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Interview with Kirk Pearson
by Jonathan Despres. Go to the Interviews.
Tell us about yourself. What is your background, and what current projects are you involved in?
I am a software engineer. I have a Bachelors degree in Computer Science and a minor in English (with an emphasis on creative writing).
I am best known for my website http://distributedcomputing.info which catalogs research projects (usually scientific) which apply distributed computing principles to study problems which can't be studied effectively by one person or by one computer and in which the public can participate.
I also run a website called Walk Around the World Club (http://horsetooth.net/walk) which encourages people to improve their health through walking. The site sets distance goals to motivate people to keep walking and to think about large-scale and long-term goals.
What are your goals for the next decade?
I want to encourage as many people as possible to become involved in distributed computing projects and in "distributed thinking" projects in which people do the work instead of computers. The next significant scientific discoveries will come from people and their computers working collectively to solve large problems and to explore new ideas. And if we don't make collective use of all of the computing power available to us we are just wasting it.
When do you think will we achieve real life extension?
I don't know if we ever will. We have a lot more to understand about life and life processes first. We can't predict future possibilities until we understand how current biological systems work and how they can be safely modified.
Your vision of the future?
With collective research we will make scientific discoveries more rapidly than ever before in human history, and these discoveries will change our lives and our environment in ways we won't expect. These changes may or may not lead to a singularity. We will live in better harmony with our environment (if we don't, we will become extinct). We will be able to create things and do things that we can't possibly imagine now.
Do you believe in Cryonics and when will it suceed?
We will eventually understand life processes and our bodies well enough to make Cryonics work. I don't know when that will be. At least 50 years from now.
What kind of jobs you did when you were younger and what is the important things you learned about it?
During and after college, all of my jobs have been related to computers and software. Every job I have had has focused on creating newer, better and simpler tools to help other people be more creative and productive. I have learned that doing things for others is more fulfilling than doing things just for myself. And I don't like to put my effort into things that won't have a long-lasting, positive impact on society.
Why isn't the science of cryonics progressing at a rate commensurate to other sciences?
Cryonics doesn't show short-term or guaranteed results and people tend not to put effort into projects in which they can't see the results.
Do you believe in a God?
I believe in the possibility of a god, but I will not believe in a god until I have observed irrefutable evidence of one.
What extropian values do you prefer the most and why?
Practical Optimism - Mankind has no future unless we believe we have one. And a future isn't worth working toward if it's not better than the present.
Rational Thinking - We need to understand the way things really are. If we project our beliefs onto our surroundings we can never truly understand those surroundings.
What do you think we should do to advance the quality of life of everybody?
We should continue to conduct fundamental scientific research. The more we learn about our environment the more we learn about how we can improve it and change it without harming it and us.
Do you see a future for biology? (considering bionics, ai, mind uploading, robotics)
Biology is central to life. Biology concepts will be a part of life in whatever forms life takes.
The man or the woman that is a model for you? Why?
Douglas Adams. He taught us to be skeptical of beliefs and to view our surroundings openly and with a sense of humor and of wonder.
What do you think of last minute cases in cryonics?
I have no opinion about that.
The stuff you are proud in your life?
I have always kept my mind open to new experiences and new possibilities, and I have encouraged others to do the same.
The stuff you are not proud in your life?
That is private information I don't share with anyone. But it gives me direction for improving myself.
What would you love to accomplish before you die?
I would love to know definitely that there is other life in the universe (intelligent or not) and I would love to be part of that discovery. I would love to create awareness and appreciation of distributed computing projects in the general public and to influence people to make participation in those projects a regular part of their lives.
What is your greatest book ever? Why and when?
I have many favorite books. It's hard to pick just one.
What are the languages of the universe for you?
Is competition good in cryonics?
Competition generates new ideas and new ways of thinking, so in those respects it is good.
Imagine yourself as a space navigator and you discover a smaller, less advanced civilization on a planet, what would you do with them?
I would say hello to them at the least. I would help them advance their technology if doing so would benefit them and if they wanted to advance it.
What do you think biological simulations will do to cryonics, aging or nanotechnology?
Biological simulations will help to advance those fields since the simulations will give us a better understanding of current biological processes and help us to apply and improve those processes.
What kind of mathematics is used in aging, cryonics & nanomedicine?
I don't know.
What will be the best (central), most important tool in molecular manufacturing? And why ?
Distributed computing. It will help us, through simulation, to design the best manufacturing tool as quickly, efficiently, and cheaply as possible.
How handy an indefinite lifespan would be?
It would be useful if a person is emotionally ready for the kind of lifestyle that that would mean. People could developer their specialized knowledge and research very deeply. They could also perfect any arts or skills they have developed. They could also develop several knowledge areas or skills deeply instead of just one or a few. On the other hand, a finite lifetime is part of being human. If we take away that aspect of the human experience, how will we change? What happens to a person when he gains enough resources to take care of his basic needs forever without effort and is no longer motivated by the need for survival? What happens to a person if she is no longer motivated to learn and explore? Will our existence still be precious to us when we know it won't be taken away from us?
What would be the jobs of the future?
Jobs related to education, basic health care and the maintenance of society will remain the same. Other jobs will be determined by the scientific discoveries we make: there is no way to predict what these jobs may be. Many of today's jobs could not have been predicted 20 or even 10 years ago.
What do you think of the Paradise Engineering idea?
I think pain and suffering are important aspects of what make us human, and if we try to eradicate them we will make ourselves less human. I don't know whether that is good or bad.
What do you think about the singularity, when will it happen?
It will not happen from one moment to the next, but rather as a gradual accumulation of changes. We will not recognize it until after it has occurred, and we will not agree completely on what it is or was. It may have already occurred. The Internet could be the singularity. The rise of intelligence in humans could be the singularity.
What's the future of "information technology" for you?
Everything will be connected and group-think will be the rule rather than the exception. Information storage and processing will be shared and will be accessible by anyone, anywhere. Nearly every object we create will produce data. Everyone will have the ability to know about any object or place in real-time. We will have the ability to augment our perception of our surroundings with nearly infinite layers of information. We will be overwhelmed by information and by possibilities.
What would be the great inventions/ideas of the future?
There is no way to guess what they may be, but they will be built on the ideas of today. The more significant inventions will help the living species of Earth to move and live elsewhere in the universe and to ensure their survival beyond the lifetime of the Sun.
What should we do to improve/clean our ecology?
We should decrease the total human population by gradually decreasing the number of births. Using fewer resources and creating less pollution is the best way to improve our ecology, and the best way to do it is for fewer of us to exist.
Do you think molecular manufacturing (or anything else) could clean up pollution on earth and in space? If so, when and how?
Some kind of technology could clean up pollution, but I don't know how it could do it or how soon. We will only find that answer through fundamental research and experimentation. We must ensure that whatever the technology is, it does not create harmful side-effects or byproducts for the environment and other species when we use it.
Your best movie ever is?
Your religion is?
Your political view?
Your web page is?
Your contact information?
Your favorite song, and your favorite style of music are ?
favorite song: "Wonderful World" by Louis Armstrong
favorite style of music: Electronica/Techno/Trance
Do you know a good person that I should interview?
Dr. Vijay Pande, the creator of Folding@home ( http://folding.stanford.edu/ )