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2000 Fall Foresight Gathering

(subject to many changes at any time)

Hotel Crowne Plaza Cabana, Palo Alto, California
September 8-10, 2000

In response to popular demand, we try to reserve at least half
of the weekend for informal discussion and Q&A, including
a continuous parallel track in the schmooze room for demos,
other toys, dealmaking, and/or whatever you want to do during
talks you'd like to skip out on.

What to bring (optional): laptop demos, favorite techie toys,
business plan, book draft, swimsuit. Not needed: suits and ties.

All talks are 20 minute lecture, 10 minute Q&A, followed
by a 15-minute informal schmooze down front with the speaker
or wherever we like

Friday, September 8
2 PM  

Optional event:
Informal seminar with Robert Grudin on "The Morality of Power"

4 PM  

Optional event:
Informal seminar with Vernor Vinge (event is filled)

6 PM  

Optional event:
Speakers and Fellows dinner, Bacchus Room

7-10 PM  

Registration   Reception
Snack on tapas, imbibe sangria, and enjoy live classical Spanish guitar as you find out what's happened with your fellow Senior Associates since last time: Did the company IPO or tank? Is the book finished? Still have that piercing?

8:00 PM  

Stop by the table staffed by Technanogy, corporate sponsor for this Gathering. They're the first nanotech incubator, so bring your technical proposals.

8:15 PM  

Foresight president Christine Peterson, advisor Ralph Merkle, and entrepreneur Gayle Pergamit lead the classic Newbie session—if this is your first Gathering, don't miss it. Oldbies welcome also; we could use your help in getting these folks up to speed fast.

10 PM  

In theory, now we should stop talking and go rest.

11 PM  

OK, now we really ought to go rest

12 AM  

Still up?—better have a Coke

September 9, Saturday morning
8 - 9 AM  

Continental breakfast, load up on caffeine to make up for the late night

9:00 AM  

Emcee Tom W. Bell and prez Chris Peterson kick off: Yes, the acceleration continues. Yes, it's somewhat intimidating. Yes, we can cope, and even thrive, if we play our cards right.

9:15 AM  

Ka-Ping Yee gets us oriented on what to expect over the coming bizarre decades. (After the Q&A, come chat with Ping directly during the 15-min schmooze break.)

10:00 AM  

Eric Drexler, Foresight chairman, gives his view on "How Things Look Today".

10:30 AM  

Caffeine and schmooze break

10:45 AM  

"Eclectical Engineer, Zennish ZScientist, and Peregrine Philosopher" Peter G. Neumann -- renowned expert on security, system survivability, reliability, fault tolerance, safety, systems-in-the-large, and risk avoidance -- gives us his views on, well, whatever he thinks we need to hear. If surviving Singularity is on your list of things to do, don't miss this talk.

11:30 AM  

Jim Von Ehr, founder and CEO of Zyvex, sketches progress at the first company aimed at developing molecular nanotechnology. (Zyvex is hiriing, so bring your resume for Jim.)

Saturday afternoon
12:15 - 1:45 PM  

Lunch outdoors, or if we're incredibly unlucky, indoors. We debate the validity of the morning's assertions or just rest our brains, as desired.

1:45 PM  

Emcee extraordinare Tom W. Bell is, in his other life, a law professor. Last year he convinced us that copyright is not all it's cracked up to be, even if it is the law. This time he presents something that does deserve our support—Idea Futures—to which the law is not currently friendly. (Gee, Tom, you and law just don't seem to get along very well.)

2:30 PM  

One of the top ten law U.S. law firms, Foley & Lardner, is starting a nanotechnology division. Let's hear from the guy who initiated this, Tom Hartman, why he's so sure nanotech is the way of the future, and how those of us in the field can cope with the nastily complex legal environment. (Got confidential problems? Ask Tom after the Q&A.)

3:15 PM  

Economist and author David Friedman sketches the coming bifurcation between the physical world (lots of transparency) and the information world (lots of opaqueness) and how these opposing trends will affect our world as nanotech emerges.

3:45 PM  

Caffeine and schmooze break

4:00 PM  

Truly a crusader for freedom through technology, John Gilmore of the Electronic Frontier Foundation sees the coming nanotech revolution as a reason for working hard to get systemic problems solved now, before things get really screwed up. Let's hear his vision of how to muddle through and the payoff if we succeed.

4:45 PM  

Panel on Fixing "Intellectual Property": the IP system has gotten way out of hand. Scientific discoveries, business processes, and obvious "inventions" are being made into monopolies owned by the first entity with the chutzpah (and money) to apply for them and defend them in court. Those in this room are affected, but the Third World may be hurt more. What to do? Let's figure it out, or at least get started.

5:30 PM  

Decisions, decisions...which dinner group to join?

6:00 PM  

Topic-based no-host dinners—sign up at registration desk

Saturday evening, Dessert & Social Software Extravaganza
8:00 PM  

Eat sweet things as Nanodot founder Dave Krieger explains how much better this popular site could be with better software, his plans for making it happen, and how we can help.

8:45 PM  

Eat yet more sweet things as Ka-Ping Yee, founder of, tells how online discussion could actually work well, what he plans to code up, and how we can assist with this vision of a smoother, smarter world of debate and consensus.

9:30 PM  

Open Mike session. Everybody gets a short time to present whatever they want to the group. Time limits firmly enforced or else we'll be here all night again.


Wander through corridors searching for hotel room, find it, collapse. Eventually get back up, brush teeth, sleep.

September 10, Sunday morning
8:00 AM  

Continental breakfast

9:00 AM  

Who can get us up this early, again? Only our hero, Vernor Vinge, whose fiction helps us envision the world to come without freaking out. His views on the Singularity—a term which he coined, should wake us up better than any amount of coffee.

9:45 AM  

Time to look at the upside of nanotechnology for our home planet. Doug Mulhall, well-versed in the environmental field, explains what to expect in the new field of nanoecology. Once those of us who love the Earth see how to heal it with nanotechnology, nothing less will do.

10:15 AM  

Caffeine and schmooze break

10:30 AM  

How do we give this "upside" of nanotech time to happen? By preventing accidents and abuse, that's how. This daunting task is being tackled by the hard-to-daunt IMM chairman Neil Jacobstein, drafter of the Foresight Guidelines on how to maintain safety in a world with nanotech.

11:15 AM  

So where are the humanities scholars who should be helping us techies as we face these tough challenges, helping us think about values and all that stuff humanities folks are supposed to specialize in? They're off deconstructing, that's where—except Robert Grudin, fortunately. Called "the modern Emerson," Robert brings insights on human nature and history to bear on our goals. His topic today: "The Art of Honesty", building on his Friday seminar "The Morality of Power"

Sunday afternoon
Noon - 1:30 PM  

Lunch, outdoors unless the weather is truly bizarre.

1:30 PM  

Many of us have used's Paypal, which lets us send real money—well, federal reserve notes, anyway—over the Internet, or through the air between Palm Pilots. Cofounder Peter Thiel has a much bigger vision: freeing money and economic transactions from other chains that bind them today. Who needs this the most? The developing world, so let's hurry it up.

2:15 PM  

It's not money, it's Mojo, as in Mojo Nation from Autonomous Zone Industries. Founder and CTO Jim McCoy tells of this open-source startup enabling secure, private trading of files and Mojo, a store of value. It's Napster with a business plan, and without deliberate violation of copyright.

3:00 PM  

Should we take this concept of Singularity seriously, now? John Smart of SingularityWatch argues yes, we should, right now. Here he tells us what this involves, and why it will pay off for us and society.

3:30 PM  

Caffeine and schmooze break

3:45 PM  

Machine intelligence, "spiritual robots," artificial intelligence—it's all the same thing, and Eliezer Yudkowsky of the new Singularity Institute for Artificial Intelligence has a plan for making it happen sooner—because in his view we need it right now. His technical ideas are intriguing, so let's hear how he's going to pull this off.

4:30 PM  

MIT's Marvin Minsky (PROBABLE), now working on a new book called The Emotion Machine, always has strong views on AI. Some projects he likes, most he doesn't. Let's hear Marvin's views on "the state of AI" and when we can expect to finally see some machine intelligence, whether we like it or not.

5:15 PM  

Tom W. Bell and Chris Peterson wrap it up: nanotech, AI, Singularity—it's not so very scary, is it? Well, maybe it is, but we're tough and we can look them without flinching. OK, so maybe we flinched a little, but it was a fun flinch...

5:30 PM  

Hurried exchange of business cards via dead tree methods or beaming Palm Pilots. Out-of-towners head for the airport while locals sip wine (or more likely Coke) near the pool. Entrepreneurs turn their cell phones back on; time to rejoin the Real World, where Java and ASPs seem more real than nanotech and machine intelligence...for now.


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