Found in 8 comments on Hacker News
ChuckMcM · 2018-04-16 · Original thread
I've worked with Bill and even shared an office with him at Sun (although he was rarely there, and to this day probably just remembers me as that guy that drank a lot of Diet Dr. Pepper and argued about capabilities for the Java language :-) and his greatest strength and greatest weakness is that he can see too far ahead along a path. He would answer emails that I thought I had completely thought through with a one liner that would illuminate some fault in my logic. It was annoying and amazing at the same time.

In 1994 he was convinced that the kinds of "compromises" that James Gosling were putting into Java guaranteed it would be dead on arrival. He wasn't wrong, those choices would ultimately limit the language (and they have) but he completely missed the 20 years between then and now where Java would have a huge impact.

When this editorial came out I had moved on from Sun and was dealing the leading edge of what would be the implosion shockwave and now Bill was telling us it was all pointless, the world would probably die on its own desire to create cool new things. Well he wasn't saying it was pointless per se, he was saying we needed to confront the ethics of what we were doing now instead of in the middle of the crisis. And there is much to like about that, but recall that Facebook was created in a dorm room, not a laboratory like Bell Labs or Sun Labs. So there was no oversight, no 'adult supervision' of people who would ask, as Bill would have, what happens when ...?

So to understand Bill's essay in context I have to ask, "What would he have said to Mark Zuckerberg?" I don't doubt for a moment that had Mark confided in him his vision and his plans, that Bill would have foreseen the size and extent of its impact. Bill is a guy who made more money on Microsoft Stock than on Sun Stock because he sold the latter and bought the former, recognizing that at the end of the day Microsoft would have a larger impact. So what does he do? Does he convince Mark to throw it away? Does he say "You will be one of the richest people in the world but you'll have created a tool that nation states will use to undermine democracies around the world?" And how does Mark respond to that? Probably, "If not me, someone else will figure this out. Look at, I'll take the money and figure out the rest after it becomes a problem."

The future doesn't need us, and neither does the present. It is the ultimate hubris of humans from the beginning of time that they are somehow "more special" than the rest of the machine that is the universe. When you read books like "The Vital Question"[1] you might be struck that humans are just a 'step in the path' rather than the starting or ending point of that path. You can imagine self aware machines arguing over the notion that they evolved from meat.

The power of Bill Joy for me has always been his willingness to say something outrageous that was the logical extension of a path through the point of absurdity. And in that moment stretching the pre-conceptions of the people hearing him such that they were able to think of something new that previously they would not allow themselves to think it. I've felt it first hand and seen it in happen in others. The after the meeting discussion that goes "That was the craziest thing I think I've ever heard, but something that might not be crazy is if we did this ..."


sleavey · 2017-07-26 · Original thread
The article seems to suggest he's simulating a "soup" of many different molecules and seeing which combinations lead to sustained reactions. Nick Lane's book "The Vital Question" [1] discounts the primordial soup idea (that life arose in tidal pools or streams near volcanos due to the right chemical mixture being present in the water at that time) and suggests underwater alkaline hydrothermal vents as the location of the first formation of life. The hydrothermal vents produced (see also his recent paper [2]) alkaline fluids which mixed with acidic seawater within micropores provided by the geological structures of a particular type of vent. This, he hypothesises, led to proton gradients which are essential for life.

Of course, both these guys are experts at the top of their fields, at respected institutes. I possess neither of those qualities.



neom · 2017-01-13 · Original thread
Peripherally related book recommendation: Someone here on HN recommended it to me and it was an awesome read (that I doubt I understood).
neom · 2017-01-13 · Original thread
Peripherally related book recommendation: Someone here on HN recommended it to me and it was an awesome read (that I doubt I understood).
reubenswartz · 2016-12-06 · Original thread
I thought Shoe Dog was a great book, although my favorite book of the year was a Gates Notes recommendation for summer reading-- The Vital Question, by Nick Lane. If you're interested in biology and the origins of life, it makes some provocative claims, and backs them up. If this doesn't change how you think about life on earth (and elsewhere), I don't know what will...

jseliger · 2016-08-02 · Original thread
Is that life itself is relatively "easy" and is likely to be common.

Life appears common, but multicellular life appears to be extremely uncommon and appears to have evolved only once on earth, at least according to Nick Lane's excellent (though inadvertently depressing) book The Vital Question: Energy, Evolution, and the Origins of Complex Life ( I can't gauge the accuracy of his claims but the book does not appear to have been rebutted, at least from what I've found. Given all the discussion about biology on this thread I'm surprised no one else has mentioned it.

ChuckMcM · 2016-06-05 · Original thread
Yes, they used that exact term, invoking Darwin at the same time. And I agree with you about the time frame.

I've been reading "The Vital Question"[1] of late and it has been the first book in a while where I've had several "oh that makes so much sense!" moments. And one of the tenets is that Darwin was correct in the small, and wrong in the large understandings of evolution.

Something that jumped out to me while reading it, is that information extraction drives our technology systems like energy drives biological systems. Read the book and then sit back and analyze Twitter as a multi-cellular organism with information as energy and individuals as cells. A sort of Datasaurus. Fun stuff.

[1] "The Vital Question: Energy, Evolution, and the Origins of Complex Life" -- based on the recommendation tweeted by Gates and comments here, I read it through cover to cover while camping, and now going through a second reading to pick up what I overlooked the first time.

civilian · 2016-01-22 · Original thread
I've been reading The Vital Question by Nick Lane, where he puts forth some theories about the origin of eukaryotes, and life in general. It does make it seem that abiogenesis and eukaryote-genesis are much more difficult than we give them credit for.

So in the Drake Equation, I think that F[L] is probably pretty low.

And because eukaroyte genesis is difficult and only happened once (and it took a billion years of bacteria & archea hanging out before we got a eukaryote), and eukaryotes are a prereq for multi-cellular organisms and thus intelligent life, F[i] is also really low.

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