Blog Archive for the ‘Seminars’ Category

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David Eagleman: Six Easy Steps to Avert the Collapse of Civilization — Seminar Flashback

Posted on Friday, August 22nd, 02014 by Mikl Em
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In April 02010 author and neuroscientist David Eagleman proposed several internet-enabled ways to avoid the collapse of civilization. Eagleman is a Guggenheim Fellow known for his research on time perception and synesthesia; his books include the best-seller Sum: Forty Tales from the Afterlives. Twice a month we highlight a Seminar About Long-term Thinking (SALT) from our archives.

Long Now members can watch this video here. The audio is free for everyone on the Seminar page and via podcastLong Now members can see all Seminar videos in HD. Video of the 12 most recent Seminars is also free for all to view.

From Stewart Brand’s summary of the talk (in full here):

Civilizations always think they’re immortal, Eagleman noted, but they nearly always perish, leaving “nothing but ruins and scattered genetics.” It takes luck and new technology to survive. We may be particularly lucky to have Internet technology to help manage the six requirements of a durable civilization

David Eagleman directs the Laboratory for Perception and Action and the Initiative on Neuroscience and Law at Baylor College of Medicine. His latest book is Incognito: The Secret Lives of the Brain. He is also a Long Now Board member

David Eagleman

The Seminars About Long-term Thinking series began in 02003 and is presented each month live in San Francisco. It is curated and hosted by Long Now’s President Stewart Brand. Seminar audio is available to all via podcast.

You can join Long Now to watch full video of this Seminar. Membership levels start at $8/month and include lots of benefits.

The NSA reaches out

Posted on Tuesday, August 19th, 02014 by Andrew Warner
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This lecture was presented as part of The Long Now Foundation’s monthly Seminars About Long-term Thinking.

Inside the NSA

Wednesday August 6, 02014 – San Francisco

Video is up on the Neuberger Seminar page.

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Audio is up on the Neuberger Seminar page, or you can subscribe to our podcast.

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The NSA reaches out – a summary by Stewart Brand

Of her eight great-grandparents, seven were murdered at Auschwitz. “So my family’s history burned into me a fear of what occurs when the power of a state is turned against its people or other people.”

Seeking freedom from threats like that brought her parents from Hungary to America. By 1976 they had saved up to take their first flight abroad. Their return flight from Tel Aviv was high-jacked by terrorists and landed at Entebbe Airport in Uganda. Non-Jewish passengers were released and the rest held hostage. The night before the terrorists were to begin shooting the hostages, a raid by Israeli commandos saved most of the passengers.

Anne Neuberger was just a baby in 1976. “My life would have looked very different had a military operation not brought my parents home. It gives me a perspective on the threats of organized terror and the role of intelligence and counterterrorism.” When she later entered government service, she sought out intelligence, where she is now the principal advisor to the Director for managing NSA’s work with the private sector.

The NSA, Neuberger said, has suffered a particularly “long and challenging year” dealing with the public loss of trust following the Snowden revelations. The agency is reviewing all of its activities to determine how to regain that trust. One change is more open engagement with the public. “This presentation is a starting point.”

“My family history,” she said, “instilled in me almost parallel value systems – fear of potential for overreach by government, and belief that sometimes only government, with its military and intelligence, can keep civilians safe. Those tensions shape the way I approach my work each day. I fully believe that the two seemingly contradictory factors can be held in balance. And with your help I think we can define a future where they are.”

The National Security Agency, she pointed out, actively fosters the growth of valuable new communication and computing technology and at the same time “needs the ability to detect, hopefully deter, and if necessary disable lethal threats.” To maintain those abilities over decades and foster a new social contract with the public, Neuberger suggested contemplating 5 tensions, 3 scenarios, and 3 challenges.

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

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

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

As technology keeps advancing rapidly, the US needs to stay at the forefront in terms of inventing the leading technical tools to provide public services and maintain public security, plus the policy tools to balance civil liberties with protection against ever-evolving threats. “My call to action for everyone in this audience is get our innovative minds focussed on the full set of problems.”

A flood of QUESTION CARDS came to the stage, only a few of which we could deal with live. Anne Neuberger wanted to take all the questions with her to share with NSA colleagues, so Laura Welcher at Long Now typed them up. I figure that since the questioners wanted their questions aired on the stage to the live and video audience, they would like to have them aired here as well. And it would be in keeping with the NSA’s new openness to public discourse. Ms. Neuberger agreed…

I have a general (unfocused) question about transparency – which
hasn’t been mentioned thus far. What is the NSA’s rationale around
hiding its activities from the American people? What can you tell us
about the issue of transparency going forward?

What are the key questions NSA is discussing following the Snowden
releases? And what is the NSA doing to address these issues?

Germany is very, very upset. What could we have done, and what should
we do in the future, to fulfill our many responsibilities while also
respecting our most valuable international relationships?

How can we work toward a new social contract when the intelligence
agency directors repeatedly lie to the Congress and to the public?

Is it true you can still find one-star generals playing Magic the
Gathering in the NSA canteen during lunch hour?

The failures of 9-11 were not technical failures, but failures of
individuals and organizations to work together toward a common goal.
What concrete steps can you describe in the intelligence community
that have been taken to remedy this?

What is the NSA doing to make the scope of its data collection efforts
as transparent as possible, while still achieving its goals w.r.t.
national security?

Is it an acceptable outcome that NSA fails at securing us in the
service of privacy considerations?

If the Snowden incident hadn’t happened, would the NSA have hired the
civil liberties expert? What structural changes will make this role
actually effective?

Has the real tension been between the NSA needing to protect its own
systems while ensuring that everybody else’s are vulnerable? Is this
inevitable?

Do you believe the mission of the NSA can be accomplished without
building a record of all worldwide communications and activities? Why?

Is the NSA embedding backdoor or surveillance capability in any
commercial integrated circuits?

If you want to address the damage to public trust, and improve the
social contract, why not applaud the work Edward Snowden has done to
demonstrate how your agency has gone astray?

Do you consider the NSA’s role in weakening the RSA random number
generator to be a violation of the NSA’s existing social contract?
How do you think about its exploitability by criminal elements?

What do you tell American corporate tech leaders who are concerned
about lowered trust and security of their services and products? Lack
of trust based on national security letters, for example, or
weaknesses introduced into RSA crypto by the NSA?

What is the best mechanism for an intelligence agency to prevent
themselves from using “national security secrecy” to cover up an
embarrassment? Is there something better than whistleblowers?

Secure information and privacy need to be balanced – please give an
example of when you feel the NSA worked at its best in this balancing
act. Please be specific :-)

How much is your presentation a reflection of NSA or your personal views?

Should the NSA play a role in devising the new rules for cyberwar?
(Since the old rules for war don’t work in the digital universe.) How
do we citizens participate?

Do you personally feel that the leaks of the last year have revealed
serious overreach by your agency? Or, do you feel as though the NSA
has simply been unfairly painted and that the leaks have been
damaging?

Privacy is, logically, implied (4th, and 5th and 10th Amendments).
Should it be an explicit right? If so, how should it be architected?

Amnesty for Snowden?

When Russia invaded Ukraine, it seemed to take us by surprise. Have
Snowden’s revelations damaged our ability to anticipate sudden moves
by rivals and adversaries?

How can the NSA build an effective social contract when it destroys
evidence in an active case and when its decisions are made in a secret
court without public scrutiny?

How can the public make informed decisions if NSA keeps secret what it
is doing from its public rulers viz the abuses exposed by Snowden?

Can you give an example of a credible “cyber threat” thwarted by the NSA?

Why did NSA dissolve its Chief Scientist Office? So too FBI. This
Office funded the disk drive and speech recognition.

How do you reconcile your stated goal of improving the security of
private sector products with NSA’s documented practice of
intentionally weakening encryption standards and adding backdoors to
exported network devices that facilitate billions of dollars of
e-commerce?

How does surveillance directed towards the United States’s closest
allies help deter terrorist threats, and how does the damage of our
relationship with Germany and other allies offset the benefits of
conducting such surveillance?

I am an American, legally, politically, culturally, economically. I
was born in Pakistan and am a young male. My demographics are the
prime target of the NSA. I have no recourse if the NSA sees that I
have visited the “wrong” links. I am afraid that the NSA deems me a
suspect. Your response?

Balancing the needs of ‘security, society and business’ leaves most of
us with 1 vote in 3. Given the shared interest in big data by
security agencies and business, how do the rest of us keep from
getting outvoted 2-to-1 every time?

Your fears seem to be based on a highly competitive scarcity-based
economy. What is your role in a post-scarcity society?

In what ways do public, crowdsourced prediction markets help to
resolve the tension between public trust and the need for
sophisticated intel?

Does the government have either a duty or a need to be open and honest
in its communication with the public?

How does the NSA approach biological data? Synthetic biology applications?

You never use the word law.

How many more leaks would it take to make your mission impossible?
Personally I look forward to this particular point in time.

Please share your thoughts on: Re: ‘talent leverage’ impact on world
stage. We are all one family on spaceship earth, and we have grave
system failures in the ship. If the U.S. gov’t can shift from empire
to universal economic empowerment, based on natural carrying capacity
of each ecosystem. Then, trust can be restored that this is not a
gov’t of and for the military-industrial complex, and the most
powerful corporations.

What are three basic reasons that make the NSA assume that it doesn’t
need to obey the law?

Surveillance and security are mutually contradictory goals. Shouldn’t
these functions of the NSA be split into different agencies?

Was Snowden a hero or a damaging rogue? Did he catalyze changes to
keep NSA from being the “KGB”?

Do we live in a democracy when there are no checks and balances in the
intelligence community? –> CIA/Senate, –> Snowden/NSA?

You described the importance of a social contract in determining the
appropriate balance between privacy and intelligence gathering. But
contracts require all parties to be well-informed and to trust each
other. How can the American public trust the intelligence community
when all of the reforms you mentioned only occurred because a
concerned patriot chose to blow the whistle (and now faces
prosecution)?

How are we to maintain the creative outliers and risk takers (things
that have been known to create growth and brilliance) if we are
keeping / tracking ‘norms’ as acceptable – or the things we accept. –
How will we know if we are wrong?

Can or does the NSA influence or seek to influence immigration policy
so that the US could retain foreign workers here on expiring H1Bs?

What does the NSA see as some of the greatest emerging technologies
(quantum decryption for example) that can create the future
“Intelligent America”?

What are the factors that determines whether the NSA ‘quietly assists’
improving a company’s product security, or it weakens or promotes
weaker crypto standards / algorithms / tech?

Please talk about the recent large scale hacking from Russia.

Why frame this as “how can laws keep up with technology” instead of
“how do we keep the NSA from exceeding the law?”

1) Was NSA interdiction of a sovereign leader’s aircraft a violation
of international law? 2) Does NSA believe they can mill and drill a
database to find potential terrorists?

The NSA paid a private security form, RSA, to introduce a weakness
into its security software. Spying is one matter. But making our
defenses weaker is another. How do you defend this?

What is your biggest fear about NSA overreaching in its power [?]

How many real, proven terrorist threats to the U.S. have been
uncovered by NSA surveillance of email / cell phone activity of
private citizens in the last few years (4-8)?

Your list of tensions omitted any mention of corporate or otherwise
economic fallout that may result or have resulted from the Snowden
revelations. What relief mechanism do you foresee maintaining
corporate trust in the American government?

You mentioned doing during slide 14 that the Director of the NSA is
declassifying more information to promote “tranparency”. Can you
please elaborate on how we might find these recently declassified
documents?

Long ago we created a “privilege” for priests, doctors and lawyers,
fearing we could not use them without it. Today, our computers know
us better than our priests, but they have no privilege and can betray
us to surveillance. How do we fix that?

What systems are in place to prevent further leaks?

1) Is it ok for a foreign entity to collect and intercept President
Obama’s communications without our knowledge? 2) Do you think William
Binney and Thomas Drake are heroes?

How do we build a world of transparency, while also enabling security
for our broader society?

As we grow more connected, the sense of distance embodied in national
patriotism and the otherness of the world shrinks. How is a larger
NSA a reasonable response in terms of a social contract?

Describe the culture that says it’s ok to monitor and read US
citizens’ email (pre-revelation) [?]

How can the NSA enable more due process during the review of approvals
of modern “wire taps” (i.e. translating big data searches to
individuals)?

In the next 10 years there will be breakthroughs in math creating
radical changes in data mining. What are the social risks of that
being dominated by NGO’s vs. government?

Has the NSA performed criminally illegal wiretapping? If so, when
will those responsible be prosecuted?

Can you define what unlocking Big Data responsibly really means and
give examples? Can NSA regulate Facebook in terms of privacy and
ownership of users’ data?

How do other governments deal with similar problems?

What prevents NSA from trusting “Intelligent America” revealing that
linking information but not the content was broadly collected could
have been understood and well presented. Funded [?] “Intelligent
Ingestion of Information” …[?] DARPA 1991-1995.

Please address the spying upon and the filing of criminal charges
against US Senators and their staff by the USA, particularly in the
case of Senator Diane Feinstein of California.

Does the NSA’s legitmacy depend more on the safety of citizens or
ensuring the continuity of the Constitutional system?

Can you shed any light on why Pres. Obama has indicted more
whistleblowers than all previous presidents combined?

When will Snowden be recognized as a hero? When will Clapper go to
jail for perjury? Actions speak louder than buzz words.

Does NSA make available the algorithms for natural language processing
used by the data analysis systems?

In the long term view, it would seem freedom is a higher priority
value than safety so why is safety the highest value here? Why isn’t
the USA working primariy to ensure our continued freedom?

How do you protect sources and methods while forging the new social contract?

How can any company trust cybercommand when the same chief runs NSA
where the focus is attack? How can we trust the Utah Data Center
after such blatant lies of “targeted surveillance?”

Now that the mass surveillance programs have to some extent been
revealed, can we see some verifiable examples of their worth? If not,
will NSA turn back towards strengthening security instead of
undermining it?

The terrorist attacks of 9/11 encouraged our govt. leaders to adopt
aggressive surveillance laws and regulations and demands from the
intelligence communities. How do we reverse these policies adopted
under duress?

Subscribe to our Seminar email list for updates and summaries.

Daniel Kahneman: Thinking Fast and Slow — A Seminar Flashback

Posted on Saturday, August 16th, 02014 by Mikl Em
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In August 02013 Nobel Prize-winning psychologist Daniel Kahneman spoke for Long Now about two types of thinking he’s identified and their implications. The pioneer of behavioral economics gave an insightful and humor-filled presentation on how we think and make decisions. Kahneman contrasted his pessimism with Stewart Brand’s characteristic optimism in their on-stage conversation after the talk (which was ended prematurely by a fire alarm). Twice a month we highlight a Seminar About Long-term Thinking (SALT) from our archives.

Video of the 12 most recent Seminars is free for all to view. Thinking Fast and Slow is a recent SALT talk, free for public viewing until September 02014. SALT audio is free for everyone on our Seminar pages and via podcastLong Now members can see all Seminar videos in HD.

From Stewart Brand’s summary of this Seminar (in full here):

Before a packed house, Kahneman began with the distinction between what he calls mental “System 1”—fast thinking, intuition—and “System 2”—slow thinking, careful consideration and calculation. System 1 operates on the illusory principle: What you see is all there is. System 2 studies the larger context. System 1 works fast (hence its value) but it is unaware of its own process. Conclusions come to you without any awareness of how they were arrived at. System 2 processes are self-aware, but they are lazy and would prefer to defer to the quick convenience of System 1.

Daniel Kahneman is professor emeritus of psychology and public affairs at Princeton University’s Woodrow Wilson School. His books include the best selling Thinking, Fast and Slow (02011). He won the Nobel Memorial Prize in Economics for his work in prospect theory in 02002 and was awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom in 02014.

Daniel Kahneman

The Seminars About Long-term Thinking series began in 02003 and is presented each month live in San Francisco. It is curated and hosted by Long Now’s President Stewart Brand. Seminar audio is available to all via podcast.

Everyone can watch full video of the last 12 Long Now Seminars (including this Seminar video until late June 02014). Long Now members can watch the full ten years of Seminars in HD. Membership levels start at $8/month and include lots of benefits.

You can join Long Now here.

Drew Endy Seminar Tickets

Posted on Thursday, August 14th, 02014 by Andrew Warner
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The Long Now Foundation’s monthly

Seminars About Long-term Thinking

Drew Endy presents The iGEM Revolution

Drew Endy presents “The iGEM Revolution”

TICKETS

Tuesday September 16, 02014 at 7:30pm SFJAZZ Center

Long Now Members can reserve 2 seats, join today! General Tickets $15

 

About this Seminar:

Drew Endy helped start the newest engineering major, bioengineering, at both MIT and Stanford. His research teams pioneered the redesign of genomes and invented the transcriptor, a simple DNA element that allows living cells to implement Boolean logic.

In 02013 President Obama recognized Endy for his work with the BioBricks Foundation to bootstrap a free-to-use language for programming life. He has been working with designers, social scientists, and others to transcend the industrialization of nature, most recently co-authoring Synthetic Aesthetics (MIT Press, 02014).

Drew is also a co-founder of Gen9, Inc., a DNA construction company, and the iGEM competition. Esquire magazine named Endy one of the 75 most influential people of the 21st century.

Adrian Hon Seminar Media

Posted on Monday, August 4th, 02014 by Andrew Warner
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This lecture was presented as part of The Long Now Foundation’s monthly Seminars About Long-term Thinking.

A History of the Future in 100 Objects

Wednesday July 16, 02014 – San Francisco

Video is up on the Hon Seminar page.

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Audio is up on the Hon Seminar page, or you can subscribe to our podcast.

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Future artifacts – a summary by Stewart Brand

Speaking from 02082, Hon described 5 (of 100) objects and events from this century’s history he felt most strongly evoked the astonishing trends that have transformed humanity in the past 8 decades.

Not all developments proved to be positive. One such was Locked Simulation Interrogation. In 02019 in Washington DC, frustrated by a series of 5 unsolved bombings, the FBI combined an unremovable top quality virtual reality (VR) rig with detailed real-time brain scanning to run a suspect through a cascade of 572 intense simulations designed to draw out everything the suspect knew about the bombings. As a result the 6th bombing was averted, and the technique of adaptive VR became a standard law enforcement tool. But over time it was found to be unreliable and often harmful, and in 02033 the Supreme Court declared it to be unconstitutional.

By the 02040s people’s comfort with mood drugs and discomfort with lives that felt meaningless (mass automation had replaced many forms of work) led to the Fourth Great Awakening. In 02044 a religious entrepreneur found a way to transform human nature and acquire converts to the “Christian Consummation Movement” with a combination of one eyedropper, 18 pills, and an “induction course of targeted viruses and magstim.” Inductees were made more empathic, generous, trusting, and disciplined. The movement grew to 20 million Americans by the 02070s before it leveled off. The world learned what could be done with desire modification.

A lasting monument to humanity’s progress off planet was Alto Firenze, the first space station designed for elegance. Constructed in 02036, it progressed through a series of beautifications and uses from hotel to conference center and art museum to eventually being declared a World Heritage Site. In 2052 it was moved to L5 and thus escaped the cascade of debris collisions that completely emptied the over-crowded low-Earth orbit later that year.

Perhaps it was the steady increase of older people, along with continuing trends in self-quantification and “gamification,” that led to the Micromort Detector in 02032. “What if you could have a number that told you exactly how risky an action, any action, was going to be?“ The Lifeline bracelet measured the wearer’s exact health condition along with the environment and the action being contemplated and displayed how risky it would be in “micromorts”—a unit representing one chance in a million of death. Go canoeing—10 micromorts. Two glasses of wine—1 micromort. The bracelets became tremendously popular, though they were found to increase anxiety badly in some users. Later spinoffs included the Microfun Detector and Micromorals Detector.

Signs of ancient life were found on Mars in 2028, on Europa in 2048. “By the time extrasolar alien life was first imaged in 2055, celebrations were considerably smaller, the wonder and excitement having been eroded by the slow drip of discoveries. By then, everyone had simply assumed that life was out there, everywhere.“ One planet now discovered to have signs of intelligent life is 328 light years away. Thus the Armstrong Expedition, using an antimatter-fueled lighthugger craft bearing only artificial intelligences set out to make contact in 02079.

“This century,” Hon summarized, “we learned what it means to be human.”

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Richard Kurin: American History in 101 Objects — A Seminar Flashback

Posted on Thursday, July 31st, 02014 by Mikl Em
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In July 02013 The Smithsonian’s Richard Kurin shared relics familiar and obscure which evoke some of America‘s most essential tales, from both before and after the states united. Twice a month we highlight a Seminar About Long-term Thinking (SALT) from our archives.

Video of the 12 most recent Seminars is free for all to view. American History in 101 Objects is a recent SALT talk, free for public viewing until August 02014. SALT audio is free for everyone on our Seminar pages and via podcast. Long Now members can see all Seminar videos in HD.

From Stewart Brand’s summary of this Seminar (in full here):

Figuratively holding up one museum item after another, Kurin spun tales from them. (The Smithsonian has 137 million objects; he displayed just thirty or so). The Burgess Shale shows fossilized soft-tissue creatures (“very early North Americans”) from 500 million years ago. The Smithsonian’s Giant Magellan Telescope being built in Chile will, when it is completed in 2020, look farther into the universe, and thus farther into the past than any previous telescope—12.8 billion years.

Dr. Richard Kurin is the Smithsonian Institution’s Under Secretary for History, Art and Culture and is responsible for most of the national museums in the United States as well as numerous cultural and educational programs. His latest book is The Smithsonian’s History of America in 101 Objects.

Richard Kurin, Smithsonian: American History in 101 Objects — A Seminar Flashback

The Seminars About Long-term Thinking series began in 02003 and is presented each month live in San Francisco. It is curated and hosted by Long Now’s President Stewart Brand. Seminar audio is available to all via podcast.

Everyone can watch full video of the last 12 Long Now Seminars (including this Seminar video until July 02014). Long Now members can watch the full ten years of Seminars in HD. Membership levels start at $8/month and include lots of benefits.

You can join Long Now here.

Anne Neuberger Seminar Primer

Posted on Wednesday, July 30th, 02014 by Austin Brown
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National_Security_Agency_headquarters,_Fort_Mead

Next Wednesday, August 6th, Anne Neuberger presents “Inside the NSA” in our monthly Seminars About Long-term Thinking series. Each month our Seminar Primer gives you background about the upcoming speaker and links to explore even more.

The NSA is in an unenviable position, tasked with identifying threats to American interests that could originate anywhere in the world. When they do their job well, we forget they exist; when they fail, it is catastrophic, controversial or both.

salt-020140806-neuberger

Anne Neuberger is Special Assistant to the NSA’s Director Michael Rogers. She is also the Director of the NSA’s Commercial Solutions Center, meaning she’s an important liaison between the Agency and private companies.

That relationship has been hotly debated and scrutinized since Edward Snowden’s revelations raised awareness of the breadth and depth of the NSA’s activities on private networks. In their wake, criticism has been  wide-spread though sometimes contradictory.

Some say the Agency is too cozy with the private technology companies that store and transmit our personal data and communications. Others point out that the NSA makes use of security vulnerabilities in private infrastructure to perform much of its surveillance when it should be notifying companies of those vulnerabilities so that they can be secured against hacking and other cyber-threats.

Either way, as technology races ahead of policy, and legislation lumbers even further behind them both, balancing security and privacy has never been more difficult. As Neuberger told NPR last November:

“We’d love to magically segregate bad guys’ ‘comms,’ as we call them, and good guys’ ‘comms,’ ” she says. “You can’t technically do it. They’re intermixed. Communications are fundamentally intermixed today.”

Also complicating matters is the question of who bears responsibility for critical infrastructure that is owned privately. Speaking at the U.S. Chamber of Commerce’s Second Annual Cyber Security Summit in Washington DC last September, Neuberger pointed out,

“Critical services, as we noted, from power to water are owned by private-sector firms, but it’s probably fair to say the average citizen looks to their government to ensure the resiliency and the continuity of those services.”

How then, does the agency navigate among the rapidly shifting constellations of foreign criminals, technological capabilities, American citizens, private companies and national policies? How can our government act quickly while upholding our enduring values? Does the immediacy of national security threats trump the long-game of wise governance?

Anne Neuberger confronts these questions on a daily basis in her work at the NSA; hear her inside story on Wednesday August 6th at SFJAZZ Center.

Anne Neuberger Seminar Tickets

Posted on Thursday, July 10th, 02014 by Andrew Warner
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The Long Now Foundation’s monthly

Seminars About Long-term Thinking

Anne Neuberger presents Inside the NSA

Anne Neuberger presents “Inside the NSA”

TICKETS

Wednesday August 6, 02014 at 7:30pm SFJAZZ Center

Long Now Members can reserve 2 seats, join today! General Tickets $15

 

About this Seminar:

The NSA’s failures are public headlines. Its successes are secret.

These days America’s National Security Agency lives at the intersection of two paranoias—governmental fears of attack and citizen fears about loss of privacy. Both paranoias were exacerbated by a pair of devastating attacks—9/11 and Edward Snowden. The agency now has to evolve rapidly while managing its normal heavy traffic of threats and staying ahead of the ever-accelerating frontier of cyber capabilities.

In the emerging era of transparency, and in the thick of transition, what does the NSA look like from inside?

Threats are daily, but governance is long term. At the heart of handling that balance is Anne Neuberger, Special Assistant to NSA Director Michael Rogers and Director of the Commercial Solutions Center. (Before this assignment she was Special Advisor to the Secretary of Navy; before that, in 02007, a White House Fellow.) She is exceptionally smart, articulate, and outspoken.

Adrian Hon Seminar Primer

Posted on Monday, July 7th, 02014 by Charlotte Hajer
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Next Wednesday, July 16, Adrian Hon presents “A History of the Future in 100 Objects” in our monthly Seminars About Long-term Thinking series. Each month our Seminar Primer gives you background about the upcoming speaker and links to find out even more. This month we’ll tell you how Adrian Hon uses the power of narrative to create a science fiction of history and bring possible futures into focus.

Nothing gets us going like a good story. Colorful details entice us to escape from reality for a while, juicy plot twists hook us into an alternate world, and mysterious cliff hangers leave us always wanting more. Adrian Hon is no stranger to this power of storytelling: in fact, he’s harnessed it as an effective tool for motivation and inspiration.

Hon is a successful entrepreneur and an expert on alternate reality games (ARG). ARGs are narrative-driven games that blur the line between reality and fantasy; they use real-world tools and interactions to advance their fictional plot lines. Hon co-founded and is CEO of Six to Start, the game design company that is now probably best known for creating the running app Zombies, Run!

In the early 02000s Hon was working on a PhD in neuroscience at the University of Oxford when his burgeoning interest in ARG gaming took him down a different path. It all started with his passion for The Beast, one of the most successful early ARGs created to promote Steven Spielberg’s film A.I. Artificial Intelligence. Hon became the moderator for The Cloudmakers, an online discussion group dedicated to solving The Beast, and he wrote a detailed walkthrough of the game called “The Guide“.

Hon’s work on The Beast attracted the attention of ARG developers, and in 02003 he was invited to join game design start-up Mind Candy in London. There, he co-created Perplex City. Ostensibly a collectible card game that featured interconnected puzzles of varying complexity, it actually transported players into an intricate alternate reality.

Perplex City was a fictional place that existed in a parallel universe, one where society revered mental acuity like ours venerates athletic skill. Citizens of Perplex City would solve puzzles in order to rise into the elite class, and only the very smartest were invited to join the academy in the city center. Mimicking that meritocracy, each game card had a unique code which, along with the puzzle’s solution, earned players points on the Perplex City global leader board. (Polygon).

After Mind Candy, Hon and his brother co-founded their own game design company, Six To Start. They’ve worked with organizations like the BBC and Disney Imagineering to create ARGs that bring television shows, literature, and even important lessons to life. Take, for example, Smokescreen, an alternate reality game that teaches teens how to interact responsibly with social media and other digital communication tools. Or We Tell Stories, a game-like experiment in digital storytelling – including a story told through Google Maps – created in collaboration with Penguin Books.

These games are clever forms of marketing, and exceptionally effective educational tools. Their rich alternate realities bring scenarios to life in full technicolor, and the game structure means that players learn by actively searching for information, rather than by passively receiving it. The motivating power of ARGs is illustrated clearly by Zombies, Run!, Six to Start’s popular running app. It’s not your average fitness tracker:

When you put on your headphones and hit the play button on Zombies, Run!, you are simultaneously in the real world and in the game world. Imagine virtual-reality goggles for your ears. Using the iPhone’s built-in accelerometer and GPS system, the program knows where you’re going and how fast you’re running. It creates goals to reach, places to explore, allies to meet and enemies to defeat. (Polygon)

Perhaps it’s this same interest in alternate realities that draws Hon to explore possible futures for human civilization. As a teenager, for example, Hon was actively involved in the Mars Society, an organization that promotes and pursues exploration of the Red Planet (incidentally, Hon once talked about Mars exploration at a TED conference, thereby becoming one of the youngest people ever to take the TED stage).

hon-future100

In his new book, A History of the Future in 100 Objects, Hon muses about Mars exploration and other scenarios that may mark the coming century. The book is a late 21st century analogue of Richard Kurin’s November 02013 SALT talk (“American History in 101 Objects“): Hon has written it from the perspective of a historian in the year 02084, who describes the hundred objects that illustrate the defining moments in 21st century human history. Imagine the first de-extincted animal to be returned successfully to the wild, or the first fan-fiction book to be written using RFL – a text written by an algorithm based on an existing author’s characteristic tone and style.

In the collection’s introduction, the fictitious historian writes:

Every century is extraordinary, of course. Some may be the bloodiest or the darkest; others encompass momentous social revolutions, or scientific advances, or religious and philosophical movements. The 21st century is different: it represents the first time in our history that we have truly had to question what it means to be human. It is the stories of our collective humanity that I hope to tell through the hundred objects in this book. … This book is not the history of the 21st century; it is only a history, and a hundred objects can only tell a fraction of our stories. Some we can be proud of; others we might prefer to forget. My goal is that this book will give our successors some useful knowledge, some insights, at least some amusement. Perhaps, I hope, even some guidance.

Blending fact with fiction (a balance that shifts gradually toward the latter as time progresses), Hon’s descriptions present a nuanced image of 21st century civilization. Neither utopian nor dystopian, the collection suggests a sense of hope in humanity’s ability to handle whatever possible crises are thrown in its way. Hon is imaginative in the technological advancements he describes, but also never without some skepticism about its impact on human relationships and societal well-being.

These are stories of a possible future, stories of life and death and love and war and science and faith and exploration and despair and hope. It’s about what it means to be human in a century where humanity has never mattered more. And, like all science fiction, it’s about the hopes and fears we have today.

In a way the book is a sort of time-shifted alternative reality, using the story-telling skills he has honed working on ARGs to lead his readers to think about possible futures that just might be the real thing.

Long Now presents Adrian Hon talking about A History of the Future in 100 Objects at the SFJAZZ Center on Wednesday, July 16 in our continuing Seminars About Long-term Thinking series.

Craig Childs: Apocalyptic Planet, Field Guide to the Everending Earth — A Seminar Flashback

Posted on Wednesday, July 2nd, 02014 by Mikl Em
link   Categories: Seminars, The Big Here   chat 0 Comments

In July 02013 author Craig Childs spoke to Long Now about his travels around the world. One of the world’s great intrepid travelers and story-tellers, Childs finds the places on Earth that are most geologically or climatically dangerous and hangs out, observing closely, then documents them from a personal as well as scientific perspective. Twice a month we highlight a Seminar About Long-term Thinking (SALT) from our archives.

Video of the 12 most recent Seminars is free for all to view. Apocalyptic Planet: Field Guide to the Everending Earth is a recent SALT talk, free for public viewing until August 02014. SALT audio is free for everyone on our Seminar pages and via podcastLong Now members can see all Seminar videos in HD.

From Stewart Brand’s summary of this Seminar (in full here):

This Earth is a story teller, Childs began. And it is not a stable place to live. It is always ending. We think of endings as sudden, but it is always a process. [...]

I would like to backpack on Mars, said Childs. For the local equivalent he hiked across the Atacama Desert in northern Chile, where it never rains. It’s been a desert for 150 million years. You walk across nothing but salt so hard it pings like steel. The sun blasts you all day and at night the water in your pack freezes solid. You walk for days and you don’t see a single living thing, you’re on a dead planet, and then it gets really strange because pink flamingoes come flying in over your head. They’re there to strain brine shrimp out of water sources. You’re at the end of the world and there are flamingoes! You think, ‘Yeah, that’s what this planet is about.’

Craig Childs’ books include House of Rain, Finders Keepers, and Apocalyptic Planet. He is a commentator for NPR’s Morning Edition and contributing editor at High Country News.

Craig Childs and Cactus

The Seminars About Long-term Thinking series began in 02003 and is presented each month live in San Francisco. It is curated and hosted by Long Now’s President Stewart Brand. Seminar audio is available to all via podcast.

Everyone can watch full video of the last 12 Long Now Seminars (including this Seminar video until late June 02014). Long Now members can watch the full ten years of Seminars in HD. Membership levels start at $8/month and include lots of benefits.

You can join Long Now here.