In the fall of 1962 at about the time I arrived on the University of California Berkeley campus as a freshman, a Bay Area newspaper contained the headline: “Hopeless Cripple Attends UC Classes.” The news report concerned a new student, Ed Roberts, a young man from the Bay Area who had been stricken with polio in his youth, a disease that left him quadriplegic and in need of a respirator. Earlier the university had admitted Ed’s dossier but not his person. As one campus administrator observed, “We’ve tried cripples before and it didn’t work.”  But Roberts and his family persisted, overcoming the resistance of the university officials and state bureaucrats who recognized that he was qualified, but maintained that the campus was simply not equipped to educate someone confined to a wheel chair.Read More
Ongoing attempts to rebrand the geological epoch in which we live have produced a number of impressive suggestions. The conventional term, “Holocene,” is admittedly fairly drab, perhaps in need of a colorful upgrade. Derived from the Greek holos, it simply means the “whole” or “entire period” beginning at about 11,700 years ago, a period of interglacial warming. Two appealing alternatives are “Homocene” and “Anthropocene,” both of which evoke the planetary effects of human activity over the centuries.Read More
The possibility that artificial creatures, products of human hands, might achieve sentience and take on an active role in society is an age-old conception in world cultures, the subject of myths, stories, moral fables, and philosophical speculation.
In Greek mythology one finds the tale of Pygmalion who carves a statue named Galatea with whom he falls in love and who eventually comes to life. In Jewish folklore there are stories of the Golem, an artificial creature animated with surprising results. In Norse legends there are reports of clay giants able to move on their own accord. An ancient Chinese text there describes the work of Yan Shi who in the 10th century B.C. crafted a humanoid figure with lifelike qualities.Read More