The following is a collection of research data which was compiled while I was finishing up Maps of Hell, my “dark Hollywood” opus. I had already included Epstein, of course, but I realized with the final chapters that I had not quite mapped Hell fully enough to be pointing the way to the exit. One of the areas it turned out needed more cartography was the intersection between Marvel comics, scientainment, & Jeffrey Epstein, who himself embodies the improbable intersection between the seedy underworld of sex trafficking, espionage & shadow politics, Silicon Valley IT industries, transhumanism and eugenics. What follows then is the fruit of research done ~ not by me but by my relentlessly dirt-digging better half ~ that helped me to finish the book, with some minimal commentary from myself. I share this to give some idea of the scope of Epstein’s involvement with the science community and, by extension, of the latter’s complicity with the criminal underworld to which Epstein belonged.
From “Read Jeffrey Epstein’s Galaxy-Brain Philosophical Advice,” by Matt Stieb, New York Magazine, July 12, 2019:
According to the new indictment charging Jeffrey Epstein with sex trafficking, in 2004, the financier “enticed and recruited multiple minor victims . . . to engage in sex acts” at his homes in Manhattan and Palm Beach, paying them “hundreds of dollars in cash for each encounter.” Also in 2004, Epstein was spewing pseudo-intellectual online advice in a forum run by the Edge Foundation, a salon of sorts where editor and literary agent John Brockman invited members of the “digerati” to render “visible the deeper meanings of our lives.”
With its high-minded attitude, excess of platitudes, and a heavily male list of contributors, Edge’s “annual question” series was a sort of hybrid between a TED Talk and the dorm-room musings of the intellectual dark web. Occurring annually from 1998 to 2018, impressive thinkers like Brian Eno, Nick Bostrom, Nicholas Carr, and Carl Zimmer would answer big-picture questions like “What is your dangerous idea?” and “What have you changed your mind about?” According to its criterion for choosing contributors, Edge looked “for people whose creative work has expanded our notion of who and what we are. A few are bestselling authors or are famous in the mass culture. Most are not.”
One was Jeffrey Epstein. Along with contributors like Whole Earth Catalogue founder Stewart Brand and evolutionary biologist Richard Dawkins, “financier and science philanthropist” Epstein got in on the 2004 query—“What’s your law?”—answering with a short, venture-capitalist koan.
Epstein’s First Law
Know when you are winning.
Epstein’s Second Law
The key question is not what can I gain but what do I have to lose.
From “The ‘Girls’ Were Always Around: What it was like to be a scientist in Jeffrey Epstein’s circle,” by Daniel Engber, Slate, Aug 02, 2019:
It’s summer 2010, and Jeffrey Epstein has just returned to New York City after serving out an 18-month sentence in Palm Beach, Florida, including parole, for soliciting prostitution from a minor. He’s hosting dinner at his townhouse on the Upper East Side of Manhattan. To his left is John Brockman, the literary superagent who seems to represent every scientist who’s ever written a bestselling book (Daniel Dennett, Richard Dawkins, Jared Diamond, Daniel Kahneman, and so forth). Brockman has brought along a client—a young professor whose line of research interests Epstein. Across the table, and to Epstein’s right, is an aspiring fashion model and her companion.
There’s no cross-talk or conversation between these pairs of guests; it’s more like Epstein has convened two separate interactions for his private entertainment, and these just happen to be coinciding both in time and space. “He would alternate between us,” recalled the professor, who asked that his name not be included in this story. “Sometimes he’d turn to his left and ask some science-y questions. Then he’d turn to his right and ask the model to show him her portfolio.” At one point, a young female staffer stepped into the room to give Epstein a massage, rubbing his neck as he talked and listened. . . .
The scientists were, in their own way, members of Epstein’s entourage. “Beautiful women are only a part of it,” wrote the journalist Landon Thomas Jr. in a 2002 profile of Epstein for New York. “Because here’s the thing about Epstein: As some collect butterflies, he collects beautiful minds.” That phrase comes up in other places, too: “Jeffrey’s [hobby] was scientists.” . . . Lawrence Krauss, Marvin Minsky, and Roger Schank; also Gregory Benford, George Church, Murray Gell-Mann, Stephen Jay Gould, David Gross, Stephen Hawking, Danny Hillis, Gerard ‘t Hooft, Stephen Kosslyn, Jaron Lanier, Seth Lloyd, Martin Nowak, Oliver Sacks, Lee Smolin, Robert Trivers, Frank Wilczek, and more.
Though not strictly science-industry-related, I would feel remiss if I left Bill Clinton entirely out of the mix. This is from “Jeffrey Epstein, accused of sexually abusing teenage girls, surrounded himself with influential network of defenders,” by Marc Fisher July 9, 2019:
Clinton [spent] a month with Epstein on a trip to Africa to boost AIDS awareness . . . Epstein was a founding donor to the Clinton Global Initiative. His name does not appear in public documents detailing the initiative’s leadership. . . . Clinton’s representatives issued a statement saying that he “knows nothing about the terrible crimes” to which Epstein pleaded guilty in Florida . . . Clinton took “a total of four trips” on Epstein’s plane, with Secret Service agents accompanying the former president each time. Some of those trips included multiple stops.
Big Money Big Science
According to BuzzFeed News, gifts from Epstein in 2016 and 2017 included a $225,000 donation to the Melanoma Research Alliance; $150,000 to MIT; $50,000 to the University of Arizona Foundation; $25,000 to NautilusThink; $20,000 to the Crohn’s & Colitis Foundation; and $10,000 to the Icahn School of Medicine. There are also more personal examples: One of Epstein’s foundations reportedly made a $250,000 donation to Arizona State University professor Lawrence Krauss’s Origins Project after its founding in 2010. Krauss and Epstein’s relationship goes back to at least 2006, when he helped organize a conference in the Virgin Islands on understanding gravity, which was funded by Epstein. In 2014, Krauss and Pinker were pictured with Epstein at a dinner party. In 2011, Krauss, who recently retired from ASU after allegations of sexual misconduct, defended their relationship: “I don’t feel tarnished in any way by my relationship with Jeffrey; I feel raised by it.”
Before diving deeper into the island antics of the IT intelligentsia, let’s go back in time a bit, to before Epstein was in the news for all the wrong reasons. This is from “People in the News: Jeffrey E. Epstein,” by Jaquelyn M. Scharnick, for [Harvard student newspaper] Crimson, June 5, 2003:
Elusive financier Jeffrey E. Epstein donated $30 million this year to Harvard [apparently they only received a fraction of this amount] for the founding of a mathematical biology and evolutionary dynamics program.
While the mathematics teacher turned magnate remained unknown to most people until he flew President Clinton, Kevin Spacey and Chris Tucker to Africa to explore the problems of AIDS and economic development facing the region, Epstein has been a familiar face to many at Harvard for years.
Networking with the University’s leading intellectuals, Epstein has spurred research through both discussions with and dollars contributed to various faculty members.
Lindsley Professor of Psychology Stephen M. Kosslyn, former Dean of the Faculty Henry A. Rosovsky and Frankfurter Professor of Law Alan M. Dershowitz are among Epstein’s bevy of eminent friends that includes princes, presidents and Nobel Prize winners.
Epstein is also well acquainted with University President Lawrence H. Summers [chief economist for the World Bank etc.]. The two serve together on the Trilateral Commission and the Council on Foreign Relations, two elite international relations organizations.
Epstein’s collection of high-profile friends also includes newly-recruited professor Martin A. Nowak, who will run Harvard’s mathematical biology and evolutionary dynamics program.
Like Kosslyn, Rosovsky and Dershowitz, Nowak praises Epstein’s numerous relationships within the scientific community.
“I am amazed by the connections he has in the scientific world,” Nowak says. “He knows an amazing number of scientists. He knows everyone you can imagine.”
Epstein’s relationships within the academy are remarkable since the tycoon, who has amassed his fortune by managing the wealth of billionaires from his private Caribbean island, does not hold a bachelor’s degree. Yet, friends and beneficiaries say they do not see Epstein merely as a man with deep pockets, but as an intellectual equal. Dershowitz says Epstein is “brilliant” and Kosslyn calls Epstein “one of the brightest people I’ve ever known.” Epstein’s beneficiaries say they are particularly appreciative of the no-strings-attached approach Epstein takes with his donations.
“He is one of the most pleasant philanthropists,” Nowak says. “Unlike many people who support science, he supports science without any conditions. There are not any disadvantages to associating with him.”
Were ever words to be so thoroughly eaten? Epstein’s affiliations with CFR, meanwhile, like all his other ones, now raise questions not only as to where the money was coming from, but where it was going. This is from “Jeffrey Epstein’s $350K in donations to Council on Foreign Relations to go to fight trafficking,” by Josh Lederman, NBC, Nov. 26, 2019:
A prestigious foreign affairs think tank will direct $350,000 to fight human trafficking after acknowledging it received that amount in donations over the years from accused sex trafficker Jeffrey Epstein.
Edge: Third Culture
“The crowd was sprinkled generously with those who had amassed wealth beyond imagining in a historical eye blink.” ~ Kara Swisher, “Boom Town: At the Growing Billionaires’ Dinner, Tech Stars Move to Grown-Ups’ Table,” Wall Street Journal, Feb 27, 2000
Returning to the Edge. Edge Foundation runs what has been called the “world’s smartest website” and has held annual “billionaires’ dinners” since 1999. It was also financed by Jeffrey Epstein and gave him access to elite circles in science and tech. (Archived Edge page)
This is from “Jeffrey Epstein’s Affiliation With The Edge Foundation,” November 2, 2010:
For many years now, Jeffrey Epstein has been an active and supportive member of a very fascinating group, called Edge Foundation: Third Culture, which was put together by his friend publisher John Brockman. Brockman founded it in 1988 as an intimate, and by-invite only party, of some of the most interesting and cutting minds in the world of thought. Many of the Edge Foundation’s members are friends of Jeffrey Epstein, and he has preferred to support the work of number of Edge members through the Jeffrey Epstein Foundation.
Front-runner for world’s first trillionaire, Jeff Bezos has been associated with Edge since at least 1998, when he attended the “World Domination, Corporate Cubism and Alien Mind Control at Digerati Dinner,” on February 23.
Chronicler of the digerati, John Brockman, handpicked the best of breed at last week’s Monterey TED (technology, entertainment, design) conference to attend his yearly soirée, where technology’s philosopher-kings mused on all things Internet, multimedia and business. Brockman ran around the dimly lit Italian bistro to assure his guests a good time. Calmly bending the waiters into submission Brockman got the wine poured while the attendees mingled for pre-sit-down-dinner catching up. Then about 30 movers and shakers took their seats at the three banquet tables and talked tech ~ and art, literature and the pursuit of friendly gossip.
A few snippets we heard somewhere between the antipasto and the tiramisu:
Jeff Bezos’ promised the next quarter would hold a new jump for Amazon.com to No. 3 on the list of the nation’s biggest booksellers. He did add one SEC-filing-style asterisk, however: that Amazon.com’s revenues depend heavily on the ravenous consumption of Nathan Myhrvold.
(Nathan Paul Myhrvold was then Chief Technology Officer at Microsoft, and is the co-founder of Intellectual Ventures and the principal author of Modernist Cuisine and its successor books. Myhrvold was listed as co-inventor on 17 U.S. patents at Microsoft and is co-inventor on over 900 other U.S. patents issued to his corporation and its affiliates.)
NB: Though the above is a full quote, the original source has gone from the web since it was copy and pasted just a few days ago. I believe this is the link where it was found that no longer works: https://upside.com/static/ted8.html
Word to researchers, take screenshots!
Edge describes itself as follows:
An indication of Edge’s role in contemporary culture can be measured, in part, by its Google PageRank of “8,” which places it in the same category as The Economist, Financial Times, Le Monde, La Repubblica, Science, Süddeutsche Zeitung, Wall Street Journal, and Washington Post. Its influence is evident from the attention paid by the global media:
“The world’s smartest website … a salon for the world’s finest minds,” Guardian; “the fabulous Edge symposium,” New York Times; “A lavish cerebral feast,” Atlantic; “Not just wonderful, but plausible,” Wall St. Journal; “The brightest minds,” Vanity Fair; “Fantastically stimulating,” BBC Radio 4; “Where the age of biology began,” Süddeutsche Zeitung; “Splendidly enlightened,” Independent; “The world’s best brains,” Times; “Breathtaking in scope,” New Scientist; “Today’s visions of science tomorrow,” New York Times; etc., etc.
Every year since 1999, we have hosted The Edge Annual Dinner (sometimes referred to as “The Billionaires’ Dinner”). Guests have included the leading third culture intellectuals of our time, dining and conversing with the founders of Amazon, AOL, eBay, Facebook, Google, Microsoft, PayPal, Space X, Skype, and Twitter. It is a remarkable gathering of outstanding minds—the people who are rewriting our global culture.
In his 2009 talk at the Bristol Festival of Ideas, Freeman Dyson pointed out that we are entering a new Age of Wonder, which is dominated by computational biology. The leaders of the new Age of Wonder, Dyson noted, include “biology wizards” Kary Mullis, Craig Venter, medical engineer Dean Kamen, and “computer wizards” Larry Page, Sergey Brin, and Charles Simonyi, and John Brockman and Katinka Matson, the cofounders of Edge ~ the nexus of this intellectual activity.
A new generation of artists, writing genomes as fluently as Blake and Byron wrote verses, might create an abundance of new flowers and fruit and trees and birds to enrich the ecology of our planet. Most of these artists would be amateurs, but they would be in close touch with science, like the poets of the earlier Age of Wonder. The new Age of Wonder might bring together wealthy entrepreneurs … and a worldwide community of gardeners and farmers and breeders, working together to make the planet beautiful as well as fertile, hospitable to hummingbirds as well as to humans. —Freeman Dyson
Through such gatherings, its online publications, master classes, and seminars [funded by Epstein], Edge, operating under the umbrella of the non-profit 501 (c) (3) Edge Foundation, Inc., promotes interactions between the third culture intellectuals and technology pioneers of the post-industrial, digital age, the “worldwide community of gardeners and farmers and breeders” referred to by Dyson as the leaders of the “Age of Wonder”. . . . The constant shifting of metaphors, the intensity with which we advance our ideas to each other—this is what intellectuals do.
Also from the Edge site:
“Edge encourages people who can take the materials of the culture in the arts, literature, and science and put them together in their own way. We live in a mass-produced culture where many people, even many established cultural arbiters limit themselves to secondhand ideas, thoughts, and opinions. Edge consists of individuals who create their own reality and do not accept an ersatz, appropriated reality.The Edge community consists of people who are out there doing it rather than talking about and analyzing the people who are doing it.
The similarity between this mission statement and Karl Rove’s “reality-based community” is too striking to be coincidental:
“We’re an empire now, and when we act, we create our own reality. And while you’re studying that reality—judiciously, as you will—we’ll act again, creating other new realities, which you can study too, and that’s how things will sort out. We’re history’s actors . . . and you, all of you, will be left to just study what we do.”
~ Attributed to Karl Rove by The New York Times
So who is the éminence grise behind the Edge? This is from “How Jeffrey Epstein Bought His Way Into An Exclusive Intellectual Boys Club,” by Peter Aldhous, BuzzFeed, September 26, 2019:
[O]ne name has stood out as Epstein’s intellectual enabler: John Brockman, the New York literary agent who ran Edge, billed as an elite salon of thinkers “redefining who and what we are.”
Yet Brockman’s connections to Epstein ran deeper than have been previously disclosed. In fact, according to a BuzzFeed News review of Edge’s IRS filings, the nonprofit’s full range of exclusive events would not have been possible without Epstein’s largesse. Indeed, after Epstein made his final recorded donation to Edge in 2015, the group stopped hosting the annual “billionaires’ dinner” that was once the highlight of its calendar.
While he was bankrolling Edge, Epstein attended its events. So, too, in the early 2000s did Sarah Kellen, who is alleged to have helped arrange Epstein’s sexual abuse of underage girls. In photos that have been recently removed from the Edge website, Kellen was pictured at the 2002 billionaires’ dinner with Brockman, and at a 2003 event with Brockman’s son, Max.
Brockman emerged from the New York art scene of the 1960s, promoting underground cinema and rubbing shoulders with heavyweights like Andy Warhol. Later, he became the leading agent for authors writing books on science and technology, with a reputation for negotiating big advances for his clients. But Brockman’s particular cachet came from his role, played through his nonprofit, Edge, as a self-styled “cultural impresario.”
. . . . Brockman relished his role as facilitator, sending emails with a sign-off quote: “John Brockman is the shadowy figure at the top of the cyberfashion food chain.” . . .
BuzzFeed News analyzed the Edge Foundation’s IRS filings from 2001 to 2017, published at ProPublica’s Nonprofit Explorer. As reported by one of Brockman’s former clients, Evgeny Morozov, who writes about the political and social implications of technology, foundations associated with Epstein provided $638,000 out of a total of almost $857,000 received by Edge over this period.
(More details here: https://edgefoundation-jeffreyepstein.weebly.com/ )
From “Jeffrey Epstein’s Intellectual Enabler,” by Evgeny Morozov, New Republic, August 22, 2019:
How did Epstein meet so many luminaries in the worlds of science and technology? It all might trace back to literary agent John Brockman.
Over the course of my research into the history of digital culture, I’ve got to know quite a lot about John [Brockman’s]’s role in shaping the digital—and especially the intellectual—world that we live in. I’ve examined and scanned many of his letters in the archives of famous men (and they are mostly men), such as Marshall McLuhan, Stewart Brand, and Gregory Bateson. He is no mere literary agent; he is a true “organic intellectual” of the digital revolution, shaping trends rather than responding to them. Would the MIT Media Lab, TED Conferences, and Wired have the clout and the intellectual orientation that they have now without the extensive network cultivated by Brockman over decades? I, for one, very much doubt it.
Brockman is already many months too late to what he should have done much earlier: close down the Edge Foundation, publicly repent, retire, and turn Brockman Inc. into yet another banal literary agency. The kind where authors do not have to mingle with billionaires at fancy dinners or worry about walking in on Prince Andrew getting his foot massage.
And from “The Epstein scandal at MIT shows the moral bankruptcy of techno-elites,” by Evgeny Morozov, The Guardian, 7 Sep 2019:
“Third culture” was a perfect shield for pursuing entrepreneurial activities under the banner of intellectualism. Infinite networking with billionaires but also models and Hollywood stars; instant funding by philanthropists and venture capitalists moving in the same circles; bestselling books tied to soaring speaking fees used as promotional materials for the author’s more substantial commercial activities, often run out of academia.
That someone like Jeffrey Epstein would take advantage of these networks to whitewash his crimes was almost inevitable. In a world where books function as brand extensions and are never actually read, it’s quite easy for a rich and glamorous charlatan of Epstein’s stature to fit in.
One of Brockman’s persistent laments was that all the billionaire techies in his circle barely read any of the books published by his clients. Not surprisingly, his famed literary dinners—held during the Ted Conference, they allowed Epstein (who kept Brockman’s Edge Foundation on a retainer) to mingle with scientists and fellow billionaires—were mostly empty of serious content.
As Brockman himself put it after one such dinner in 2004, “last year we tried ‘The Science Dinner’. Everyone yawned. So this year, it’s back to the money-sex-power thing with ‘The Billionaires’ Dinner’.” Was “the money-sex-power thing” that very potent “new mode of intellectual discourse” promised by the “third culture”? If so, we’d rather pass.
In attendance at one such dinner, in 1999, was a young Japanese American by the name of Joi Ito; also present were Richard Saul Wurman, the original founder of the Ted Conference, Jeff Bezos, and, among all the other billionaires, Jeffrey Epstein. A godson of Timothy Leary and a college drop-out, Ito would eventually lead the Media Lab, interview Obama, write a popular technology book (another Brockman client), and join 20 different boards, including those of such prestigious institutions as the New York Times, the MacArthur Foundation, and the Knight Foundation.
One cultural-engineering nexus leads to another. John Brockman is, if anything, even more of a shadowy zeitgeist manufacturer enmeshed in spooky skulduggery than Epstein. Accordingly, I will provide more deep background on Brockman in a follow-up post.
TED Talks, Wired, MIT
The current head of TED, Christopher J. Anderson, is also a member of Edge:
CHRIS ANDERSON is curator of the TED Conferences. The son of British missionaries, he was raised in India, Pakistan and Afghanistan before British ‘public’ school and an Oxford degree in Philosophy. A brief career in journalism, coupled with a passion for technology, inspired his launch in 1985 of Future Publishing, a computer magazine company based in the UK that eventually spread to the US (Imagine Media, Business 2.0), and now employs approximately 1000 people working on more than 100 magazines. In November of 2000, Anderson left Future to concentrate on the work of his non-profit foundation, The Sapling Foundation, dedicated to effect change by leveraging the power of ideas via technology, education, smart design and mass media. The TED Conference (TED stands for Technology, Entertainment, Design) is now owned by the foundation. He is the author of TED Talks: The Official TED Guide to Public Speaking.
According to “3 Days In the Future,” by Patricia Leigh Brown, New York Times, Feb. 28, 2002, TED helped hatch the M.I.T. Media Lab and Wired magazine. This is from “Jeffrey Epstein and the Power of Networks,” by Adam Rogers, Aug 2019, at Wired:
In some ways, WIRED began at the Media Lab [which received $$800,000 from Epstein]. Nicholas Negroponte, the Lab’s cofounder and its director from 1985 to 2000, was one of WIRED’s first investors. Pitched at TED in 1992, Negroponte gave publisher Louis Rosetto $75,000 for a 10 percent stake and became the back page columnist. Since then, WIRED has featured many of the people I’ve named here and other Brockman clients. Ito is a longtime WIRED contributor.
WIRED’s affiliation with the Media Lab was mostly over long before Epstein’s conviction, though members of the Brockman circle continue to contribute and participate in stories. Chris Anderson, WIRED’s editor in chief from 2001 to 2012, was a client of Brockman’s, and he says he attended one of the agent’s dinners at which Epstein was present, though Anderson says they didn’t actually meet. . . . Whatever overlap remains between WIRED and the Brockman circle is, as far as I can tell, limited. But WIRED, like Epstein, profited from the association.
This is from “MIT Media Lab faking OpenAg ‘tech’ and gaining $millions“ by Noam Cohen, NYT; Oct. 25, 2019:
The once-celebrated M.I.T. Media Lab micro-greenhouses were supposed to grow food under virtually any conditions. In the end, they worked under almost none. . . . The project has been accused of misleading sponsors and the public by exaggerating results, while the Media Lab has been under scrutiny for its financial ties to the convicted sex offender and financier Jeffrey Epstein.
OpenAg received millions of dollars in corporate sponsorships and was promoted in glowing news features, including a “60 Minutes” segment about the Media Lab called “The Future Factory.” M.I.T. shut down the project late last week after a sweeping assessment, according to a statement.
The project was a favorite of Joichi Ito, who was the Media Lab’s director until September, when he resigned under pressure after his efforts to conceal his financial connections to Mr. Epstein were disclosed. . . .
I would be remiss if I didn’t look a bit closer at M.I.T., especially since the M.I.T Press distributes books for Strange Attractor, Mark Pilkington’s independent UK press that published John Cussans’ Undead Uprising and Erik Davis’ High Weirdness. In fact, SA was my first choice for a publisher for both Kubrickon and Maps of Hell, though I have yet to hear back from them to either proposal. The following is taken from Wikipedia, so I suggest following the links to be sure they are good.
Media Lab founder Nicholas Negroponte expressed support for Ito’s decision to accept the funding from Epstein, and Media Lab co-founder Marvin Minsky was named one of Jeffrey Epstein’s child trafficking clients in an unsealed deposition in Federal court. In September of 2019, it was revealed by emails leaked to Ronan Farrow that Ito and Peter Cohen, the M.I.T. Media Lab’s Director of Development and Strategy at the time, have worked for years to solicit anonymous donations from Epstein.
On January 10, 2020, the Executive Committee of the MIT Corporation issued a report that revealed that Epstein made 10 donations through various entities to MIT totaling $850,000. In 2002 Epstein made a $100,000 donation to MIT to support Minsky’s research. Epstein’s $100,000 donation in May 2013 was intended to be used at Joi Ito’s discretion. His donations in November 2013 and in July and September 2014, totaling $300,000, were made to support research by Joscha Bach (Artificial Consciousness) whom Epstein introduced to Ito in 2013. Media Lab hired Bach in large part because Epstein subsidized the cost. Epstein’s other donations to the Media Lab between 2015 and 2017, totaling $350,000, were made to support Professor Seth Lloyd (client of Brockman) ($225,000), and designer Neri Oxman ($125,000).
Marvin Minsky, the artificial intelligence guru who heads up MIT’s Media Lab, puckishly suggested we could solve any population problem by uploading the minds of 10 billion people and running them on a computer that occupies a few cubic meters and costs only a few hundred dollars to run.
This is Epstein-funded Joscha Bach, on Cognitive Biases & in-group convergences :
“[M]ost humans have a tendency to think in terms of not true and false but in terms of right and wrong. And right and wrong are not absolutes, they depend on your ingroup. . . . If you would try to get it right instead of finding the true opinion it means that you try to find the way to converge with the people you like most; who have the highest status in your ingroup and that’s actually a good thing because it made us very successful as a species. . . . Individuals probably have an evolutionary propensity to prefer convergence—to prefer giving up responsibility for their beliefs to the group mind over trying to think independently. . . .The difficulty is of course that if a group optimizes for convergence then the group might often be more stupid than the smartest individuals in the group.
As of 2017, the MIT Media Lab has the following research groups:
- Affective Computing: “advancing wellbeing by using new ways to communicate, understand, and respond to emotion”
- Biomechatronics: “enhancing human physical capability.”
- Camera Culture: “making the invisible visible—inside our bodies, around us, and beyond—for health, work, and connection”
- City Science: “looking beyond smart cities”
- Civic Media: “creating technology for social change”
- Conformable Decoders: “converting the patterns of nature and the human body into beneficial signals and energy”
- Fluid Interfaces: “designing wearable systems for cognitive enhancement”
- Human Dynamics: “exploring how social networks can influence our lives in business, health, governance, and technology adoption and diffusions”
- Lifelong Kindergarten: “engaging people in creative learning experiences”
- Mediated Matter: “designing for, with, and by nature”
- Nano-Cybernetic Biotrek: “inventing disruptive technologies for nanoelectronic computation and creating new paradigms for life-machine symbiosis”
- Object-Based Media: “changing storytelling, communication, and everyday life through sensing, understanding, and new interface technologies”
- Personal Robots: “building socially engaging robots and interactive technologies to help people live healthier lives, connect with others, and learn better”
- Poetic Justice: “exploring new forms of social justice through art”
- Responsive Environments: “augmenting and mediating human experience, interaction, and perception with sensor networks”
- Scalable Cooperation: “reimagining human cooperation in the age of social media and artificial intelligence”
- Sculpting Evolution: “exploring evolutionary and ecological engineering”
- Social Machines: “promoting deeper learning and understanding in human networks”
- Space Enabled: “advancing justice in Earth’s complex systems using designs enabled by space”
- Synthetic Neurobiology: “revealing insights into the human condition and repairing brain disorders via novel tools for mapping and fixing brain computations”
- Tangible Media: “seamlessly coupling the worlds of bits and atoms by giving dynamic physical form to digital information and computation”
- Viral Communications: “creating scalable technologies that evolve with user inventiveness”
From “The Moral Rot of the MIT Media Lab,” by Justin Peters, Slate, Sept 8, 2019:
You didn’t have to squint to see that the Media Lab’s whiz-bang vibe was made possible—and was constrained—by the corporate partnerships it worked so hard to cultivate. The building functioned less like a university department than an independent R&D firm for industry; its research groups were conduits for corporate and institutional investment. Each year, it hosted a sponsor week, during which research groups were expected to dance for their big-money benefactors, corporations like Exxon Mobil, Citigroup, PepsiCo, GlaxoSmithKline, and Verizon. Many of its scientists were also involved with private companies that had been founded to monetize their discoveries.
A year after I turned in my master’s thesis, the key members of the affective computing group I had studied founded a company that today partners with “1400+ brands,” builds “automotive AI,” and works with market research firms and other companies to “measure consumer emotion responses to digital content, such as ads and TV programming.” This was what the idea factory was incubating?
. . . . But at the Media Lab, the gulf between the corporate benefactors and the institution’s lofty rhetoric of scientific exceptionalism felt especially jarring. Founded in 1985, the Media Lab cultivated an image as a haven for misfit geniuses, for academics who, as the lab’s most recent director put it, “don’t fit in any existing discipline either because they are between—or simply beyond—disciplines.” These thinkers were the latest inheritors of MIT’s “hacker ethic”: iconoclastic engineers who used applied science to try to make the world a better place. Yet the money came from modern-day robber barons, whose main interest in science was how it could be used to sell more cheese.
. . . I made my final emotional break with the Media Lab in 2016, when its now-disgraced former director Joi Ito announced the launch of its inaugural “Disobedience Award,” which sought to celebrate “responsible, ethical disobedience aimed at challenging the norms, rules, or laws that sustain society’s injustices” and which was “made possible through the generosity of Reid Hoffman, Internet entrepreneur, co-founder and executive chairman of LinkedIn, and most importantly an individual who cares deeply about righting society’s wrongs.” I realized that the things I had once found so exciting about the Media Lab . . . amounted to a shrewd act of merchandising intended to lure potential donors into cutting ever-larger checks.
. . . The Media Lab has long been academia’s fanciest glue trap for morally elastic rich people. It is a laundromat for capital from some of the world’s least socially conscious entities and individuals, and the lab never cared very much about their moral valence as long as their checks cleared.
In the Business of Saving the World
This is from “Science Philanthropist, Jeffrey Epstein, Organizes A Global Doomsday Conference,” by Christina Galbraith (representing the Epstein Foundation):
St. Thomas, USVI – In the wake of the March 2011 Tohuku earthquake and tsunami, the Bulletin of Atomic Scientists pushed the symbolic Doomsday Clock one minute closer to midnight last January, to reflect the worlds lack of progress with battling climate change and nuclear weapons. To address this concern, the Jeffrey Epstein Foundation, which funds science research, is organizing a second world conference called Coping with Future Catastrophes to be held most likely in Dubai in the United Arab Emirates.
The first conference took place last December in the US Virgin Islands and brought together a prestigious panel of scientists to identify the greatest threats to the Earth. Such threats include acts of bioterrorism and high-energy chain-reactions.
The conference included Marvin Minsky, Professor of Electrical Engineering and Computer Science at MIT, Martin Nowak, Professor of Biology and Mathematics at Harvard University and Lawrence Krauss, Professor of Physics at Arizona State University. Krauss, who also serves as co-chair of the Bulletin of Atomic Scientists board of sponsors, stated that, The major challenge . . . in the 21st century is how to meet energy needs for economic growth without further damaging the climate . . . and risking further spread of nuclear weapons . . .
Lawrence Krauss, the theoretical physicist, “isn’t the first celebrity scientist to be accused of sexual misconduct, but he is the first to face consequences.” Several women accused Krauss in 2018 of sexual misconduct, “describing behavior that went unchecked for over a decade.” Krauss was banned from three universities, removed from multiple speaking events, and placed under a formal investigation by Arizona State University, his primary affiliation. He has denied the charges. (See “Lawrence Krauss and the Legacy of Harassment in Science,” The Atlantic, Oct 24, 2018.)
Continuing with the Galbraith article:
We need to identify the greatest threats to our Earth, Minsky summarized, but we also need to prioritize them. The list of prioritized threats, assembled at the first conference will be refined at the second conference, and will host a larger panel of international scientists. We intend to cast a wider global net, Jeffrey Epstein remarked, and cover a wider range of fields including bio and genetic engineering. The goal of this second conference however is to also begin the process of setting up a non-governmental agency to monitor the list and work on preventative measures. So far, there are hundreds of organizations, such as the International Atomic Energy Agency or the World Health Organization, that monitor potential threats but they tend to focus on one field of study, Minsky affirmed. There’s a great need for an international organization to collect data from all of these groups, to prioritize looming disasters and to establish preventative measures.
Fake solutions to real problems, and/or confabulated problems for channeling loads of money into magical fantasy solutions? The line between IT, “cutting edge” science and Elon Musk-ish mass media-pushed, Marvel Cinematic Universe-style fantasies may be all in our imagination. Technology, Entertainment, and Design, remember? The Scientainment Industry, meanwhile, is looking more and more like Fritz Lang’s Metropolis. This is from “Jeffrey Epstein: International Moneyman of Mystery,” by Landon Thomas Jr., New York Magazine, Oct. 28, 2002:
Danny Hillis, an MIT-educated computer scientist whose company, Thinking Machines, was at the forefront of the supercomputing world in the eighties, and who used to run R&D at Walt Disney Imagineering, thinks Epstein is actually using scientific knowledge to beat the markets. “We talk about currency trading—the euro, the real, the yen,” he says. “He has something a physicist would call physical intuition. He knows when to use the math and when to throw it away. If I had acted upon all the investment advice he has been giving me over the years, I’d be calling you from my Gulfstream right now.”
On the 727 these days, he has been reading a book by E. O. Wilson, the eminent scientist and originator of the field of sociobiology, called Consilience, which makes the case that the boundaries between scientific disciplines are in the process of breaking down. It’s a view Epstein himself holds. He wrote recently to a scientist friend of his: “The behavior of termites, together with ants and bees, is a precursor to trust because they have an extraordinary ability to form relationships and sophisticated social structures based on mutual altruism even though individually they are fundamentally dumb. Money itself is a derivative of trust. If we can figure out how termites come together, then we may be able to better understand the underlying principles of market behavior—and make big money.”
Any relation to “automotive AI” that “works with market research firms and other companies to “’measure consumer emotion responses to digital content, such as ads and TV programming’”?
AI & Transhumanist Research
This is from “Jeffrey Epstein backs OpenCog Artificial Intelligence Research,” H+ Magazine, November 14, 2013:
New York science investor, Jeffrey Epstein, has backed H+ board member Ben Goertzel’s OpenCog Hong Kong based research group. [Epstein gave Goerzel $100 000 in 2001 for AI research.] Based in Hong Kong, OpenCog, an open source AI programming group, under the direction of Ben Goertzel, began their cerebral project with a Hanson Robokind: a toddler like robot. The challenge is to take the basic intelligence of virtual avatars programmed for the screen, and transfer that to a robotic structure. To do this however, a robot must have the capacity to perceive and interpret the outside world.
“The challenge in all of this,” Jeffrey Epstein remarked, “is to create a robotic nervous system that can perceive concepts in its environment.”
OpenCog is well on its way to developing a digital nervous and perceptive system, focusing currently on basic language, sound, touch recognition and pixel imaging sensors based on DeSTIN Machine Vision.
Epstein’s foundation, the Jeffrey Epstein VI Foundation, plays an active role in supporting neuroscience research around the world. In addition to establishing the Program for Evolutionary Dynamics at Harvard, the foundation is one of the largest funders of individual scientists, including Stephen Hawking and Nobel Laureate physicists Gerard ‘t Hooft, David Gross and Frank Wilczek. Epstein is dedicated to investing in science research and education throughout the world.
Goertzel is the creator of Sophia the Robot, which (who?) was made a citizen of Saudi Arabia in Oct 2017 (the month and year of #MeeToo). This is from “Sophia the robot’s co-creator says the bot may not be true AI, but it is a work of art,” by James Vincent, The Verge, Nov 10, 2017:
Some noted the grim irony of a robot receiving ‘rights’ in a country where women were only recently allowed to drive. Others said it set a bad precedent for how we might treat robots in future. (AI ethicist Joanna Bryson told The Verge the stunt was “obviously bullshit.”) Some were annoyed about the perception of Sophia itself—a robot that’s also a media star, with magazine cover-shoots, talk show appearances, and even a speech to the UN. Experts in the field sometimes decry Sophia as emblematic of AI hype, and say that although the bot is presented as being a few software updates away from human-level consciousness, it’s more about illusion than intelligence.
From “Scientific breakthroughs in 2015 that could change the world,” by Steve Connor, The Independent, Dec 31, 2015:
Advances in biology and cosmology have dominated the science year. . . Growing a “brain in a dish,” the prospect of creating designer babies, and the possibility of detecting the first signs of extra-terrestrial intelligence—these are just some of the most important scientific news stories of 2015, according to some of the world’s leading scholars celebrating the year’s achievements.
Celebrating in high-style, let’s not forget. . .
From “Jeffrey Epstein Hoped to Seed Human Race With His DNA,” by James B. Stewart, Matthew Goldstein and , New York Times,
Southern Trust Company, Mr. Epstein’s Virgin Island-incorporated business, disclosed in a local filing that it was engaged in DNA analysis. Calls to Southern Trust, which sponsored a science and math fair for school children in the Virgin Islands in 2014, were not returned. In 2011, a charity established by Mr. Epstein gave $20,000 to the World Transhumanist Association, which now operates under the name Humanity Plus. The group’s website says that its goal is “to deeply influence a new generation of thinkers who dare to envision humanity’s next steps.”
Mr. Epstein’s foundation, which is now defunct, also gave $100,000 to pay the salary of Ben Goertzel, vice chairman of Humanity Plus, according to Mr. Goertzel’s résumé. “I have no desire to talk about Epstein right now,” Mr. Goertzel said in an email to The New York Times. “The stuff I’m reading about him in the papers is pretty disturbing and goes way beyond what I thought his misdoings and kinks were. Yecch.”
Alan M. Dershowitz, a professor emeritus of law at Harvard, recalled that at a lunch Mr. Epstein hosted in Cambridge, Mass., he steered the conversation toward the question of how humans could be improved genetically. Mr. Dershowitz said he was appalled, given the Nazis’ use of eugenics to justify their genocidal effort to purify the Aryan race.
Luminaries at Mr. Epstein’s St. Thomas conference in 2006 included Mr. Hawking and the Caltech theoretical physicist Kip S. Thorne. One participant at that conference, which was ostensibly on the subject of gravity, recalled that Mr. Epstein wanted to talk about perfecting the human genome. Mr. Epstein said he was fascinated with how certain traits were passed on, and how that could result in superior humans.
Leaving the Last Word to Jeffrey
“The great breakthrough will involve a new understanding of time . . . that moving through time is not free, and that consciousness itself will be seen to only be a time sensor, adding to the other sensors of light and space.” —Jeffrey Epstein
Is this how superior humans communicate? No miser of scientistic barkle, Epstein was even more Yoda-like when asked the 2008 Edge question: “What have you changed your mind about? Why?”
The question presupposes a well defined “you”, and an implied ability that is under “your” control to change your “mind.” The “you” I now believe is distributed amongst others (family friends, in hierarchal structures,) i.e. suicide bombers, believe their sacrifice is for the other parts of their “you”. The question carries with it an intention that I believe is out of one’s control. My mind changed as a result of its interaction with its environment. Why? because it is a part of it.
Glad that’s cleared up then.