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Professor J Storrs Hall
research fellow of the Institute for Molecular Manufacturing and an independent author.

It’s a bit difficult to say what my field is. In some sense I’m a futurist; but given that, the face I show to the world is primarily that of a writer. Behind it all, I follow Alan Kay’s dictum that the best way to predict the future is to invent it, and I’ve done quite a bit of inventing. I was trained as a computer scientist, and about half of my publications are in that field; but lately I’ve been publishing a lot in philosophy journals. So take your pick.

The greatest innovation in computer science was actually done as math, and of course was Turing’s formalisation of the mechanisation of computation (along with Church, Rosser, Kleene, etc.)

The greatest innovation in philosophy was done as biology: it was Darwin’s theory of evolution by natural selection. Philosophers (ranging from philosophers of mind to moral) still haven’t managed to digest Darwin’s theory of evolution, and when they do, philosophy will look completely different. An ongoing innovation that rivals it is artificial intelligence, which will ultimately change what we mean by half the words we use to define ourselves.

The greatest innovation in invention has been CAD and simulation software that allows inventors to design systems (e.g. modern microprocessors) that are much too complex for human minds alone (or even augmented with pencil and paper). Using such software, even relatively stupid control programs (like the genetic algorithm) can produce inventions, which would heretofore have been considered ingenious if done by a human.

The greatest innovation in writing was of course the printing press, although the internet is on its way to rivalling it.

And the greatest innovation in futurism was the concept of the Singularity. No serious futurist can ignore it today; no intelligent one could a decade ago.

Prof Josh Storrs Hall is author of such books as Nanofuture (2005), and Beyond AI (in press). See his site at http://www.autogeny.org.