor axes.

Suddenly the data made sense. The solar system did contain harmonies, but new harmonies never expected by any Greek philosophers. The way towards gravitation, central forces and space was open.

Will our descendants make Kepler’s dream true? Most of the solar system is a waste of matter, just lying there and dissipating the sacred rays of sunlight into the void. But what if that matter was rearranged to collect the light, to make it available for life, work, thought and growth?

Freeman Dyson‘s idea (based on a similar concept in Stapledon’s Starmaker) was to englobe the sun in a shell of orbiting habitats and solar collectors: a Dyson sphere. It would have 600 million times the surface area of the Earth. He suggested it as the logical result of current exponential growth in energy and resource use.

Robert Bradbury went further in suggesting the Matrioshka Brain: making use of all available matter to process information – thinking, feeling, being – in a nested structure where each kind of material available would be used for energy collection and dissipation, information processing and storage. Planets would be disassembled by self-replicating machines in a matter of years, the stellar atmosphere tamed and the entire system turned into something not unlike the Kepler vision of interlocking spheres and polyhedra. Optimization and forethought would shape this structure, by necessity introducing mathematical and physical harmonies.

We recoil at the idea of disassembling planets (especially the Earth). But maybe we should burn our cradle to light the library of mind.

Abandoning outmoded ways of thinking. Central forces. Energy. The birth of something new through creative destruction. Maximum productiveness. Perfect unity aesthetics and efficiency.

About Author

Anders Sandberg (born 11 July 1972) is a researcher, science debater, futurist, transhumanist and author. He holds a Ph.D. in computational neuroscience from Stockholm University, and is currently a James Martin Research Fellow at the Future of Humanity Institute at Oxford University.


KIC 8462852: The most mysterious star

Tabetha Boyajian: The most mysterious star in the universe

Extraordinary claims require extraordinary evidence, and it is my job, my responsibility, as an astronomer to remind people that alien hypotheses should always be a last resort.

Now, I want to tell you a story about that. It involves data from a NASA mission, ordinary people and one of the most extraordinary stars in our galaxy.

It began in 2009 with the launch of NASA’s Kepler mission. Kepler’s main scientific objective was to find planets outside of our solar system. It did this by staring at a single field in the sky, this one, with all the tiny boxes. And in this one field, it monitored the brightness of over 150,000 stars continuously for four years, taking a data point every 30 minutes. It was looking for what astronomers call a transit. This is when the planet’s orbit is aligned in our line of sight, just so that the planet crosses in front of a star. And when this happens, it blocks out a tiny bit of starlight, which you can see as a dip in this curve.

And so the team at NASA had developed very sophisticated computers to search for transits in all the Kepler data.

At the same time of the first data release, astronomers at Yale were wondering an interesting thing: What if computers missed something?

And so we launched the citizen science project called Planet Hunters to have people look at the same data. The human brain has an amazing ability for pattern recognition, sometimes even better than a computer. However, there was a lot of skepticism around this. My colleague, Debra Fischer, founder of the Planet Hunters project, said that people at the time were saying, “You’re crazy. There’s no way that a computer will miss a signal.” And so it was on, the classic human versus machine gamble. And if we found one planet, we would be thrilled. When I joined the team four years ago, we had already found a couple. And today, with the help of over 300,000 science enthusiasts, we have found dozens, and we’ve also found one of the most mysterious stars in our galaxy.

So to understand this, let me show you what a normal transit in Kepler data looks like. On this graph on the left-hand side you have the amount of light, and on the bottom is time. The white line is light just from the star, what astronomers call a light curve. Now, when a planet transits a star, it blocks out a little bit of this light, and the depth of this transit reflects the size of the object itself. And so, for example, let’s take Jupiter. Planets don’t get much bigger than Jupiter. Jupiter will make a one percent drop in a star’s brightness. Earth, on the other hand, is 11 times smaller than Jupiter, and the signal is barely visible in the data.

So back to our mystery. A few years ago, Planet Hunters were sifting through data looking for transits, and they spotted a mysterious signal coming from the star KIC 8462852. The observations in May of 2009 were the first they spotted, and they started talking about this in the discussion forums.

They said and object like Jupiter would make a drop like this in the star’s light, but they were also saying it was giant. You see, transits normally only last for a few hours, and this one lasted for almost a week.

They were also saying that it looks asymmetric, meaning that instead of the clean, U-shaped dip that we saw with Jupiter, it had this strange slope that you can see on the left side. This seemed to indicate that whatever was getting in the way and blocking the starlight was not circular like a planet. There are few more dips that happened, but for a couple of years, it was pretty quiet.

And then in March of 2011, we see this. The star’s light drops by a whole 15 percent, and this is huge compared to a planet, which would only make a one percent drop. We described this feature as both smooth and clean. It also is asymmetric, having a gradual dimming that lasts almost a week, and then it snaps right back up to normal in just a matter of days.

And again, after this, not much happens until February of 2013. Things start to get really crazy. There is a huge complex of dips in the light curve that appear, and they last for like a hundred days, all the way up into the Kepler mission’s end. These dips have variable shapes. Some are very sharp, and some are broad, and they also have variable durations. Some last just for a day or two, and some for more than a week. And there’s also up and down trends within some of these dips, almost like several independent events were superimposed on top of each other. And at this time, this star drops in its brightness over 20 percent. This means that whatever is blocking its light has an area of over 1,000 times the area of our planet Earth.

This is truly remarkable. And so the citizen scientists, when they saw this, they notified the science team that they found something weird enough that it might be worth following up. And so when the science team looked at it, we’re like, “Yeah, there’s probably just something wrong with the data.” But we looked really, really, really hard, and the data were good. And so what was happening had to be astrophysical, meaning that something in space was getting in the way and blocking starlight. And so at this point, we set out to learn everything we could about the star to see if we could find any clues to what was going on. And the citizen scientists who helped us in this discovery, they joined along for the ride watching science in action firsthand.

First, somebody said, you know, what if this star was very young and it still had the cloud of material it was born from surrounding it. And then somebody else said, well, what if the star had already formed planets, and two of these planets had collided, similar to the Earth-Moon forming event. Well, both of these theories could explain part of the data, but the difficulties were that the star showed no signs of being young, and there was no glow from any of the material that was heated up by the star’s light, and you would expect this if the star was young or if there was a collision and a lot of dust was produced. And so somebody else said, well, how about a huge swarm of comets that are passing by this star in a very elliptical orbit? Well, it ends up that this is actually consistent with our observations. But I agree, it does feel a little contrived. You see, it would take hundreds of comets to reproduce what we’re observing. And these are only the comets that happen to pass between us and the star. And so in reality, we’re talking thousands to tens of thousands of comets. But of all the bad ideas we had, this one was the best. And so we went ahead and published our findings.

Now, let me tell you, this was one of the hardest papers I ever wrote. Scientists are meant to publish results, and this situation was far from that. And so we decided to give it a catchy title, and we called it: “Where’s The Flux?” I will let you work out the acronym.


So this isn’t the end of the story. Around the same time I was writing this paper, I met with a colleague of mine, Jason Wright, and he was also writing a paper on Kepler data. And he was saying that with Kepler’s extreme precision, it could actually detect alien megastructures around stars, but it didn’t. And then I showed him this weird data that our citizen scientists had found, and he said to me, “Aw crap, Tabby. Now I have to rewrite my paper.”

So yes, the natural explanations were weak, and we were curious now. So we had to find a way to rule out aliens. So together, we convinced a colleague of ours who works on SETI, the Search for Extraterrestrial Intelligence, that this would be an extraordinary target to pursue. We wrote a proposal to observe the star with the world’s largest radio telescope at the Green Bank Observatory.

A couple months later, news of this proposal got leaked to the press and now there are thousands of articles, over 10,000 articles, on this star alone. And if you search Google Images, this is what you’ll find.

Now, you may be wondering, OK, Tabby, well, how do aliens actually explain this light curve? OK, well, imagine a civilization that’s much more advanced than our own. In this hypothetical circumstance, this civilization would have exhausted the energy supply of their home planet, so where could they get more energy? Well, they have a host star just like we have a sun, and so if they were able to capture more energy from this star, then that would solve their energy needs. So they would go and build huge structures. These giant megastructures, like ginormous solar panels, are called Dyson spheres.

This image above are lots of artists’ impressions of Dyson spheres. It’s really hard to provide perspective on the vastness of these things, but you can think of it this way. The Earth-Moon distance is a quarter of a million miles. The simplest element on one of these structures is 100 times that size. They’re enormous. And now imagine one of these structures in motion around a star. You can see how it would produce anomalies in the data such as uneven, unnatural looking dips.

But it remains that even alien megastructures cannot defy the laws of physics. You see, anything that uses a lot of energy is going to produce heat, and we don’t observe this. But it could be something as simple as they’re just reradiating it away in another direction, just not at Earth.

Another idea that’s one of my personal favorites is that we had just witnessed an interplanetary space battle and the catastrophic destruction of a planet. Now, I admit that this would produce a lot of dust that we don’t observe. But if we’re already invoking aliens in this explanation, then who is to say they didn’t efficiently clean up all this mess for recycling purposes?


You can see how this quickly captures your imagination.

Well, there you have it. We’re in a situation that could unfold to be a natural phenomenon we don’t understand or an alien technology we don’t understand. Personally, as a scientist, my money is on the natural explanation. But don’t get me wrong, I do think it would be awesome to find aliens. Either way, there is something new and really interesting to discover.

So what happens next? We need to continue to observe this star to learn more about what’s happening. But professional astronomers, like me, we have limited resources for this kind of thing, and Kepler is on to a different mission.

And I’m happy to say that once again, citizen scientists have come in and saved the day. You see, this time, amateur astronomers with their backyard telescopes stepped up immediately and started observing this star nightly at their own facilities, and I am so excited to see what they find.

What’s amazing to me is that this star would have never been found by computers because we just weren’t looking for something like this. And what’s more exciting is that there’s more data to come. There are new missions that are coming up that are observing millions more stars all over the sky.

And just think: What will it mean when we find another star like this? And what will it mean if we don’t find another star like this?

Thank you.


Freeman Dyson: Let’s look for life in the outer solar system

How will we be remembered in 200 years? I happen to live in a little town, Princeton, in New Jersey, which every year celebrates the great event in Princeton history: the Battle of Princeton, which was, in fact, a very important battle. It was the first battle that George Washington won, in fact, and was pretty much of a turning point in the war of independence. It happened 225 years ago. It was actually a terrible disaster for Princeton. The town was burned down; it was in the middle of winter, and it was a very, very severe winter. And about a quarter of all the people in Princeton died that winter from hunger and cold, but nobody remembers that. What they remember is, of course, the great triumph, that the Brits were beaten, and we won, and that the country was born. And so I agree very emphatically that the pain of childbirth is not remembered. It’s the child that’s remembered. And that’s what we’re going through at this time.

I wanted to just talk for one minute about the future of biotechnology, because I think I know very little about that — I’m not a biologist — so everything I know about it can be said in one minute. (Laughter) What I’m saying is that we should follow the model that has been so successful with the electronic industry, that what really turned computers into a great success, in the world as a whole, is toys. As soon as computers became toys, when kids could come home and play with them, then the industry really took off. And that has to happen with biotech.

There’s a huge — (Laughter) (Applause) — there’s a huge community of people in the world who are practical biologists, who are dog breeders, pigeon breeders, orchid breeders, rose breeders, people who handle biology with their hands, and who are dedicated to producing beautiful things, beautiful creatures, plants, animals, pets. These people will be empowered with biotech, and that will be an enormous positive step to acceptance of biotechnology. That will blow away a lot of the opposition. When people have this technology in their hands, you have a do-it-yourself biotech kit, grow your own — grow your dog, grow your own cat. (Laughter) (Applause) Just buy the software, you design it. I won’t say anymore, you can take it on from there. It’s going to happen, and I think it has to happen before the technology becomes natural, becomes part of the human condition, something that everybody’s familiar with and everybody accepts.

So, let’s leave that aside. I want to talk about something quite different, which is what I know about, and that is astronomy. And I’m interested in searching for life in the universe. And it’s open to us to introduce a new way of doing that, and that’s what I’ll talk about for 10 minutes, or whatever the time remains. The important fact is, that most of the real estate that’s accessible to us — I’m not talking about the stars, I’m talking about the solar system, the stuff that’s within reach for spacecraft and within reach of our earthbound telescopes — most of the real estate is very cold and very far from the Sun.

If you look at the solar system, as we know it today, it has a few planets close to the Sun. That’s where we live. It has a fairly substantial number of asteroids between the orbit of the Earth out through — to the orbit of Jupiter. The asteroids are a substantial amount of real estate, but not very large. And it’s not very promising for life, since most of it consists of rock and metal, mostly rock. It’s not only cold, but very dry. So the asteroids we don’t have much hope for.

There stand some interesting places a little further out: the moons of Jupiter and Saturn. Particularly, there’s a place called Europa, which is — Europa is one of the moons of Jupiter, where we see a very level ice surface, which looks as if it’s floating on top of an ocean. So, we believe that on Europa there is, in fact, a deep ocean. And that makes it extraordinarily interesting as a place to explore. Ocean — probably the most likely place for life to originate, just as it originated on the Earth. So we would love to explore Europa, to go down through the ice, find out who is swimming around in the ocean, whether there are fish or seaweed or sea monsters — whatever there may be that’s exciting — or cephalopods. But that’s hard to do. Unfortunately, the ice is thick. We don’t know just how thick it is, probably miles thick, so it’s very expensive and very difficult to go down there — send down your submarine or whatever it is — and explore. That’s something we don’t yet know how to do. There are plans to do it, but it’s hard.

Go out a bit further, you’ll find that beyond the orbit of Neptune, way out, far from the Sun, that’s where the real estate really begins. You’ll find millions or trillions or billions of objects which, in what we call the Kuiper Belt or the Oort Cloud — these are clouds of small objects which appear as comets when they fall close to the Sun. Mostly, they just live out there in the cold of the outer solar system, but they are biologically very interesting indeed, because they consist primarily of ice with other minerals, which are just the right ones for developing life. So if life could be established out there, it would have all the essentials — chemistry and sunlight — everything that’s needed.

So, what I’m proposing is that there is where we should be looking for life, rather than on Mars, although Mars is, of course, also a very promising and interesting place. But we can look outside, very cheaply and in a simple fashion. And that’s what I’m going to talk about. There is a — imagine that life originated on Europa, and it was sitting in the ocean for billions of years. It’s quite likely that it would move out of the ocean onto the surface, just as it did on the Earth. Staying in the ocean and evolving in the ocean for 2 billion years, finally came out onto the land. And then of course it had great — much greater freedom, and a much greater variety of creatures developed on the land than had ever been possible in the ocean. And the step from the ocean to the land was not easy, but it happened.

Now, if life had originated on Europa in the ocean, it could also have moved out onto the surface. There wouldn’t have been any air there — it’s a vacuum. It is out in the cold, but it still could have come. You can imagine that the plants growing up like kelp through cracks in the ice, growing on the surface. What would they need in order to grow on the surface? They’d need, first of all, to have a thick skin to protect themselves from losing water through the skin. So they would have to have something like a reptilian skin. But better — what is more important is that they would have to concentrate sunlight. The sunlight in Jupiter, on the satellites of Jupiter, is 25 times fainter than it is here, since Jupiter is five times as far from the Sun. So they would have to have — these creatures, which I call sunflowers, which I imagine living on the surface of Europa, would have to have either lenses or mirrors to concentrate sunlight, so they could keep themselves warm on the surface. Otherwise, they would be at a temperature of minus 150, which is certainly not favorable for developing life, at least of the kind we know. But if they just simply could grow, like leaves, little lenses and mirrors to concentrate sunlight, then they could keep warm on the surface. They could enjoy all the benefits of the sunlight and have roots going down into the ocean; life then could flourish much more. So, why not look? Of course, it’s not very likely that there’s life on the surface of Europa. None of these things is likely, but my, my philosophy is, look for what’s detectable, not for what’s probable.

There’s a long history in astronomy of unlikely things turning out to be there. And I mean, the finest example of that was radio astronomy as a whole. This was — originally, when radio astronomy began, Mr. Jansky, at the Bell labs, detected radio waves coming from the sky. And the regular astronomers were scornful about this. They said, “It’s all right, you can detect radio waves from the Sun, but the Sun is the only object in the universe that’s close enough and bright enough actually to be detectable. You can easily calculate that radio waves from the Sun are fairly faint, and everything else in the universe is millions of times further away, so it certainly will not be detectable. So there’s no point in looking.” And that, of course, that set back the progress of radio astronomy by about 20 years. Since there was nothing there, you might as well not look. Well, of course, as soon as anybody did look, which was after about 20 years, when radio astronomy really took off. Because it turned out the universe is absolutely full of all kinds of wonderful things radiating in the radio spectrum, much brighter than the Sun. So, the same thing could be true for this kind of life, which I’m talking about, on cold objects: that it could in fact be very abundant all over the universe, and it’s not been detected just because we haven’t taken the trouble to look.

So, the last thing I want to talk about is how to detect it. There is something called pit lamping. That’s the phrase which I learned from my son George, who is there in the audience. You take — that’s a Canadian expression. If you happen to want to hunt animals at night, you take a miner’s lamp, which is a pit lamp. You strap it onto your forehead, so you can see the reflection in the eyes of the animal. So, if you go out at night, you shine a flashlight, the animals are bright. You see the red glow in their eyes, which is the reflection of the flashlight. And then, if you’re one of these unsporting characters, you shoot the animals and take them home. And of course, that spoils the game for the other hunters who hunt in the daytime, so in Canada that’s illegal. In New Zealand, it’s legal, because the New Zealand farmers use this as a way of getting rid of rabbits, because the rabbits compete with the sheep in New Zealand. So, the farmers go out at night with heavily armed jeeps, and shine the headlights, and anything that doesn’t look like a sheep, you shoot. (Laughter)

So I have proposed to apply the same trick to looking for life in the universe. That if these creatures who are living on cold surfaces — either on Europa, or further out, anywhere where you can live on a cold surface — those creatures must be provided with reflectors. In order to concentrate sunlight, they have to have lenses and mirrors — in order to keep themselves warm. And then, when you shine sunlight at them, the sunlight will be reflected back, just as it is in the eyes of an animal. So these creatures will be bright against the cold surroundings. And the further out you go in this, away from the Sun, the more powerful this reflection will be. So actually, this method of hunting for life gets stronger and stronger as you go further away, because the optical reflectors have to be more powerful so the reflected light shines out even more in contrast against the dark background. So as you go further away from the Sun, this becomes more and more powerful. So, in fact, you can look for these creatures with telescopes from the Earth. Why aren’t we doing it? Simply because nobody thought of it yet.

But I hope that we shall look, and with any — we probably won’t find anything, none of these speculations may have any basis in fact. But still, it’s a good chance. And of course, if it happens, it will transform our view of life altogether. Because it means that — the way life can live out there, it has enormous advantages as compared with living on a planet. It’s extremely hard to move from one planet to another. We’re having great difficulties at the moment and any creatures that live on a planet are pretty well stuck. Especially if you breathe air, it’s very hard to get from planet A to planet B, because there’s no air in between. But if you breathe air — (Laughter) — you’re dead — (Laughter) — as soon as you’re off the planet, unless you have a spaceship.

But if you live in a vacuum, if you live on the surface of one of these objects, say, in the Kuiper Belt, this — an object like Pluto, or one of the smaller objects in the neighborhood of Pluto, and you happened — if you’re living on the surface there, and you get knocked off the surface by a collision, then it doesn’t change anything all that much. You still are on a piece of ice, you can still have sunlight and you can still survive while you’re traveling from one place to another. And then if you run into another object, you can stay there and colonize the other object. So life will spread, then, from one object to another. So if it exists at all in the Kuiper Belt, it’s likely to be very widespread. And you will have then a great competition amongst species — Darwinian evolution — so there’ll be a huge advantage to the species which is able to jump from one place to another without having to wait for a collision. And there’ll be advantages for spreading out long, sort of kelp-like forest of vegetation. I call these creatures sunflowers. They look like, maybe like sunflowers. They have to be all the time pointing toward the Sun, and they will be able to spread out in space, because gravity on these objects is weak. So they can collect sunlight from a big area. So they will, in fact, be quite easy for us to detect.

So, I hope in the next 10 years, we’ll find these creatures, and then, of course, our whole view of life in the universe will change. If we don’t find them, then we can create them ourselves. (Laughter) That’s another wonderful opportunity that’s opening. We can — as soon as we have a little bit more understanding of genetic engineering, one of the things you can do with your take-it-home, do-it-yourself genetic engineering kit — (Laughter) — is to design a creature that can live on a cold satellite, a place like Europa, so we could colonize Europa with our own creatures. That would be a fun thing to do. (Laughter) In the long run, of course, it would also make it possible for us to move out there. What’s going to happen in the end, it’s not going to be just humans colonizing space, it’s going to be life moving out from the Earth, moving it into its kingdom. And the kingdom of life, of course, is going to be the universe. And if life is already there, it makes it much more exciting, in the short run. But in the long run, if there’s no life there, we create it ourselves. We transform the universe into something much more rich and beautiful than it is today. So again, we have a big and wonderful future to look forward. Thank you. (Applause)

Waking Up With Sam Harris #58 – The Putin Question (with Garry Kasparov)

In this episode of the Waking Up podcast, Sam Harris speaks with Garry Kasparov about the problem of waning American power, the rise of Putin, the coming presidency of Donald Trump, computer chess, the future of artificial intelligence, and other topics.

Garry Kasparov spent twenty years as the world’s number one ranked chess player. In 2005, he retired from professional chess to lead the pro-democracy opposition against Vladimir Putin, from street protests to coalition building. In 2012, he was named chairman of the Human Rights Foundation, succeeding Václav Havel. He has been a contributing editor to the Wall Street Journal since 1991, and he is a senior visiting fellow at the Oxford Martin School. His 2007 book, How Life Imitates Chess, has been published in twenty-six languages. He lives in self-imposed exile in New York with his wife Dasha and their children. His most recent book is Winter Is Coming: Why Vladimir Putin and the Enemies of the Free World Must Be Stopped.

Nanotechnology: the big picture with Dr. Eric Drexler and Dr. Sonia Trigueros

Advancements in nanotechnology could fundamentally change global approaches to manufacturing, medicine, healthcare, and the environment. In this lecture Dr Eric Drexler, Senior Visiting Fellow, Oxford Martin School, will look at current advances in the field of advanced nanotechnology, and the impacts and potential applications of their widespread implementation, and Dr Sonia Trigueros, Co-Director of the Oxford Martin Programme on Nanotechnology, and Oxford Martin Senior Fellow, will consider how targeted nanomedicine could change how we treat disease in the future.

Join in on Twitter #tomorrowtech

About the speakers

Eric Drexler is a Senior Visiting Fellow at the Oxford Martin School, and a pioneering nanotechnology researcher and author. His 1981 paper in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences established fundamental principles of molecular engineering and identified development paths leading to advanced nanotechnologies. In his 1986 book, Engines of Creation, he introduced a broad audience to the promise of high-throughput atomically precise manufacturing, a prospective technology using nanoscale machinery to guide molecular motion and bonding, thereby structuring matter from the bottom up.

Sonia Trigueros is an Oxford Martin Senior Fellow, an Academic Fellow at the University of Oxford’s Department of Physics and was Co-Director of the Oxford Martin Programme on Nanotechnology

Her research focuses on the design of a novel nanodrug delivery system to target dividing cells, specifically cancer cells. She is also developing new Nanomedicines to tackle bacterial antibiotic resistance problem. She has a PhD in molecular biology from IBMB-CSIC and Universidad de Barcelona. After her postdoctoral research fellowships at Harvard and Oxford Universities, Trigueros was a research visitor to several academic institutions including NIH-Washington and Havana University.

Oxford Martin School,
University of Oxford

The Age of Intelligent Machines

In “The Age of Intelligent Machines”, inventor and computer scientist Raymond Kurzweil probes the past, present, and future of artificial intelligence, from its earliest philosophical and mathematical roots to tantalizing glimpses of 21st-century machines with superior intelligence and prodigious speed and memory. This book provides the background needed for an understanding of the enormous scientific potential represented by intelligent machines as well as their equally profound philosophic, economic, and social implications. Running alongside Kurzweil’s historical and scientific narrative are 23 articles examining contemporary issues in artificial intelligence. This book won the Association of American Publishers Annual Award for Excellence in Professional and Scholarly Publishing. It contains articles by: Charles Ames; Margaret A. Boden; Harold Cohen; Caniel C. Dennett; Edward A. Feigenbaum; K. Fuchi; George Gilder; Douglas R. Hofstadter; Michael Lebowitz; Margaret Litven; Blaine Mathieu; Marvin Minsky; Allen Newell; Brian W. Oakley; Seymour Papert; Jeff Pepper; Roger Schank and Christopher Owens; Sherry Turkle; Mitchell Waldrop.

The Age of Intelligent Machines
The Age of Intelligent Machines is a non-fiction book about artificial intelligence by inventor and futurist Ray Kurzweil. This was his first book and the Association of American Publishers named it the Most Outstanding Computer Science Book of 1990. It was reviewed in The New York Times and The Christian Science Monitor. The format is a combination of monograph and anthology with contributed essays by artificial intelligence experts such as Daniel Dennett, Douglas Hofstadter, and Marvin Minsky.

Kurzweil surveys the philosophical, mathematical and technological roots of artificial intelligence, starting with the assumption that a sufficiently advanced computer program could exhibit human-level intelligence. Kurzweil argues the creation of humans through evolution suggests that humans should be able to build something more intelligent than themselves. He believes pattern recognition, as demonstrated by vision, and knowledge representation, as seen in language, are two key components of intelligence. Kurzweil details how quickly computers are advancing in each domain.

Driven by the exponential improvements in computer power, Kurzweil believes artificial intelligence will be possible and then commonplace. He explains how it will impact all areas of people’s lives, including work, education, medicine, and warfare. As computers acquire human level faculties Kurzweil says people will be challenged to figure out what it really means to be human.

Back to KEMK

Michio Kaku & Ray Kurzweil – Singularity is Close!

Michio Kaku & Ray Kurzweil – Singularity is Close!

“Recently, it has been announced that most major car makers have ongoing projects to create the self-driving car, or truck or even 18-wheel truck. Such technology will render a huge part of the population job-less and hardly employable. I will speculate that the ‘unemployment problem’ created by adoption of technology will be a significant force to accelerate the coming of the singularity. These same unemployed people will become employable by augmenting their bodies and brain with advanced computers. They will be able to do certain types of work they could not do without advanced computer in their brain. In other words, the singularity will become the solution to the unemployment problem. This is something Dr Ray Kurzweil did not mention, but is becoming self-evident,” Colbert Philippe.

“Colbert Philippe I would rather claim that humans can remain unchanged in mind, and that this shift in technology would inspire a wave of people to further increase their education so that they can control this technology. This would make education much cheaper and easier to obtain and result in positive outcomes for humanity.,” Anglo Del Solvor.

“As it stands right now, there are not enough “educated jobs” for newly employed people displaced by new technologies, and there ore the older unemployed group. There has to be a breakthrough somewhere and this breakthrough might be body augmentation with computers that will give new capabilities to take new types of jobs. This is very serious. We are going to see this in the next 5 to 10 years,” Colbert Philippevor.