Blog Archive for the ‘Seminars’ Category

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Mark Lynas: 9 Planetary Boundaries, Finessing the Anthropocene — Seminar Flashback

Posted on Friday, October 17th, 02014 by Mikl Em
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“The Holocene is over and welcome to the Anthropocene our very uniquely human geological era.” In March 02012 environmental activist and author Mark Lynas gave a sobering assessment of Earth in the Anthropocene.

Lynas offers a framework for tracking the health of our planet, outlining nine measurable “boundaries” that if crossed threaten the well-being of humans on Earth. And some already had been crossed in 02012. These systems go beyond climate and biodiversity to measures like ocean acidification, atmospheric aerosols, and excess nitrogen in agriculture.

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):

We’ve raised the temperature of the Earth system, reduced the alkalinity of the oceans, altered the chemistry of the atmosphere, changed the reflectivity of the planet, hugely affected the distribution of freshwater, and killed off many of the species that share the planet with us. [...] Some of those global alterations made by humans may be approaching tipping points—thresholds—that could destabilize the whole Earth system.

Mark Lynas‘ books include Six Degrees (which Stewart Brand called one of the finest books written on climate), The God Species: How the Planet Can Survive the Age of Humans, and most recently Nuclear 2.0: Why a Green Future Needs Nuclear Power (02014). He is a member of the World Economic Forum’s Global Agenda Council on Decarbonising Energy, which focuses on sustainable energy to mitigate climate change.

Mark Lynas: Nine Planetary Boundaries, Finessing the Anthropocene

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 12 most recent Long Now Seminars. Long Now members can watch this video in full—you must be logged in to the site—and 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.

Kevin Kelly Seminar Tickets

Posted on Thursday, October 16th, 02014 by Andrew Warner
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The Long Now Foundation’s monthly

Seminars About Long-term Thinking

Kevin Kelly presents Technium Unbound

Kevin Kelly presents “Technium Unbound”

TICKETS

Wednesday November 12, 02014 at 7:30pm SFJAZZ Center

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

 

About this Seminar:

What comes after the Internet? What is bigger than the web? What will produce more wealth than all the startups to date? The answer is a planetary super-organism comprised of 4 billion mobile phones, 80 quintillion transistor chips, a million miles of fiber optic cables, and 6 billion human minds all wired together. The whole thing acts like a single organism, with its own behavior and character — but at a scale we have little experience with.

This is more than just a metaphor. Kelly takes the idea of a global super-organism seriously by describing what we know about it so far, how it is growing, where its boundaries are, and what it will mean for us as individuals and collectively. Both the smallest one-person enterprises today, and the largest mega-corporations on Earth, will have to learn to how this Technium operates, and how to exploit it.

Larry Harvey Seminar Primer

Posted on Monday, October 13th, 02014 by Andrew Warner
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On Monday, October 20th, Larry Harvey speaks for Long Now on “Why The Man Keeps Burning,” as part of our monthly Seminars About Long-term Thinking. Each month the Seminar Primer gives you some background about the speaker, including links to learn even more.

Burning Man started with humble beginnings in 01986 with 20 people on a beach. Twenty-eight years later, it’s one of the premiere arts festival in the country, with over 66,000 people attending annually, dozens of satellite events, and a vibrant international community. In one sense, Burning Man is an event that only happens for one week per year in a remote desert in Nevada. In another sense, it’s a massive global phenomenon that supports thousands of artists, causes, and technologies.

What sets Burning Man apart from other large-scale festivals is its focus on participation. The organizers set up the infrastructure of “Black Rock City” (including roads, portapotties, ice, DMV, medical, post offices, etc.) and then attendees become the citizens and bring life to the desert through hundreds of art pieces, mutant vehicles, and theme camps. This personal investment of time, money and creativity by participants far exceeds what the the festival organizers could do if they were planning the Burning Man event in the traditional sense.

How does something as outrageous as a temporary city of art built in the middle of the desert come about? It all began on a small beach in San Francisco and an “event” organized by Larry Harvey and a group of his artist, prankster friends. In 01986 the first wooden figure they built was only 8-feet tall. The attendees were all members of the San Francisco Cacophony Society, a group of artists and mischief makers also associated with Santarchy, urban exploration, and Art Cars. The beach version of Burning Man became an annual event, but was subsequently shutdown by local authorities.

Harvey and others made the decision to relocate the event to the dramatic but inhospitable environment of the Black Rock Desert in Pershing Country, Nevada. This changed the scale of the event and opened up a world of possibilities for Burning Man to become the festival it is today. It has grown in size, budget, ambition, and notoriety virtually every year since moving to Nevada. Along the way it went legit, fully permitted and coordination with county governments and the Bureau of Land Management.

And through it all Larry Harvey has been a part of steering and scaling up this arts oasis in the desert. He serves as Burning Man’s Chief Philosophical Officer and authored the Ten Principles in 02004, guidelines which reflect “the community’s ethos and culture” and assure Burning Man a reference point as it grows in Black Rock and all over the world. Harvey continues also as founding Board Member of the Burning Man Art Project and Chairman of the Board of the Black Rock Arts Foundation.

There have been rough spots along the way, as the man has grown from eight to over 100 feet and a 20 person party on the beach has become 60,000+ paying hundreds of dollars per ticket. Over the years much has changed and many issues have stirred concern in the community that the festival could be destroyed by some new policy or other development: “Scaling up will kill Burning Man.”  “That new rule will kill Burning Man.”  “The Bureau of Land Management will kill Burning Man.”  “Selling tickets that way will kill Burning Man.”  “Board infighting will kill Burning Man.”  “Upscale turnkey camps will kill Burning Man.”

It turns out none of these things killed Burning Man, and Burning Man shows few signs of slowing down. The Black Rock Arts Foundation (BRAF) gives hundreds of thousands of dollars in grants every year to Burning Man projects as well as public art projects in San Francisco and around the world. The “regional burns” have created strong communities globally based around smaller satellite festivals which take cues from the Ten Principles.

A few examples of the art that BRAF has helped make possible:

Raygun Gothic Rocketship photo by David Yu

The Raygun Gothic Rocketship in San Francisco by Five Ton Crane (5TC) photo by David Yu

Soma at Burning Man photo by Scott Hess

Flaming Lotus Girls’ Soma at Burning Man photo by Scott Hess

The Dandelion photo George Post

From Market Street Blooms by Karen Cusolito at UN Plaza, San Francisco photo by George Post

The Bottlecap Gazebo in Fernley, Nevada; photo courtesy of Jerry Mansker

The Bottlecap Gazebo by Max Poynton and Andrew Grinberg in Fernley, Nevada; photo courtesy of Jerry Mansker

Join us on Monday, October 20th at SFJAZZ Center as Larry Harvey, who has been there from the beginning to the present, tells the story of Burning Man and shows us how we can find long-term thinking in a reoccurring temporary city.

This Seminar is sold out, but there will be a walk-up line for released tickets.

 

Drew Endy Seminar Media

Posted on Thursday, October 2nd, 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.

The iGEM Revolution

Tuesday September 16, 02014 – San Francisco

Video is up on the Endy Seminar page.

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

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Massively collaborative synthetic biology – a summary by Stewart Brand

Natural genomes are nearly impossible to figure out, Endy began, because they were evolved, not designed. Everything is context dependent, tangled, and often unique. So most biotech efforts become herculean. It cost $25 million to develop a way to biosynthesize the malaria drug artemisinin, for example. Yet the field has so much promise that most of what biotechnology can do hasn’t even been imagined yet.

How could the nearly-impossible be made easy? Could biology become programmable? Endy asked Lynn Conway, the legendary inventer of efficient chip design and manufacturing, how to proceed. She said, “Go meta.” If the recrafting of DNA is viewed from a meta perspective, the standard engineering cycle—Design, Build, Test, Design better, etc.—requires a framework of DNA Synthesis, using Standards, understood with Abstraction, leading to better Synthesis, etc.

“In 2003 at MIT,” Endy said, “we didn’t know how to teach it, but we thought that maybe working with students we could figure out how to learn it.” It would be learning-by-building. So began a student project to engineer a biological oscillator—a genetic blinker—which led next year to several teams creating new life forms, which led to the burgeoning iGEM phenomenon. Tom Knight came up with the idea of standard genetic parts, like Lego blocks, now called BioBricks. Randy Rettberg declared that cooperation had to be the essence of the work, both within teams (which would compete) and among all the participants to develop the vast collaborative enterprise that became the iGEM universe—students creating new BioBricks (now 10,000+) and meeting at the annual Jamboree in Boston (this year there are 2,500 competitors from 32 countries). “iGEM” stands for International Genetically Engineered Machine.

Playfulness helps, Endy said. Homo faber needs homo ludens—man-the-player makes a better man-the-maker. In 2009 ten teenagers with $25,000 in sixteen weeks developed the ability to create E. coli in a variety of colors. They called it E. chromi. What could you do with pigmented intestinal microbes? “The students were nerding out.” They talked to designers and came up with the idea of using colors in poop for diagnosis. By 2049, they proposed, there could be a “Scatalog” for color matching of various ailments such as colon cancer. “It would be more pleasant than colonoscopy.”

The rationale for BioBricks is that “standardization enables coordination of labor among parties and over time.” For the system to work well depends on total access to the tools. “I want free-to-use language for programming life,” said Endy. The stated goal of the iGEM revolutionaries is “to benefit all people and the planet.” After ten years there are now over 20,000 of them all over the world guiding the leading edges of biotechnology in that direction.

During the Q&A, Endy told a story from his graduate engineering seminar at Dartmouth. The students were excited that the famed engineer and scientist Arthur Kantrowitz was going to lead a session on sustainability. They were shocked when he told them, “‘Sustainability‘ is the most dangerous thing I’ve ever encountered. My job today is to explain two things to you. One, pessimism is a self-fulfilling prophecy. Two, optimism is a self-fulfilling prophecy.”

Subscribe to our Seminar email list for updates and summaries.

Adam Steltzner: Beyond Mars, Earth— A Seminar Flashback

Posted on Saturday, September 27th, 02014 by Mikl Em
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In October 02013 NASA engineer Adam Steltzner spoke for Long Now about landing Curiosity on Mars. In Beyond Mars, Earth, Steltzner gives an insiders view of previous Mars missions leading up to his team’s incredible feat of landing the Curiosity rover safely on the planet’s surface. More broadly he ponders why humans have the need to explore and where we may go next.

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

This month our Seminar About Long-term Thinking (SALT) ”flashbacks” highlight Space-themed talks, as we lead up to Ariel Waldman’s The Future of Human Space Flight at The Interval, September 30th, 02014.

From Stewart Brand’s summary of Beyond Mars, Earth (in full here):

“With this kind of exploration,“ Steltzner said, “we’re really asking questions about ourselves. How great is our reach? How grand are we? Exploration of this kind is not practical, but it is essential.” He quoted Theodore Roosevelt: “Far better it is to dare mighty things, to win glorious triumphs even though checkered by failure, than to rank with those timid spirits who neither enjoy nor suffer much because they live in the gray twilight that knows neither victory nor defeat.”

After the epic subjects of his talk, Steltzner’s Q&A with Stewart Brand gets quite personal. A late-comer to science and engineering, one night he looked up at the stars, asked himself a question, and that lead him to a whole new life.

Adam Steltzner is an engineer at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL) who has worked on the the Galileo, Cassini, and Mars Pathfinder missions as well as the Shuttle-Mir Program. He was the lead engineer of Curiosity rover’s “Entry, Descent, and Landing“ phase.

Adam Steltzner at Long Now

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.

Larry Harvey Seminar Tickets

Posted on Thursday, September 25th, 02014 by Andrew Warner
link   Categories: Announcements, Seminars   chat 0 Comments

 

The Long Now Foundation’s monthly

Seminars About Long-term Thinking

Larry Harvey presents Why The Man Keeps Burning

Larry Harvey presents “Why The Man Keeps Burning”

TICKETS

Monday October 20, 02014 at 7:30pm SFJAZZ Center

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

 

About this Seminar:

“Scaling up will kill Burning Man.” “That new rule will kill Burning Man.” “The Bureau of Land Management will kill Burning Man.” “Selling tickets that way will kill Burning Man.” “Board infighting will kill Burning Man.” “Upscale turnkey camps will kill Burning Man.”

Ha.

What if Burning Man is too fragile to be killed? What if celebrating ephemerality is the best guarantee of continuity? What if every year’s brand new suspension of disbelief has deep-down durability? What if conservatively radical principles and evolving rules are more robust over time than anything merely physical?

What really keeps the Man burning? If anyone knows, it should be the event’s primary founder, author of The Principles, and ongoing Chief Philosophical Officer, artist Larry Harvey.

Peter Schwartz: The Starships ARE Coming — A Seminar Flashback

Posted on Friday, September 12th, 02014 by Mikl Em
link   Categories: Futures, Long Term Science, Seminars   chat 0 Comments

In September 02013 futurist Peter Schwartz spoke for Long Now about realistic scenarios for human interstellar travel. Peter, a founding Long Now Board member, participated in “The 100-year Starship” project and contributed to the book Starship Century (Edited by Gregory Benford and James Benford) with scientists and science fiction authors positing realistic ways humanity could voyage beyond our Solar System.

Our September Seminar About Long-term Thinking (SALT) ”flashbacks” highlight Space-themed talks, as we lead up to Ariel Waldman’s The Future of Human Space Flight at The Interval, September 30th, 02014.

Video of the 12 most recent Seminars is free for all to view. The Starships ARE Coming is a recent SALT talk, free for public viewing until September 02014. Listen to SALT audio free 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):

Standard-physics travel will require extremely long voyages, much longer than a human lifetime. Schwartz suggested four options.

  1. Generational ships: whole mini-societies commit to voyages that only their descendants will complete.
  2. Sleep ships: like in the movie “Avatar,” travelers go into hibernation
  3. Relativistic ships: at near the speed of light, time compresses, so that travelers may experience only 10 years while 100 years pass back on Earth.
  4. Download ships: “Suppose we learn how to copy human consciousness into some machine-like device.

Peter Schwartz is a futurist, scenario planning  expert, and author of The Art of the Long View. Currently he serves as Senior Vice President for Global Government Relations and Strategic Planning at Salesforce.com. In 01988 Peter co-founded Global Business Network and served as their chairman until 02011. He is a co-founding Board Member of The Long Now Foundation and has spoken in our SALT series on four occasions.

Peter Schwartz

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 Primer

Posted on Wednesday, September 3rd, 02014 by Charlotte Hajer
link   Categories: Long Term Science, Seminars   chat 0 Comments

On Tuesday, September 16th, Drew Endy presents “The iGEM Revolution“ as part of our monthly Seminars About Long-term Thinking. Each month, our Seminar Primer gives you some background about the speaker, including links to explore even more.

adventures-in2
From Adventures in Synthetic Biology, by Drew Endy

Biotechnology is a young science, but it’s already proven its (potential) benefit to civilization. We can now engineer bacteria to manufacture life-saving drugs, we have new ways to diagnose disease, and we know how to modify the genome of plants so they become resistant to certain pests. Yet so far, says Stanford synthetic biologist Drew Endy, biotech has only realized a few of the grand promises it made in the 01970s, after scientists first succeeded in the synthesis of recombinant DNA. How can we realize these promises? How can we make biology easier to engineer? Endy’s answer to these questions is the growing field of synthetic biology, and an open-source, collaborative approach to the development of new bio-engineering tools.

Synthetic biology is built on the technologies of genetic engineering that were developed during the 20th century, but takes them a few steps further. Genetic engineers can isolate blocks of a cell’s genetic material, extract it from its nucleus, and splice it into another cell’s DNA to create a recombinant genome. Synthetic biologists, on the other hand, splice in pieces of DNA that they’ve built from scratch. It’s like the difference between composing an essay by cutting and pasting word sequences from existing texts, or doing so by putting individual letters in sequence in order to create words of your own.

The Human Genome Project gave us the ability to read nature’s instructional manual – DNA – like words in a book. But the real opportunities, scientists say, lie in our ability to not only read genetic code, but to write it, then build it using off-the-shelf chemical ingredients, strung together like holiday lights. It is the creation of new genomes – and a new frontier in bioengineering. (San Jose Mercury News)

Drew Endy was trained as an engineer, but found his way to biology when a senior-year college class made him realize that living matter holds great potential as building material. “I like to build stuff, and biology is the best technology we have for making stuff – trees, people, computing devices, food, chemicals, you name it,” Endy explains in an Edge conversation. He went on to obtain a graduate degree in biochemical engineering. But in his postdoctoral research, Endy began to grow frustrated with the existing cut-and-paste methods of DNA engineering. It’s an inexact science that often produces unexpected side effects: evolution has turned DNA into a complex library of information, and simply splicing in a new gene may not always lead the host cell to express it in the way you had expected. As a feature in The Economist explains,

No intelligent designer would have put the genomes of living organisms together in the way that evolution has. Some parts overlap, meaning that they cannot change jobs independently of one another. Others have lost their function but have not been removed, so they simply clutter things up. And there is no sense of organization or hierarchy. That is because, unlike an engineer, evolution cannot go back to the drawing board, it can merely play with what already exists. Biologists, who seek merely to understand how life works, accept this. Engineers such as Endy, who wish to change the way it works, do not. They want to start again.

Image by Peter and Maria Hoey

The only way to fully control – and understand – what a cell does, Endy realized, is to build its DNA from scratch. We should think of cells a bit more like we think of computers: as hardware that can be fully programmed – by DNA, the perfect software language. In an interview for the Stanford Alumni Magazine, Endy proposes,

Let’s look at biology not as a science, but as a technology platform … Biology is the most compelling technology platform anybody has ever seen. It’s the stuff of life and it’s a reproducing machine! It’s a nanotechnology that actually works. You can program it with DNA – sort of. We’re learning how to do that. It’s the most overwhelmingly cool, impressive technology platform any engineer is ever going to encounter if they’re alive today.

Endy’s mission is to help the world learn this new technology – to make biology easier (and thereby faster, more accessible, and finally more productive) to engineer. And in order to do that, Endy identifies two crucial tools.

The first is standardization: rather than having to build pieces of DNA from scratch every time they want to create a new gene, synthetic biologists should be able to pick and choose ‘parts’ from a standard, universal toolkit of genetic material. Forbes explains:

The Industrial Revolution got a serious boost in 1864 when a machinist standardized screws. Henceforth someone trying to build an engine could pluck a standard 8-gauge, 32-threads-per-inch machine screw off the shelf. Endy aims for similar standardization in the new field of synthetic biology, and embraces the radical approach of creating a free registry of building blocks. In 2002 MIT professors started a not-for-profit called BioBricks that has collected 2,000 biological components, including gene sequences that sense light, produce light, send messages between cells and switch cell functions on and off.

We can think of BioBricks as the biological equivalent of Legos: they’re pieces of genetic material with universal connectors on each end, so they can be combined with any other piece to create novel strings of DNA. BioBricks make DNA easier to engineer because they create a certain level of abstraction. Rather than having to put the individual As, Cs, T’s and G’s of DNA together when building a synthetic gene, engineers can use BioBricks as a kind of genetic shorthand – just as software programmers make use of languages like Java to spare them the work of writing out their code in bits (Stanford Alumni Magazine). Endy imagines that these BioBricks will be manufactured in so-called BioFabs (International Open Facility Advancing Biotechnology) – a “biological design-build facility.” In fact, he helped launch the first one in Emeryville, in 02009.


Image from the European Molecular Biology Organization

The idea of facilities dedicated entirely to building BioBricks suggests that standardization also leads to a productive division of labor. In his interview with the Stanford Alumni Magazine, Endy explains, “Separation of design and fabrication can allow people to specialize, becoming experts in each area … We’ve seen this with microprocessors. Someone designs the chip and somebody else builds it.” It’s led to more sophisticated processors – by allowing people to specialize, greater complexity can be developed.

The second crucial tool involves making those standard parts publicly available and encouraging everyone – engineers and students alike – to get creative, share their findings, and help one another learn. The BioBricks Foundation, of which Endy is president and co-founder, works on the premise that “… fundamental scientific knowledge belongs to all of us and must be freely available for ethical, open innovation.” In his Edge conversation, Endy adds,

Biotechnology today derives investments from business models that support the exclusive application of different biological functions for a very small number of problems. For example, there are wonderful companies that have locked up most of the relevant intellectual property around how to engineer proteins to bind DNA. The products that they can deliver are going to be measured in small positive integer numbers, a few diseases. But, the real value associated with being able to engineer proteins that bind DNA are in the uncountable applications people could use the proteins for. It’s like a programming language where it would be a big downstream economic cost if you owned “if/then” and you were the only person who could use it.

Endy considers education a crucial component for fostering this open-source collaboration and innovation. He tries to get high schoolers and college students excited about synthetic biology in several ways – by writing comics about it, for example (and you’ll see several images from his Adventures in Synthetic Biology included in this post).

But Endy’s interest in education is truly epitomized by iGEM – the International Genetically Engineered Machines competition. It began as an undergraduate course that Endy developed while teaching at MIT, and has since evolved into a large annual event that draws thousands of participants from all over the world. Competing teams use BioBricks – which they get from and contribute back to the BioBricks Foundation’s Standard Registry of Parts – to engineer synthetic organisms that perform particular functions. The competition not only gets undergraduates excited about the field of bioengineering; its promotion of creative collaboration also spurs innovation and advances new technologies.

Of course, the widespread accessibility of new DNA-building tools isn’t entirely risk-free. Critics worry about what kinds of dangerous new things might be built if those standard parts fall into the wrong hands. Endy understands that advances in synthetic biology involve important questions about what new technologies might produce, who will control them, what cultural and ethical implications they’ll hold, and what safety issues may arise. He advocates discussion about these issues: in 02008, The Long Now Foundation hosted a debate between Endy and Jim Thomas, Research Programme Manager at the Action Group on Erosion, Technology, and Concentration (ETC), and an outspoken critic of synthetic biology.

Though he sees the value of open discussion about the ethics of bioengineering, Endy hopes we do keep thinking about how synthetic biology might benefit society – and how engineering tools can be leveraged to produce that benefit in an accessible and easy, but also responsible and ethical way. Endy will talk about the promise of synthetic biology, his work with iGEM, and more on Tuesday, September 16 at SFJAZZ Center.

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

Posted on Friday, August 22nd, 02014 by Mikl Em
link   Categories: Long Term Thinking, Seminars, Technology   chat 0 Comments

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
link   Categories: Announcements, Seminars   chat 0 Comments

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?

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