Lately I’ve been thinking a lot about startup culture, and am reminded of its nobility — having started three companies in my career, and learned from each experience, and even occasionally made some money. I’m more positive on startups these days than I have been in a while. I have experience as an entrepreneur, but I also have an education. For me, it was a rough path. I dropped out, briefly, in high school. Got a chance to reboot my education, which was something I really needed to do. I had a professor in my freshman year of college who showed me that my mind could do math. And from there, I took charge. With mixed results. But at the end of the mess, I was educated. Not just in science and technology, but also in art, music, history, economics and literature. There were a few things I wish they had required I learn: accounting and psychology, foremost, so I wouldn’t have been so scared of taxes and sex. But on the whole I think I got a pretty good deal.
Inventor Ray Kurzweil hopes to develop ways for humans to live forever, and while he’s at it, bring back his dead father. Behind him is the support of a tech giant. This month, Kurzweil, a futurist, stepped into the role of Director of Engineering at Google, focusing on machine learning and language processing. “There is a lot of suffering in the world,” Kurzweil once said, according to Bloomberg. “Some of it can be overcome if we have the right solutions.” Since his father’s death in 1970, Kurzweil has stored his keepsakes in hopes the data will one day be fed into a computer capable of creating a virtual version of him, Bloomberg reported. Interestingly, one of his novels lays out how humans might “transcend biology.” According to TechCrunch, his controversial theories are rooted in the idea of technological singularity, a time when humans and machines sync up to the point of nearly limitless advancement. That idea, which interests Google co-founders Larry Page and Sergey Brin, could happen as soon as 2030, Kurzweil says. “We are a human machine civilization and we create these tools to make ourselves smarter,” Kurzweil told Scientific American.
Hundreds of the world’s brightest minds — engineers from Google and IBM, hedge funds quants, and Defense Department contractors building artificial intelligence — were gathered in rapt attention inside the auditorium of the San Francisco Masonic Temple atop Nob Hill. It was the first day of the seventh annual Singularity Summit, and Julia Galef, the President of the Center for Applied Rationality, was speaking onstage. On the screen behind her, Galef projected a giant image from the film Blade Runner: the replicant Roy, naked, his face stained with blood, cradling a white dove in his arms.
At this point in the movie, Roy is reaching the end of his short, pre-programmed life, “The poignancy of his death scene comes from the contrast between that bitter truth and the fact that he still feels his life has meaning, and for lack of a better word, he has a soul,” said Galef. “To me this is the situation we as humans have found ourselves in over the last century. Turns out we are survival machines created by ancient replicators, DNA, to produce as many copies of them as possible. This is the bitter pill that science has offered us in response to our questions about where we came from and what it all means.”