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David Brin
Esther Dyson
Chris Allen

"Engines of Creation 2000
Confronting Singularity"

Spring 2000 Senior Associate Gathering

nanotechnology life extension patent abuse
nanoweapons abundance uploading
transparency space expansion AI

May 19-21, 2000
Palo Alto, California

The meeting is off-the-record for media; no writeups please.

This event has been held. This page is for archival purposes only.
Senior Associates at Work and/or Play: Photos from the Gathering

    What, Who, When ...    
    Confirmed participants    
    Process Description    
    Optional events    
    Participant Comments    

Doug Engelbart
Eric Raymond
group photo of participants


What, Who, When ...


Foresight's Annual Brainstorming-Planning-Actionfest & NanoSchmoozathon

The 21st century: every day in every way, weirder and weirder. Think the net has changed the world, economically and politically? You're right, but compared to what's coming, we ain't seen nothin' yet.

As kids, we'd calculate our age in the year 2000, expecting things to be futuristic by then. We were right, they are, and getting more so every day. Not to worry — there's still time to tweak this early phase of the "run-up to Singularity".

In the next one-to-three decades we expect to see these capabilities:

  • "strong" nanotechnology
  • genetic engineering of humans
  • the end of aging
  • advanced machine intelligence (call it what you will)
  • encrypted private currencies
  • thorough surveillance and sensing, able to detect what you ate, drank, and smoked last night
  • bio/chem/nano weapons of mass destruction
  • human civilization expanding into space

Such a future is so different from human history that we can barely imagine it. Some call it a "Singularity" beyond which our best projections are useless. Foresight disagrees, and at this event we'll be exploring what can be known about the world we're being pushed into—closer every second—and how we can influence the outcome by influencing initial conditions. Our tools? Memes—infectious ideas—which we create and launch, with excellent success to date. Come help improve the next batch, and help design open-source software to refine and spread them.

We'll be aiming to influence:

  • who gets nanotechnology first — public or private, secret or open, in which country?
  • intellectual property in nanotechnology — tightly held or widely available?
  • ownership of space resources (i.e. most of the universe) — government or private? winner take all, or distributed?
  • which entities will have "human rights"?
  • openness vs. privacy — can we find a balance that works?
  • encrypted private currencies — can government panic be headed off?
  • open source — can we spread the model beyond software?

Join Foresight and our special guests as we picture our preferred future, design a pathway there, and implement using all the tools available:

  • technical skill
  • entrepreneurial drive
  • funding of for-profits and not-for-profits
  • memetic engineering talent (i.e. "viral idea" crafting)
  • sheer pigheaded determination to make things work out well

When you leave you'll have the clearest picture possible of what's on the horizon, who's stepping up to the challenges in each area, and what your options are for optimizing how nanotechnology and other powerful technologies play out.

Find this all a little overwhelming? Not for us as a group. While it might feel intimidating to sit alone, watching as this future comes charging at us, we've found that jumping in and trying to tweak things for the better is great fun.

Who: 200 of the most forward-looking people around — those who are paying the most attention to what's coming and how it will affect you and yours over the next 10-30 years and beyond.
When: May 19 evening through May 21, 2000
Friday 7-10 pm, Saturday 8 am-9 pm, Sunday 8 am-5 pm
Where: Palo Alto in Silicon Valley, the eye of the technological hurricane

We're using a maximum-interaction process inspired by the DesignShop of MG Taylor — a group-achievement process so powerful, so seductive, that it lured two key Foresight leaders away to write a book about it. Purchase the book. Free online version of the book.


Most conferences have "talking heads", with a little Q&A discussion if you're lucky. Not this time: instead, launch yourself into the topics of your choice in workshop-style sessions of 10, 25, or 80 participants. Explore the edges of what we know today and can reasonably project over the coming decades:

  • Figure out which scenarios are preferred, and how to get there by influencing the process now: still early on
  • Design an action plan based on the skills and resources available to us — start a company, write a constitution...whatever it takes.
  • See how all this affects you personally — your career, your investments of time and funds, your health and life expectancy, your family.

Think we've missed a major issue? No problem — add a session on that topic. Your group's output gets folded in as input to the next stage of the process, equal in priority to output from pre-scheduled groups.

How the process works:

  1. Select your personal pathway through parallel workshop-style sessions taking on the topics you're most interested in, from nanotechnology to AI to surveillance.
  2. Explore widely, then focus down, and finally drive for consensus on these tough, exciting issue. Produce a result, your "product": a recommendation, a warning, an estimate, a graphic, an unresolved controversy, or whatever your group feels needs to be communicated on this issue. A condensed example: "Public surveillance data must be kept confidential except under court order" or "Public surveillance data must be made publicly available".
  3. Your results are fed into the next round, where they're used to tackle the next stage of problem.
  4. By Sunday night, we'll have an action plan with specific goals, dates, and commitments. Work continues online throughout the year to implement — then in spring 2001, we "course-correct", folding in new reality checks, new resources, new ideas, new skills from new people. It's an ongoing adventure, running right up to Singularity itself. Check out the "Engines of Creation 2000" pages for more detail.

Background to the PatchWorks Process
Creating a PatchWorks Event

  • Because it's the year 2000 and sure enough, just as we expected, things are getting technologically weird.
  • Because even though we're in the "run-up to Singularity", there are things we can do now to help ourselves, our organizations, our fellow homo sapiens, and our (current) biosphere to survive and prosper through the bizarre times to come.
  • Because this meeting is the Burning Man of ideas on our technological future. It's the TED of 2020, held today. If the ideas described here intrigue you, there is no better place in the world to explore their interactions, with help and moral support from others who share your interests.
  • Because you'll meet some of the folks implementing these goals, and maybe get invited to join them. Ya gotta meet 'em before they can offer you that dream job in nanotechnology R&D—this has already happened to a few of us.
  • Because it's great fun, and we deserve a treat.


Confirmed participants include:

  • Jeff "hemos" Bates:  cofounder, Slashdot
  • Damien Broderick:  author, The Spike: Accelerating Into the Unimaginable Future
  • Eric Drexler:  nanotechnologist; author, Engines of Creation, Nanosystems
  • David Friedman:  law professor, author Machinery of Freedom
  • Dan Gillmor:  technology and business columnist, San Jose Mercury News
  • Robert Grudin:  humanities author/philosopher, "of all the work being done in the academic humanities today, Grudin's writings are the most relevant to real-world efforts to improve the human condition"
  • Robin Hanson:  economist; inventor, Idea Futures
  • Bill Joy:  cofounder and Chief Scientist, Sun Microsystems
  • Steve Jurvetson:  managing director, Draper Fisher Jurvetson; "The Valley's Sharpest VC"
  • Jo Lernout:  cofounder, Lernout & Hauspie, speech recognition
  • Ralph Merkle:  nanotechnologist, Zyvex; co-inventor, public key cryptography
  • Eric Raymond:  advocate of open source software, author The Cathedral and the Bazaar
  • Nick Szabo:  inventor, smart contracts
  • Pierluigi Zappacosta:   cofounder and former Chairman, Logitech



For those unable to attend the Gathering, the expanded topics page serves as an extensive primer on the issues behind "Engines of Creation 2000: Confronting Singularity"


Registration information


Optional extra events:

Special thanks go to Matt & Gail Taylor and friends at MG Taylor, and to Christopher Allen and team at Alacrity Ventures, for underwriting the 1999 Foresight Group Genius event, on which this year's meeting is modeled. (Group Genius, DesignShop, and PatchWorks are trademarks of MG Taylor.)