Jonathan Oxer

Jonathan Oxer
Fig 1. Jonathan Oxer

I’m author of How To Build A Website And Stay Sane (Oft Press, 2004), Ubuntu Hacks (O’Reilly, 2006), and Quickstart Guide to Google AdWords (Lulu Press, 2008). I also write occasionally for a variety of newspapers and magazines including The Age and Sydney Morning Herald, and my articles have been translated into French, Brazilian Portuguese, Italian, Norwegian, and Spanish and appeared in dozens of publications.

I’m one of the few people in the world to have been surgically implanted with an RFID chip, which I’m using to experiment with technical issues such as authentication techniques and exploits as well as philosophical issues related to privacy and identity.

I’m also Founder and Technical Director of Internet Vision Technologies.

Commencing trading in 1994 as Mission Internet, IVT was one of the first businesses in the world to focus on managing dynamic website content using databases. It was also one of the first companies ever to do real-time event coverage via the Internet when I ran a live feed from the floor of the national Bicycle Industry Trade Show in Sydney, Australia in 1995. IVT has since developed hundreds of websites, intranets, extranets and custom web applications for clients ranging from backyard businesses to multinational corporations.

I have been a Debian GNU/Linux developer since 2002, and have convened the Debian Miniconf in a different city every year since 2003. I have presented more than 70 tutorials, papers and keynotes on various technology and business topics at both corporate and government seminars and at conferences around the world including LinuxTag,, Open Source Developers Conference, and Debian Miniconf, and at usergroups including Melbourne PHP User Group (of which I am a past committee member) and Linux Users Victoria. I have also appeared on a number of top-rated television shows including Sunrise with Kochie and Mel, been the butt of Paul McDermott’s jokes on Good News Week, and done dozens of radio interviews in Australia, New Zealand, and the UK.

I previously sat on the Advisory Group of Swinburne University’s Centre for Collaborative Business Innovation, responsible for researching and formulating IT-related post-graduate curriculum strategies, and on the Australian Federal government’s e-Research Coordinating Committee Reference Group. I also spent three years as President of Linux Australia, the national organisation for Linux users and developers and one of the largest FOSS organisations in the world.

In late 2008 I was Technical Supervisor for the first season of The Phone, a reality-TV show produced by Beyond Productions for Fox-8. I designed and built custom hardware and software used by show contestants.

I live in Melbourne, Australia with my wife, daughter and son, and you can contact me on


The Maker Revolution/Movement PDF

Colin Kline

Biography for Colin KLINE

Retired since 1997.

C.E.O. of Elektronikline (Electronic Design and Fabrication);

Occasional Lecturer & Tutor at : UoM, UoB, since retirement;

40 years as academic (various Universities) in :

Electrical Engineering, Electronic Engineering, Communication Engineering, Software Engineering and
… 18 yrs delivering modules titled “Artificial Intelligence” to 4th year Engg undergrads;

2 years lecturer at Swinburne Uni, Electrical Engineering and Electronics; tutor in Maths;

3 yrs Secondary Maths & Science teacher;

2 yrs Industry – Cable Industry & Welding Industry;

6 months (accumulated) intern positions, Nuclear Research & Development (Lucas Heights, NSW);

3 months as petrol pump jockey at Malvern, SE4;

1 year as storeman at Nylex products, Frankston;

Youth was delightfully wasted as a :
– Huckleberry Finn avatar, and
– Julius Sumner MILLER devotee.

Patrick Robotham

Patrick is a final year undergraduate Maths student at Melbourne University. He is planning to do his Masters degree and Phd in either Maths/Computer Science. He is an active Member of the Melbourne University Secular society, the Mathematics society, and Reading group in computational complexity theory.

Patrick has been a passionate video blogger since high school when he started addressing the irrational basis of fundamentalist theology and then quickly branched into logic and atheism as alternative mindsets. He has a love of public speaking and presenting on topics that debunk fallacious thinking and promote a rationalist view of the world.

Patrick has been an avid follower of the rationalist community blog “less wrong” and initiated their monthly melbourne meet-ups. He has been working on projects relating to Maths such as a graph library and a theorem prover in common lisp and has recently presented on topics such as interactive proofs.

Sean McMullen

Sean McMullenSean Christopher McMullen (born midnight 21 December 1948 in Sale, Victoria) is an Australian science fiction and fantasy author.

Personal website here.

McMullen has a degree in physics and history from Melbourne University (1974), a postgraduate degree in library and information science, and a PhD in Medieval Literature. He was a professional musician in the 1970s, concentrating on singing and guitar playing.

His first novel was originally published in Australia as two separate books, Voices In The Light (1994) and Mirrorsun Rising (1995). They were rewritten and combined for a publication in the US as Souls In The Great Machine (1999), which, in turn, became the first volume of the Greatwinter trilogy, a unique mix of the generally anti-genres Steampunk and Cyberpunk.




The Moonworlds Saga

Other novels


Sean McMullen

  • Call to the Edge (1992)
  • Walking To The Moon (2007)


Short fiction

  • “At the Focus” (1986 with Paul Collins) in Eidolon Spring 1990 (ed. Jeremy G. Byrne)
  • “The Deciad” (1986) in Call to the Edge
  • “The Colors of the Masters” (1988) in The Magazine of Fantasy & Science Fiction March 1988 (ed. Edward L. Ferman)
  • While the Gate Is Open” (1990) in The Magazine of Fantasy & Science Fiction February 1990 (ed. Edward L. Ferman)
  • Alone in His Chariot” (1991) in Eidolon Summer 1991 (ed. Jeremy G. Byrne)
  • “The Dominant Style” (1991) in Aurealis #4 (ed. Stephen Higgins, Dirk Strasser)
  • “The Eyes of the Green Lancer” (1992) in Call to the Edge
  • “Destroyer of Illusions” (1992) in Call to the Edge
  • “The Porphyric Plague” (1992) in Intimate Armageddons (ed. Bill Congreve)
  • “Pax Romana” (1992) in Call to the Edge
  • “The Devils of Langenhagen” (1992) in Call to the Edge
  • “An Empty Wheelhouse” (1992) in Analog Science Fiction and Fact January 1992 (ed. Stanley Schmidt)
  • “Souls in the Great Machine” (1992) in Universe 2 (ed. Karen Haber, Robert Silverberg)
  • “The Glasken Chronicles” (1992) in Eidolon Autumn 1992 (ed. Jeremy G. Byrne)
  • “Pacing the Nightmare” (1992) in Interzone May 1992 (ed. David Pringle, Lee Montgomerie)
  • “A Greater Vision” (1992) in Analog Science Fiction and Fact October 1992 (ed. Stanley Schmidt)
  • “The Way to Greece” (1993) in Eidolon Winter 1993 (ed. Jeremy G. Byrne, Jonathan Strahan)
  • “Charon’s Anchor” (1993) in Aurealis #12 (ed. Stephen Higgins, Dirk Strasser)
  • “The Miocene Arrow” (1994) in Alien Shores: An Anthology of Australian Science Fiction (ed. Peter McNamara, Margaret Winch)
  • “The Blondefire Genome” (1994) in The Lottery: Nine Science Fiction Stories (ed. Lucy Sussex)
  • “A Ring of Green Fire” (1994) in Interzone November 1994 (ed. David Pringle, Lee Montgomerie)
  • “Lucky Jonglar” (1996) in Dream Weavers (ed. Paul Collins)
  • “The Weakest Link” (1996, written as Roger Wilcox) in Dream Weavers (ed. Paul Collins)
  • “Slow Famine” (1996) in Interzone May 1996 (ed. David Pringle)
  • “Queen of Soulmates” (1998) in Dreaming Down-Under (ed. Jack Dann, Janeen Webb)
  • “Chronicler” (1998) in Fantastic Worlds (ed. Paul Collins)
  • “Rule of the People” (1998) in Aurealis #20/21, (ed. Stephen Higgins, Dirk Strasser)
  • “Souls in the Great machine” (1999) an excerpt in The Centurion’s Empire
  • “New Words of Power” (1999) in Interzone August 1999 (ed. David Pringle)
  • “Colours of the Soul” (2000) in Interzone February 2000 (ed. David Pringle)
  • “Unthinkable” (2000) in Analog Science Fiction and Fact June 2000 (ed. Stanley Schmidt)
  • “Mask of Terminus” (2000) in Analog Science Fiction and Fact October 2000 (ed. Stanley Schmidt)
  • “Voice of Steel” (2001)
  • Tower of Wings” (2001) in Analog Science Fiction and Fact December 2001 (ed. Stanley Schmidt)
  • “SVYAGATOR” (2002) in Andromeda Spaceways Inflight Magazine #3 (ed. Ian Nichols)
  • Walk to the Full Moon” (2002) in The Magazine of Fantasy & Science Fiction December 2002 (ed. Gordon Van Gelder)
  • “The Cascade” (2004) in Agog! Smashing Stories (ed. Cat Sparks)
  • “The Empire of the Willing” (2005) in Future Washington (ed. Ernest Lilley)
  • “The Engines of Arcadia” (2006) in Futureshocks (ed. Lou Anders)
  • “The Twilight Year” (2008) in The Magazine of Fantasy & Science Fiction January 2008 (ed. Gordon Van Gelder)
  • “The Constant Past” (2008) in Dreaming Again (ed. Jack Dann)
  • “The Spiral Briar” (2009) in The Magazine of Fantasy & Science Fiction April-May 2009 (ed. Gordon Van Gelder)
  • “The Art of the Dragon” (2009) in The Magazine of Fantasy & Science Fiction August-September 2009 (ed. Gordon Van Gelder)


  • Beyond Our Shores (1990) in Eidolon Winter 1990
  • The High Brick Wall (1990) in Eidolon Spring 1990 (ed. Jeremy G. Byrne)
  • Not In Print but Worth Millions (1991) in Eidolon Winter 1991 (ed. Jeremy G. Byrne)
  • Book Review (1991) in Aurealis #5 (ed. Stephen Higgins, Dirk Strasser)
  • Going Commercial and Becoming Professional (1991) in Eidolon Spring 1991 (ed. Jeremy G. Byrne)
  • Australian SF Art Turns 50 (1992) in Eidolon Summer 1992 (ed. Jonathan Strahan, Jeremy G. Byrne)
  • Far from Void: The History of Australian SF Magazines (1992) in Aurealis #7 (ed. Stephen Higgins, Dirk Strasser)
  • Skirting the Frontier (1992) in Eidolon Autumn 1992 (ed. Jeremy G. Byrne)
  • Showcase or Leading Edge: Australian SF Anthologies 1968-1990 (1992) in Aurealis #9, (ed. Stephen Higgins, Dirk Strasser)
  • From Science Fantasy to Galileo (1992) in Eidolon Spring 1992 (ed. Jeremy G. Byrne, Jonathan Strahan)
  • Australian Content: The State of Quarantine (1993) in Eidolon Summer 1993 (ed. Jeremy G. Byrne, Jonathan Strahan)
  • Australian Content: Suffering for Someone Else’s Art (1993) in Eidolon Autumn 1993 (ed. Jonathan Strahan, Jeremy G. Byrne)
  • Protection, Liberation and the Cold, Dangerous Universe: The Great Australian SF Renaissance (1993) in Aurealis #11, (ed. Stephen Higgins, Dirk Strasser)
  • No Science Fiction Please, We’re Australian (1993) in Eidolon Winter 1993 (ed. Jeremy G. Byrne, Jonathan Strahan)
  • The Quest for Australian Fantasy (1994, with Steven Paulsen) in Aurealis #13, (ed. Stephen Higgins, Dirk Strasser)
  • Australian Content: The Great Transition (1994) in Eidolon Winter 1994 (ed. Jonathan Strahan, Jeremy G. Byrne)
  • The Hunt for Australian Horror Fiction (1994, with Steven Paulsen) in Aurealis #14 (ed. Stephen Higgins, Dirk Strasser)
  • A History of Australian Horror (1995, with Bill Congreve and Steve Paulsen) in Bonescribes: Year’s Best Australian Horror: 1995 (ed. Bill Congreve, Robert Hood)
  • SF in Australia (1995, with Terry Dowling) in Locus January 1995 (ed. Charles N. Brown)
  • Australian Content: Recognition Australian Style (1995) in Eidolon Summer 1995 (ed. Jeremy G. Byrne)
  • Australia: Australian Contemporary Fantasy (1997, with Steven Paulsen)
  • George Turner and the Nova Mob (1997) in Eidolon, Issue 25/26 Spring 1997 (ed. Jonathan Strahan, Jeremy G. Byrne, Richard Scriven)
  • The Road to 1996 (1998, with Terry Dowling) in Nebula Awards 32 (ed. Jack Dann)
  • The British Benchmark (1999) in Interzone August 1999 (ed. David Pringle)
  • Time Travel, Times Scapes, and Timescape (2000, with Russell Blackford, Alison Goodman, Damien Broderick, Aubrey Townsend, Gregory Benford) in The New York Review of Science Fiction August 2000, (ed. Kathryn Cramer, David G. Hartwell, Kevin J. Maroney)
  • 25 (Celebrating 25 Years of Interzone) (2007) in Interzone September-October 2007 (ed. Andrew Hedgecock, Jetse de Vries, Andy Cox)


Ditmar Awards

1991 Best Australian Short Fiction – While the Gate is Open

1992 Best Short Fiction – Alone in His Chariot; William Atheling Jr. Award for Criticism – Going Commercial

1993 William Atheling Jr. Award for Criticism – Australian SF Art Turns 50

1996 Best Australian Long Fiction – Mirrorsun Rising; William Atheling Jr Award for Criticism – The Hunt for Australian Horror Fiction (together with Steven Paulsen and Bill Congreve)

1998 William Atheling Jr Award for Criticism – Fantasy in Australia (together with Steven Paulsen)

2000 William Atheling Jr Award for Criticism – Strange Constellations (together with Van Ikin and Russell Blackford)

Aurealis Awards

1998 Best Novel – The Centurion’s Empire

2001 Best Novel – The Miocene Arrow

2003 Best Short Story -Walk to the Moon

Analog Reader’s Award

2002 Best Novellette – Tower of Wings

Nova Fantastyka Reader’s Award

2003 Best Foreign Story – Voice of Steel


  1. ^ “Short Stories by Sean McMullen”. Retrieved 2010-02-15.
  2. ^ McMullen was “Assistant Editor” along with another Australian SF writer, Steven Paulsen.


Festivale Online Magazine, Summer 2008-09, ISSN 1328-8008

External links

Meredith Doig

Meredith DoigPresident of the Rationalist Society of Australia (“We’re in favour of science and evidence as opposed to superstition and bigotry”).
Background in blue chip corporate business; board director of companies in commercial, government and not-for-profit sectors; consultant in governance and management.
Known as an effective moderator and speaker.

Current Activity

Director at University of Ballarat Council
President at Rationalist Society of Australia
Facilitator at Australian Institute of Company Directors

Strategic Advisor at Finsbury Green
Founding Chairman at Australian Friends of AUW
Director at Asian University for Women Support Foundation
Senior Moderator at The Cranlana Programme
Principal at Midlothian Consulting

Past Activity

Secretary and Treasurer at Rationalist Society of Australia
Director at Bakers Delight Holdings
Chair at MUSUL

Director at Port of Melbourne Corporation
Councillor at University of Melbourne
Deputy Chair at V/Line Passenger Corporation
Managing Director at Potentia Australia
General Manager at Zeal Consulting
Chief Manager at ANZ Bank


RMIT University
Monash University

University of Melbourne
Fintona Girls’ School

Rationalist Society of AustraliaThe Rationalist Society of Australia was formed in 1908 to promote the adoption of ethical principles based on shared human values rather than religious doctrine. It defends freedom of thought and conscience, advocates separation of church and state, endorses and supports science and the scientific method, and works for the secularization of education systems.



Greg Adamson

Greg Adamson
Greg Adamson

Dr Greg Adamson is a member of the SSIT Board of Governors, chair of SSIT Australia, and an Honorary Fellow at the Department of Information Systems, University of Melbourne. His research is focused on barriers to uptake for socially beneficial technologies.

Greg lives a professional life devoted to the pursuit of the research, design, delivery and operation of effective technology.
Greg Adamson’s Specialties:

  • Security/governance
  • Project management
  • Industry analysis
  • eBusiness

Greg Adamson’s Experience



(Non-Profit; Non-Profit Organization Management industry)

January 2010 — Present (7 months)

SSIT Flyer dec 2010 – IEEE Society on Social Implications of Technology – CRITIQUING PRIVACY, DEFENDING SURVEILLANCE: A SOCRATIAN DIALOGUE

“Hindrances to Socially Beneficial Technology”

Link to Video of talk

Greg’s paper entitled ‘One hundred reasons socially beneficial technology might not work’ (pdf) deals with the subject in detail.

Last year Greg Adam gave a presentation entitled “Hindrances to Socially Beneficial Technology”.

Abstract: “Technologies service many human needs. Socially beneficial technologies can also assist in resolving some of the world’s most pressing problems: climate change; access to safe drinking water; quality housing; universal health care. Often a technology already exists, awaiting to be applied. In other cases it is within grasp given appropriate prioritisation. This paper considers approximately 100 theories of and approaches to technology innovation and adoption regarding the question, How is the failure of socially beneficial technology explained? Approaches include legal, regulatory, political, philosophical, sociological, usage, psychological, technical, economic, commercial, and marketing…”


Greg Adamson “Hindrances to Socially Beneficial Technology” – SingSum AU 2010 from Adam A. Ford on Vimeo.

Jeremy Nagel

Jeremy is completing his honours year in bioinformatics. He was involved in Monash University’s iGEM team in 2010 and hopes to start a synthetic biology incubator in Melbourne to develop new solutions to ‘wicked problems’.

He is passionate about the environment and works with the Oaktree Foundation and OzGreen to run leadership programs for young people. He is also a social entrepreneur with several businesses and is the founder and head facilitator of SESA – the Society of Entrepreneurial Success and Achievement.

Jeremy’s proudest achievement is completing the Two Bays 56km ultramarathon. His next big goal is the Great Ocean Road 100k trail run on October 15th. In March 2012, he plans to ride his bike from Melbourne to Cairns.

Innovation in Action

Jeremy Nagel picture

My mission: work with the next generation of leaders to end poverty and create sustainable, accelerating growth.

My projects:

Global Changers: An experiential leadership program focused on ending poverty

SESA: A community of social entrepreneurs, who support each other to take massive action.


My mission and values

My mission is to work with the next generation of leaders to create an ecologically sustainable world free from poverty.

I see an end to poverty driven by people working from the ground up to create sustainable wealth for themselves and for their communities.

I see a rapid transition to a carbon-free global economy powered by innovative technologies and creative community projects.

I see a world, where everybody takes responsibility for the consequences of their actions and their inactions.

I see these things and I act to make them happen.

I believe anything is possible when a group of passionate people unite around a common goal.

I do not and will never have all the answers, so I strive to learn and grow every day.

My life is guided by 5 core values:

– Meaning: I centre my life around creating meaning through my words and through my actions
– Growth: I look forward not back and aim to constantly improve
– Joy: I treasure each moment and smile and laugh as I make my journey
– Love: I care deeply about everyone I meet and give without expecting anything in return
– Audacity: I am not afraid to think big and act big

Related Posts Widget for Blogger

Tony Smith

Tony Smith
Fig 1. Tony Smith

Tony organizes the Emergence meetings in Melbourne.


Got interested in complex systems in the 1980s following the likes of Santa Fe Institute, WESS, Principia Cybernetica and Wolfram. Attended first Australian Complex Systems Conference in Canberra in 1992. Check my new page for more.

How have you used complexity concepts at work?

I wish! I’ve spent 25 years trying to meld them in, but beyond the general understandings I cannot demonstrate direct application. However I continue to do unfunded research and hang out at MASCOS, the NKS Forum and ConwayLife when I can.


Exploring Possibilities

Those two words form the far from simple answer to some fundamental questions.

Observation and experiment at various levels has led me to realise that Life, the Universe, and Everything is ultimately just exploring possibilities.

Asked what I am doing the answer is the same, as it is when asked what you and I should be doing.

The consequent question is How? not Why? Any answer to the latter can be no better than “because that is what we/they do.” To get good answers to How? you really need to pay attention, that every day more scarce currency.

Firstly you need to take very seriously the take home message from the models reported in Stu Kauffman’s The Origins of Order. These show that when you are in unexplored territory the winners are those who jump far and land on a productive spot, but when you are already on your way up your mountain the best strategy is to move incrementally, following the local gradient at each step. The implications of this can be developed at way too much length for here, but clearly include the notion that if you want to keep exploring possibilities, it helps if you can usually find your way back to somewhere close to where you have been before, some home base conditions even more than location.

Secondly, and one of the purposes of this site, it might be useful to take into account some of the initially unfamiliar implications of the results I have been getting from experiments with toy systems, a habit which goes back long before I started playing with Ed Fredkin’s replicating cellular automata in 1983 and which is clearly getting worse with age, in part provoked by Stephen Wolfram and more recently facilitated by the wonderful work of the Golly gang. Foremost is the observation in ever more intriguing guises of the creative synergy between (even deterministic) chaos and emergent order. Chaos and order are not opposed. You need both.



Tony Smith
Fig 2. Tony Smith


Around 1986 I had reason and opportunity to discard all previous assumptions and start a fresh look at the question of how the world really works. That search quickly led me to what at that point of time it was fashionable to call complex systems, a field I have come to learn has had as many names as it has directions of entry over at least my life time (post WW2). More recently I have been happiest with emergence as the umbrella label for N N Taleb’s black swans and Rumsfeld’s unknown unknowns, in part because emergence allows proper celebration of Darwin’s endless forms most beautiful across all the great domains that feed our curiosity.

The essence of emergence is that it is not strictly predictive but rather a way of dealing with the many surprises that are both consistent with natural laws and the outcome of some previously untested combination/history. You study emergence through analysis which may lead to a degree of statistical predictability over time, but which, like plate tectonics, biological evolution and much of astronomy is primarily a tool for making sense of observed patterns after the fact. Such analysis is neither strictly science nor anti-science. To it science is a toolset, in much the same way that math is a toolset to science.

Since the early 1990s when Liddy Nevile showed me a 1986 paper by Marcia Salner, I’ve been particularly motivated by the question of how we might get a critical mass of younger people to take onboard the generality of emergence short of waiting for them to accumulate a lifetime’s experience or suffer the two crises of confidence that Salner identified as necessary to progress from the naive belief that right and wrong are knowable, via relativism, to a general systemic understanding; neither of which route comes with guarantees.

Participation in ISCE’s 3rd International Workshop on Complexity and Philosophy in Stellenbosch in early 2007 and my subsequent analysis of the workshop papers for presentation at Complex ’07 on the Gold Coast highlighted the great double focus of the field, a separation within a coming together that is equally pervasive within Melbourne Emergence Meetup Group. That separation can be most easily described as between the natural and social worlds, with very few of us truly seeing the consistent whole.

During the May 2011 meeting of the Melbourne Emergence Meetup Group we will be considering a proposal to form the Kororoit Institute Proponents and Supporters Association to provide a more formal platform to pursue opportunities that have developed through the Meetup Group, Bill Hall’s TOMOK and, particularly, our Putting Community Knowledge in Place program discussed below.

Putting Community Knowledge in Place

This was the theme of a Special Session some colleagues and I put together for the Melbourne 2010 Knowledge Cities World Summit in November. It remains a working description of a program we are fleshing out with origins in the Melbourne Emergence Meetup Group and Bill Hall’s TOMOK. (There were and are several other people actively involved.)

For me this grows out of the struggle of the Moonee Ponds Creek Co-ordination Committee to have community knowledge efficiently brought into a prolonged strategic planning process. It also draws on involvements in the problems of the City of Brimbank inherited from my late mother’s St Albans History Society and an extensive network on local interest organisations those connections lead to.

Right now, I’d like nothing more than to be able to make practical use of my unique combination of knowledge of Mount Defiance from hiking the trails across the summit to diving the bommies below the recent rockfalls and lookout to help facilitate the local member and transport minister get an outcome for the next 75 years of this issue which was never in The Plan, despite being a long obvious risk to our greatest tourist asset.

More broadly, the aim is to glue together human and technical systems to encourage the collection, curating, utilisation and recognition of information currently only residing “in the heads and bottom drawers of non-traditional owners” so we can get better supported planning and implementation outcomes.

The complementary benefit of our participation was to sharpen awareness of the conditions for successful establishment of knowledge precincts, the core mission of the Summit, an objective which allowed its judges to choose Melbourne as the world’s leading knowledge city, albeit without competition from North America. The insight of Summit co-chair Klaus Kunzmann, who I first heard at GAMUT preconference, broadens the lessons from our continuing misadventures with Docklands Science Park.


Information technologies

Properly trained in Systems Analysis and Design at the beginning of my career, together with enough assemblers and other old languages that I have retained a solid understanding of how things work underneath and consequent appreciation of how many miracles underpin our too easily accepted and seductive modern information technologies. Nowadays I’m only fluent with Perl and MySQL, though when needed I can muddle my way through other cornerstones of the interweb.

After a career that led me into contract programming early, in late 1981 I was contracted to design the server-side system for Australia’s first online information service and quickly became captive to the cyberspace dream, marrying that to the Macintosh user interface and from mid-1984 getting serious about trying to develop a graphical Public Information Communications and Access (PICA) system. Though we were still eight years too early because of the immaturity of essential infrastructure, we soon learnt that we were some way behind the first to start in that direction.

After the detour which had me convening the first meeting of independent PostScript developers in early 1987 in San Francisco and contributing the final chapter to Roth ed’s Real World PostScript, in the early 1990s I enrolled for an MSc science-technology-society program offered by the University of Melbourne’s department of History and Philosophy of Science, in part to ensure I gained the earliest possible access to the internet. And so I became the IT voice on an ever changing consultancy team providing education technology policy advice.

Having twice sworn off ever learning another programming language and having received no encouragement to persist any longer with my long pursued goal of processing cricket results online, in 1997 I acecpted an invitation to move to Sydney which gave me the space to pursue connections with those who already were online, get roped into forum maintenance and eventually develop my own TransForum software in Perl which turned out to be the best possible language for an ageing programmer who appreicated the inconsistencies inherent in real world data collection.

Returning to Melbourne, from 2000 I have applied Perl, MySQL and other cornerstone technologies to backend systems for inhouse and client-facing websites, and Perl in particular to my own research into discrete systems.

Hugo de Garis

Hugo de Garis (born 1947, Sydney, Australia) is a researcher in the sub-field of artificial intelligence (AI) known as evolvable hardware. He became known in the 1990s for his research on the use of genetic algorithms to evolve neural networks using three dimensional cellular automata inside field programmable gate arrays. He claimed that this approach would enable the creation of what he terms “artificial brains” which would quickly surpass human levels of intelligence.

He has more recently been noted for his belief that a major war between the supporters and opponents of intelligent machines, resulting in billions of deaths, is almost inevitable before the end of the 21st century. He suggests AIs may simply eliminate the human race, and humans would be powerless to stop them because of the technological singularity. This prediction has attracted debate and criticism from the AI research community, and some of its more notable members, such as Kevin Warwick, Bill Joy, Ken MacLeod, Ray Kurzweil, Hans Moravec, and Roger Penrose, have voiced their opinions on whether or not this future is likely.

Hugo De Garis in Transcendent Man film trailer

de Garis originally studied theoretical physics, but he abandoned this field in favour of artificial intelligence. In 1992 he received his PhD from Université Libre de Bruxelles, Belgium. He worked as a researcher at Advanced Telecommunications Research institute international (ATR), Japan from 1994–2000, a researcher at Starlab, Brussels from 2000–2001, and associate professor of computer science at Utah State University from 2001-2006. He is currently a professor at Xiamen University, where he teaches theoretical physics and computer science, and runs the Artificial Brain lab.

Evolvable hardware

From 1993 to 2000 de Garis participated in a research project at ATR’s Human Information Processing Research Laboratories (ATR-HIP) which aimed to create a billion neuron artificial brain by the year 2001. The project was known as “cellular automata machine brain”, or “CAM-Brain”. During this 8 year span he and his fellow researchers published a series of papers in which they discussed the use of genetic algorithms to evolve neural structures inside 3D cellular automata. They argued that existing neural models had failed to produce intelligent behaviour because they were too small, and that in order to create “artificial brains” it was necessary to manually assemble tens of thousands of evolved neural modules together, with the billion neuron “CAM-Brain” requiring around 10 million modules; this idea was rejected by Igor Aleksander, who said “The point is that these puzzles are not puzzles because our neural models are not large enough”.

Though it was initially envisaged that these cellular automata would run on special computers, such as MIT’s “Cellular Automata Machine-8” (CAM-8), by 1996 it was realised that the model originally proposed, which required cellular automata with thousands of states, was too complex to be realised in hardware. The design was considerably simplified, and in 1997 the “collect and distribute 1 bit” (“CoDi-1Bit”) model was published, and work began on a hardware implementation using Xilinx XC6264 FPGAs. This was to be known as the “CAM Brain Machine” (CBM).

The researchers evolved cellular automata for several tasks (using software simulation, not hardware):

  • Reproducing the XOR function.
  • Generating a bitstream that alternates between 0 and 1 three times (i.e. 000..111..000..).
  • Generated a bitstream where the output alternates, but can be changed from a majority of 1s to a majority of 0s by toggling an input.
  • Discriminating between two square wave inputs with a different period.
  • Discriminating between horizontal lines (input on a 2D grid) and random noise.

Ultimately the project failed to produce a functional robot control system, and ATR terminated it along with the closure of ATR-HIP in February 2001.

The original aim of de Garis’ work was to establish the field of “brain building” (a term of his invention) and to “create a trillion dollar industry within 20 years”. Throughout the 90s his papers claimed that by 2001 the ATR “Robokoneko” (translation: kitten robot) project would develop a billion-neuron “cellular automata machine brain” (CAM-brain), with “computational power equivalent to 10,000 pentiums” that could simulate the brain of a real cat. de Garis received a US$0.4 million “fat brain building grant” to develop this. The first “CAM-brain” was delivered to ATR in 1999. After receiving a further US$1 million grant at Starlab de Garis failed to deliver a working “brain” before Starlab’s bankruptcy. At USU de Garis announced he was establishing a “brain builder” group to create a second generation “CAM-brain”.

Current research

de Garis published his last “CAM-Brain” research paper in 2002. He still works on evolvable hardware. Using a Celoxica FPGA board he says he can create up to 50,000 neural network modules for less than $3000.

Since 2002 he has co-authored several papers on evolutionary algorithms.

He believes that topological quantum computing is about to revolutionize computer science, and hopes that his teaching will help his students to understand its principles.

In 2008 de Garis received a 3 million Chinese yuan grant (around $436,000) to build an artificial brain for China (the China-Brain Project), as part of the Brain Builder Group at Wuhan University.

Employment history

de Garis’ original work on “CAM-brain” machines was part of an 8 year research project, from 1993 to 2000, at the ATR Human Information Processing Research Laboratories (ATR-HIP) in Kyoto Prefecture, Japan. de Garis left in 2000, and ATR-HIP was closed on 28 February 2001. de Garis then moved to Starlab in Brussels, where he received a million dollars in funding from the government of Belgium (“over a third of the Brussels government’s total budget for scientific research”, according to de Garis). Starlab went bankrupt in June 2001. A few months later de Garis was employed as an associate professor at the computer science department of Utah State University. In May 2006 he became a professor at Wuhan University’s international school of software, teaching graduate level pure mathematics, theoretical physics and computer science.

Since June 2006 he has been a member of the advisory board of Novamente, a commercial company which aims to create strong AI.

Cosmists and Terrans

de Garis believes that a major war before the end of the 21st century, resulting in billions of deaths, is almost inevitable. Intelligent machines (or ‘artilects’, a shortened form of ‘artificial intellects’) will be far more intelligent than humans and will threaten to attain world domination, resulting in a conflict between ‘Cosmists’, who support the artilects, and ‘Terrans’, who oppose them (both of these are terms of his invention). He describes this conflict as a ‘gigadeath’ war, reinforcing the point that billions of people will be killed. This scenario has been criticised by other AI researchers, including Chris Malcolm, who described it as “entertaining science fiction horror stories which happen to have caught the attention of the popular media”. Kevin Warwick called it a “hellish nightmare, as portrayed in films such as the Terminator”. In 2005 de Garis published a book describing his views on this topic entitled The Artilect War.

Cosmism is a moral philosophy that favours building or growing strong artificial intelligence and ultimately leaving the planet Earth to the Terrans, who oppose this path for humanity. The first half of the book describes technologies which he believes will make it possible for computers to be billions or trillions of times more intelligent than humans. He predicts that as artificial intelligence improves and becomes progressively more human-like, differing views will begin to emerge regarding how far such research should be allowed to proceed. Cosmists will foresee the massive, truly astronomical potential of substrate-independent cognition, and will therefore advocate unlimited growth in the designated fields, in the hopes that “super intelligent” machines might one day colonise the universe. It is this “cosmic” view of history, in which the fate of one single species, on one single planet, is seen as insignificant next to the fate of the known universe, that gives the Cosmists their name.

Terrans on the other hand, will have a more “terrestrial” Earth-centred view, in which the fate of the Earth and its species (like humanity) are seen as being all-important. To Terrans, a future without humans is to be avoided at all costs, as it would represent the worst-case scenario. As such, Terrans will find themselves unable to ignore the possibility that super intelligent machines might one day cause the destruction of the human race—being very immensely intelligent and so cosmically inclined, these artilect machines may have no more moral or ethical difficulty in exterminating humanity than humans do in using medicines to cure diseases. So, Terrans will see themselves as living during the closing of a window of opportunity, to disable future artilects before they are built, after which humans will no longer have a say in the affairs of intelligent machines.

It is these two extreme ideologies which de Garis believes may herald a new world war, wherein one group with a ‘grand plan’ (the Cosmists) will be rabidly opposed by another which feels itself to be under deadly threat from that plan (the Terrans). The factions, he predicts, may eventually war to the death because of this, as the Terrans will come to view the Cosmists as “arch-monsters” when they begin seriously discussing acceptable risks, and the probabilities of large percentages of Earth-based life going extinct. In response to this, the Cosmists will come to view the Terrans as being reactionary extremists, and will stop treating them and their ideas seriously, further aggravating the situation, possibly beyond reconciliation.

Throughout his book, de Garis states that he is ambivalent about which viewpoint he ultimately supports, and attempts to make convincing cases for both sides. He elaborates towards the end of the book that the more he thinks about it, the more he feels like a Cosmist, because he feels that despite the horrible possibility that humanity might ultimately be destroyed, perhaps inadvertently or at least indifferently, by the artilects, he cannot ignore the fact that the human species is just another link in the evolutionary chain, and must go extinct in their current form anyway, whereas the artilects could very well be the next link in that chain and therefore would be excellent candidates to carry the torch of science and exploration forward into the rest of the universe.

He relates a morally isomorphic scenario in which extraterrestrial intelligences visit the earth three billion years ago and discover two domains of life living there, one domain which is older but simpler and contemporarily dominant, but which upon closer study appears to be incapable of much further evolutionary development; and one younger domain which is struggling to survive, but which upon further study displays the potential to evolve into all the varieties of life existing on the Earth today, including humanity, and then queries the reader as to whether they would feel ethically compelled to destroy the dominant domain of life to ensure the survival of the younger one, or to destroy the younger one in order to ensure the survival of the older and more populous domain which was “there first.” He states that he believes that, like himself, most of the public would feel torn or at least ambivalent about the outcome of artilects at first, but that as the technology advanced, the issue would be forced and most would feel compelled to choose a side, and that as such the public consciousness of the coming issue should be raised now so that society can choose, hopefully before the factions becomes irreconcilably polarised, which outcome it prefers.

de Garis relates that “just out of curiosity, I asked Kevin (Warwick) whether he was a Terran or a Cosmist. He said he was against the idea of artilects being built (i.e., he is Terran). I was surprised, and felt a shiver go up my spine. That moment reminded me of a biography of Lenin that I had read in my 20s in which the Bolsheviks and the Mensheviks first started debating the future government of Russia. What began as an intellectual difference ended up as a Russian civil war after 1917 between the white and the red Russians.”

Kevin Warwick would be better classified a member of a third group de Garis predicts will emerge between the two. He colloquially refers to this third party as “Cyborgians”, because they will not be opposed to artilects as such, but they will desire to personally participate in the artilect colonisation of the universe, rather than fall into obsolescence. They will seek to become artilects by gradually merging themselves with machines, which is the main focus of Professor Warwick’s cybernetics research.