Paul Allen Remembered

Edward H. "Eddie" Currie [10.22.18]

Jean Pigozzi & Paul Allen at the Edge Dinner (March 17, 2014)

Early in 1975, I asked Bill and Paul about Microsoft’s ultimate goal. Their response came quickly and succinctly, viz., "… Microsoft wants to supply software for all of the microcomputers in the world…” This unequivocal mission statement was to serve Microsoft well in the years to come. It also resulted in Microsoft staking a claim to what would later become a hotly contested domain. Such a clear vision was surprising not only for its breadth and scope but also because they were eighteen and twenty, respectively, at the time. While Bill and Paul early on collaborated on software development, overtime Bill’s focus was primarily on business development and Paul’s on software development.

Paul joined MITS as a full-time employee, in 1975, to work on the initial version of MITS’ BASIC, known as “The 4K Basic,” and he quickly evolved this minimal version into Altair-compatible 4K, 8K and 12K versions, where 4K, 8K and 12K referred to the minimum amount of memory required for each and progressively more of a complete implementation of the BASIC language. It should be borne in mind that the 8080 was limited to a maximum of 64K of RAM and much of that would be required if significant applications were to be able to operate in such a restrictive memory constraint. Bill visited briefly in May of 1975 and then returned to MITS that summer.

EDDIE CURRIE is an Associate Professor in Hofstra’s School of Engineering and Applied Sciences. From 1975 to 1978, he was Executive Vice President and General Manager for MITS, the first commercially viable, microcomputer-based personal computer company, where he was involved in the development and manufacture of the Altair and recruitment and supervision of the staff which included Paul Allen and Bill Gates (founders of Microsoft).  Eddie Currie's Edge Bio Page

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In 1974, a small company called MITS, in Albuquerque, New Mexico, was struggling to survive as it watched its kit calculator business being destroyed by Texas Instrument’s draconian calculator price-cutting. An Intel salesman dropped off a data sheet for a new microprocessor called the 8080. That evening the president of the company, Ed Roberts, took the data sheet home and, using an HP calculator, concluded that Intel’s newest product was quite capable of becoming the heart of a microcomputer. Roberts went to a local bank and presented a hastily drafted business plan and when asked by a bank officer how many computers could be sold, he responded “800.” The bank assumed that he meant 800/month and granted the loan. In actuality, Roberts meant 800/year.

Also, in 1974, some two thousand miles away in Boston, two young men were monitoring Intel’s microprocessor evolution and dreaming of building a microcomputer based on a microprocessor. The Intel 8080 was announced in April of 1974, but it wasn’t until December of that year, in Electronic Design magazine, that a full instruction set was published. As soon as Paul Allen and Bill Gates saw the article, work began by both, using Harvard computing resources, that ultimately resulted in an 8080 simulator that ran on a DEC PDP-10 and the creation of a 4K version of the BASIC language that would run on the simulator.

Thus, MITS had hardware and no computer language, and Bill and Paul had a computer language but no hardware. The breakthrough came in the January 1975 issue of Popular Electronics, published in late December 1974, featuring the “MITS’ Altair, for the world’s first microcomputer kit,” on the cover.

Paul Allen sent a letter to MITS on January 2, 1975 explaining that his company had a BASIC interpreter that could be marketed on paper tape and/or floppy disk and run on the MITS microcomputer. Ed Roberts' response was immediate and resulted in Paul flying to Albuquerque a few days later with a paper tape to successfully demonstrate Microsoft BASIC running on an Altair. Microsoft was founded as Micro-Soft on April 4, 1975.

When the Rule of Law Is Not Working

Karl Sigmund [10.11.18]

Corruption in general has a deleterious effect on the readiness of economic agents to invest. In the long run, it leads to a paralysis of economic life. But very often it is not that economic agents themselves have had the bad experience of being cheated and ruined, they just know that in this country, or in this part of the economy, or this building scene, there is a high likelihood that you will get cheated and that free riders can get away with it. Here again, reputation is absolutely essential, which is why transparency is so important. Trust can only be engendered by transparency. It's no coincidence that the name of the most influential non-governmental organization dealing with corruption is Transparency International.

KARL SIGMUND is professor of mathematics at the University of Vienna and one of the pioneers of evolutionary game theory. He is the author of Exact Thinking in Demented Times: The Vienna Circle and the Epic Quest for the Foundations of Science. Karl Sigmund's Edge Bio Page

Collective Awareness

J. Doyne Farmer, Don Ross [10.3.18]


Don Ross

Doyne Farmer

THE REALITY CLUB [New]

Don Ross responds to Doyne Farmer: Despite this healthy state of knowledge about material investment, production, and consumption, we will have more economic crises in the future. In particular, we’ll have a next crisis, on a global scale. It will likely come, again, from financial markets. I’m not persuaded by Farmer’s suggestion that we might get a better handle on this source of risk by running inductions on masses of information about corporate resource allocations. These will be affected, massively, by global financial dynamics, but will likely have little systematic influence on them, even if it is some event in the old-fashioned economy that turns out to furnish a trigger for financial drama. [...]

DON ROSS is professor and head of the School of Sociology, Philosophy, Criminology, Government, and Politics at University College Cork in Ireland; professor of economics at the University of Cape Town, South Africa; and program director for Methodology at the Center for Economic Analysis of Risk at the J. Mack Robinson College of Business, Georgia State University, Atlanta. Don Ross's Edge Bio Page

Absolute Brain Size Matters

Brian Hare [6.28.18]

The thing that stuck out was that self-control is simply a product of absolute brain size. It had more to do with your feeding ecology: How complex was your diet? How many things do you rely on to survive? That was a big surprise, because the idea that diet is shaping cognition has faded in many circles as the leading hypothesis for thinking about how psychology evolves. So, how do we move forward on testing ideas about the evolution of psychology? ... It's interesting to think about how this all came about. It all started in a bar.

BRIAN HARE is an associate professor of evolutionary anthropology at Duke University in North Carolina and founder of the Duke Canine Cognition Center. He is the co-author (with Vanessa Woods) of The Genius of Dogs: How Dogs Are Smarter Than You Think. Brian Hare's Edge Bio Page

The Connectomic Revolution

What the Insect Brain Can Tell Us About Ourselves Andrew Barron [6.12.18]

An even more recent and exciting revolution happening now is this connectomic revolution, where we’re able to map in exquisite detail the connections of a part of the brain, and soon even an entire insect brain. It’s giving us absolute answers to questions that we would have debated even just a few years ago; for example, does the insect brain work as an integrated system? And because we now have a draft of a connectome for the full insect brain, we can absolutely answer that question. That completely changes not just the questions that we’re asking, but our capacity to answer questions. There’s a whole new generation of questions that become accessible.

When I say a connectome, what I mean is an absolute map of the neural connections in a brain. That’s not a trivial problem. It's okay at one level to, for example with a light microscope, get a sense of the structure of neurons, to reconstruct some neurons and see where they go, but knowing which neurons connect with other neurons requires another level of detail. You need electron microscopy to look at the synapses.

ANDREW BARRON is the Australian Research Council Future Fellow and Deputy Head of the Department of Biological Sciences at Macquarie University. He is a neuroethologist with a particular focus on studying the neural mechanisms of honey bees. Andrew Barron's Edge Bio Page

Bonding with Your Algorithm

Nicolas Berggruen [6.5.18]

Photo by Stefan Simchowitz.

The relationship between parents and children is the most important relationship. It gets more complicated in this case because, beyond the children being our natural children, we can influence them even beyond. We can influence them biologically, and we can use artificial intelligence as a new tool. I’m not a scientist or a technologist whatsoever, but the tools of artificial intelligence, in theory, are algorithm- or computer-based. In reality, I would argue that even an algorithm is biological because it comes from somewhere. It doesn’t come from itself. If it’s related to us as creators or as the ones who are, let’s say, enabling the algorithms, well, we’re the parents.

Who are those children that we are creating? What do we want them to be like as part of the earth, compared to us as a species and, frankly, compared to us as parents? They are our children. We are the parents. How will they treat us as parents? How do we treat our own parents? How do we treat our children? We have to think of these in the exact same way. Separating technology and humans the way we often think about these issues is almost wrong. If it comes from us, it’s the same thing. We have a responsibility. We have the power and the imagination to shape this future generation. It’s exciting, but let’s just make sure that they view us as their parents. If they view us as their parents, we will have a connection.

Investor and philanthropist NICOLAS BERGGRUEN is the chairman of the Berggruen Institute, and founder of the 21st Century Council, the Council for the Future of Europe, and the Think Long Committee for California. Nicolas Berggruen's Edge Bio Page

Sexual Double Standards

The Bias Against Understanding the Biological Foundations of Women's Behavior Martie Haselton [5.24.18]

We don’t know enough about important issues that impact women. We don’t know enough about potential side effects of using hormonal contraception. There’s a lot of speculation about it, but most of that speculation is problematic. If you eliminate women’s hormone cycles, what are the implications? That’s an important question. We still don’t know enough about hormone supplements for women later in life. We don’t even know enough about fertility. The data are also problematic. The data on fertility in women’s third, fourth, fifth decades of life are based on ancient records, 200 years old. The statistics that doctors will cite when they are telling women whether they need to see a fertility specialist or not are from a period before modern medicine was really in place, which is outrageous. More recognition of the biological influences on women’s behavior is going to awaken these areas of research, and that will have a positive impact.

MARTIE HASELTON is a professor of psychology and communication studies at UCLA and the Institute for Society and Genetics. She is the author of Hormonal: The Hidden Intelligence of Hormones—How They Drive Desire, Shape Relationships, Influence Our Choices, and Make Us Wiser. Martie Haselton's Edge Bio Page

The Space of Possible Minds

Murray Shanahan [5.18.18]

Aaron Sloman, the British philosopher, has this great phrase: the space of possible minds. The idea is that the space of possible minds encompasses not only the biological minds that have arisen on this earth, but also extraterrestrial intelligence, and whatever forms of biological or evolved intelligence are possible but have never occurred, and artificial intelligence in the whole range of possible ways we might build AI.

I love this idea of the space of possible minds, trying to understand the structure of the space of possible minds in some kind of principled way. How is consciousness distributed through this space of possible minds? Is something that has a sufficiently high level of intelligence necessarily conscious? Is consciousness a prerequisite for human-level intelligence or general intelligence? I tend to think the answer to that is no, but it needs to be fleshed out a little bit. We need to break down the concept of consciousness into different aspects, all of which tend to occur together in humans, but can occur independently, or some subset of these can occur on its own in an artificial intelligence. Maybe we can build an AI that clearly has an awareness and understanding of the world. We very much want to say, "It's conscious of its surroundings, but it doesn't experience any emotion and is not capable of suffering." We can imagine building something that has some aspects of consciousness and lacks others.

MURRAY SHANAHAN is a professor of cognitive robotics at Imperial College London and a senior research scientist at DeepMind. Murray Shanahan's Edge Bio Page

Katinka Matson: White Flowers

 


     


 

  

[EDITOR'S NOTE: Each Saturday, Süddeutsche Zeitung, one of the largest newspapers in Germany, dedicates their last Feuilleton page to a work of art (unknown, unseen, long lost or specially made). The page, called “Grossformat” (large format), has included contributions from artists and estates ranging from Barbara Kruger to August Sander, Sun Ra, and Gerhard Richter. Peony 2016, by Edge co-founder and resident artist Katinka Matson, was the photograph selected to run over the Easter weekend, the edition with by far highest circulation of the year. The work is part of her current Los Angeles show, "White Flowers" at the Eric Buterbaugh Gallery. Her work Peony 2016 is in the "Featured Artists" section of artsy.net.]

True Stem and True Flowering
By Andrian Kreye March 31, 2018

Rarely do flowers shine so strongly as in the photography of the artist Katinka Matson who uses flatbed scanners, avoiding the fuzziness with which cameras map reality.

Coincidences are the key moments in the history of science (the discovery of gravity, penicillin, X-rays, Teflon pans). They are more deliberate in art (Jackson Pollock, Yayoi Kusama, John Cage). Because New Yorker Katinka Matson works on the border between art and science, it seems consistent that her work began with such a lucky mishap. That occurred some 15 years ago, when she put some flowers on a flatbed scanner in her office and pressed the start button. The flowers were crushed. The result was nevertheless startling. Because scanners do not capture points of light through a lens like cameras, but scan them pixel by pixel, the images had a sharpness and luminosity she'd never seen before. The extreme clarity of images was especially unique. Human's visual perception has incorporated the distortions and blurring of camera lenses when looking at printed or filmed reality. In Katinka Matson's work those distortions are mostly absent. The science historian George Dyson described the effect: "Vision evolved to attract insects, and by removing the lens Katinka has taken us back to this direct connection between the flower and the deepest layers of the visual brain. And that makes it so amazing."...




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