Saturday, April 09, 2005

Intelligent talk or the Tower of Babble

Well,my major project will be presented to the professors at the College Of Engineering Poonjar the coming Monday (18th) and it is about neural networks and what I believe is the future of databases and life in general: more chaos resistant.
I leave for Delhi soon enough in a month and a half's time.I am kind of in a quasi-philosophical state now...
The previous post is one of the more famous posts by Bill Joy, one of my role models(but even he is after the one and only Richard Feynman).And I have been thinking about linguistics and speech recognition for the past few days,so my next post is about intelligent speech...a.k.a quotations from several luminaries....intelligence everywhere as the Motorola punchline preaches...

# One of Walt Whitman's best-known poems is this one: When I heard the learn'd astronomer,.... The trouble is, Whitman is talking through his hat, but the poor soul didn't know any better" - Isaac Asimov, "Science and Beauty"

# "Self-education is a continuing source of pleasure to me, for the more I know, the fuller my life is and the better I appreciate my own existence" - Isaac Asimov, "My Favorite Writing"

# "Theories are not so much wrong as incomplete" - Isaac Asimov, "The Relativity of Wrong"

# "Scientists expect to be improved on and corrected; they hope to be" - Isaac Asimov, "The Blind Who Would Lead"

# "Computerization eliminates the middleman" - Isaac Asimov, "Technophobia"

# "When I say I am glad that I live in a century when the Universe is essentially understood, I think I am justified" - Isaac Asmiov, "The Relativity of Wrong"

# "When a distinguished but elderly scientist states that something is possible, he is almost certainly right. When he states that something is impossible, he is very probably wrong." "When, however, the lay public rallies around an idea that is denounced by distinguished but elderly scientists and supports that idea with great fervor and emotion - the distinguished but elderly scientists are then, after all, probably right." - Arthur C. Clarke's First Law and Isaac Asimov's Corollary

# "Many adults, whether consciously or unconsciously, find it beneath their adult dignity to do anything as childish as read a book, think a thought, or get an idea. Adults are rarely embarrased at having forgotten what little algebra or geography they once learned" - Isaac Asimov, "His Own Particular Drummer"

# "Tens of millions of Americans who neither know or understand the actual arguments for, or even against, evolution, march in the Army of the Night with their Bibles held high" - Isaac Asimov, "The Army of the Night"

# "You have created a new world among the three of you. I congratulate you. Happy goldfish bowl to you, to me, to everyone, and may each of you fry in hell forever" - Isaac Asimov, "The Dead Past" (spoken by a character)

# "In theory, there is nothing the computer can do that the human mind can not do. The computer merely takes a finite amount of data and performs a finite number of operations upon them. The human mind can duplicate the process" - Isaac Asimov, "The Feeling of Power" (spoken by a character)

# "Nine times seven, thought Shuman with deep satisfaction, is sixty-three, and I don't need a computer to tell me so. The computer is in my own head. And it was amazing the feeling of power that gave him" - Isaac Asimov, "The Feeling of Power"

# "It took me thirty-six years; and, in some fifty stories, ranging in length from short-shorts to novels, I think I must have touched, in one way or another, on every aspect of computers and computerization. And (mark this!) I did it without ever knowing anything at all about computers in any real sense. To this day, I don't. I am totally inept with machinery... on my typewriter I turn out books at the contemptible rate of one a month" - Isaac Asimov, "I Am a Signpost"

# "Inspect every piece of psuedoscience and you will find a security blanket, a thumb to suck, a skirt to hold" - Isaac Asimov, 1986

# "The Iranians are Moslems and the Iraqi are Moslems. Both are certain that there is no God but Allah and that Mohammed is his prophet and believe it with all their hearts. And yet, at the moment, Iraq doesn't trust Iran worth a damn, and Iran trusts Iraq even less than that. In fact, Iran is convinced that Iraq is in the pay of the Great Satan (that's God-fearing America, in case you've forgotten) and Iraq counters with the accusation that it is Iran who is in the pay of the Great Satan. Neither side is accusing the Godless Soviets of anything, which is a puzzle" - Isaac Asimov, "The Reagan Doctrine"

# "What do you call that nice, shiny white metal they use to make sidings and airplanes out of? Aluminum, right? Aluminum, pronounced 'uh-LOO-mih-num', right? Anybody knows that! But do you know how the British spell it? 'Aluminium', pronounced 'Al-yoo-MIH-nee-um'. Ever hear anything so ridiculous? The French and Germans spell it 'aluminium', too, but they're foreigners who don't speak Earth-standard. You'd think the British, however, using our language, would be more careful" - Isaac Asimov, "The Mispronounced Metal"

# "The important prediction is not the automobile, but the parking problem; not radio, but the soap opera; not the income tax, but the expense account; not the Bomb, but the nuclear stalemate" - Isaac Asimov, "Future? Tense!"

# "You see, I had my books. I would rather read" - Isaac Asimov, I. Asimov

# "Plate glass... has no beauty of its own. Ideally, you ought not to be able to see it at all, but through it you can see all that is happening outside. That is the equivalent of writing that is plain and unadorned. Ideally, in reading such writing, you are not even aware that you are reading. Ideas and events seem merely to flow from the mind of the writer into that of the reader without any barrier between. I hope that is what is happening when you read this book" - Isaac Asimov, I. Asimov

# "I even got a letter from a young woman in British Columbia that began as follows: 'Today I am eighteen. I am sitting at the window, looking out at the rain, and thinking how much I love you.'" - Isaac Asimov, I. Asimov

# "I don't expect to live forever, nor do I repine over that, but I am weak enough to want to be remembered forever. - Yet how few of those who have lived, even of those who have accomplished far more than I have, linger on in world memory for even a single century after death" - Isaac Asimov, I. Asimov
Richard Dawkins Quotations

# "For some reason, many people take grave political offense at the suggestion that some individuals are genetically cleverer than others. But this must have been the case when our brains were evolving, and there is no reason to expect that facts will suddenly change to accomodate political sensibilities" - Richard Dawkins, Unweaving the Rainbow

# "And no, reason and logic are not masculine instruments of oppression. To suggest that they are is an insult to women" - Richard Dawkins, Unweaving the Rainbow

# "[The Internet] is by far the most important innovation in the media in my lifetime. It's like having a huge encyclopedia permanently available. There's a tremendous amount of rubbish on the world wide web, but retrieval of what you want to so rapid that it doesn't really matter" - Richard Dawkins

# "Statisticians distinguish false positive from false negative errors, sometimes called type 1 and type 2 errors respectively.... There is a type 3 error in which your mind goes totally blank whenever you try to remember which is which of type 1 and type 2" - Richard Dawkins, Unweaving the Rainbow

# "We are going to die, and that makes us the lucky ones. Most people are never going to die because they are never going to be born" - Richard Dawkins, Unweaving the Rainbow

# "Words are our servants, not our masters" - Richard Dawkins, The Blind Watchmaker
Albert Einstein Quotations

# "It would be better if you begin to teach others only after you yourself have learned something" - Albert Einstein, in a letter to Arthur Cohen, age 12, who submitted a paper to Einstein

# "That little word 'we' I mistrust and here's why:
No man of another can say, 'He is I.'
Behind all agreement lies something amiss
All seeming accord cloaks a lurking abyss." - Albert Einstein

# "To punish me for my contempt for authority, Fate made me an authority myself" - Albert Einstein

# "Although I am a typical loner in my daily life, my consciousness of belonging to the invisible community of those who strive for truth, beauty, and justice has preserved me from feeling isolated" - Albert Einstein

# "I never worry about the future. It comes soon enough" - Albert Einstein

# "I have no special talents. I am only passionately curious" - Albert Einstein

# "All my life I have dealt with objective matters; hence I lack both the natural aptitude and the experience to deal properly with people and to exercise official functions" - Albert Einstein

# "It is quite curious, even abnormal, that with your superficial knowledge about the subject you are so confident of your judgment. I regret that I cannot spare the time to occupy myself with dilettantes" - Albert Einstein, in a letter to dentist G. Lebau, who claimed he had a better theory of relativity

# "To me it is enough to wonder at the secrets" - Albert Einstein

# "When I was young, all I wanted and expected from life was to sit quietly in some corner doing my work without the public paying attention to me. And now see what has become of me" - Albert Einstein

# "[Max Planck] was one of the finest people I have ever known... but he really didn't understand physics, [because] during the eclipse of 1919 he stayed up all night to see if it would confirm the bending of light by the gravitational field. If he had really understood [general relativity], he would have gone to bed the way I did" - Albert Einstein

# "One can't teach a cat not to catch birds" - Albert Einstein

# "The release of atomic energy has not created a new problem. It has merely made more urgent the necessity of solving an existing one" - Albert Einstein

# "The state is made for man, not man for the state.... That is to say, the state should be our servant and not we its slaves" - Albert Einstein

# "Concern for man himself must always constitute the chief objective of all technological effort" - Albert Einstein

# "Science will stagnate if it is made to serve practical goals" - Albert Einstein

# "I live in that solitude which is painful in youth, but delicious in the years of maturity" - Albert Einstein

# "The important thing is not to stop questioning" - Albert Einstein
G. H. Hardy Quotations

# "Good work is not done by 'humble' men" - G. H. Hardy, A Mathematician's Apology

# "Most people can do nothing at all well" - G. H. Hardy, A Mathematician's Apology

# "No mathematician should ever allow himself to forget that mathematics, more than any other art or science, is a young man's game" - G. H. Hardy, A Mathematician's Apology

# "I do not know an instance of a major mathematical advance initiated by a man past fifty" - G. H. Hardy, A Mathematician's Apology

# "As history proves abundantly, mathematical achievement, whatever its intrinsic worth, is the most enduring of all" - G. H. Hardy, A Mathematician's Apology

# "317 is a prime, not because we think so, or because our minds are shaped in one way rather than another, but because it is so, because mathematical reality is built that way" - G. H. Hardy, A Mathematician's Apology

# "Bombs are probably more merciful than bayonets" - G. H. Hardy, A Mathematician's Apology

# "The case for my life... is this: that I have added something to knowledge, and helped others to add more" - G. H. Hardy, A Mathematician's Apology

# "Pure mathematics is on the whole distinctly more useful than applied. For what is useful above all is technique, and mathematical technique is taught mainly through pure mathematics" - G. H. Hardy, A Mathematician's Apology

# "Archimedes will be remembered when Aeschylus is forgotten, because languages die and mathematical ideas do not. 'Immortality' may be a silly word, but probably a mathematician has the best chance of whatever it may mean" - G. H. Hardy, A Mathematician's Apology
Eric Hobsbawm Quotations

# "It is one of the ironies of this strange century that the most lasting results of the October revolution, whose object was the global overthrow of capitalism, was to save its antagonist, both in war and in peace - that is to say, by providing it with the incentive, fear, to reform itself after the Second World War, and, by establishing the popularity of economic planning, furnishing it with some of the procedures for its reform" - Eric Hobsbawm, The Age of Extremes

# "The most lasting and universal consequence of the French revolution is the metric system" - Eric Hobsbawm, The Age of Extremes

# "Telephone and telegraph were better means of communication than the holy man's telepathy" - Eric Hobsbawm, The Age of Extremes

# "N. S. Khrushchev established his supremacy in the U.S.S.R. after post-Stalinist alarums and excursions (1958-64). This admirable rough diamond, a believer in reform and peaceful coexistence, who incidentally emptied Stalin's concentration camps, dominated the international scene in the next few years. He was also perhaps the only peasant boy ever to rule a major state" - Eric Hobsbawm, The Age of Extremes
Nikita Khrushchev Quotations

# "The United States now sleeps under a Soviet moon" - Nikita Khrushchev

# "Just imagine: I, a Premier, a Soviet representative, when I came here to this city, I was given a plan - a program of what I was to be shown and whom I was to meet here. But just now, I was told that I could not go to Disneyland. I asked, 'Why not?' What is it, do you have rocket-launching pads there? I do not know" - Nikita Khrushchev

# "We took great care never to offend China until the Chinese actually started to crucify us. And when they did start to crucify us - well, I'm no Jesus Christ, and I didn't have to turn the other cheek" - Nikita Khrushchev, Khrushchev Remembers

# "Comrade Mao Tse-tung, nowadays that sort of thinking is out of date. You can no longer calculate the alignment of forces on the basis of who has the most men. Back in the days when a dispute was settled with fists or bayonets, it made a difference who had the most men and the most bayonets on each side. Then when the machine gun appeared, the side with more troops no longer necessarily had the advantage. And now with the atomic bomb, the number of troops on each side makes practically no difference to the alignment of real power and the outcome of a war. The more troops on a side, the more bomb fodder" - Nikita Khrushchev, Khrushchev Remembers

# "For centuries, people have been droning, 'Lord, have mercy upon us; Lord, help us and protect us'. And have all the prayers helped? Of course not. But people are set in their ways and continue to believe in God despite all the evidence to the contrary" - Nikita Khrushchev, Khrushchev Remembers

# "[Comrade Mao Tse-tung] mentioned that there are no foreign words in the Chinese language. 'All the rest of the world uses the word 'electricity,'' he boasted. 'They've borrowed the word from English. But we Chinese have our own word for it!'" - Nikita Khrushchev, Khrushchev Remembers

# "[Comrade Mao Tse-tung] was right to remove epaulets from Chinese army uniforms. I think it was a mistake on our part when we put epaulets and stripes back onto our own military uniforms. Who the hell needs them? We won the Civil war, and I didn't have any epaulets or stripes even though I held the rank of commissar.... Back in those days we were able to crush our enemies without epaulets. Nowadays our military men are all dressed up like canaries" - Nikita Khrushchev, Khrushchev Remembers

# "There you have it. That's the substance of my viewpoint, and I think it has some merit. My time has already come and gone. There's nothing I can do now but share my experience with anyone who cares to listen and hope that somebody pays attention" - Nikita Khrushchev, Khrushchev Remembers

# "We were simply trying to remind other countries that we were powerful and deserved respect, and that we wouldn't tolerate being talked to in the language of ultimatums" - Nikita Khrushchev, Khrushchev Remembers

# "Any fool can start a war, and once he's done so, even the wisest of men are helpless to stop it - especially if it's a nuclear war" - Nikita Khrushchev, Khrushchev Remembers

# "We must make sure that we don't allow ourselves to get involved in a lot of senseless competition with the West over military spending.... We will be exhausting our material resources without raising the living standard of our people" - Nikita Khrushchev, Khrushchev Remembers

# "Republican, Democrat - there's not that much difference" - Nikita Khrushchev, Khrushchev Remembers: The Last Testament

# "I arrived on schedule and found myself in a fairly big room filled with people... Some looked like typical capitalists, right out of the posters painted during our Civil War - only they didn't have the pigs' snouts our artists always gave them" - Nikita Khrushchev, Khrushchev Remembers: The Last Testament

# "We're satisfied to be able to finish off the US the first time around. Once is quite enough. What good does it do to annihilate a country twice?" - Nikita Khrushchev, Khrushchev Remembers: The Last Testament
John Naughton Quotations

# "To say that Sputnik gave rise to some concern in the United States would be the understatement of the century. The truth is that the US went apeshit" - John Naughton, A Brief History of the Future

# "A paradigm is a powerful theoretical and methodological framework which defines the working lives of thousands of intelligent and disciplined minds. And paradigms do not attract the loyalty of such minds unless they 'work'. One of the first things a graduate student learns is that if there is a discrepancy between the paradigm and what he or she has discovered, then the automatic assumption is that the paradigm is right and the student wrong. Just as a good workman never blames his tools, so the diligent student never blames his paradigm" - John Naughton, A Brief History of the Future

# "Elegance? It may seem odd to non-scientists, but there is an aesthetic in software as there is in every other area of intellectual endeavour. Truly great programmers are like great poets or great mathematicians - they can achieve in a few lines what lesser mortals can only approach in three volumes" - John Naughton, A Brief History of the Future

# "Computer programmers tend, by and large, to be quirky and highly individualistic. Trying to organize or manage such awkward characters is normally as thankless as herding cats" - John Naughton, A Brief History of the Future

# "I got fed up dealing with politicians and businessmen who think the Net is some kind of pipe down which stuff can be pumped at kids (who are seen, incidentally, as empty vessels to be 'filled'). So I started saying to them "Look, it isn't a pipe, it's a beanstalk up which children climb, like Jack in the fairy tale, into other worlds". It was worth it just to see the look of incomprehension on their faces" - John Naughton
Charles Petzold Quotations

# "In some far-off distant time, when the twentieth century history of primitive computing is just a murky memory, someone is likely to suppose that devices known as logic gates were named after the famous co-founder of Microsoft Corporation" - Charles Petzold, Code

# "The human species is often amazingly inventive and industrious but at the same time profoundly lazy. It's very clear that we humans don't like to work. This aversion to work is so extreme - and our ingenuity so acute - that we're eager to devote countless hours designing and building devices that might shave a few minutes off our workday" - Charles Petzold, Code

# "NOP stands for (and is pronounced) no op, as in no operation. The NOP causes the processor to do absolutely nothing. What's it good for? Filling space. The 8080 can usually execute a bunch of NOP instructions without anything bad happening" - Charles Petzold, Code

# "Programming in machine code is like eating with a toothpick" - Charles Petzold, Code
Carl Sagan Quotations

# "Ignorance feeds on ignorance. Science phobia is contagious" - Carl Sagan, The Demon-Haunted World

# "Keeping an open mind is a virtue - but as the space engineer James Oberg once said, not so open that your brains fall out" - Carl Sagan, The Demon-Haunted World

# "We seek meaning, even in random numbers" - Carl Sagan, The Demon-Haunted World

# "God for you is where you sweep away all the mysteries of the world, all the challenges to our intelligence. You simply turn your mind off and say God did it" - Carl Sagan, Contact (spoken by a character)

# "Fortunately for American molecular biology, the fundamentalists were not as influential in the United States as Stalin had been in the Soviet Union" - Carl Sagan, Contact

# "Not all bits have equal value" - Carl Sagan, Cosmos

# "If you are open to the point of gullibility and have not an ounce of skeptical sense in you, then you cannot distinguish useful ideas from the worthless ones" - Carl Sagan, "The Burden of Skepticism" (Pasadena lecture, 1987)
J.R.R. Tolkien Quotations

# "Three Rings for the Elven-kings under the sky,
Seven for the Dwarf-lords in their halls of stone,
Nine for Mortal Men doomed to die,
One for the Dark Lord on his dark throne
In the Land of Mordor where the Shadows lie.
One Ring to rule them all, One Ring to find them,
One Ring to bring them all and in the darkness bind them
In the Land of Mordor where the Shadows lie." - J.R.R. Tolkien, The Lord of the Rings

# "Hard as di'monds, soft as moonlight. Warm as sunlight, cold as frost in the stars" - J.R.R. Tolkien, The Lord of the Rings, spoken by Sam of the Lady of Lorien, Galadriel

# "'And now at last it comes. You will give me the Ring freely! In place of the Dark Lord you will set up a Queen. And I shall not be dark, but beautiful and terrible as the Morning and the Night!.... All shall love me and despair!'
She lifted up her hand and from the ring that she wore there issued a great light that illuminated her alone and left all else dark. She stood before Frodo seeming now tall beyond measurement, and beautiful beyond enduring, terrible and worshipful. Then she let her hand fall, and the light faded, and suddenly she laughed again, and lo! she was shrunken: a slender elf-woman, clad in simple white, whose gentle voice was soft and sad.
'I pass the test,' she said. 'I will diminish, and go into the West, and remain Galadriel.'" - J.R.R. Tolkien, The Lord of the Rings

# "Then Legolas repaid his promise to Gimli and went with him to the Glittering Caves; and when they returned he was silent, and would say only that Gimli alone could find fit words to speak of them. 'And never before has a Dwarf claimed a victory over an Elf in a contest of words,' said he" - J.R.R. Tolkien, The Lord of the Rings

# "[King Finrod] Felagund strove with Sauron in songs of power, and the power of the King was very great; but Sauron had the mastery, as is told in the Lay of Leithian:

He chanted a song of wizardry,
Of piercing, opening, of treachery,
Revealing, uncovering, betraying.
Then sudden Felagund there swaying
Sang in answer a song of staying,
Resisting, battling against power,
Of secrets kept, strength like a tower,
And trust unbroken, freedom, escape;
Of changing and of shifting shape,
Of snares eluded, broken traps,
The prison opening, the chain that snaps.

Backwards and forwards swayed their song.
Reeling and foundering, as ever more strong
The chanting swelled, Felagund fought,
And all the magic and might he brought
Of Elvenesse into his words.
Softly in the gloom they heard the birds
Singing afar in Nargothrond,
The sighing of the Sea beyond,
Beyond the western world, on sand,
On sand of pearls in Elvenland.

Then the gloom gathered; darkness growing
In Valinor, the red blood flowing
Beside the Sea, where the Noldor slew
The Foamriders, and stealing drew
Their white ships with their white sails
From lamplit havens. The wind wails,
The wolf howls. The ravens flee.
The ice mutters in the mouths of the Sea.
The captives sad in Angband mourn.
Thunder rumbles, the fires burn -
And Finrod fell before the throne." - J.R.R. Tolkien, The Silmarillion

# "Many that live deserve death. And some that die deserve life" - J.R.R. Tolkien, The Lord of the Rings, spoken by Gandalf
Dmitri Volkogonov Quotations

# "All revolutions are bloody. The October Revolution was bloodless, but it was only the beginning" - Dmitri Volkogonov, Trotsky

# "Dogmatism grew from the soil of simplistic and frequently wrong concepts. Dogmatism is like a ship that has run aground: the waves run, the ship stays put, but the impression of movement persists" - Dmitri Volkogonov, Stalin: Triumph and Tragedy

# "We rarely know who our ancestors were. Who can even remember the names of their great-grandparents? They have vanished into the dim and distant past" - Dmitri Volkogonov, Stalin: Triumph and Tragedy

# "The man who occupies the first place in an undemocratic state can give himself any award that takes his fancy, but it does not increase his authority - rather, the contrary. This was something Brezhnev and Chernenko did not understand. In all, Stalin had about as many decorations as, say, Mekhlis, and four or five times fewer than Brezhnev" - Dmitri Volkogonov, Stalin: Triumph and Tragedy

# "These myths, which became the basis of the whole of social life, boiled down to two simple propositions. First, the leader of the party and the nation is a wise man in the highest degree. The force of his intellect is capable of answering all questions about the past, understanding the present, and peering into the future: 'Stalin is the Lenin of today'. Secondly, the leader of the party and the nation is the total embodiment of absolute good and he cares for every person. He repudiates evil, ignorance, treachery, cruelty. He is that smiling man with the moustache who is carrying the little girl waving the flag" - Dmitri Volkogonov, Stalin: Triumph and Tragedy
John Walker Quotations

# "Humans may have a limitless ability to ignore unpleasant facts, but we're also able to endure truly awful realities: high school, boot camp, root canals, going public, life - as long as we know it's only for a while and we'll never have to do it again" - John Walker, The Hacker's Diet

# "There aren't many times in human history that you can draw a straight line on semi-log paper over forty years, and have that trend continue" - John Walker, March 26, 1992 interview with MicroTimes

# "I grew up as a UNIVAC mainframe programmer. I worked from 1967 through 1978, and actually I did consulting into the '80s, on machines that ran programs that were compiled in 1963. Think about that. Basically children running code that was compiled by their fathers" - John Walker, March 26, 1992 interview with MicroTimes

# "Maintenance programmers recognize that someday they're going to retire and their children will be maintenance programmers, who are going to have to inherit this thing" - John Walker, March 26, 1992 interview with MicroTimes

# "Until the advent of mechanical, electrical, and electronic computers in the twentieth century, any computation or information processing required the attention of a human being and necessarily proceeded at the pace a human could work" - John Walker

# "Never invest in something that violates a conservation law" - John Walker

# "You can't persuade somebody to be rational. You're better off trying to out-stubborn a cat" - John Walker, The Hacker's Diet
James Watson Quotations

# "I think that because of the way people feel about genetics, it's rather important that all the information be in the public domain" - Dr. James Watson, PBS interview aired June 2000

# "The genome wasn't an American product" - Dr. James Watson, PBS interview aired June 2000

# "I think science can improve human life. I'm an optimist, and want to use it" - Dr. James Watson, PBS interview aired June 2000

# "Miracles are worked by people like Jonas Salk" - Dr. James Watson, PBS interview aired June 2000
USENET Quotations

# "I have developed an encryption software package that I can best describe as a ONE-TIME-PAD GENERATOR." "Is it time for another one of these already? Oh, bother." - Anthony Stephen Szopa's post and Bruce Schneier's response, sci.crypt

# "If you could ask that question more precisely, you probably wouldn't be interested in the answer anymore" - Chris Hillman

# "Yes, there are many ways to keep a secret. However, nature gives up her secrets if you just ask the right questions" - Jim Carr, sci.physics

# "It is the US that often engages in pointless technological overkill. For example, we spend millions of dollars on warning systems to prevent fighter pilots from flying too fast. The Russians paint a red line on the airspeed indicator and tell the pilots if they exceed it the wings will fall off" - David Sternlight, sci.crypt

# "I read science fiction because it's not about the mundane, ordinary problems that we face every day. I read science fiction because I want to argue humanity's case before a galactic tribunal. I read science fiction because I want to battle hideous creatures beneath the hurtling moons of Barsoom. I read science fiction because I want to go on a covert mission inside the city of the alien beings who hold humanity in thrall. I read science fiction because, well, hexapodia is the key insight" - Pete McCutchen, rec.arts.sf.written, Oct. 21, 2000
Visions of Technology Quotations

# "I interviewed [Theodore H.] Maiman for the National Geographic at his oceanside condominium in Marina Del Ray, California, in 1988. When I asked him if he had donated his original laser to the Smithsonian, he told me that the Institution had gone to Hughes [Research Laboratories] for it instead of asking him. They thought they had it, he said wryly, but Hughes had unknowingly given them the second model. He still had the original; did I want to see it? I did. From a dining-room cabinet he removed an aluminum case, opened it to a coil of flashlamp and a silver-ended artificial ruby the size of a cigarette filter. I lifted the ruby between two fingers and marveled" - Richard Rhodes, Visions of Technology

# "On the day when two armies will be able to annihilate each other in one second all civilized nations will recoil from war in horror and disband their forces" - Alfred Nobel

# "To lift farm drudgery off flesh and blood and lay it on steel and motors has been my most constant ambition" - Henry Ford

# "What we are entering is a power age, and the importance of the power age lies in its ability, rightly used with the wage motive behind it, to increase and cheapen production so that all of us may have more of this world's goods. The way to liberty, the way to equality of opportunity, the way from empty phrases to actualities, lies through power" - Henry Ford

# "If the men of the Middle Ages... lived in filth and discomfort, it was not for any lack of ability to change their mode of life; it was because they chose to live this way, because filth and discomfort fitted in with their principles and prejudices, political, moral, and religious.... It was in the power of medieval... craftsmen to create armchairs and sofas that might have rivaled in comfort those of today" - Aldous Huxley

# "Technological civilization... rests fundamentally on power-driven machinery which transcends the physical limits of its human directors, multiplying indefinitely the capacity for the production of goods. Science in all its branches - physics, chemistry, biology, and psychology - is the servant and upholder of this system" - Charles A. Beard

# "Science Finds - Industry Applies - Man Conforms" - Motto of the 1933 Chicago World's Fair

# "A banker once defined invention as that which makes his securities insecure" - U.S. National Resources Science Committee, 1937

# "It is not possible to be a scientist unless you believe that it is good to learn... that it is of the highest value to share your knowledge... with anyone who is interested... that the knowledge of the world, and the power which this gives, is a thing which is of intrinsic value to humanity" - J. Robert Oppenheimer

# "If warfare is to consist of a few teams of professors pushing buttons, why have an Army and Navy at all?" - 1945 Life magazine editorial

# "Technology is nothing if not liberating" - Emmanuel G. Mesthene

# "Put the park rangers to work. Lazy scheming loafers, they've wasted too many years selling tickets at toll booths and sitting behind desks filling out charts and tables" - Edward Abbey

# "The nuclear arms race is finally over. [It] raged with full fury for only twenty years, the 1940s and 1950s. Then it petered out slowly for the next thirty years, in three stages.... Nuclear weapons... ceased to be a scientific challenge... ceased to give a military advantage to their owners in real-world conflicts. The political race petered out in the 1980s, after it became clear to all concerned that massive nuclear weapons industries were environmentally and economically disastrous.... Arms control treaties were concluded at each stage... The atmospheric test ban ratified the end of the science race, the ABM and SALT treaties ratified the end of the military race, and the START treaties ratified the end of the political race" - Freeman Dyson
Computer Quotations

# "This is the Information Age not only because data processing is so common but because it is increasingly possible to cast all problems as matters of data manipulation - to see the world as a frenzy of bits waiting to be tamed" - John Rennie, Editor in Chief, Scientific American Special Issue: The Solid-State Century

# "May no computer ever be idle again" - Adam L. Beberg

# "All that computational power was just too tempting for me" - Aaron Blosser (describing using 3000 US West computers to search for Mersenne primes)

# "Information is liberating" - Kofi Annan

# "And finally, after this long and strange trip down the 3D graphics pipeline, what was a mass of vertices has been converted into the 3D scene we see, which, if we're moving along at 60fps, will be on screen for all of about 17 milliseconds. During its short time in the limelight, the next frame of animation is being transformed, lit, culled, clipped, projected, shaded, textured, fogged, alpha and depth tested, and ultimately, page-flipped onto the screen where it too will enjoy a fleeting 17ms of glory before yet another frame of animation will take its place" - Dave Salvator, "3D Pipeline Part III",

# "Our web server,, has been pretty unresponsive today. I ran an analysis of our access logs, and found that, of the 12G of data served between 5pm yesterday and 12:30pm today, 88% of it is from your account, and about 88% of it is .png files. The detailed breakdowns show that it's pretty much all from your Geforce 3 screenshots page" - Erich Schneider, Caltech Information Technology Services, E-mail to Stephan T. Lavavej

# "Advances in mathematical logic and physics gave rise in the last century to the new discipline of Computer Science. What gives this discipline its vigor is that any physical device that is reliable enough, or any axiomatic system that is rich enough, to allow repeated combination of elementary operations has an inherent potential for vast complexity. This inescapable complexity is the universal and unifying theme for computational systems in all of their guises: mathematical, electronic, mechanical or chemical. It can be a force to be harnessed or an obstacle to be surmounted. As a phenomenon, it was almost unheralded in human thought before Cantor's work of the late nineteenth century. Since the 1940s and 50s, theoretical and practical progress in Computer Science, as both a mathematical and an engineering discipline, has been dramatic and has wrought fundamental changes in the infrastructure of our society. The computational and communication capabilities in devices all about us are the more obvious signs of this transformation. These have been accompanied by manifestations of the deeper theory, such as the inescapable susceptibility of programs to faults or the aptly named computer viruses" - Dr. Steven E. Koonin

# "The products of human creativity grow only arithmetically, whereas the capacity to store and distribute them increases geometrically. The human imagination can't keep up" - Brian Hayes, "Terabyte Territory", American Scientist, May-June 2002

# "Narrowness of experience leads to narrowness of imagination" - Rob Pike, "Systems Software Research Is Irrelevant"

# "Cleverness is evil; use it only when necessary" - Marshall Cline, Greg Lomow, and Mike Girou, C++ FAQs, Second Edition

# "The only software that doesn't have to be changed is software no one uses" - Marshall Cline, Greg Lomow, and Mike Girou, C++ FAQs, Second Edition

# "Linux is only free if your time has no value" - Jamie Zawinski

# "The purpose of computing is insight, not numbers" - Richard W. Hamming
Computer Quotations: Hardware

# "We have called it the Transistor, T-R-A-N-S-I-S-T-O-R, because it is a resistor or semiconductor device which can amplify electrical signals as they are transferred through it from input to output terminals. It is, if you will, the electrical equivalent of a vacuum tube amplifier. But there the similarity ceases. It has no vacuum, no filament, no glass tube. It is composed entirely of cold, solid substances. This cylindrical object which I am holding up is a Transistor. Although it is a little bitty thing, it can... do just about everything a vacuum tube can do, and some unique things which a vacuum tube cannot do" - Ralph Bown

# "With the advent of the transistor and the work in semiconductors generally, it seems now possible to envisage electronic equipment in a solid block with no connecting wires. The block may consist of layers of insulating, conducting, rectifying, and amplifying materials, the electrical functions being connected directly by cutting out areas of the various layers" - Geoffrey Dummer, May 1952

# "Imagine a dream machine... raw video, plenty of it... autoscroll text, a full 16 lines of 64 characters... imagine Zaltair, available now... you can test the entire memory with the MEMTEST statement... A computer engineer's dream... even the 18-slot motherboard. And what a motherboard" - Stephen Wozniak in a joke 1977 ad

# "Like iron in 19th-century rails, silicon in 20th-century microchips has transformed society" - Technology Review May/June 2000 issue

# "The microprocessor has brought electronics into a new era. It is altering the structure of our society" - Robert Noyce and Marcian Hoff, Jr., "History of Microprocessor Development at Intel", IEEE Micro

# "By making things smaller, everything gets better simultaneously.... the cost of doing things electronically drops as a result of technology.... We have made of the order of a ten millionfold decrease in the cost of a transistor and thrown in all the interconnections free" - Gordon E. Moore

# "The display is the computer" - Jen-Hsun Huang, Founder and CEO of Nvidia Corporation

# "Soon, computers will be fast" - Billy Zelsnack
Computer Quotations: Real Programmers

# "Back in the Good Old Days,
when the term 'software' sounded funny
and Real Computers were made out of drums and vacuum tubes,
Real Programmers wrote in machine code.
Not FORTRAN. Not RATFOR. Not, even, assembly language.
Machine Code.
Raw, unadorned, inscrutable hexadecimal numbers.
Directly." - Ed Nather, in a May 21, 1983 USENET post

# "I have often felt that programming is an art form,
whose real value can only be appreciated
by another versed in the same arcane art;
there are lovely gems and brilliant coups
hidden from human view and admiration, sometimes forever,
by the very nature of the process.
You can learn a lot about an individual
just by reading through his code,
even in hexadecimal." - Ed Nather in a May 21, 1983 USENET post

# "If you can't do it in Fortran, do it in assembly language. If you can't do it in assembly language, it isn't worth doing" - Ed Post, "Real Programmers Don't Use Pascal", a letter to the editor of Datamation, vol. 29, #7, July 1983

# "Real Programmers aren't afraid to use GOTOs. Real Programmers can write five page long DO loops without getting confused. Real Programmers like Arithmetic IF statements - they make the code more interesting. Real Programmers write self-modifying code, especially if they can save 20 nanoseconds in the middle of a tight loop. Real Programmers don't need comments - the code is obvious" - Ed Post, "Real Programmers Don't Use Pascal", a letter to the editor of Datamation, vol. 29, #7, July 1983

# "Since Fortran doesn't have a structured IF, REPEAT ... UNTIL, or CASE statement, Real Programmers don't have to worry about not using them. Besides, they can be simulated when necessary using assigned GOTOs" - Ed Post, "Real Programmers Don't Use Pascal", a letter to the editor of Datamation, vol. 29, #7, July 1983

# "As all Real Programmers know, the only useful data structure is the Array. Strings, Lists, Structures, Sets - these are all special cases of arrays and can be treated that way just as easily without messing up your programming language with all sorts of complications" - Ed Post, "Real Programmers Don't Use Pascal", a letter to the editor of Datamation, vol. 29, #7, July 1983

# "No, your Real Programmer uses OS/370. A good programmer can find and understand the description of the IJK305I error he just got in his JCL manual. A great programmer can write JCL without referring to the manual at all. A truly outstanding programmer can find bugs buried in a 6 megabyte core dump without using a hex calculator. (I have actually seen this done.)" - Ed Post, "Real Programmers Don't Use Pascal", a letter to the editor of Datamation, vol. 29, #7, July 1983

# "The Real Programmer wants a 'you asked for it, you got it' text editor - complicated, cryptic, powerful, unforgiving, dangerous. TECO, to be precise. It has been observed that a TECO command sequence more closely resembles transmission line noise than readable text" - Ed Post, "Real Programmers Don't Use Pascal", a letter to the editor of Datamation, vol. 29, #7, July 1983

# "Oh sure, some computer vendors have come out with Fortran 77 compilers, but every one of them has a way of converting itself back into a Fortran 66 compiler at the drop of an option card - to compile DO loops like God meant them to be" - Ed Post, "Real Programmers Don't Use Pascal", a letter to the editor of Datamation, vol. 29, #7, July 1983

# "If you ignore the fact that it's 'structured', even 'C' programming can be appreciated by the Real Programmer: after all, there's no type checking, variable names are seven (ten? eight?) characters long, and the added bonus of the Pointer data type is thrown in - like having the best parts of Fortran and assembly language in one place. (Not to mention some of the more creative uses for #define.)" - Ed Post, "Real Programmers Don't Use Pascal", a letter to the editor of Datamation, vol. 29, #7, July 1983
Computer Quotations: Thought

# "Computation takes [an] input, applies a finite number of well defined operations to it, and gives an output. Thought takes an input, applies a finite number of poorly defined operations to it, and gives an output. In both cases the output will be incomprehensible to the general public" - Jeffrey Gauch, sci.physics

# "The easiest programs to use are those which demand the least new learning from the user" - Eric S. Raymond, The Art of Unix Programming

# "The real problem is not whether machines think but whether men do" - B. F. Skinner

# "Mankind is a catalyzing enzyme for the transition from a carbon-based to a silicon-based intelligence" - Gerard Bricogne
Computer Quotations: Programming

# "In college, before video games, we would amuse ourselves by posing programming exercises. One of the favorites was to write the shortest self-reproducing program. Since this is an exercise divorced from reality, the usual vehicle was FORTRAN. Actually, FORTRAN was the language of choice for the same reason that three-legged races are popular" - Ken Thompson, "Reflections on Trusting Trust"

# "The use of COBOL cripples the mind; its teaching should, therefore, be regarded as a criminal offense" - Edsger W. Dijkstra, "Selected Writings on Computing: A Personal Perspective"

# "You can't trust code that you did not totally create yourself" - Ken Thompson, "Reflections on Trusting Trust"

# "With diligence it is possible to make anything run slowly" - Tom Duff

# "The answer to the almost limitless problems of DLLs is obvious: Don't use them. Wherever possible, use static linking. Imagine the benefits. Some other developer's boneheaded installation or poorly designed updated DLL will not break your application. Your application won't fail because a component is missing, or because a registry setting has been lost or modified incorrectly. Your application won't behave differently depending on the applications already loaded, as a DLL-based application can if another application has already loaded a different copy of one of its components. Your installation will be exceptionally simple, and an uninstall will be just as easy. I should warn you of one small hassle if you try DLL-free development. Your users won't believe that there is only one file to install" - Tim Pfeiffer, "Windows DLLs: Threat or Menace?", Dr. Dobb's Journal, June 24, 1998

# "I can't think of a job I'd rather do than computer programming. All day, you create patterns and structure out of the formless void, and you solve dozens of smaller puzzles along the way. The wit and ingenuity of the human brain is pitted against the remorseless speed and accuracy of the electronic one" - Peter van der Linden, Expert C Programming: Deep C Secrets

# "Software is largely a service industry operating under the persistent but unfounded delusion that it is a manufacturing industry" - Eric S. Raymond, "The Magic Cauldron"

# "The OO design concept initially proved valuable in the design of graphics systems, graphical user interfaces, and certain kinds of simulation. To the surprise and gradual disillusionment of many, it has proved hard to demonstrate significant benefits of OO outside those areas. A decade later, inspection of open-source archives (in which choice of language reflects developers' judgements rather than corporate mandates) reveals that C++ is still very little used outside of GUI and multimedia toolkits. When all is said and done, C++ is basically just another conventional language. It confines the memory-management problem somewhat better than C does, but doesn't solve it. For many types of application its OO features are not significant, and simply add complexity to C without yielding much leverage. The world is not short of free C++ compilers; if C++ were unequivocally superior to C it would now dominate" - Eric S. Raymond, The Art of Unix Programming

# "The Halo programmers have a small whiteboard in their area. Written on the board are the names of all the programmers. Any time one of them breaks something in the code and does not tell the others, that programmer earns a letter. In essence, they are playing a variant of the game 'horse', although the word they are spelling out letter by letter is much cruder than 'horse'. I believe one of them is up to 'K' now. I'm not entirely sure what happens to the [programmer] who completes the entire word, but if the word itself is any indication, it won't be pretty" - Matt Soell, Bungie Studios, Halo Update 1/26/2001

# "Complexity control is the central problem of writing software in the real world" - Eric S. Raymond, The Art of Unix Programming

# "It is vitally important that the source code to an open source application be available, even if 99% of the people who download the program do not grab [the source]. The source code is far more important than the binary, since the binary can be produced from the source but not vice versa. This is one of the many reasons open source applications are preferable, why others should be encouraged to release source code, and yes, why Richard M. Stallman is not crazy" - Avery Lee

# "The penalty for putting an unsigned character in an Mcell of the improper type is... death" - Uche Akotaobi

# "Your quote here" - Bjarne Stroustrup

# "So much code is appallingly poor" - Bjarne Stroustrup

# "Java isn't platform independent; it is a platform" - Bjarne Stroustrup

# "Complexity assertions have to be part of the interface" - Alexander Stepanov, March 1995 interview, Dr. Dobb's Journal

# "I decided to use a dialect of Lisp called Scheme to build such a toolbox [of graph algorithms].... I realized during this activity that side effects are important, because you cannot really do graph operations without side effects. You cannot replicate a graph every time you want to modify a vertex. Therefore, the insight at that time was that you can combine high order techniques when building generic algorithms with disciplined use of side effects. Side effects are not necessarily bad; they are bad only when they are misused" - Alexander Stepanov, March 1995 interview, Dr. Dobb's Journal

# "Object-oriented programming aficionados think that everything is an object.... this [isn't] so. There are things that are objects. Things that have state and change their state are objects. And then there are things that are not objects. A binary search is not an object. It is an algorithm" - Alexander Stepanov, March 1995 interview, Dr. Dobb's Journal

# "I spent several months programming in Java. Contrary to its author's prediction, it did not grow on me. I did not find any new insights - for the first time in my life programming in a new language did not bring me new insights. It keeps all the stuff that I never use in C++ - inheritance, virtuals - OO gook - and removes the stuff that I find useful. It might be successful... but it has no intellectual value whatsoever" - Alexander Stepanov

# "I spent years trying to find some use for inheritance and virtuals, before I understood why that mechanism was fundamentally flawed and should not be used" - Alexander Stepanov

# "There are only two kinds of programming languages: those people always bitch about and those nobody uses" - Bjarne Stroustrup

# "The purpose of abstraction is not to be vague, but to create a new semantic level in which one can be absolutely precise" - Edsger W. Dijkstra, "The Humble Programmer", October 1972

# "Our civilization depends critically on software, and we have a dangerously low degree of professionalism in the computer fields" - Bjarne Stroustrup

# "When you said you wanted free software, you should have specified you wanted bug-free software" - Avery Lee

# "The technology is at the point that the speed and memory usage are much better than before, but it seems that every time a language is converted to garbage collection the first thing the language designers do is kill destructors. Sorry, my scoped lock class can't release a critical section in a finalizer called with random delay between zero and infinity" - Avery Lee
Computer Quotations: Programming: Style

# "I don't like using my brain, and avoid doing so whenever possible. Overuse dulls a sharp blade" - Richard Heathfield, comp.lang.c

# "I find it easier to write code which does not depend on the arithmetic features of the machine. Such code is also easier to understand, being free of trickery that exploits the representation's properties" - Kaz Kylheku, comp.lang.c

# "The avoidance of delving [behind] the scenes is what makes a superior programmer. A programmer should be able to read an interface specification, and then code to that specification without overly speculating about the behavior behind a given implementation of it. This skill comes into play not only in using an abstract programming language, but in constructing large software decomposed into cohesive, loosely-coupled blackboxes. If you write one module such that it is dependent on what is going on behind the scenes of another module, you have committed a programming mistake, no matter how clever your solution is or how many cycles it shaves off the execution" - Kaz Kylheku, comp.lang.c

# "When in doubt, use brute force" - Ken Thompson

# "If you aren't sure which way to do something, do it both ways and see which works better" - John Carmack

# "The only way to write complex software that won't fall on its face is to hold its global complexity down - to build it out of simple pieces connected by well-defined interfaces, so that most problems are local and you can have some hope of fixing or optimizing a part without breaking the whole" - Eric S. Raymond, The Art of Unix Programming

# "A software system is transparent when you can look at it and immediately see what is going on. It is simple when what is going on is uncomplicated enough for a human brain to reason about all the potential cases without strain" - Eric S. Raymond, The Art of Unix Programming

# "Procedure names should reflect what they do; function names should reflect what they return" - Rob Pike, Notes on Programming in C
Computer Quotations: C

# "You know, you cannot write production code as bad as this [Lisp code] in C" - Richard P. Gabriel, "Lisp: Good News, Bad News, How to Win Big"

# "Unix and C are the ultimate computer viruses" - Richard P. Gabriel, "Lisp: Good News, Bad News, How to Win Big"

# "Never eat at a place called 'Mom's'. Never play cards with a man called 'Doc'. And never, ever, forget that C treats an l-value of type array-of-T in an expression as a pointer to the first element of the array" - C programmers' saying (traditional), quoted by Peter van der Linden, Expert C Programming: Deep C Secrets

# "You are in a maze of twisty compiler features, all different" - GNU C compiler source, version 1.34

# "Symbol: Static
Meaning: Inside a function, retains its value between calls
At the function level, visible only in this file
.... You're probably wondering what possible reason there could be for re-using the static keyword with these wildly different meanings. If you find out, please let us know, too" - Peter van der Linden, Expert C Programming: Deep C Secrets

# "Of course, C proved indispensible to the developers of all its alternatives. Dig down through enough implementation layers under any of the other languages surveyed here and you will find a core implemented in pure, portable C" - Eric S. Raymond, The Art of Unix Programming

# "Early C had no separate operators for & and && or | and ||" - Dennis Ritchie, net.lang.c, Oct. 22, 1982

# "Those who claim 'C++ is a better C' are wrong" - Richard Heathfield, C Unleashed

# "I'm sure there's an effective drinking game lurking in this book [C: The Complete Reference by Herbert Schildt]" -

# "It wouldn't be a new C standard if it didn't give a new meaning to the word static" - Peter Seebach, C Unleashed

# "The main() function returns int.... If you void main() and you're writing code for a nuclear reactor or a military aircraft, you're probably feeling a little unsettled right now, and I don't blame you.... To be portable, you must return int from main and you must take either no arguments or the two specified by the standard" - Richard Heathfield, C Unleashed

# "Some people say that casts are so-named because they help something broken to limp along" - Peter van der Linden, Expert C Programming: Deep C Secrets

# "Let's consider now why C is a great language. It is commonly believed that C is a hack which was successful because Unix was written in it. I disagree.... C, reflecting the genius of Dennis Ritchie, provided a minimal model of the computer that had evolved over 30 years. C was not a quick hack. As computers evolved to handle all kinds of problems, C, being the minimal model of such a computer, became a very powerful language to solve all kinds of problems in different domains very effectively. This is the secret of C's portability: it is the best representation of an abstract computer that we have. Of course, the abstraction is done over the set of real computers, not some imaginary computational devices. Moreover, people could understand the machine model behind C. It is much easier for an average engineer to understand the machine model behind C than the machine model behind Ada or even Scheme. C succeeded because it was doing the right thing" - Alexander Stepanov, March 1995 interview, Dr. Dobb's Journal
Computer Quotations: Optimization

# "Today's mystery: I've found a case where adding a NOP instruction speeds up the code by 9%. Not just a small loop, the 9% speedup affects the entire 2nd pass of the FFT!" - George Woltman

# "As compelling as it is to try to make things go faster, remember that optimization should usually be the last stage of the development process, and generally should be subordinate to other software goals.... The worst time to optimize is the instant you start writing code.... the most premature optimization is the one you do without using a profiler or other measurement tool first" - Michael Lee, C Unleashed

# "As a general rule, 90% of your program will be spent in 10% of its code. Profilers are tools that help you identify the 10% 'hot spots' that constrain the speed of your program. This is a good thing for making it faster. But in the Unix tradition, profilers have a far more important function. They enable you not to optimize the other 90%! This is good, and not just because it saves you work. The really valuable effect is that not optimizing that 90% holds down global complexity and reduces bugs" - Eric S. Raymond, The Art of Unix Programming

# "Prototype, then polish. Get it working before you optimize it" - Eric S. Raymond, The Art of Unix Programming

# "Rushing to optimize before the bottlenecks are known may be the only error to have ruined more designs than feature creep. From tortured code to incomprehensible data layouts, the results of obsessing about speed or memory or disk usage at the expense of transparency and simplicity are everywhere. They spawn innumerable bugs and cost millions of man-hours - often, just to get marginal gains in the use of some resource much less expensive than debugging time" - Eric S. Raymond, The Art of Unix Programming

# "Rule 1. You can't tell where a program is going to spend its time. Bottlenecks occur in surprising places, so don't try to second guess and put in a speed hack until you've proven that's where the bottleneck is" - Rob Pike, Notes on Programming in C

# "Programmer time is expensive; conserve it in preference to machine time" - Eric S. Raymond, The Art of Unix Programming

# "Premature optimization is the root of all evil" - Donald E. Knuth
Computer Quotations: Bugs

# "Debugging had to be discovered. I can remember the exact instant when I realized that a large part of my life from then on was going to be spent finding mistakes in my own programs" - Maurice Wilkes (creator of the EDSAC)

# "To paraphrase Mark Twain, the difference between the right program and almost the right program is like the difference between lightning and a lightning bug. The difference is just a bug" - Danny Hillis, The Pattern on the Stone

# "Bugs are an unintended source of inspiration. Many times I've seen a bug in a game and thought, 'That's cool - I wouldn't have thought of that in a million years'" - Will Wright


# "One guy in our office keeps a wooden head at the top of his cube - the God of Debugging. He makes offerings to it daily" - Maurice Doucet

# "Everyone knows that debugging is twice as hard as writing a program in the first place. So if you're as clever as you can be when you write it, how will you ever debug it?" - Brian W. Kernighan and P.J. Plauger, The Elements of Programming Style, Second Edition

# "Beware of bugs in the above code; I have only proved it correct, not tried it" - Donald E. Knuth

# "The central problem of C and C++ is that they require programmers to do their own memory management" - Eric S. Raymond, The Art of Unix Programming
Computer Quotations: Hackers

# "It is counter-intuitive to hackers to mutilate literal strings with characters that don't belong in them" - The Jargon File 4.3.1

# "There seems to be a meta-rule behind these nonstandard hackerisms to the effect that precision of expression is more important than conformance to traditional rules; where the latter create ambiguity or lose information they can be discarded without a second thought" - The Jargon File 4.3.1

# "It is widely grokked that cats have the hacker nature" - The Jargon File 4.3.1

# "Imperfect systems infuriate hackers, whose primal instinct is to debug them" - Steven Levy, Hackers

# "Multics... required a truly non-trivial hack before it bombed. So there'd always be macho programmers proving themselves by crashing Multics. [The Incompatible Time-sharing System] ITS, in contrast, had a command whose specific function was crashing the system. All you had to do was type KILL SYSTEM, and the PDP-6 would grind to a halt" - Steven Levy, Hackers

# "We were called computer nerds. Anyone who spends their life on a computer is pretty unusual" - Bill Gates

# "Writing good English is a rare skill among programmers" - Richard Stallman, "Free Software and Free Manuals",

# "Writing non-free software is not an ethically legitimate activity, so if people who do this run into trouble, that's good! All businesses based on non-free software ought to fail, and the sooner the better" - Richard Stallman

# "Note to self: pasty-skinned programmers ought not stand out in the Mojave desert for multiple hours" - John Carmack
Computer Quotations: The Internet

# "The Net interprets censorship as damage and routes around it" - John Gilmore

# "As the most participatory form of mass speech yet developed, the Internet deserves the highest protection from governmental intrusion" - Judge Stewart Dalzell, in a decision later upheld by the Supreme Court

# "You know, we're not actually competing w[ith] Sonique and if they're smart, they'll keep it that way" - Brennan Underwood

# "View this site at at least 800x600 or be prepared for a whole new universe of 'ugly', not to mention some major horizontal scrolling. You've been warned" - Shamus Young
Computer Quotations: Games

# "Man is a game-playing animal, and a computer is another way to play games" - Scott Adams

# "If the former Soviet Union had churned out a few more games such as Tetris and fewer nuclear warheads, they might have won the Cold War. We capitalists would have been too engrossed in our Tetris games to have noticed their tanks rolling across the Iron Curtain - that's how addictive Alexey Pajitnov's seemingly simple puzzle game was. Of course, Soviet Communism collapsed under its own weight, and it's interesting to note that Pajitnov is now working at Microsoft. Coincidence? We think not" - CNET Gamecenter, "The Top 40 Games of the Millennium"

# "Then there's the giant tentacle creature. Which is probably the most awesome collection of polygons we've seen in a 3D game. Naturally you want to unload several thousand rounds into its face. Except it hasn't got a face. And anyway, that's the worst thing you can do because it hunts by sound, menacingly tippity-tapping away on the metal grates surrounding it.... The tentacle beast... obviously resides in the lovely warmth of a missile silo, just below the main engines of a rocket. Firing that rocket immediately becomes your sole reason for existence" - Mark Donald of PC Gamer UK, reviewing Half-Life

# "I play games of medieval adventure and heroism to slay princesses and rescue dragons; I don't play them to spend two-thirds of my time dickering with shopkeepers. I want to be a hero, but the game forces me to be an itinerant second-hand arms dealer. Earning money by robbing corpses doesn't make me feel all that noble, either" - Ernest Adams, "The Designer's Notebook", Gamasutra

# "The world's a lot less scary when you're carrying a rocket launcher around with you" - Ernest Adams, "The Designer's Notebook", Gamasutra

# "It is difficult to make good scalable use of a CPU like you can of a graphics card. You certainly don't want 'better or worse' physics or AI in your game" - John Carmack

# "We expect to see whole new genres... of games being developed. Many of those will take advantage of the fact that gaming is a very social activity; you play with your friends, you sit on the couch, you have some pizza and a couple Cokes, and you play your games. It's a lot of fun. You're talking and communicating. But now, imagine that your best friend has moved across the city or across the country, imagine keeping that same great game experience because Xbox, with the broadband connectivity is letting you do that, through the fact that we have a headset called the Xbox Communicator, you could actually talk to them real time while you're playing the game. So, if you take them down and march on past the 10-yard line into the end zone and get that touchdown, you can tell them, dude, I just nailed your ass, and you'll hear it real time, and there will be no question that you are the king of football" - John O'Rourke (Director, Games Sales & Marketing, Microsoft Corporation), transcript from the 2001 Microsoft Financial Analyst Meeting

# "The system itself has the mark of cleverness and ingenuity.... When you manipulate the menu system, you feel as though you are at the helm of the future.... The Xbox probably has the most raw potential for excellent games" - Jerry Holkins

# "Half-Life is the finest implementation of a game on rails anybody has ever done" - Warren Spector
Computer Quotations: Games: Deus Ex

# "Many crowbars we call 'murder of crowbars'. Always have one for kombat. Ha" - Gunther Hermann, Deus Ex

# "All this blood has ruined my chrome" - Anna Navarre, Deus Ex

# "Maybe I'll cap his ass, too" - J. C. Denton, Deus Ex

# "Bravery is not a function of firepower" - J. C. Denton, Deus Ex

# "A bomb's a bad choice for close-range combat" - J. C. Denton, Deus Ex

# "You've found an interesting way to break the script compiler" - Tim Sweeney to Albert Yarusso

# "Setting the AI reactions for a giant spiderbot is pretty easy... hate, hate, hate, hate" - Steve Powers

# "Math is so cool. Hooray for math!" - Chris Norden

# "Women are very high poly count" - Dan Rubenfield

# "I remember having some problems with [the Deus Ex theme] when I first heard it and I was trying to figure out how to tell [Alex Brandon] I wanted changes. But then I noticed that I couldn't get it out of my mind. I was whistling or humming it to myself all the time. So I just kept my mouth shut and let it be. I think it's a highly addictive tune" - Warren Spector

# "Ultimately, all I wanted was for players to feel like they were in the real world. I wanted them to be able to apply real world common sense to the problems confronting them, and I thought recreating real world locations would encourage that kind of thinking. There's also just a real power, a real thrill, when you fire up a game and see a place you've been or want to go, and then get to do all the stuff you WANT to do there but know you'll get arrested if you try! If that isn't the stuff of fantasy - far more than exploring some goofy dwarven mine or alien spaceship - I don't know what is!" - Warren Spector

# "Creating a really believable world is just insanely hard" - Warren Spector
Computer Quotations: Games: Sid Meier's Alpha Centauri: Alien Crossfire

# "Resources exist to be consumed. And consumed they will be, if not by this generation then by some future. By what right does this forgotten future seek to deny us our birthright? None I say! Let us take what is ours, chew and eat our fill" - CEO Nwabudike Morgan, "The Ethics of Greed", Sid Meier's Alpha Centauri: Alien Crossfire

# "There are two kinds of scientific progress: the methodical experimentation and categorization which gradually extend the boundaries of knowledge, and the revolutionary leap of genius which redefines and transcends those boundaries. Acknowledging our debt to the former, we yearn nonetheless for the latter" - Academician Prokhor Zakharov, "Address to the Faculty", Sid Meier's Alpha Centauri: Alien Crossfire

# "Our ancestors harnessed the power of a sun, and so again shall we" - Commissioner Pravin Lal, "The Science of Our Fathers", Sid Meier's Alpha Centauri: Alien Crossfire

# "We have reached an informational threshold which can only be crossed by harnessing the speed of light directly. The quickest computations require the fastest possible particles moving along the shortest paths. Since the capability now exists to take our information directly from photons travelling molecular distances, the final act of the information revolution will soon be upon us" - Academician Prokhor Zakharov, "For I Have Tasted The Fruit", Sid Meier's Alpha Centauri: Alien Crossfire

# "I plan to live forever, of course, but barring that I'd settle for a couple thousand years. Even five hundred would be pretty nice" - CEO Nwabudike Morgan, MorganLink 3DVision Interview, Sid Meier's Alpha Centauri: Alien Crossfire

# "What actually transpires beneath the veil of an event horizon? Decent people shouldn't think too much about that" - Academician Prokhor Zakharov, "For I Have Tasted The Fruit", Sid Meier's Alpha Centauri: Alien Crossfire

# "Look at any photograph or work of art. If you could duplicate exactly the first tiny dot of color, and then the next and the next, you would end with a perfect copy of the whole, indistinguishable from the original in every way, including the so-called 'moral value' of the art itself. Nothing can transcend its smallest elements" - CEO Nwabudike Morgan, "The Ethics of Greed", Sid Meier's Alpha Centauri: Alien Crossfire
Mathematics Quotations

# "We live in a universe of patterns" - Ian Stewart, Nature's Numbers

# "I have a truly marvelous demonstration of this proposition which this margin is too narrow to contain" - Pierre de Fermat

# "This expression is admittedly downright hideous and whether it will be of any practical use whatever depends on our being able to pound the left-hand side into a form which looks and acts at least half-civilized. We turn to this task now" - Harry Moritz Schey, Div, grad, curl, and all that: an informal text on vector calculus

# "But is zero divided by zero also one? If no fruits are divided among no one, will each still get one?" - Srinivasa Ramanujan as a young child

# "There was nothing 'wrong' with what Ramanujan did; it was just weird" - Robert Kanigel, The Man Who Know Infinity

# "I am ashamed to tell you to how many figures I carried these calculations [of Pi], having no other business at the time" - Isaac Newton

# "One brilliant young mathematics student at Madras's Presidency College, T. Vijayaraghavan, deliberately neglected his studies and failed his examinations, the more perfectly to follow in Ramanujan's footsteps" - Robert Kanigel, The Man Who Knew Infinity

# "Finally I am becoming stupider no more" - Paul Erd epitaph, written by himself

# "Mathematics is the surest way to immortality. If you make a big discovery in mathematics, you will be remembered after everyone else will be forgotten" - Paul Erd

# "Problems worthy of attack, prove their worth by fighting back" - Piet Hein, also said by Paul Erdos

# "Mathematics is the Queen of the Sciences, and [Number Theory] the Queen of Mathematics" - Carl Friedrich Gauss

# "The simplest schoolboy is now familiar with truths for which Archimedes would have sacrificed his life" - Ernest Renan

# "Accurate reckoning: the entrance into knowledge of all existing things and all obscure secrets" - Ahmes
Nuclear Quotations

# "Much of the standard nomenclature in nuclear science was developed at this time.... I thought for a while that this term [Fermi's term 'pile' for a uranium-graphite lattice] was used to refer to a source of nuclear energy in analogy with Volta's use of the Italian term 'pila' to denote his own great invention of a source of electrical energy [the battery]. I was disillusioned by Fermi himself, who told me that he simply used the common English word 'pile' as synonymous with 'heap'" - Emilio Segre

# "The reactor... had to contain material to decelerate the neutrons. Fermi, in his straightforward way, called this material a 'slower downer'. That term got under my skin so much that I was forced to think up a different term. I chose 'moderator' and it stuck" - John Archibald Wheeler, Geons, Black Holes, & Quantum Foam

# "If anyone wants a hole in the ground, nuclear explosives can make big holes" - Edward Teller

# "May all our devices explode as successfully as today's, but always over test sites and never over cities" - Andrei Sakharov, at the testing of Russia's first true thermonuclear bomb

# "Nuclear weapons have not, as some expected, 'made war obsolete'. It may well be, however, that they have made it obsolete between nuclear powers" - Laurence Martin, The Changing Face of Nuclear Warfare
Physics Quotations

# "It's not so much a universe in which - as Einstein memorably refused to believe - God plays dice: it seems more a universe in which dice play God" - Ian Stewart, Nature's Numbers

# "Everything existing in the universe is the fruit of chance and necessity" - Democritus of Abdera, quoted in Leon Lederman's The God Particle

# "Nothing exists except atoms and empty space, everything else is opinion" - Democritus of Abdera, quoted in Leon Lederman's The God Particle

# "There is nothing that living things do that cannot be understood from the point of view that they are made of atoms acting according to the laws of physics" - Richard Feynman

# "There are all kinds of neat stuff we can do with ultra-cold fermions" - Randall Hulet

# "Bosons love to come together; fermions can't stand each other" - Daniel Kleppner

# "The situation is not weirder than you imagine, it is weirder than you can imagine" - Lewis Carroll Epstein, Relativity Visualized

# "Remember, an experimentalist, in contrast to a theoretician, will be mistaken only once, and then they will no longer believe him" - Lev Andreevich Artsimovich

# "Spacetime grips mass, telling it how to move, and mass grips spacetime, telling it how to curve" - John Archibald Wheeler

# "If you are wondering what the hell I am doing subtracting particles from each other, well, that's quantum mechanics" - James Bottomley and John Baez, sci.physics FAQ

# "You cannot have an elliptical orbit that passes through the Schwarzchild radius. I mean, more than once" - Paul Lutus, sci.physics

# "I've often wondered what would happen if a macroscopic lump of antimatter - say, an anticup of anticoffee - was just plonked down on an ordinary surface" - Jon Grove, sci.physics

# "I don't know where the idea that the rotation of the Earth causes gravity came from, but it seems to be widespread" - Bryan Reed, sci.physics

# "All the effects of nature are only the mathematical consequences of a small number of immutable laws" - Pierre-Simon de Laplace
Space Quotations

# "When a Saturn V stage was in place for a night firing, its bright flame would cast a glow across the land. During the brief minutes of its firing it would hold back the night. And in that state, one could cherish the dream that somehow there would be other lights, brighter and stronger, to drive shadows from the hearts of men" - T. A. Heppenheimer, Countdown: A History of Space Flight

# "The next step will be for the colonists on Mars to throw off the hand of the United States. There will be this wonderful historical irony. When the people on Mars write a declaration of independence saying, 'We hold these truths to be self-evident...', the US will be rather pissed off" - Eric Idle

# "The exploration of space will go ahead whether we join in it or not, and it is one of the great adventures of all time... we set sail on this new sea because there is new knowledge to be gained... But why, some say, the moon? Why choose this as our goal? And they may well ask, why climb the highest mountain?... We choose to go to the moon! We choose to go to the moon in this decade, and do the other things, not because they are easy, but because they are hard. Because that goal will serve to organize and measure the best of our energies and skills. Because that challenge is one that we are willing to accept, one we are unwilling to postpone, and one we intend to win" - John F. Kennedy

# "Everybody knows what the moon is, everybody knows what this decade is, and everybody can tell a live astronaut who returned from the moon from one who didn't" - Wernher Von Braun

# "Oh, my God, our building is shaking! Part of the roof has come in here!" - Walter Cronkite, during the first launch of the complete Saturn V in November 1967

# "The time will come when a spacecraft carrying human beings will leave the earth and set out on a voyage to distant planets - to remote worlds. Today this may seem only an enticing fantasy, but such in fact is not the case. The launching of the first two Soviet Sputniks has already thrown a sturdy bridge from the earth into space, and the way to the stars is open" - Sergei Korolev

# "The further conquest of space will make it possible, for example, to create systems of satellites making daily revolutions around our planet at an altitude of some 40,000 kilometers, and to assure universal communications and the relaying of radio and television transmissions. Such an arrangement might prove more useful, economically, than the construction of radio relay systems over the whole surface of the earth. The great accuracy of movement of these satellites will provide a reliable basis for solving navigational problems" - Sergei Korolev

# "I'm one of your own people, comrades! One of your own!" - Yuri Gagarin's first words upon returing to Earth [Note: This was attributed in a Russian book from the Soviet era and thus may not be wholly accurate]

# "That's one small step for [a] man, one giant leap for mankind" - Neil Armstrong while on the Moon

# "Approaching the end of Apollo, my frustration often surfaced. No one in America seemed to care that we were giving up, surrendering the future of the next generation of young people with stars in their eyes.... How I wished John F. Kennedy were still alive, challenging us to dare and to dream. I feel the same way today; the boldness and scope of his vision is not to be found today in our space program and in our nation" - Gene Kranz, Failure Is Not An Option

# "Entering the twenty-first century, we have an unimaginable array of technology and a generation of young Americans schooled in these technologies. With our powerful economy, we can do anything we set our mind to do. Yet we stand with our feet firmly planted on the ground when we could be exploring the universe. Three decades ago... Americans placed six flags on the Moon. Today we no longer try for new and bold space achievements; instead we celebrate the anniversaries of the past.... Our work is unfinished" - Gene Kranz, Failure Is Not An Option

# "Agh, you see one Earth, you've seen them all" - Jack Schmitt, on the Moon

# "In retrospect, it is clear that Apollo was an element of twenty-first-century exploration which was somehow drawn forward 50 years and, incredibly, implemented with early-1960s electronics technology - a fact which demonstrates the supreme mastery that the astronauts and their ground support team had over their remarkable vehicles" - David M. Harland, Exploring the Moon: The Apollo Expeditions
Fiction Quotations

# "It was quite simple. All that was needed was an unending series of victories over your own memory. 'Reality Control', they called it; in Newspeak, 'doublethink'" - George Orwell, 1984

# "Orthodoxy is unconsciousness" - George Orwell, 1984

# "I have no data yet. It is a capital mistake to theorize before one has data. Insensibly one begins to twist facts to suit theories instead of theories to suit facts" - Sherlock Holmes, A Scandal in Bohemia

# "Be patient, for the world is broad and wide" - Edwin Abbott Abbott, Flatland and William Shakespeare, Romeo and Juliet

# "O, it is excellent to have a giant's strength, but it is tyrannous to use it like a giant" - William Shakespeare, Measure for Measure

# "Increasing vision is increasingly expensive" - Michael Crichton, The Andromeda Strain

# "The key to winning arguments... is to always be right. And to be able to prove that you're right so conclusively that no one can prevail against you" - John Cramer, Einstein's Bridge (spoken by a character)

# "Wealth that is stored up in gold is dead. It rots and stinks. True wealth is made every day by men getting up out of bed and going to work. By schoolchildren doing their lessons, improving their minds" - Neal Stephenson, Cryptonomicon (spoken by a character)

# "The world is full of power and energy and a person can go far by just skimming off a tiny bit of it" - Neal Stephenson, Snow Crash

# "Jones is my name. I'm in insurance" - 12 Monkeys

# "Any context conceals within it the means of advancing one's own desires" - Ian Stewart and Jack Cohen, Wheelers

# "Life turns up everywhere it can. Life turns up everywhere it can't" - Ian Stewart and Jack Cohen, Wheelers

# "Still, [Pavel Petrovich Gogol] was careful to tell his stories carefully and clearly, so that the children and grandchildren he'd never had would see what a great man he'd been" - Tom Clancy, The Bear and the Dragon

# "So high, so low, so many things to know" - Vernor Vinge, A Deepness In The Sky

# "Maybe I would find something there, an edge. Then, when I came back--" - The Man, A Deepness In The Sky by Vernor Vinge

# "Debts owed to a madman are still real debts" - Vernor Vinge, A Deepness In The Sky

# "They could never know the glory; they might never know the truth" - Vernor Vinge, A Fire Upon The Deep

# "Money cannot work, only people and machines can work" - Iain M. Banks, Feersum Endjinn
Verified Unsorted Quotations

# "Don't misunderstand my position here... I merely have something bad to say about absolutely everybody" - Kenneth Broll, "Linux - The New CP/M?"

# "Against stupidity the gods themselves fight in vain" - Friedrich von Schiller

# "Man wrongs, but time avenges" - Lord Byron

# "Science is the great antidote to the poison of enthusiasm and superstition" - Adam Smith

# "Humans are tough. We have to be. We're the survivors of the saber-tooth tigers and the glaciers, of tyrannical empires and barbarian invasions, of horrible famines and devastating plagues. You name it, you've got ancestors that have faced it, and overcome it" - Robert Zubrin, The Case for Mars

# "Wonder is the basis of worship" - Thomas Carlyle, Sartor Resartus

# "Do we, holding that the gods exist, deceive ourselves with insubstantial dreams and lies, while random careless chance and change alone control the world?" - Euripides, Hecuba

# "Scientists cannot make objects float skywards merely by agreeing among themselves that the force of gravity acts up rather than down. There has to be a reality check. Science has more stringent reality checks than any other area of human activity, and applies them more frequently. Religion hinges upon faith, politics hinges upon who can tell the most convincing lies or maybe just shout the loudest, but science hinges upon whether its conclusions resemble what actually happens" - Ian Stewart and Jack Cohen, Figments of Reality

# "Human beings seem to have an innate tendency to confuse functions with purposes" - Ian Stewart and Jack Cohen, Figments of Reality

# "The Bible tells you how to go to heaven, not how the heavens go" - Pope John Paul II

# "Knowledge will forever govern ignorance: And a people who mean to be their own governours, must arm themselves with the power which knowledge gives" - James Madison, quoted on the Library of Congress

# "For seeing life is but a motion of Limbs... why may we not say, that all Automata (Engines that move themselves by springs and wheels as doth a watch) have an artificial life?" - Thomas Hobbes

# "If the Church is not now as bad as the Soviet Government, that is due to the influence of those who attacked the Church" - Bertrand Russell

# "The U.S., Russia, and China have never come directly to blows. When one is actively engaged in a war, the others fight by proxy" - Holger Jensen, international editor of the Denver Rocky Mountain News

# "The future is going to take care of itself, like it always has" - Andy Grove

# "If we would get off our butts and provide the necessary funding for research, we would have a cure for all types of cancers" - Norman Schwarzkopf

# "People refer to 'the good ol' days', but I don't know what they're talking about. As someone who's battled cancer, if I lived more than 20 years ago, I'd be a dead man" - Lance Armstrong

# "Prepare for a new septic age" - Bruce Sterling

# "It is a profound and necessary truth that the deep things in science are not found because they are useful; they are found because it was possible to find them" - Robert Oppenheimer

# "If you want to succeed in this world you don't have to be much cleverer than other people, you just have to be one day earlier" - Leo Szilard

# "Poor science. We look to it to extend our lifespan, explain our origins, chart the stars, shrink the globe, and make us sexy until our dying day. But do we revere it? Adore it?" - Stephanie Salter

# "The true men of action in our time, those who transform the world, are not the politicians and statesmen, but the scientists" - W. H. Auden

# "I was born human. But this was an accident of fate - a condition merely of time and place. I believe it's something we have the power to change" - Kevin Warwick

# "Capitalism is the only economic system compatible with free individuals" - Peter McWilliams

# "I have deposited in the county of Bedford, about four miles from Buford's, in an excavation or vault six feet below the surface of the ground, the following articles..." - Thomas J. Beale

# "Although the whole of this life were said to be nothing but a dream and the physical world nothing but a phantasm, I should call this dream or phantasm real enough, if, using reason well, we were never deceived by it" - Gottfried Wilhelm von Leibniz

# "For the greatest nation on Earth, we have crummy coins and currency.... that's not a partisan statement because there's no partisanship when it comes to crummy coins" - Senate Banking Committee Chairman Phil Gramm

# "Microorganisms are the real masters of any planet" - John Rennie, Scientific American (March 2000)

# "It was awful. So I left. I just walked away one day" - Mitch Kapor, former Lotus CEO

# "The most fundamental thing is the progress of science which has been truly extraordinary... This is what characterizes our century" - Severo Ochoa

# "The magic words are squeamish ossifrage" - R. Rivest, A. Shamir, and L. Adleman

# "I always assume that what is in the power of one man to do is in the power of another" - Herbert Osborne Yardley


Why the future doesn't need us.

Our most powerful 21st-century technologies - robotics, genetic engineering, and nanotech - are threatening to make humans an endangered species.

By Bill Joy

From the moment I became involved in the creation of new technologies, their ethical dimensions have concerned me, but it was only in the autumn of 1998 that I became anxiously aware of how great are the dangers facing us in the 21st century. I can date the onset of my unease to the day I met Ray Kurzweil, the deservedly famous inventor of the first reading machine for the blind and many other amazing things.

Ray and I were both speakers at George Gilder's Telecosm conference, and I encountered him by chance in the bar of the hotel after both our sessions were over. I was sitting with John Searle, a Berkeley philosopher who studies consciousness. While we were talking, Ray approached and a conversation began, the subject of which haunts me to this day.

I had missed Ray's talk and the subsequent panel that Ray and John had been on, and they now picked right up where they'd left off, with Ray saying that the rate of improvement of technology was going to accelerate and that we were going to become robots or fuse with robots or something like that, and John countering that this couldn't happen, because the robots couldn't be conscious.

While I had heard such talk before, I had always felt sentient robots were in the realm of science fiction. But now, from someone I respected, I was hearing a strong argument that they were a near-term possibility. I was taken aback, especially given Ray's proven ability to imagine and create the future. I already knew that new technologies like genetic engineering and nanotechnology were giving us the power to remake the world, but a realistic and imminent scenario for intelligent robots surprised me.

It's easy to get jaded about such breakthroughs. We hear in the news almost every day of some kind of technological or scientific advance. Yet this was no ordinary prediction. In the hotel bar, Ray gave me a partial preprint of his then-forthcoming bookThe Age of Spiritual Machines, which outlined a utopia he foresaw - one in which humans gained near immortality by becoming one with robotic technology. On reading it, my sense of unease only intensified; I felt sure he had to be understating the dangers, understating the probability of a bad outcome along this path.

I found myself most troubled by a passage detailing adystopian scenario:


First let us postulate that the computer scientists succeed in developing intelligent machines that can do all things better than human beings can do them. In that case presumably all work will be done by vast, highly organized systems of machines and no human effort will be necessary. Either of two cases might occur. The machines might be permitted to make all of their own decisions without human oversight, or else human control over the machines might be retained.

If the machines are permitted to make all their own decisions, we can't make any conjectures as to the results, because it is impossible to guess how such machines might behave. We only point out that the fate of the human race would be at the mercy of the machines. It might be argued that the human race would never be foolish enough to hand over all the power to the machines. But we are suggesting neither that the human race would voluntarily turn power over to the machines nor that the machines would willfully seize power. What we do suggest is that the human race might easily permit itself to drift into a position of such dependence on the machines that it would have no practical choice but to accept all of the machines' decisions. As society and the problems that face it become more and more complex and machines become more and more intelligent, people will let machines make more of their decisions for them, simply because machine-made decisions will bring better results than man-made ones. Eventually a stage may be reached at which the decisions necessary to keep the system running will be so complex that human beings will be incapable of making them intelligently. At that stage the machines will be in effective control. People won't be able to just turn the machines off, because they will be so dependent on them that turning them off would amount to suicide.

On the other hand it is possible that human control over the machines may be retained. In that case the average man may have control over certain private machines of his own, such as his car or his personal computer, but control over large systems of machines will be in the hands of a tiny elite - just as it is today, but with two differences. Due to improved techniques the elite will have greater control over the masses; and because human work will no longer be necessary the masses will be superfluous, a useless burden on the system. If the elite is ruthless they may simply decide to exterminate the mass of humanity. If they are humane they may use propaganda or other psychological or biological techniques to reduce the birth rate until the mass of humanity becomes extinct, leaving the world to the elite. Or, if the elite consists of soft-hearted liberals, they may decide to play the role of good shepherds to the rest of the human race. They will see to it that everyone's physical needs are satisfied, that all children are raised under psychologically hygienic conditions, that everyone has a wholesome hobby to keep him busy, and that anyone who may become dissatisfied undergoes "treatment" to cure his "problem." Of course, life will be so purposeless that people will have to be biologically or psychologically engineered either to remove their need for the power process or make them "sublimate" their drive for power into some harmless hobby. These engineered human beings may be happy in such a society, but they will most certainly not be free. They will have been reduced to the status of domestic animals.1

In the book, you don't discover until you turn the page that the author of this passage is Theodore Kaczynski - the Unabomber. I am no apologist for Kaczynski. His bombs killed three people during a 17-year terror campaign and wounded many others. One of his bombs gravely injured my friend David Gelernter, one of the most brilliant and visionary computer scientists of our time. Like many of my colleagues, I felt that I could easily have been the Unabomber's next target.

Kaczynski's actions were murderous and, in my view, criminally insane. He is clearly a Luddite, but simply saying this does not dismiss his argument; as difficult as it is for me to acknowledge, I saw some merit in the reasoning in this single passage. I felt compelled to confront it.

Kaczynski's dystopian vision describes unintended consequences, a well-known problem with the design and use of technology, and one that is clearly related to Murphy's law - "Anything that can go wrong, will." (Actually, this is Finagle's law, which in itself shows that Finagle was right.) Our overuse of antibiotics has led to what may be the biggest such problem so far: the emergence of antibiotic-resistant and much more dangerous bacteria. Similar things happened when attempts to eliminate malarial mosquitoes using DDT caused them to acquire DDT resistance; malarial parasites likewise acquired multi-drug-resistant genes.2

The cause of many such surprises seems clear: The systems involved are complex, involving interaction among and feedback between many parts. Any changes to such a system will cascade in ways that are difficult to predict; this is especially true when human actions are involved.

I started showing friends the Kaczynski quote fromThe Age of Spiritual Machines; I would hand them Kurzweil's book, let them read the quote, and then watch their reaction as they discovered who had written it. At around the same time, I found Hans Moravec's bookRobot: Mere Machine to Transcendent Mind. Moravec is one of the leaders in robotics research, and was a founder of the world's largest robotics research program, at Carnegie Mellon University.Robot gave me more material to try out on my friends - material surprisingly supportive of Kaczynski's argument. For example:

The Short Run (Early 2000s)

Biological species almost never survive encounters with superior competitors. Ten million years ago, South and North America were separated by a sunken Panama isthmus. South America, like Australia today, was populated by marsupial mammals, including pouched equivalents of rats, deers, and tigers. When the isthmus connecting North and South America rose, it took only a few thousand years for the northern placental species, with slightly more effective metabolisms and reproductive and nervous systems, to displace and eliminate almost all the southern marsupials.

In a completely free marketplace, superior robots would surely affect humans as North American placentals affected South American marsupials (and as humans have affected countless species). Robotic industries would compete vigorously among themselves for matter, energy, and space, incidentally driving their price beyond human reach. Unable to afford the necessities of life, biological humans would be squeezed out of existence.

There is probably some breathing room, because we do not live in a completely free marketplace. Government coerces nonmarket behavior, especially by collecting taxes. Judiciously applied, governmental coercion could support human populations in high style on the fruits of robot labor, perhaps for a long while.

A textbook dystopia - and Moravec is just getting wound up. He goes on to discuss how our main job in the 21st century will be "ensuring continued cooperation from the robot industries" by passing laws decreeing that they be "nice,"3 and to describe how seriously dangerous a human can be "once transformed into an unbounded superintelligent robot." Moravec's view is that the robots will eventually succeed us - that humans clearly face extinction.

I decided it was time to talk to my friend Danny Hillis. Danny became famous as the cofounder of Thinking Machines Corporation, which built a very powerful parallel supercomputer. Despite my current job title of Chief Scientist at Sun Microsystems, I am more a computer architect than a scientist, and I respect Danny's knowledge of the information and physical sciences more than that of any other single person I know. Danny is also a highly regarded futurist who thinks long-term - four years ago he started the Long Now Foundation, which is building a clock designed to last 10,000 years, in an attempt to draw attention to the pitifully short attention span of our society. (See "Test of Time,"Wired 8.03, page 78.)

So I flew to Los Angeles for the express purpose of having dinner with Danny and his wife, Pati. I went through my now-familiar routine, trotting out the ideas and passages that I found so disturbing. Danny's answer - directed specifically at Kurzweil's scenario of humans merging with robots - came swiftly, and quite surprised me. He said, simply, that the changes would come gradually, and that we would get used to them.

But I guess I wasn't totally surprised. I had seen a quote from Danny in Kurzweil's book in which he said, "I'm as fond of my body as anyone, but if I can be 200 with a body of silicon, I'll take it." It seemed that he was at peace with this process and its attendant risks, while I was not.

While talking and thinking about Kurzweil, Kaczynski, and Moravec, I suddenly remembered a novel I had read almost 20 years ago -The White Plague, by Frank Herbert - in which a molecular biologist is driven insane by the senseless murder of his family. To seek revenge he constructs and disseminates a new and highly contagious plague that kills widely but selectively. (We're lucky Kaczynski was a mathematician, not a molecular biologist.) I was also reminded of the Borg ofStar Trek, a hive of partly biological, partly robotic creatures with a strong destructive streak. Borg-like disasters are a staple of science fiction, so why hadn't I been more concerned about such robotic dystopias earlier? Why weren't other people more concerned about these nightmarish scenarios?

Part of the answer certainly lies in our attitude toward the new - in our bias toward instant familiarity and unquestioning acceptance. Accustomed to living with almost routine scientific breakthroughs, we have yet to come to terms with the fact that the most compelling 21st-century technologies - robotics, genetic engineering, and nanotechnology - pose a different threat than the technologies that have come before. Specifically, robots, engineered organisms, and nanobots share a dangerous amplifying factor: They can self-replicate. A bomb is blown up only once - but one bot can become many, and quickly get out of control.

Much of my work over the past 25 years has been on computer networking, where the sending and receiving of messages creates the opportunity for out-of-control replication. But while replication in a computer or a computer network can be a nuisance, at worst it disables a machine or takes down a network or network service. Uncontrolled self-replication in these newer technologies runs a much greater risk: a risk of substantial damage in the physical world.

Each of these technologies also offers untold promise: The vision of near immortality that Kurzweil sees in his robot dreams drives us forward; genetic engineering may soon provide treatments, if not outright cures, for most diseases; and nanotechnology and nanomedicine can address yet more ills. Together they could significantly extend our average life span and improve the quality of our lives. Yet, with each of these technologies, a sequence of small, individually sensible advances leads to an accumulation of great power and, concomitantly, great danger.

What was different in the 20th century? Certainly, the technologies underlying the weapons of mass destruction (WMD) - nuclear, biological, and chemical (NBC) - were powerful, and the weapons an enormous threat. But building nuclear weapons required, at least for a time, access to both rare - indeed, effectively unavailable - raw materials and highly protected information; biological and chemical weapons programs also tended to require large-scale activities.

The 21st-century technologies - genetics, nanotechnology, and robotics (GNR) - are so powerful that they can spawn whole new classes of accidents and abuses. Most dangerously, for the first time, these accidents and abuses are widely within the reach of individuals or small groups. They will not require large facilities or rare raw materials. Knowledge alone will enable the use of them.

Thus we have the possibility not just of weapons of mass destruction but of knowledge-enabled mass destruction (KMD), this destructiveness hugely amplified by the power of self-replication.

I think it is no exaggeration to say we are on the cusp of the further perfection of extreme evil, an evil whose possibility spreads well beyond that which weapons of mass destruction bequeathed to the nation-states, on to a surprising and terrible empowerment of extreme individuals.

Nothing about the way I got involved with computers suggested to me that I was going to be facing these kinds of issues.

My life has been driven by a deep need to ask questions and find answers. When I was 3, I was already reading, so my father took me to the elementary school, where I sat on the principal's lap and read him a story. I started school early, later skipped a grade, and escaped into books - I was incredibly motivated to learn. I asked lots of questions, often driving adults to distraction.

As a teenager I was very interested in science and technology. I wanted to be a ham radio operator but didn't have the money to buy the equipment. Ham radio was the Internet of its time: very addictive, and quite solitary. Money issues aside, my mother put her foot down - I was not to be a ham; I was antisocial enough already.

I may not have had many close friends, but I was awash in ideas. By high school, I had discovered the great science fiction writers. I remember especially Heinlein'sHave Spacesuit Will Travel and Asimov's I, Robot, with its Three Laws of Robotics. I was enchanted by the descriptions of space travel, and wanted to have a telescope to look at the stars; since I had no money to buy or make one, I checked books on telescope-making out of the library and read about making them instead. I soared in my imagination.

Thursday nights my parents went bowling, and we kids stayed home alone. It was the night of Gene Roddenberry's original Star Trek, and the program made a big impression on me. I came to accept its notion that humans had a future in space, Western-style, with big heroes and adventures. Roddenberry's vision of the centuries to come was one with strong moral values, embodied in codes like the Prime Directive: to not interfere in the development of less technologically advanced civilizations. This had an incredible appeal to me; ethical humans, not robots, dominated this future, and I took Roddenberry's dream as part of my own.

I excelled in mathematics in high school, and when I went to the University of Michigan as an undergraduate engineering student I took the advanced curriculum of the mathematics majors. Solving math problems was an exciting challenge, but when I discovered computers I found something much more interesting: a machine into which you could put a program that attempted to solve a problem, after which the machine quickly checked the solution. The computer had a clear notion of correct and incorrect, true and false. Were my ideas correct? The machine could tell me. This was very seductive.

I was lucky enough to get a job programming early supercomputers and discovered the amazing power of large machines to numerically simulate advanced designs. When I went to graduate school at UC Berkeley in the mid-1970s, I started staying up late, often all night, inventing new worlds inside the machines. Solving problems. Writing the code that argued so strongly to be written.

InThe Agony and the Ecstasy, Irving Stone's biographical novel of Michelangelo, Stone described vividly how Michelangelo released the statues from the stone, "breaking the marble spell," carving from the images in his mind.4 In my most ecstatic moments, the software in the computer emerged in the same way. Once I had imagined it in my mind I felt that it was already there in the machine, waiting to be released. Staying up all night seemed a small price to pay to free it - to give the ideas concrete form.

After a few years at Berkeley I started to send out some of the software I had written - an instructional Pascal system, Unix utilities, and a text editor called vi (which is still, to my surprise, widely used more than 20 years later) - to others who had similar small PDP-11 and VAX minicomputers. These adventures in software eventually turned into the Berkeley version of the Unix operating system, which became a personal "success disaster" - so many people wanted it that I never finished my PhD. Instead I got a job working for Darpa putting Berkeley Unix on the Internet and fixing it to be reliable and to run large research applications well. This was all great fun and very rewarding. And, frankly, I saw no robots here, or anywhere near.

Still, by the early 1980s, I was drowning. The Unix releases were very successful, and my little project of one soon had money and some staff, but the problem at Berkeley was always office space rather than money - there wasn't room for the help the project needed, so when the other founders of Sun Microsystems showed up I jumped at the chance to join them. At Sun, the long hours continued into the early days of workstations and personal computers, and I have enjoyed participating in the creation of advanced microprocessor technologies and Internet technologies such as Java and Jini.

From all this, I trust it is clear that I am not a Luddite. I have always, rather, had a strong belief in the value of the scientific search for truth and in the ability of great engineering to bring material progress. The Industrial Revolution has immeasurably improved everyone's life over the last couple hundred years, and I always expected my career to involve the building of worthwhile solutions to real problems, one problem at a time.

I have not been disappointed. My work has had more impact than I had ever hoped for and has been more widely used than I could have reasonably expected. I have spent the last 20 years still trying to figure out how to make computers as reliable as I want them to be (they are not nearly there yet) and how to make them simple to use (a goal that has met with even less relative success). Despite some progress, the problems that remain seem even more daunting.

But while I was aware of the moral dilemmas surrounding technology's consequences in fields like weapons research, I did not expect that I would confront such issues in my own field, or at least not so soon.

Perhaps it is always hard to see the bigger impact while you are in the vortex of a change. Failing to understand the consequences of our inventions while we are in the rapture of discovery and innovation seems to be a common fault of scientists and technologists; we have long been driven by the overarching desire to know that is the nature of science's quest, not stopping to notice that the progress to newer and more powerful technologies can take on a life of its own.

I have long realized that the big advances in information technology come not from the work of computer scientists, computer architects, or electrical engineers, but from that of physical scientists. The physicists Stephen Wolfram and Brosl Hasslacher introduced me, in the early 1980s, to chaos theory and nonlinear systems. In the 1990s, I learned about complex systems from conversations with Danny Hillis, the biologist Stuart Kauffman, the Nobel-laureate physicist Murray Gell-Mann, and others. Most recently, Hasslacher and the electrical engineer and device physicist Mark Reed have been giving me insight into the incredible possibilities of molecular electronics.

In my own work, as codesigner of three microprocessor architectures - SPARC, picoJava, and MAJC - and as the designer of several implementations thereof, I've been afforded a deep and firsthand acquaintance with Moore's law. For decades, Moore's law has correctly predicted the exponential rate of improvement of semiconductor technology. Until last year I believed that the rate of advances predicted by Moore's law might continue only until roughly 2010, when some physical limits would begin to be reached. It was not obvious to me that a new technology would arrive in time to keep performance advancing smoothly.

But because of the recent rapid and radical progress in molecular electronics - where individual atoms and molecules replace lithographically drawn transistors - and related nanoscale technologies, we should be able to meet or exceed the Moore's law rate of progress for another 30 years. By 2030, we are likely to be able to build machines, in quantity, a million times as powerful as the personal computers of today - sufficient to implement the dreams of Kurzweil and Moravec.

As this enormous computing power is combined with the manipulative advances of the physical sciences and the new, deep understandings in genetics, enormous transformative power is being unleashed. These combinations open up the opportunity to completely redesign the world, for better or worse: The replicating and evolving processes that have been confined to the natural world are about to become realms of human endeavor.

In designing software and microprocessors, I have never had the feeling that I was designing an intelligent machine. The software and hardware is so fragile and the capabilities of the machine to "think" so clearly absent that, even as a possibility, this has always seemed very far in the future.

But now, with the prospect of human-level computing power in about 30 years, a new idea suggests itself: that I may be working to create tools which will enable the construction of the technology that may replace our species. How do I feel about this? Very uncomfortable. Having struggled my entire career to build reliable software systems, it seems to me more than likely that this future will not work out as well as some people may imagine. My personal experience suggests we tend to overestimate our design abilities.

Given the incredible power of these new technologies, shouldn't we be asking how we can best coexist with them? And if our own extinction is a likely, or even possible, outcome of our technological development, shouldn't we proceed with great caution?

The dream of robotics is, first, that intelligent machines can do our work for us, allowing us lives of leisure, restoring us to Eden. Yet in his history of such ideas,Darwin Among the Machines, George Dyson warns: "In the game of life and evolution there are three players at the table: human beings, nature, and machines. I am firmly on the side of nature. But nature, I suspect, is on the side of the machines." As we have seen, Moravec agrees, believing we may well not survive the encounter with the superior robot species.

How soon could such an intelligent robot be built? The coming advances in computing power seem to make it possible by 2030. And once an intelligent robot exists, it is only a small step to a robot species - to an intelligent robot that can make evolved copies of itself.

A second dream of robotics is that we will gradually replace ourselves with our robotic technology, achieving near immortality by downloading our consciousnesses; it is this process that Danny Hillis thinks we will gradually get used to and that Ray Kurzweil elegantly details inThe Age of Spiritual Machines. (We are beginning to see intimations of this in the implantation of computer devices into the human body, as illustrated on thecover ofWired 8.02.)

But if we are downloaded into our technology, what are the chances that we will thereafter be ourselves or even human? It seems to me far more likely that a robotic existence would not be like a human one in any sense that we understand, that the robots would in no sense be our children, that on this path our humanity may well be lost.

Genetic engineering promises to revolutionize agriculture by increasing crop yields while reducing the use of pesticides; to create tens of thousands of novel species of bacteria, plants, viruses, and animals; to replace reproduction, or supplement it, with cloning; to create cures for many diseases, increasing our life span and our quality of life; and much, much more. We now know with certainty that these profound changes in the biological sciences are imminent and will challenge all our notions of what life is.

Technologies such as human cloning have in particular raised our awareness of the profound ethical and moral issues we face. If, for example, we were to reengineer ourselves into several separate and unequal species using the power of genetic engineering, then we would threaten the notion of equality that is the very cornerstone of our democracy.

Given the incredible power of genetic engineering, it's no surprise that there are significant safety issues in its use. My friend Amory Lovins recently cowrote, along with Hunter Lovins, an editorial that provides an ecological view of some of these dangers. Among their concerns: that "the new botany aligns the development of plants with their economic, not evolutionary, success." (See "A Tale of Two Botanies," page 247.) Amory's long career has been focused on energy and resource efficiency by taking a whole-system view of human-made systems; such a whole-system view often finds simple, smart solutions to otherwise seemingly difficult problems, and is usefully applied here as well.

After reading the Lovins' editorial, I saw an op-ed by Gregg Easterbrook inThe New York Times (November 19, 1999) about genetically engineered crops, under the headline: "Food for the Future: Someday, rice will have built-in vitamin A. Unless the Luddites win."

Are Amory and Hunter Lovins Luddites? Certainly not. I believe we all would agree that golden rice, with its built-in vitamin A, is probably a good thing, if developed with proper care and respect for the likely dangers in moving genes across species boundaries.

Awareness of the dangers inherent in genetic engineering is beginning to grow, as reflected in the Lovins' editorial. The general public is aware of, and uneasy about, genetically modified foods, and seems to be rejecting the notion that such foods should be permitted to be unlabeled.

But genetic engineering technology is already very far along. As the Lovins note, the USDA has already approved about 50 genetically engineered crops for unlimited release; more than half of the world's soybeans and a third of its corn now contain genes spliced in from other forms of life.

While there are many important issues here, my own major concern with genetic engineering is narrower: that it gives the power - whether militarily, accidentally, or in a deliberate terrorist act - to create a White Plague.

The many wonders of nanotechnology were first imagined by the Nobel-laureate physicist Richard Feynman in a speech he gave in 1959, subsequently published under the title "There's Plenty of Room at the Bottom." The book that made a big impression on me, in the mid-'80s, was Eric Drexler'sEngines of Creation, in which he described beautifully how manipulation of matter at the atomic level could create a utopian future of abundance, where just about everything could be made cheaply, and almost any imaginable disease or physical problem could be solved using nanotechnology and artificial intelligences.

A subsequent book,Unbounding the Future: The Nanotechnology Revolution, which Drexler cowrote, imagines some of the changes that might take place in a world where we had molecular-level "assemblers." Assemblers could make possible incredibly low-cost solar power, cures for cancer and the common cold by augmentation of the human immune system, essentially complete cleanup of the environment, incredibly inexpensive pocket supercomputers - in fact, any product would be manufacturable by assemblers at a cost no greater than that of wood - spaceflight more accessible than transoceanic travel today, and restoration of extinct species.

I remember feeling good about nanotechnology after readingEngines of Creation. As a technologist, it gave me a sense of calm - that is, nanotechnology showed us that incredible progress was possible, and indeed perhaps inevitable. If nanotechnology was our future, then I didn't feel pressed to solve so many problems in the present. I would get to Drexler's utopian future in due time; I might as well enjoy life more in the here and now. It didn't make sense, given his vision, to stay up all night, all the time.

Drexler's vision also led to a lot of good fun. I would occasionally get to describe the wonders of nanotechnology to others who had not heard of it. After teasing them with all the things Drexler described I would give a homework assignment of my own: "Use nanotechnology to create a vampire; for extra credit create an antidote."

With these wonders came clear dangers, of which I was acutely aware. As I said at a nanotechnology conference in 1989, "We can't simply do our science and not worry about these ethical issues."5 But my subsequent conversations with physicists convinced me that nanotechnology might not even work - or, at least, it wouldn't work anytime soon. Shortly thereafter I moved to Colorado, to a skunk works I had set up, and the focus of my work shifted to software for the Internet, specifically on ideas that became Java and Jini.

Then, last summer, Brosl Hasslacher told me that nanoscale molecular electronics was now practical. This wasnew news, at least to me, and I think to many people - and it radically changed my opinion about nanotechnology. It sent me back toEngines of Creation. Rereading Drexler's work after more than 10 years, I was dismayed to realize how little I had remembered of its lengthy section called "Dangers and Hopes," including a discussion of how nanotechnologies can become "engines of destruction." Indeed, in my rereading of this cautionary material today, I am struck by how naive some of Drexler's safeguard proposals seem, and how much greater I judge the dangers to be now than even he seemed to then. (Having anticipated and described many technical and political problems with nanotechnology, Drexler started the Foresight Institute in the late 1980s "to help prepare society for anticipated advanced technologies" - most important, nanotechnology.)

The enabling breakthrough to assemblers seems quite likely within the next 20 years. Molecular electronics - the new subfield of nanotechnology where individual molecules are circuit elements - should mature quickly and become enormously lucrative within this decade, causing a large incremental investment in all nanotechnologies.

Unfortunately, as with nuclear technology, it is far easier to create destructive uses for nanotechnology than constructive ones. Nanotechnology has clear military and terrorist uses, and you need not be suicidal to release a massively destructive nanotechnological device - such devices can be built to be selectively destructive, affecting, for example, only a certain geographical area or a group of people who are genetically distinct.

An immediate consequence of the Faustian bargain in obtaining the great power of nanotechnology is that we run a grave risk - the risk that we might destroy the biosphere on which all life depends.

As Drexler explained:

"Plants" with "leaves" no more efficient than today's solar cells could out-compete real plants, crowding the biosphere with an inedible foliage. Tough omnivorous "bacteria" could out-compete real bacteria: They could spread like blowing pollen, replicate swiftly, and reduce the biosphere to dust in a matter of days. Dangerous replicators could easily be too tough, small, and rapidly spreading to stop - at least if we make no preparation. We have trouble enough controlling viruses and fruit flies.

Among the cognoscenti of nanotechnology, this threat has become known as the "gray goo problem." Though masses of uncontrolled replicators need not be gray or gooey, the term "gray goo" emphasizes that replicators able to obliterate life might be less inspiring than a single species of crabgrass. They might be superior in an evolutionary sense, but this need not make them valuable.

The gray goo threat makes one thing perfectly clear: We cannot afford certain kinds of accidents with replicating assemblers.

Gray goo would surely be a depressing ending to our human adventure on Earth, far worse than mere fire or ice, and one that could stem from a simple laboratory accident.6 Oops.

It is most of all the power of destructive self-replication in genetics, nanotechnology, and robotics (GNR) that should give us pause. Self-replication is the modus operandi of genetic engineering, which uses the machinery of the cell to replicate its designs, and the prime danger underlying gray goo in nanotechnology. Stories of run-amok robots like the Borg, replicating or mutating to escape from the ethical constraints imposed on them by their creators, are well established in our science fiction books and movies. It is even possible that self-replication may be more fundamental than we thought, and hence harder - or even impossible - to control. A recent article by Stuart Kauffman inNature titled "Self-Replication: Even Peptides Do It" discusses the discovery that a 32-amino-acid peptide can "autocatalyse its own synthesis." We don't know how widespread this ability is, but Kauffman notes that it may hint at "a route to self-reproducing molecular systems on a basis far wider than Watson-Crick base-pairing."7

In truth, we have had in hand for years clear warnings of the dangers inherent in widespread knowledge of GNR technologies - of the possibility of knowledge alone enabling mass destruction. But these warnings haven't been widely publicized; the public discussions have been clearly inadequate. There is no profit in publicizing the dangers.

The nuclear, biological, and chemical (NBC) technologies used in 20th-century weapons of mass destruction were and are largely military, developed in government laboratories. In sharp contrast, the 21st-century GNR technologies have clear commercial uses and are being developed almost exclusively by corporate enterprises. In this age of triumphant commercialism, technology - with science as its handmaiden - is delivering a series of almost magical inventions that are the most phenomenally lucrative ever seen. We are aggressively pursuing the promises of these new technologies within the now-unchallenged system of global capitalism and its manifold financial incentives and competitive pressures.

This is the first moment in the history of our planet when any species, by its own voluntary actions, has become a danger to itself - as well as to vast numbers of others.

It might be a familiar progression, transpiring on many worlds - a planet, newly formed, placidly revolves around its star; life slowly forms; a kaleidoscopic procession of creatures evolves; intelligence emerges which, at least up to a point, confers enormous survival value; and then technology is invented. It dawns on them that there are such things as laws of Nature, that these laws can be revealed by experiment, and that knowledge of these laws can be made both to save and to take lives, both on unprecedented scales. Science, they recognize, grants immense powers. In a flash, they create world-altering contrivances. Some planetary civilizations see their way through, place limits on what may and what must not be done, and safely pass through the time of perils. Others, not so lucky or so prudent, perish.

That is Carl Sagan, writing in 1994, inPale Blue Dot, a book describing his vision of the human future in space. I am only now realizing how deep his insight was, and how sorely I miss, and will miss, his voice. For all its eloquence, Sagan's contribution was not least that of simple common sense - an attribute that, along with humility, many of the leading advocates of the 21st-century technologies seem to lack.

I remember from my childhood that my grandmother was strongly against the overuse of antibiotics. She had worked since before the first World War as a nurse and had a commonsense attitude that taking antibiotics, unless they were absolutely necessary, was bad for you.

It is not that she was an enemy of progress. She saw much progress in an almost 70-year nursing career; my grandfather, a diabetic, benefited greatly from the improved treatments that became available in his lifetime. But she, like many levelheaded people, would probably think it greatly arrogant for us, now, to be designing a robotic "replacement species," when we obviously have so much trouble making relatively simple things work, and so much trouble managing - or even understanding - ourselves.

I realize now that she had an awareness of the nature of the order of life, and of the necessity of living with and respecting that order. With this respect comes a necessary humility that we, with our early-21st-century chutzpah, lack at our peril. The commonsense view, grounded in this respect, is often right, in advance of the scientific evidence. The clear fragility and inefficiencies of the human-made systems we have built should give us all pause; the fragility of the systems I have worked on certainly humbles me.

We should have learned a lesson from the making of the first atomic bomb and the resulting arms race. We didn't do well then, and the parallels to our current situation are troubling.

The effort to build the first atomic bomb was led by the brilliant physicist J. Robert Oppenheimer. Oppenheimer was not naturally interested in politics but became painfully aware of what he perceived as the grave threat to Western civilization from the Third Reich, a threat surely grave because of the possibility that Hitler might obtain nuclear weapons. Energized by this concern, he brought his strong intellect, passion for physics, and charismatic leadership skills to Los Alamos and led a rapid and successful effort by an incredible collection of great minds to quickly invent the bomb.

What is striking is how this effort continued so naturally after the initial impetus was removed. In a meeting shortly after V-E Day with some physicists who felt that perhaps the effort should stop, Oppenheimer argued to continue. His stated reason seems a bit strange: not because of the fear of large casualties from an invasion of Japan, but because the United Nations, which was soon to be formed, should have foreknowledge of atomic weapons. A more likely reason the project continued is the momentum that had built up - the first atomic test, Trinity, was nearly at hand.

We know that in preparing this first atomic test the physicists proceeded despite a large number of possible dangers. They were initially worried, based on a calculation by Edward Teller, that an atomic explosion might set fire to the atmosphere. A revised calculation reduced the danger of destroying the world to a three-in-a-million chance. (Teller says he was later able to dismiss the prospect of atmospheric ignition entirely.) Oppenheimer, though, was sufficiently concerned about the result of Trinity that he arranged for a possible evacuation of the southwest part of the state of New Mexico. And, of course, there was the clear danger of starting a nuclear arms race.

Within a month of that first, successful test, two atomic bombs destroyed Hiroshima and Nagasaki. Some scientists had suggested that the bomb simply be demonstrated, rather than dropped on Japanese cities - saying that this would greatly improve the chances for arms control after the war - but to no avail. With the tragedy of Pearl Harbor still fresh in Americans' minds, it would have been very difficult for President Truman to order a demonstration of the weapons rather than use them as he did - the desire to quickly end the war and save the lives that would have been lost in any invasion of Japan was very strong. Yet the overriding truth was probably very simple: As the physicist Freeman Dyson later said, "The reason that it was dropped was just that nobody had the courage or the foresight to say no."

It's important to realize how shocked the physicists were in the aftermath of the bombing of Hiroshima, on August 6, 1945. They describe a series of waves of emotion: first, a sense of fulfillment that the bomb worked, then horror at all the people that had been killed, and then a convincing feeling that on no account should another bomb be dropped. Yet of course another bomb was dropped, on Nagasaki, only three days after the bombing of Hiroshima.

In November 1945, three months after the atomic bombings, Oppenheimer stood firmly behind the scientific attitude, saying, "It is not possible to be a scientist unless you believe that the knowledge of the world, and the power which this gives, is a thing which is of intrinsic value to humanity, and that you are using it to help in the spread of knowledge and are willing to take the consequences."

Oppenheimer went on to work, with others, on the Acheson-Lilienthal report, which, as Richard Rhodes says in his recent bookVisions of Technology, "found a way to prevent a clandestine nuclear arms race without resorting to armed world government"; their suggestion was a form of relinquishment of nuclear weapons work by nation-states to an international agency.

This proposal led to the Baruch Plan, which was submitted to the United Nations in June 1946 but never adopted (perhaps because, as Rhodes suggests, Bernard Baruch had "insisted on burdening the plan with conventional sanctions," thereby inevitably dooming it, even though it would "almost certainly have been rejected by Stalinist Russia anyway"). Other efforts to promote sensible steps toward internationalizing nuclear power to prevent an arms race ran afoul either of US politics and internal distrust, or distrust by the Soviets. The opportunity to avoid the arms race was lost, and very quickly.

Two years later, in 1948, Oppenheimer seemed to have reached another stage in his thinking, saying, "In some sort of crude sense which no vulgarity, no humor, no overstatement can quite extinguish, the physicists have known sin; and this is a knowledge they cannot lose."

In 1949, the Soviets exploded an atom bomb. By 1955, both the US and the Soviet Union had tested hydrogen bombs suitable for delivery by aircraft. And so the nuclear arms race began.

Nearly 20 years ago, in the documentaryThe Day After Trinity, Freeman Dyson summarized the scientific attitudes that brought us to the nuclear precipice:

"I have felt it myself. The glitter of nuclear weapons. It is irresistible if you come to them as a scientist. To feel it's there in your hands, to release this energy that fuels the stars, to let it do your bidding. To perform these miracles, to lift a million tons of rock into the sky. It is something that gives people an illusion of illimitable power, and it is, in some ways, responsible for all our troubles - this, what you might call technical arrogance, that overcomes people when they see what they can do with their minds."8

Now, as then, we are creators of new technologies and stars of the imagined future, driven - this time by great financial rewards and global competition - despite the clear dangers, hardly evaluating what it may be like to try to live in a world that is the realistic outcome of what we are creating and imagining.

In 1947,The Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists began putting a Doomsday Clock on its cover. For more than 50 years, it has shown an estimate of the relative nuclear danger we have faced, reflecting the changing international conditions. The hands on the clock have moved 15 times and today, standing at nine minutes to midnight, reflect continuing and real danger from nuclear weapons. The recent addition of India and Pakistan to the list of nuclear powers has increased the threat of failure of the nonproliferation goal, and this danger was reflected by moving the hands closer to midnight in 1998.

In our time, how much danger do we face, not just from nuclear weapons, but from all of these technologies? How high are the extinction risks?

The philosopher John Leslie has studied this question and concluded that the risk of human extinction is at least 30 percent,9 while Ray Kurzweil believes we have "a better than even chance of making it through," with the caveat that he has "always been accused of being an optimist." Not only are these estimates not encouraging, but they do not include the probability of many horrid outcomes that lie short of extinction.

Faced with such assessments, some serious people are already suggesting that we simply move beyond Earth as quickly as possible. We would colonize the galaxy using von Neumann probes, which hop from star system to star system, replicating as they go. This step will almost certainly be necessary 5 billion years from now (or sooner if our solar system is disastrously impacted by the impending collision of our galaxy with the Andromeda galaxy within the next 3 billion years), but if we take Kurzweil and Moravec at their word it might be necessary by the middle of this century.

What are the moral implications here? If we must move beyond Earth this quickly in order for the species to survive, who accepts the responsibility for the fate of those (most of us, after all) who are left behind? And even if we scatter to the stars, isn't it likely that we may take our problems with us or find, later, that they have followed us? The fate of our species on Earth and our fate in the galaxy seem inextricably linked.

Another idea is to erect a series of shields to defend against each of the dangerous technologies. The Strategic Defense Initiative, proposed by the Reagan administration, was an attempt to design such a shield against the threat of a nuclear attack from the Soviet Union. But as Arthur C. Clarke, who was privy to discussions about the project, observed: "Though it might be possible, at vast expense, to construct local defense systems that would 'only' let through a few percent of ballistic missiles, the much touted idea of a national umbrella was nonsense. Luis Alvarez, perhaps the greatest experimental physicist of this century, remarked to me that the advocates of such schemes were 'very bright guys with no common sense.'"

Clarke continued: "Looking into my often cloudy crystal ball, I suspect that a total defense might indeed be possible in a century or so. But the technology involved would produce, as a by-product, weapons so terrible that no one would bother with anything as primitive as ballistic missiles." 10

InEngines of Creation, Eric Drexler proposed that we build an active nanotechnological shield - a form of immune system for the biosphere - to defend against dangerous replicators of all kinds that might escape from laboratories or otherwise be maliciously created. But the shield he proposed would itself be extremely dangerous - nothing could prevent it from developing autoimmune problems and attacking the biosphere itself. 11

Similar difficulties apply to the construction of shields against robotics and genetic engineering. These technologies are too powerful to be shielded against in the time frame of interest; even if it were possible to implement defensive shields, the side effects of their development would be at least as dangerous as the technologies we are trying to protect against.

These possibilities are all thus either undesirable or unachievable or both. The only realistic alternative I see is relinquishment: to limit development of the technologies that are too dangerous, by limiting our pursuit of certain kinds of knowledge.

Yes, I know, knowledge is good, as is the search for new truths. We have been seeking knowledge since ancient times. Aristotle opened his Metaphysics with the simple statement: "All men by nature desire to know." We have, as a bedrock value in our society, long agreed on the value of open access to information, and recognize the problems that arise with attempts to restrict access to and development of knowledge. In recent times, we have come to revere scientific knowledge.

But despite the strong historical precedents, if open access to and unlimited development of knowledge henceforth puts us all in clear danger of extinction, then common sense demands that we reexamine even these basic, long-held beliefs.

It was Nietzsche who warned us, at the end of the 19th century, not only that God is dead but that "faith in science, which after all exists undeniably, cannot owe its origin to a calculus of utility; it must have originated in spite of the fact that the disutility and dangerousness of the 'will to truth,' of 'truth at any price' is proved to it constantly." It is this further danger that we now fully face - the consequences of our truth-seeking. The truth that science seeks can certainly be considered a dangerous substitute for God if it is likely to lead to our extinction.

If we could agree, as a species, what we wanted, where we were headed, and why, then we would make our future much less dangerous - then we might understand what we can and should relinquish. Otherwise, we can easily imagine an arms race developing over GNR technologies, as it did with the NBC technologies in the 20th century. This is perhaps the greatest risk, for once such a race begins, it's very hard to end it. This time - unlike during the Manhattan Project - we aren't in a war, facing an implacable enemy that is threatening our civilization; we are driven, instead, by our habits, our desires, our economic system, and our competitive need to know.

I believe that we all wish our course could be determined by our collective values, ethics, and morals. If we had gained more collective wisdom over the past few thousand years, then a dialogue to this end would be more practical, and the incredible powers we are about to unleash would not be nearly so troubling.

One would think we might be driven to such a dialogue by our instinct for self-preservation. Individuals clearly have this desire, yet as a species our behavior seems to be not in our favor. In dealing with the nuclear threat, we often spoke dishonestly to ourselves and to each other, thereby greatly increasing the risks. Whether this was politically motivated, or because we chose not to think ahead, or because when faced with such grave threats we acted irrationally out of fear, I do not know, but it does not bode well.

The new Pandora's boxes of genetics, nanotechnology, and robotics are almost open, yet we seem hardly to have noticed. Ideas can't be put back in a box; unlike uranium or plutonium, they don't need to be mined and refined, and they can be freely copied. Once they are out, they are out. Churchill remarked, in a famous left-handed compliment, that the American people and their leaders "invariably do the right thing, after they have examined every other alternative." In this case, however, we must act more presciently, as to do the right thing only at last may be to lose the chance to do it at all.

As Thoreau said, "We do not ride on the railroad; it rides upon us"; and this is what we must fight, in our time. The question is, indeed, Which is to be master? Will we survive our technologies?

We are being propelled into this new century with no plan, no control, no brakes. Have we already gone too far down the path to alter course? I don't believe so, but we aren't trying yet, and the last chance to assert control - the fail-safe point - is rapidly approaching. We have our first pet robots, as well as commercially available genetic engineering techniques, and our nanoscale techniques are advancing rapidly. While the development of these technologies proceeds through a number of steps, it isn't necessarily the case - as happened in the Manhattan Project and the Trinity test - that the last step in proving a technology is large and hard. The breakthrough to wild self-replication in robotics, genetic engineering, or nanotechnology could come suddenly, reprising the surprise we felt when we learned of the cloning of a mammal.

And yet I believe we do have a strong and solid basis for hope. Our attempts to deal with weapons of mass destruction in the last century provide a shining example of relinquishment for us to consider: the unilateral US abandonment, without preconditions, of the development of biological weapons. This relinquishment stemmed from the realization that while it would take an enormous effort to create these terrible weapons, they could from then on easily be duplicated and fall into the hands of rogue nations or terrorist groups.

The clear conclusion was that we would create additional threats to ourselves by pursuing these weapons, and that we would be more secure if we did not pursue them. We have embodied our relinquishment of biological and chemical weapons in the 1972 Biological Weapons Convention (BWC) and the 1993 Chemical Weapons Convention (CWC).12

As for the continuing sizable threat from nuclear weapons, which we have lived with now for more than 50 years, the US Senate's recent rejection of the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty makes it clear relinquishing nuclear weapons will not be politically easy. But we have a unique opportunity, with the end of the Cold War, to avert a multipolar arms race. Building on the BWC and CWC relinquishments, successful abolition of nuclear weapons could help us build toward a habit of relinquishing dangerous technologies. (Actually, by getting rid of all but 100 nuclear weapons worldwide - roughly the total destructive power of World War II and a considerably easier task - we could eliminate this extinction threat. 13)

Verifying relinquishment will be a difficult problem, but not an unsolvable one. We are fortunate to have already done a lot of relevant work in the context of the BWC and other treaties. Our major task will be to apply this to technologies that are naturally much more commercial than military. The substantial need here is for transparency, as difficulty of verification is directly proportional to the difficulty of distinguishing relinquished from legitimate activities.

I frankly believe that the situation in 1945 was simpler than the one we now face: The nuclear technologies were reasonably separable into commercial and military uses, and monitoring was aided by the nature of atomic tests and the ease with which radioactivity could be measured. Research on military applications could be performed at national laboratories such as Los Alamos, with the results kept secret as long as possible.

The GNR technologies do not divide clearly into commercial and military uses; given their potential in the market, it's hard to imagine pursuing them only in national laboratories. With their widespread commercial pursuit, enforcing relinquishment will require a verification regime similar to that for biological weapons, but on an unprecedented scale. This, inevitably, will raise tensions between our individual privacy and desire for proprietary information, and the need for verification to protect us all. We will undoubtedly encounter strong resistance to this loss of privacy and freedom of action.

Verifying the relinquishment of certain GNR technologies will have to occur in cyberspace as well as at physical facilities. The critical issue will be to make the necessary transparency acceptable in a world of proprietary information, presumably by providing new forms of protection for intellectual property.

Verifying compliance will also require that scientists and engineers adopt a strong code of ethical conduct, resembling the Hippocratic oath, and that they have the courage to whistleblow as necessary, even at high personal cost. This would answer the call - 50 years after Hiroshima - by the Nobel laureate Hans Bethe, one of the most senior of the surviving members of the Manhattan Project, that all scientists "cease and desist from work creating, developing, improving, and manufacturing nuclear weapons and other weapons of potential mass destruction."14 In the 21st century, this requires vigilance and personal responsibility by those who would work on both NBC and GNR technologies to avoid implementing weapons of mass destruction and knowledge-enabled mass destruction.

Thoreau also said that we will be "rich in proportion to the number of things which we can afford to let alone." We each seek to be happy, but it would seem worthwhile to question whether we need to take such a high risk of total destruction to gain yet more knowledge and yet more things; common sense says that there is a limit to our material needs - and that certain knowledge is too dangerous and is best forgone.

Neither should we pursue near immortality without considering the costs, without considering the commensurate increase in the risk of extinction. Immortality, while perhaps the original, is certainly not the only possible utopian dream.

I recently had the good fortune to meet the distinguished author and scholar Jacques Attali, whose bookLignes d'horizons (Millennium, in the English translation) helped inspire the Java and Jini approach to the coming age of pervasive computing, as previously described in this magazine. In his new bookFraternités, Attali describes how our dreams of utopia have changed over time:

"At the dawn of societies, men saw their passage on Earth as nothing more than a labyrinth of pain, at the end of which stood a door leading, via their death, to the company of gods and toEternity. With the Hebrews and then the Greeks, some men dared free themselves from theological demands and dream of an ideal City whereLiberty would flourish. Others, noting the evolution of the market society, understood that the liberty of some would entail the alienation of others, and they soughtEquality."

Jacques helped me understand how these three different utopian goals exist in tension in our society today. He goes on to describe a fourth utopia,Fraternity, whose foundation is altruism. Fraternity alone associates individual happiness with the happiness of others, affording the promise of self-sustainment.

This crystallized for me my problem with Kurzweil's dream. A technological approach to Eternity - near immortality through robotics - may not be the most desirable utopia, and its pursuit brings clear dangers. Maybe we should rethink our utopian choices.

Where can we look for a new ethical basis to set our course? I have found the ideas in the book Ethics for the New Millennium, by the Dalai Lama, to be very helpful. As is perhaps well known but little heeded, the Dalai Lama argues that the most important thing is for us to conduct our lives with love and compassion for others, and that our societies need to develop a stronger notion of universal responsibility and of our interdependency; he proposes a standard of positive ethical conduct for individuals and societies that seems consonant with Attali's Fraternity utopia.

The Dalai Lama further argues that we must understand what it is that makes people happy, and acknowledge the strong evidence that neither material progress nor the pursuit of the power of knowledge is the key - that there are limits to what science and the scientific pursuit alone can do.

Our Western notion of happiness seems to come from the Greeks, who defined it as "the exercise of vital powers along lines of excellence in a life affording them scope." 15

Clearly, we need to find meaningful challenges and sufficient scope in our lives if we are to be happy in whatever is to come. But I believe we must find alternative outlets for our creative forces, beyond the culture of perpetual economic growth; this growth has largely been a blessing for several hundred years, but it has not brought us unalloyed happiness, and we must now choose between the pursuit of unrestricted and undirected growth through science and technology and the clear accompanying dangers.

It is now more than a year since my first encounter with Ray Kurzweil and John Searle. I see around me cause for hope in the voices for caution and relinquishment and in those people I have discovered who are as concerned as I am about our current predicament. I feel, too, a deepened sense of personal responsibility - not for the work I have already done, but for the work that I might yet do, at the confluence of the sciences.

But many other people who know about the dangers still seem strangely silent. When pressed, they trot out the "this is nothing new" riposte - as if awareness of what could happen is response enough. They tell me, There are universities filled with bioethicists who study this stuff all day long. They say, All this has been written about before, and by experts. They complain, Your worries and your arguments are already old hat.

I don't know where these people hide their fear. As an architect of complex systems I enter this arena as a generalist. But should this diminish my concerns? I am aware of how much has been written about, talked about, and lectured about so authoritatively. But does this mean it has reached people? Does this mean we can discount the dangers before us?

Knowing is not a rationale for not acting. Can we doubt that knowledge has become a weapon we wield against ourselves?

The experiences of the atomic scientists clearly show the need to take personal responsibility, the danger that things will move too fast, and the way in which a process can take on a life of its own. We can, as they did, create insurmountable problems in almost no time flat. We must do more thinking up front if we are not to be similarly surprised and shocked by the consequences of our inventions.

My continuing professional work is on improving the reliability of software. Software is a tool, and as a toolbuilder I must struggle with the uses to which the tools I make are put. I have always believed that making software more reliable, given its many uses, will make the world a safer and better place; if I were to come to believe the opposite, then I would be morally obligated to stop this work. I can now imagine such a day may come.

This all leaves me not angry but at least a bit melancholic. Henceforth, for me, progress will be somewhat bittersweet.

Do you remember the beautiful penultimate scene in Manhattan where Woody Allen is lying on his couch and talking into a tape recorder? He is writing a short story about people who are creating unnecessary, neurotic problems for themselves, because it keeps them from dealing with more unsolvable, terrifying problems about the universe.

He leads himself to the question, "Why is life worth living?" and to consider what makes it worthwhile for him: Groucho Marx, Willie Mays, the second movement of the Jupiter Symphony, Louis Armstrong's recording of "Potato Head Blues," Swedish movies, Flaubert's Sentimental Education, Marlon Brando, Frank Sinatra, the apples and pears by Cézanne, the crabs at Sam Wo's, and, finally, the showstopper: his love Tracy's face.

Each of us has our precious things, and as we care for them we locate the essence of our humanity. In the end, it is because of our great capacity for caring that I remain optimistic we will confront the dangerous issues now before us.

My immediate hope is to participate in a much larger discussion of the issues raised here, with people from many different backgrounds, in settings not predisposed to fear or favor technology for its own sake.

As a start, I have twice raised many of these issues at events sponsored by the Aspen Institute and have separately proposed that the American Academy of Arts and Sciences take them up as an extension of its work with the Pugwash Conferences. (These have been held since 1957 to discuss arms control, especially of nuclear weapons, and to formulate workable policies.)

It's unfortunate that the Pugwash meetings started only well after the nuclear genie was out of the bottle - roughly 15 years too late. We are also getting a belated start on seriously addressing the issues around 21st-century technologies - the prevention of knowledge-enabled mass destruction - and further delay seems unacceptable.

So I'm still searching; there are many more things to learn. Whether we are to succeed or fail, to survive or fall victim to these technologies, is not yet decided. I'm up late again - it's almost 6 am. I'm trying to imagine some better answers, to break the spell and free them from the stone.

1 The passage Kurzweil quotes is from Kaczynski's Unabomber Manifesto, which was published jointly, under duress, byThe New York Times and The Washington Post to attempt to bring his campaign of terror to an end. I agree with David Gelernter, who said about their decision:

"It was a tough call for the newspapers. To say yes would be giving in to terrorism, and for all they knew he was lying anyway. On the other hand, to say yes might stop the killing. There was also a chance that someone would read the tract and get a hunch about the author; and that is exactly what happened. The suspect's brother read it, and it rang a bell.

"I would have told them not to publish. I'm glad they didn't ask me. I guess."

(Drawing Life: Surviving the Unabomber. Free Press, 1997: 120.)

2 Garrett, Laurie.The Coming Plague: Newly Emerging Diseases in a World Out of Balance. Penguin, 1994: 47-52, 414, 419, 452.

3 Isaac Asimov described what became the most famous view of ethical rules for robot behavior in his bookI, Robot in 1950, in his Three Laws of Robotics: 1. A robot may not injure a human being, or, through inaction, allow a human being to come to harm. 2. A robot must obey the orders given it by human beings, except where such orders would conflict with the First Law. 3. A robot must protect its own existence, as long as such protection does not conflict with the First or Second Law.

4 Michelangelo wrote a sonnet that begins:

Non ha l' ottimo artista alcun concetto
Ch' un marmo solo in sè non circonscriva
Col suo soverchio; e solo a quello arriva
La man che ubbidisce all' intelleto.

Stone translates this as:

The best of artists hath no thought to show
which the rough stone in its superfluous shell
doth not include; to break the marble spell
is all the hand that serves the brain can do.

Stone describes the process: "He was not working from his drawings or clay models; they had all been put away. He was carving from the images in his mind. His eyes and hands knew where every line, curve, mass must emerge, and at what depth in the heart of the stone to create the low relief."

(The Agony and the Ecstasy. Doubleday, 1961: 6, 144.)

5 First Foresight Conference on Nanotechnology in October 1989, a talk titled "The Future of Computation." Published in Crandall, B. C. and James Lewis, editors.Nanotechnology: Research and Perspectives. MIT Press, 1992: 269. See

6 In his 1963 novelCat's Cradle, Kurt Vonnegut imagined a gray-goo-like accident where a form of ice called ice-nine, which becomes solid at a much higher temperature, freezes the oceans.

7 Kauffman, Stuart. "Self-replication: Even Peptides Do It." Nature, 382, August 8, 1996: 496.

8 Else, Jon.The Day After Trinity: J. Robert Oppenheimer and The Atomic Bomb (available at

9 This estimate is in Leslie's bookThe End of the World: The Science and Ethics of Human Extinction, where he notes that the probability of extinction is substantially higher if we accept Brandon Carter's Doomsday Argument, which is, briefly, that "we ought to have some reluctance to believe that we are very exceptionally early, for instance in the earliest 0.001 percent, among all humans who will ever have lived. This would be some reason for thinking that humankind will not survive for many more centuries, let alone colonize the galaxy. Carter's doomsday argument doesn't generate any risk estimates just by itself. It is an argument forrevising the estimates which we generate when we consider various possible dangers." (Routledge, 1996: 1, 3, 145.)

10 Clarke, Arthur C. "Presidents, Experts, and Asteroids."Science, June 5, 1998. Reprinted as "Science and Society" inGreetings, Carbon-Based Bipeds! Collected Essays, 1934-1998. St. Martin's Press, 1999: 526.

11 And, as David Forrest suggests in his paper "Regulating Nanotechnology Development," available, "If we used strict liability as an alternative to regulation it would be impossible for any developer to internalize the cost of the risk (destruction of the biosphere), so theoretically the activity of developing nanotechnology should never be undertaken." Forrest's analysis leaves us with only government regulation to protect us - not a comforting thought.

12 Meselson, Matthew. "The Problem of Biological Weapons." Presentation to the 1,818th Stated Meeting of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, January 13, 1999. (

13 Doty, Paul. "The Forgotten Menace: Nuclear Weapons Stockpiles Still Represent the Biggest Threat to Civilization."Nature, 402, December 9, 1999: 583.

14 See also Hans Bethe's 1997 letter to President Clinton, at

15 Hamilton, Edith.The Greek Way. W. W. Norton & Co., 1942: 35.

Bill Joy, cofounder and Chief Scientist of Sun Microsystems, was cochair of the presidential commission on the future of IT research, and is coauthor ofThe Java Language Specification. His work on theJini pervasive computing technology was featured inWired 6.08.