Louis Epstein <***@main.put.com> wrote:
: Robert J. Bradbury,born October 5th 1956,died suddenly the night of
: February 26th-27th 2011 of a massive haemorrhagic stroke.
: An early employee of Oracle and the founder of Aeiveos Corporation,
: he was a believer in future survival through transition of human
: consciousness into "Matrioshka Brains",essentially a self-aware
: set of nested Dyson spheres.
: I met him in 2004 at the International Conference on Anti-Aging
: Medicine where we were part of a side session on supercentenarians,
: and corresponded with him over the Gerontology Research Group email
: He was an incisive thinker on the problems of longterm longevity,
: and though I disagreed with him on whether "downloads" counted as
: survival,I'm saddened that he failed to survive to see the technologies
: that would pass his standards if not mine.
"Remembering Robert Bradbury"
March 6, 2011; Robert Bradbury passed away suddenly and
unexpectedly last weekend of a massive hemorrhagic stroke.
His passing was the kind of thing that barely registered
anywhere except among his immediate group of family and
friends -- and among a group of dedicated and niche
scientists, futurists and technologists. For them,
Bradbury's premature passing represented a monumental blow
to inspired and imaginative scientific inquiry.
While Robert Bradbury, who died at the age of 54, may not
have had the most recognizable name in the various scientific
communities he was involved in, his impact to future studies,
and in particular its relation to the search for
extraterrestrial intelligence, cannot be overstated. Bradbury
was a giant in this area, a creative and unconventional
personality who paved the way for other like-minded thinkers
To say that the scientific community lost its foremost
thinker on SETI studies (the search for extraterrestrial
intelligence) and the problem that is the Great Silence (also
known as the Fermi Paradox) is hardly an exaggeration.
Bradbury was a voracious collector of any and all articles,
papers, and studies conducted on the subject. From my
conversations with him, I can tell you that his ability to
recollect and reference these works was uncanny to the point
of absurdity. He was an authority in the truest sense.
Nobody more than Robert insisted on the simple fact that
the correct resolution of Fermi's Paradox -- the fact that
we do not observe any presence of Galactic extraterrestrial
intelligence -- will provide us with crucial insights into
humanity's future. It was this particular notion that has
personally driven me to pursue SETI studies as a means to
predict humanity's potential developmental trajectories.
Simply put, if you can predict, or even observe, how advanced
extraterrestrials operate, we stand a better chance of
understanding our own future.
Despite the eeriness that is the Great Silence, Bradbury
applied a natural optimism to his work. He sought to
construct and develop hypotheses to the Fermi problem that
did not jeopardize the potential for human possibilities.
This included a grandiose "cosmic vision" of humanity's
future, and in this sense he was an heir apparent to Olaf
Stapledon, H. G. Wells, and Freeman Dyson.
To this end, Bradbury put forth a number of intriguing
theories--theories that have since become foundational
concepts amongst serious futurists, transhumanists and those
concerned about the potential for a technological
singularity. In particular, Bradbury was intrigued by
megascale engineering concepts such as Dyson Spheres and
Jupiter Brains. He even came up with one of his own, the
so-called Matrioshka Brain--a megascale computer that could
exploit nearly the entire energy output of a star. Bradbury
could never be accused of thinking small. Such concepts would
go on to influence such thinkers as Anders Sandberg, Nick
Bostrom, Robin Hanson, and Ray Kurzweil.
One of his most important works came in 2006 in his
collaboration with Milan Irkovi , "Galactic gradients,
postbiological evolution and the apparent failure of SETI"
(New Astronomy 11, 628-639). In this paper, he argued that
the most likely trajectory of a postbiological (i.e.,
digital) community would involve the quest for computational
efficiency and optimization. Such a society, he argued, would
likely involve spatially-compact civilizations that would be
extremely hard to detect, especially if located in outer
regions of the Milky Way. This conclusion has served as an
elegant and rather optimistic answer that contrasts to the
more doom-and-gloom suggestions that are typically put out.
The paper also criticized the orthodox approach to SETI
projects, which Bradbury found irritatingly old-fashioned and
conservative in the extreme. Instead of listening for
intentional (or intercepted) radio messages, he thought it
would be far more promising to search for artifacts and
traces of astroengineering of advanced technological
civilizations, like Dyson shells or Matrioshka brains. Such
searches, he thought, would have to be conducted in the
infrared part of the electromagnetic spectrum. A natural
extension of this concept was the project of setting up new
directions and expanded range of techniques for SETI
observations, something which was consistently hinted at
during the half-centennial jubilee of the OZMA Project in
2010. This study was, sadly, the last one Bradbury worked on
and will be published posthumously. Clearly, his departure
will be a great loss for the astrobiological and SETI
At a personal level, Robert Bradbury was known as a
generous, driven and often outspoken individual. His
unorthodox beliefs, a hallmark of the transhumanist and
Extropian communities of which he was a big part, often
translated to personal opinions that made others
uncomfortable. Bradbury never shied away from saying things
that might offend others, but this largely came from his
powerful sense of outrage towards certain issues, including
the problem of death. A radical life-extension crusader,
Bradbury railed against the needless deaths of people the
world over and how society spent so relatively few resources
to address the issue.
Along these lines, Bradbury also made a considerable
impact on early efforts to re-conceptualize and pathologize
the aging process. Back in 1991, he was already framing the
problem of aging as something that could be solved. To that
end, he devised a theory of aging that involved insights into
genetic defects, poorly-implemented biological programming,
and insufficient repair mechanisms; the work has served as a
precursor to Aubrey de Grey's Strategies for Engineered
Negligible Senescence (SENS).
Not content to merely wax philosophical on heady issues,
Bradbury made a number of attempts at various tech ventures,
but often to poor results. He desperately wanted to succeed
at being a technology entrepreneur, and at the time of his
passing, may have felt deep frustration at not being more
successful in this regard. He also wanted to marry and have
children, but seemed to have doubts about having a successful
and lasting relationship.
It may take a few years before Bradbury's contributions
properly hit the radar. He leaves behind a rather remarkable
body of work that I predict will eventually get the respect
it deserves in the various scientific circles he was involved
Thanks to Milan Irkovi and John Grigg for helping me write
George Dvorsky serves on the Board of Directors for the
Institute for Ethics and Emerging Technologies and also heads
our Rights of the Non-Human Person program. George produces
Sentient Developments blog and podcast.
: The World Trade Center towers MUST rise again,
: at least as tall as before...or terror has triumphed.