Spring 2000 Senior Associates Gathering
"Confronting Singularity"

Palo Alto, California
May 19-21, 2000

Process Description


An evolutionary conference based upon the MG Taylor PatchWorks Process (read the introduction at: http://www.mgtaylor.com/mgtaylor/jotm/firstqtr1998/patchworks.htm), this event should prove a vibrant, multi-disciplinary attraction. The basic process involves groups of 5-50 individuals considering a multitude of issues, identifying common ground, listing shared elements, and defining methods for managing potential problems.

A primary goal is to take the information generated by those groups and to feed it back into the program, subjecting it to examination, dialogue, criticism, and potential re-use. If successful, the process will assist us with clarifying our desires for the future and with developing a plan to bring that future about.

Group Types:

Design Session (TM) Patch

These will be intensive, lengthy, facilitated dialogues led by Matt Taylor and supported and documented by MG Taylor® ValueWeb® knowledge workers. The dialogues will focus largely on issues raised by Eric Drexler's Engines of Creation. Where are we in relation to these issues? What has changed since the book first appeared in 1986? What has not changed? These will not be surface level summaries, but rather deep and penetrating dialogues meant to get to the heart of these issues and significantly advance the level of meaningful discussion. Each Design Session will take on a different set of issues, not only talking about it, but also working to devise a set of recommendations for how Foresight (and society in general) can move forward to deal with these very difficult issues. These recommendations will form a key component of the Foresight Institute's Engines of Creation 2000 project.


Engines of Creation by Eric Drexler, particularly Part Three, (http://www.foresight.org/EOC/index.html)


To paraphrase Robert Grudin, there are requirements for engaging in dialogue: there must be at least two independent, involved parties; and they must have a means of communicating concepts and information. Humans do this well with language and articulation. When we engage in dialogue, we can express ideas (new and old), explain our thinking, and develop goals and guidelines.

The topics to be brought up in the dialogue sessions are large ones, with lots to verbally explore. Participants should feel encouraged to express themselves and to document their discussions, providing independent summaries to the Assembler.


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Take a Panel (R)

A list of questions will be made available to the group. Participants will have 60 minutes to prepare responses to three or more of the questions using markers and flip charts. The group will divide into subgroups (as created by the Assembler from the sign-up sheet) for discussion of each participant's responses.

The idea behind this exercise is to gather a wide range of ideas, perspectives and considerations, to scan the range of agreement and disagreement present within a group, to ensure each participant is given a forum to express her ideas and views, to get the basic ideas around an issue out on the table in an efficient way, and to give each participant time to clarify and express personal views on a range of topics.

Work Group

A question, scenario or exercise will be presented to these groups. The information will present a problem and suggest a format for the output, but will not attempt to define the nature of a solution. If the group does not find the initial exercise compelling, they may select a new direction, but documentation of this vector must occur.

Groups will often be given the output of previous, related groups. In this case, the workgroup is first asked to critique that work. If the critique is favorable, the workgroup may extend the lines of thinking of the first group or tackle something new.

One person in each group will need to volunteer to fill in as Memetic Engineer. This role requires picking up the group materials (toys, references and exercises) from the Assembler, recording the threads of discussion, documenting the required output, and delivering this information to the Assembler.

Idea Futures

"…Consider a radical, market-based alternative for reaching scientific consensus. Imagine a betting pool on disputed science questions, where the current odds are treated as the current intellectual consensus. For example, people might bet on whether cold fusion will be used to produce power by the year 2020. Right now the odds would be fairly low - say 20-to-1 against. But as the results of new research became known, and if more people became convinced that cold fusion worked, the odds would rise. And if cold fusion became a reality by 2020, those early supporters would make a bundle.

"Such betting markets would become idea futures markets - like corn futures markets, except you'd bet on the future settlement of a scientific controversy instead of the future price of corn. The system could increase the public's interest and role in science, and betting odds could serve as a scientific barometer to guide mass media and public policy." –Robin Hanson, creator of idea futures

The Foresight Exchange, while not affiliated with Foresight Institute, was created to provide a forum to experiment with this implementation of putting your money where your mouth is. View a sample market report at http://www.ideosphere.com/index.html.


Production Team

The output of each of the above groups will be processed within the assembler and injected into the remaining parts of the program that display correlation. With more than a hundred already scheduled, we can see that this is a large task, one that requires a large production team.

Each Dialogue, Work Group, and Take a Panel Group will need a volunteer Production Facilitator. This individual will be responsible for picking up information from the Assembler. They will be responsible for taking notes on the group activities (forms available) and recording the output. All documentation is then delivered to the Assembler.

This team will accept the group output and begin digitization. The requirements of this aspect of the process will vary, as the specifics of the group output may only be suggested. They should be prepared to transcribe, download, illustrate, and otherwise duplicate information that should be delivered to and taken from the groups.

A copy of group output is delivered to the Brain. The Brain will review the information and establish where within the remaining program the information should be shared.

The Assembler will also be responsible for managing the program. We wish to remain flexible about the nature of later groups. As the event progresses, there will be requests for additional work groups (form available). Currently, the equivalent of Sunday afternoon is available, and the Assembler will configure these as interest indicates.

Some information may prove to be useful to many groups, and will be posted in a central location. Otherwise, the Assembler will distribute information directly to the groups via the Production Facilitator.

Getting Ready

Arrive rested, as this will be an exciting foray into high-tech, high-touch issues.

Be prepared for some hard choices. This Senior Associates' Gathering will be operating with at least a dozen separate tracks, and the shape of the Gathering could change at any moment. If you don't see the things you'd hoped to discuss, propose them. You define the program and the product.

We want to you to feel free to be expressive, creative, have fun. We hope you'll speculate, examine, propose or maybe debunk, discard or uphold. We want you to condense, describe, or explain. Information is the name of the game, and knowledge is the goal. Art is encouraged.

See also: Creating a PatchWorks Event

Design Session, Take A Panel, PatchWorks are all registered trademarks of the MG Taylor Corporation.