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Monday, March 18, 2013

Historian George Dyson Paddles Us Into a Faster Tomorrow

Posted By on Mon, Mar 18, 2013 at 12:04 PM


By Emilie Mutert
Scientific historian George Dyson was a boat-builder in Canada in his young adult years, an expert on kayaks. He lived in a house he built high in a Douglas fir and split his time between boats and observing the natural world. He climbed down from his tree-house after coming to a realization about the similarities between technology and living things. The patterns he saw in nature have their parallels in the technological world, and he was drawn to explore those emerging environments in the same way he was drawn to explore the wilds of British Columbia.

He began writing books; most recently, Turing's Cathedral, on the Princeton "proto-hackers" -- Alan Turing and others -- who developed the first computer. Dyson was actually there at the time, too; his father, theoretical physicist Freeman Dyson, worked nearby at the Institute for Advanced Study. Dyson said our digital universe is "more exploding than expanding" in an interview with Wired's Kevin Kelly. He'll explore this a little more in his lecture, "No Time Is There: The Digital Universe and Why Things Appear to Be Speeding Up."
The Long Now Foundation presents George Dyson's lecture, starting March 19 at 7:30 p.m. at the Herbst Theatre, 401 Van Ness Ave., S.F. Admission is $15; call 561-6582, ext 3 or visit

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