Ideas come mostly bottoms-up. They come when you have a free flow of ideas and you have people able to combine multiple ideas into one concept… And you've got to have competition, too. You've got to say, 'We're going to have 10 different ideas, nine of them are going to fail, and the one that does the best is going to move forward.'
Orange juice from concentrate is labeled. Food coloring Red #5 is labeled. Fish are labeled as to whether they've been previously frozen. To a consumer, there's no plausible reason why these factors should be on a food ingredient label while the presence of GMOs shouldn't be.
I absolutely hated 'Gattaca.' I left the theater shaking my head because the science in the film was just terrible. No genetic test will ever tell you how many heartbeats you have left. No genetic test will ever be more accurate in telling an employer how well you'll do at a job than your performance at a past job would be.
I'm a geek through and through. My last job at Microsoft was leading much of the search engine relevance work on Bing. There we got to play with huge amounts of data, with neural networks and other AI techniques, with massive server farms.
We've seen over time that countries that have the best economic growth are those that have good governance, and good governance comes from freedom of communication. It comes from ending corruption. It comes from a populace that can go online and say, 'This politician is corrupt, this administrator, or this public official is corrupt.'
On a large scale, people aren't going to cut back how much they use. That's a pipe dream. If anything, as the developing world gets richer, the world's going to consume more – more cars, bigger homes, more energy, more water, more food.
AI does not keep me up at night. Almost no one is working on conscious machines. Deep learning algorithms, or Google search, or Facebook personalization, or Siri or self driving cars or Watson, those have the same relationship to conscious machines as a toaster does to a chess-playing computer.
We're fortunate enough to live on a planet that's bathed in thousands of times more energy than we use and that's stocked with thousands of times more water, raw materials, and even food-growing potential than we need.
A new idea – whether it's a way to collect solar energy more efficiently or a cheaper way to desalinate sea water or a new seed to boost the amount of food we can grow – can stretch the physical resources we have, or even multiply them. And the ideas themselves don't ever wear out.
The total amount of energy we use every year – from coal, oil, natural gas, hydro, nuclear, and everything else – is dwarfed by the amount of solar energy hitting the planet each year.
On almost every environmental issue I care about, in fact, I've been wrong at one point or another. I used to think that climate change was no big deal, that most environmental problems were massive exaggerations, that oil reserves were effectively unlimited, and more.
There's a preponderance of scientists and engineers among China's rulers. New President Xi Jinping was trained as a chemical engineer. His predecessor, Hu Jintao, earned a degree in hydraulic engineering. His predecessor, Jiang Zemin, held a degree in electrical engineering.
I'm a computer scientist by training. I'm also the author of three books, all of which endorse the use of biotechnology to improve the human condition. In the most recent of these, 'The Infinite Resource,' I talk about the power of innovation to save the world.
I support GMOs. And we should label them. We should label them because that is the very best thing we can do for public acceptance of agricultural biotech. And we should label them because there's absolutely nothing to hide.
Genetically modified organism (GMO) foods are feared and hated by environmentalists and the public alike. Yet the scientific assessment of GMOs is remarkably different. Every major scientific evaluation of GMO technology has concluded that GMOs are safe for human consumption and are a benefit to the environment.
We have to slow down the emissions of carbon dioxide and methane from coal burning, oil and eventually natural gas… And the best ways to do that are energy efficiency and a switch to renewables.
Threats that could wipe out the bulk of life on earth abound. Planetary catastrophe could come in the form of a killer asteroid impact, the eruption of massive supervolcanoes, a nearby gamma ray burst that sterilizes the earth, or by human-driven environmental collapse.
I've read science fiction my whole life. I never really dreamed that I'd be a published science fiction writer myself, but a short story I started years ago sort of demanded to be turned into a novel.
There are really two kinds of optimism. There's the complacent, Pollyanna optimism that says, 'Don't worry – everything will be just fine,' and that allows one to just lay back and do nothing about the problems around you. Then there's what we call dynamic optimism. That's an optimism based on action.
Environmental concern is a phenomena that tends to rise in a nation after a certain level of wealth.
Wild fish are under threat of extinction because they're hunted to feed us. Yet land animals that we farm are under no threat of extinction. Shifting from hunting fish to farming fish – where the farmers have the incentive to keep their stocks healthy – could do a tremendous amount of good for wild fish.
I'm an optimist. My own fiction, while it has its own dark warnings about pitfalls ahead, depicts the potential of science to improve society by networking human minds.
Everything good and bad about technology would be magnified by implanting it deep in brains. Is the risk of brain-hacking outweighed by the societal benefits of faster, deeper communication, and the ability to augment our own intelligence?
In the end, our minds and their ability to create new ideas are the ultimate source of all human wealth. That's a resource nearly without limit.
Solar power is going to be absolutely essential to meeting growing energy demands while staving off climate change.
I have an 'office,' technically. I never use it. I work on a couch in my living room, with my laptop on my lap, looking out the windows. I love space and green things. And I'm an incredibly casual person. I slouch. I close the laptop and just lie on the couch for a while if I need to think. I put my feet up on a table while I type.
Orwell wasn't right about where society was in 1984. We haven't turned into that sort of surveillance society. But that may be, at least in small part, because of his book. The notion that ubiquitous surveillance and state manipulation of the media is evil is deeply engrained in us.
The accumulated knowledge of materials, computing, electromagnetism, product design, and all the rest that we've learned over the last several centuries converts a few ounces of raw materials worth mere pennies into a device with more computing power than the entire planet possessed fifty years ago.
Food production has affected the environment more than any other activity humans have engaged in. Humanity devotes more land to food production than anything else – roughly a third of the surface area of the earth, much of which was once forest but has been converted by humans into farms or grazing lands.
Technology is incredibly powerful. And in many ways, the sky is the limit in terms of what you can actually accomplish with the right science and the right technology. But to get there, you have to actually invest in R&D. And often that means you have to be willing to spend an awful lot in that R&D phase before you see the benefits.
If we fix our economic system and invest in the human capital of the poor, then we should welcome every new person born as a source of betterment for our world and all of us on it.
'Brave New World' dealt with a kind of proto-genetic engineering of the unborn, through really, as many dystopias do, it dealt with totalitarianism. The 1997 film 'Gattaca' updated 'Brave New World,' bringing us to a future where genetic testing determined your job, your wealth, your status in life.
Neural implants could accomplish things no external interface could: Virtual and augmented reality with all five senses; augmentation of human memory, attention, and learning speed; even multi-sense telepathy – sharing what we see, hear, touch, and even perhaps what we think and feel with others.
Each additional idea is a gift to the future. Each additional idea producer is a source of wealth for future generations.
I've tried Oculus Rift; I've played with the Steam VR rig. Both are mind-blowing. In a traditional video game setting, in a first-person shooter, you can see a tower in the distance. You can walk up to that tower and use your controller to look up.
The final frontier of the digital technology is integrating into your own brain.
In a VR setting, you tilt your head up, and you really have the vertigo and the sense that it goes up to infinity, and it's like you're in New York City or Dubai, and you're looking up at a giant skyscraper. You have a sense of awe.
We must learn to set our emotions aside and embrace what science tells us. GMOs and nuclear power are two of the most effective and most important green technologies we have. If – after looking at the data – you aren't in favour of using them responsibly, you aren't an environmentalist.
When you're managing a large number of people, you learn that incentives matter tremendously. You really want people to be rewarded for doing the right thing for the customers and the organization.
Some people manage their writing by saying, 'I need to get 2,000 words written today,' others by saying, 'I will write for X hours.' Not me. I start with a plan for the book, break it down into scenes, and I know what scenes need to get written each day. If the scene takes more words than I thought, so be it.