Blog Archive for the ‘Seminars’ Category

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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
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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.

Stefan Kroepelin Seminar Media

Posted on Wednesday, June 25th, 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.

Civilization’s Mysterious Desert Cradle: Rediscovering the Deep Sahara

Tuesday June 10, 02014 – San Francisco

Video is up on the Kroepelin Seminar page.

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

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The Sahara and civilization – a summary by Stewart Brand

“Almost everything breaks in the desert,” Kröpelin began. He showed trucks mired in sand, one vehicle blown up by a land mine, and a Unimog with an impossibly, hopelessly broken axle. (Using the attached backhoe, it hunched its way 50 miles back to civilization.)

The eastern Sahara remains one of the least explored places on Earth, and it is full of wonders. Every year for 40 years Kröpelin has made multi-month expeditions to figure out the paleoclimatological changes and human saga in the region over the last 17,000 years. There are no guides, no roads. When you find something—astonishing rock art (there are thousands of sites), an amazing geological feature—you know you’re the first human to see it in thousands of years.

A great river, 7 miles wide, 650 miles long, once flowed into the Nile from the desert. Now called Wadi Howar, its rich, still unstudied archeological sites show it used to be a thoroughfare from the deep desert. A vast spectacular plateau called the Ennedi Highlands, as big as Switzerland, has exquisite rock art detailing pastoral herds of cattle and even dress and hair styles. Mouflon (wild sheep) and crocodiles still survive there.

Most remarkable of all are the remote Ounianga Lakes, some of them kept charged with ancient deep-aquifer fresh water because of the draw of intense evaporation from the hypersaline central Lake Yoa. In 1999 Kröpelin began a stratigraphic study of the lake’s sediment, eventually collecting a treasure for climate study—a 52-foot core sample which shows every season for the last 11,000 years.

For Kröpelin, many strands of evidence spell out the sequence of events in the eastern Sahara. From 17,000 to 10,500 BP (before the present), there were no human settlements along the Nile. But the Sahara was gradually getting wetter in the period 10,500 to 9,000 BP, and people moved in from the south. The peak of the African Humid Period, when the Sahara was green and widely occupied, was 9,000 to 7,300 years ago. Then a gradual desiccation from 7,300 to 5,500 BP drove people to the Nile, and the first farms appeared there. From 5,500 BP on, the Nile’s pharaonic civilization got going and lasted 3,000 years.

Unique artifacts such black-rimmed pots and asymmetric stone knives, once used in the far desert, turn up in the settlements that created Egypt. Kröpelin concluded: “Egypt was a gift of the Nile, but it was also a gift of the desert.”

And of climate change.

Subscribe to our Seminar email list for updates and summaries.

Adrian Hon Seminar Tickets

Posted on Thursday, June 19th, 02014 by Andrew Warner
link   Categories: Announcements, Seminars   chat 0 Comments

 

The Long Now Foundation’s monthly

Seminars About Long-term Thinking

Adrian Hon presents A History of the Future in 100 Objects

Adrian Hon presents

“A History of the Future in 100 Objects”

TICKETS

Wednesday July 16, 02014 at 7:30pm SFJAZZ Center

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

 

About this Seminar:

Thinking about the future is so hard and so important that any trick to get some traction is a boon. Adrian Hon’s trick is to particularize. What thing would manifest a whole future trend the way museum objects manifest important past trends?

Building on the pattern set by the British Museum’s great book, A History of the World in 100 Objects, Hon imagines 100 future objects that would illuminate transformative events in technology, politics, sports, justice, war, science, entertainment, religion, and exploration over the course of this century. The javelin that won victory for the last baseline human to compete successfully in the Paralympic Games for prosthetically enhanced athletes. The “Contrapuntal Hack” of 02031 that massively and consequentially altered computerized records so subtly that the changes were undetected. The empathy drug and targeted virus treatment that set off the Christian Consummation Movement.

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