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Ramez Naam on Apex, Science, Politics and Ethics

Ramez Naam 4 YouTube ThumbThis is my fourth interview with Ramez Naam and the reason for that is simple: Ramez is a cool, smart guy, who writes kick-ass, gritty, action-packed and scientifically compelling science fiction novels as well as being a researcher in a variety of other fields such as human enhancement, the environment and energy. And so I am always happy to have him back on Singularity 1on1 both because he is fun to talk to but also because I always learn something new from him and his books.

During our 60 min conversation with Ramez Naam we cover a variety of interesting topics such as: his latest novel Apex; writing dystopian vs utopian science fiction; science, politics, ethics and freedom; naming a character after me in his next book; the science behind Apex and skeptics such as Nicolelis and Picurel; brain simulation and the collapse of the Human Brain Project; technological unemployment

(You can listen to/download the audio file above or watch the video interview in full. If you want to help me produce more high-quality episodes like this one please make a donation!)

Who is Ramez Naam?

Ramez-NaamRamez Naam was born in Cairo, Egypt, and came to the US at the age of 3.  He’s a computer scientist, futurist, and award-winning author.

Ramez spent 13 years at Microsoft, where he led teams developing early versions of Microsoft Outlook, Internet Explorer, and the Bing search engine.  His career has focused on bringing advanced collaboration, communication, and information retrieval capabilities to roughly one billion people around the world, and took him to the role of Partner and Director of Program Management within Microsoft, with deep experience leading teams working on cutting edge technologies such as machine learning, search, massive scale services, and artificial intelligence.

Between stints at Microsoft, Ramez founded and ran Apex NanoTechnologies, the world’s first company devoted entirely to software tools to accelerate molecular design.  He holds 19 patents related to search engines, information retrieval, web browsing, artificial intelligence, and machine learning.

Ramez is also the H.G. Wells Award-winning author of four books:

The Infinite Resource: The Power of Ideas on a Finite Planet (non-fiction), which looks at the environmental and natural resource challenges of climate change, energy, water, and food, and charts a course to meet those challenges by investing in the scientific and technological innovation needed to overcome them, and by changing our policies to encourage both conservation and critical innovations.

Nexus and Crux (fiction). These philosophical science fiction thrillers look at the impact of an increasingly plausible technology that could link human minds, and the impact such a technology could have on society and on the human condition, for both good and ill.  Along the way, issues of civil liberties, surveillance, Buddhist conceptions of mind, and responsibilities of scientists to society are explored.  Nexus has been optioned for a film by Paramount pictures and director Darren Aronofsky (The Black Swan).

More Than Human: Embracing the Promise of Biological Enhancement (non-fiction), which looks at the science of enhancing the human mind, body, and lifespan, and the effects that will have on society.

Ramez lectures on energy, environment, and innovation at Singularity University, where he serves as Adjunct Faculty.  He’s spoken to audiences from Illinois to Istanbul and from corporate boardrooms to Harvard University.  He’s appeared on Sunday morning MSNBC, repeatedly on Yahoo! Finance, on China Cable Television, on BigThink, and Reuters.fm.  His work has appeared in, or been reviewed by, The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal, The Los Angeles Times, The Atlantic, Slate, Business Week, Business Insider, Discover, Popular Science, Wired, and Scientific American.   He’s a graduate of the University of Illinois at Urbana Champaign and the Illinois Mathematics and Science Academy at Aurora Illinois.

In his leisure, Ramez has climbed mountains, descended into icy crevasses, chased sharks through their native domain, backpacked through remote corners of China, and ridden his bicycle down hundreds of miles of the Vietnam coast. He lives in Seattle, where he writes and speaks full time.

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  • spacechampion

    Fascinating interview! What about biological computers? A creature that is 99% brain, 1% body? with interfaces for hooking up to a machine. You don’t necessarily have to understand if it goes on to create a machine superintelligence.

  • Greg

    He impresses me every single time. Who in the hell is that educated across so many disciplines? His argument that a simulation need not reach 100% accuracy is something I suspected, admittedly only intuitively, for a long time. His suggestion of the same leads me to believe that’s the case even more. I plan to read the novels for sure.

  • Added his books to my Amazon cue! Look forward to diving in!

  • In order to write believable novels science fiction writers need by necessity to be widely educated in a variety of scientific fields, and at the very cutting edge too. Ramez Naam is a perfect example of that and a role model as to why I often love interviewing sci fi writers in general. Happy you enjoyed it 😉

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