65 Scientific Quotes of Ramez Naam

” We’ve seen over time that countries that have the best economic growth are those that have good governance, and good governance comes from freedom of communication. It comes from ending corruption. It comes from a populace that can go online and say, ‘This politician is corrupt, this administrator, or this public official is corrupt.’ “
” Solar power is going to be absolutely essential to meeting growing energy demands while staving off climate change. “
” Genetically modified organism (GMO) foods are feared and hated by environmentalists and the public alike. Yet the scientific assessment of GMOs is remarkably different. Every major scientific evaluation of GMO technology has concluded that GMOs are safe for human consumption and are a benefit to the environment. “
” Technology is vital. We have to have development in new technology if we’re going to solve these environmental problems without throwing humanity back in poverty. “
” I do a lot of speaking about energy and environment. But that’s more a second job than a hobby. Hobby-wise, I love the outdoors – hiking, biking, kayaking, swimming, scuba diving. Because I spend almost all of my life in front of a screen, time in nature is especially important, I think. “
” ‘Brave New World’ dealt with a kind of proto-genetic engineering of the unborn, through really, as many dystopias do, it dealt with totalitarianism. The 1997 film ‘Gattaca’ updated ‘Brave New World,’ bringing us to a future where genetic testing determined your job, your wealth, your status in life. “
” There’s a preponderance of scientists and engineers among China’s rulers. New President Xi Jinping was trained as a chemical engineer. His predecessor, Hu Jintao, earned a degree in hydraulic engineering. His predecessor, Jiang Zemin, held a degree in electrical engineering. “
” I have an ‘office,’ technically. I never use it. I work on a couch in my living room, with my laptop on my lap, looking out the windows. I love space and green things. And I’m an incredibly casual person. I slouch. I close the laptop and just lie on the couch for a while if I need to think. I put my feet up on a table while I type. “
” We must learn to set our emotions aside and embrace what science tells us. GMOs and nuclear power are two of the most effective and most important green technologies we have. If – after looking at the data – you aren’t in favour of using them responsibly, you aren’t an environmentalist. “
” The final frontier of the digital technology is integrating into your own brain. “
” We have to slow down the emissions of carbon dioxide and methane from coal burning, oil and eventually natural gas… And the best ways to do that are energy efficiency and a switch to renewables. “
” Wild fish are under threat of extinction because they’re hunted to feed us. Yet land animals that we farm are under no threat of extinction. Shifting from hunting fish to farming fish – where the farmers have the incentive to keep their stocks healthy – could do a tremendous amount of good for wild fish. “
” The total amount of energy we use every year – from coal, oil, natural gas, hydro, nuclear, and everything else – is dwarfed by the amount of solar energy hitting the planet each year. “
” Whether it’s through introduction of the right gut bacteria or direct modification of the genes of cows and pigs, I think we’re going to have to introduce something like this into our livestock – a way to consume the methane rather than releasing it. “
” Neural implants could accomplish things no external interface could: Virtual and augmented reality with all five senses; augmentation of human memory, attention, and learning speed; even multi-sense telepathy – sharing what we see, hear, touch, and even perhaps what we think and feel with others. “
” A new idea – whether it’s a way to collect solar energy more efficiently or a cheaper way to desalinate sea water or a new seed to boost the amount of food we can grow – can stretch the physical resources we have, or even multiply them. And the ideas themselves don’t ever wear out. “
” In the end, our minds and their ability to create new ideas are the ultimate source of all human wealth. That’s a resource nearly without limit. “
” In a VR setting, you tilt your head up, and you really have the vertigo and the sense that it goes up to infinity, and it’s like you’re in New York City or Dubai, and you’re looking up at a giant skyscraper. You have a sense of awe. “
” I’m a geek through and through. My last job at Microsoft was leading much of the search engine relevance work on Bing. There we got to play with huge amounts of data, with neural networks and other AI techniques, with massive server farms. “
” I support GMOs. And we should label them. We should label them because that is the very best thing we can do for public acceptance of agricultural biotech. And we should label them because there’s absolutely nothing to hide. “
” When you’re managing a large number of people, you learn that incentives matter tremendously. You really want people to be rewarded for doing the right thing for the customers and the organization. “
” Threats that could wipe out the bulk of life on earth abound. Planetary catastrophe could come in the form of a killer asteroid impact, the eruption of massive supervolcanoes, a nearby gamma ray burst that sterilizes the earth, or by human-driven environmental collapse. “
” Environmental concern is a phenomena that tends to rise in a nation after a certain level of wealth. “
” We’re going to lose more species, acidify the oceans more, do damage that it will take millions of years – if not longer – to unwind. Exactly how much damage will we do? How deep will those scars run? We don’t know yet. But we will turn the ship. “
” The accumulated knowledge of materials, computing, electromagnetism, product design, and all the rest that we’ve learned over the last several centuries converts a few ounces of raw materials worth mere pennies into a device with more computing power than the entire planet possessed fifty years ago. “
” Orange juice from concentrate is labeled. Food coloring Red #5 is labeled. Fish are labeled as to whether they’ve been previously frozen. To a consumer, there’s no plausible reason why these factors should be on a food ingredient label while the presence of GMOs shouldn’t be. “
” Everything good and bad about technology would be magnified by implanting it deep in brains. Is the risk of brain-hacking outweighed by the societal benefits of faster, deeper communication, and the ability to augment our own intelligence? “
” The real use of AI in industry is generally for very narrow pattern-matchers – a better search algorithm, an object-detection algorithm, etc. These things are tools which we can use – for good or evil. But they’re nothing like self-aware beings. “
” I’ve tried Oculus Rift; I’ve played with the Steam VR rig. Both are mind-blowing. In a traditional video game setting, in a first-person shooter, you can see a tower in the distance. You can walk up to that tower and use your controller to look up. “
” AI does not keep me up at night. Almost no one is working on conscious machines. Deep learning algorithms, or Google search, or Facebook personalization, or Siri or self driving cars or Watson, those have the same relationship to conscious machines as a toaster does to a chess-playing computer. “
” Computing technology started out as number-crunching. “
” Orwell wasn’t right about where society was in 1984. We haven’t turned into that sort of surveillance society. But that may be, at least in small part, because of his book. The notion that ubiquitous surveillance and state manipulation of the media is evil is deeply engrained in us. “
” I absolutely hated ‘Gattaca.’ I left the theater shaking my head because the science in the film was just terrible. No genetic test will ever tell you how many heartbeats you have left. No genetic test will ever be more accurate in telling an employer how well you’ll do at a job than your performance at a past job would be. “
” I’m an optimist. My own fiction, while it has its own dark warnings about pitfalls ahead, depicts the potential of science to improve society by networking human minds. “
” I’m a computer scientist by training. I’m also the author of three books, all of which endorse the use of biotechnology to improve the human condition. In the most recent of these, ‘The Infinite Resource,’ I talk about the power of innovation to save the world. “
” I’ve read science fiction my whole life. I never really dreamed that I’d be a published science fiction writer myself, but a short story I started years ago sort of demanded to be turned into a novel. “
” Some people manage their writing by saying, ‘I need to get 2,000 words written today,’ others by saying, ‘I will write for X hours.’ Not me. I start with a plan for the book, break it down into scenes, and I know what scenes need to get written each day. If the scene takes more words than I thought, so be it. “
” We’re fortunate enough to live on a planet that’s bathed in thousands of times more energy than we use and that’s stocked with thousands of times more water, raw materials, and even food-growing potential than we need. “
” On a large scale, people aren’t going to cut back how much they use. That’s a pipe dream. If anything, as the developing world gets richer, the world’s going to consume more – more cars, bigger homes, more energy, more water, more food. “
” Technology is incredibly powerful. And in many ways, the sky is the limit in terms of what you can actually accomplish with the right science and the right technology. But to get there, you have to actually invest in R&D. And often that means you have to be willing to spend an awful lot in that R&D phase before you see the benefits. “
” There are really two kinds of optimism. There’s the complacent, Pollyanna optimism that says, ‘Don’t worry – everything will be just fine,’ and that allows one to just lay back and do nothing about the problems around you. Then there’s what we call dynamic optimism. That’s an optimism based on action. “
” On almost every environmental issue I care about, in fact, I’ve been wrong at one point or another. I used to think that climate change was no big deal, that most environmental problems were massive exaggerations, that oil reserves were effectively unlimited, and more. “
” Ideas come mostly bottoms-up. They come when you have a free flow of ideas and you have people able to combine multiple ideas into one concept… And you’ve got to have competition, too. You’ve got to say, ‘We’re going to have 10 different ideas, nine of them are going to fail, and the one that does the best is going to move forward.’ “
” Each additional idea is a gift to the future. Each additional idea producer is a source of wealth for future generations. “
” If we fix our economic system and invest in the human capital of the poor, then we should welcome every new person born as a source of betterment for our world and all of us on it. “
” Food production has affected the environment more than any other activity humans have engaged in. Humanity devotes more land to food production than anything else – roughly a third of the surface area of the earth, much of which was once forest but has been converted by humans into farms or grazing lands. “
” I’ve always been fascinated by the brain. I wrote a lot about brain-tech in my first non-fiction book, ‘More Than Human.’ So when I decided to write science fiction, that was the technology I gravitated towards. “
” There are times that you have a plot in your head, but then you find that the characters don’t want to do that. When you’re looking at the story from the outside, you can create whatever twists and turns you want. But when you’re writing, you’re inside the characters’ heads, and you see that they may be motivated to do something different. “
” If you only write when the muse strikes, you won’t get anything done. You have to write consistently, when your schedule says you should. And that’s hard. “
” We know the climate is changing. We don’t know if it will be really bad or nearly apocalyptic. Both are within the realm of possibility. “
” We are cyborgs already. If you learn to read, it causes permanent changes to the structure of your brain for your entire life. “
” In some ways, technology keeps on enhancing us, and we embrace it. “
” Many of the most science-fictional tools to fight climate change are untested, are almost impossible to truly test at planetary scale – we only have one planet after all. We’re better off cutting our emissions so we don’t need them. “
” People are sources not just of consumption but of innovation. “
” Americans mostly now believe the climate is changing. They believe that humans are causing it, and they believe that it is a risk. But in surveys, Americans are not willing to pay higher energy prices to tackle the problem. “
” What we want to do is put a price on greenhouse gases. Because if they’re more expensive, businesses will find a way to be more efficient or switch to solar or hydro or wind power. So that will reduce emissions. “
” People are wired for lots of things. We’re wired for novelty. We’re wired for humor. We’re wired for new pieces of information that surprise us in some way or add value to our lives. We’re wired for fear. “
” Everything in nature is not just a straight up. It’s an S-curve. It arises for a while until it hits some physical limitation, and then it plateaus again. “
” If you had no new technology, and you powered society as we do today – mostly by fossil fuels – you’d have only two choices: Doom yourself to horrific climate change by burning all that carbon and releasing all that CO2. Or power down society, reducing total energy usage around the planet. “
” You have to be able to generate usable energy without greenhouse gas emissions, and you have to be able to do it cheaply if you want people to choose that approach. That means new technologies. “
” Every state that addresses climate change emboldens the others, just as shifting public attitudes embolden politicians and, arguably, the court system. “
” Across energy, food, transportation, housing, and all of that, very little of our progress is going to be through getting people to voluntarily consume less. People resist that tremendously. What we have to do, if we want to succeed, is provide more of the clean, non-polluting, climate-safe options in all of these. “
” Producing food to eat is the single most destructive environmental activity humans engage in. “
” Elon Musk, Stephen Hawking, and others have stated that they think AI is an existential risk. I disagree. I don’t see a risk to humanity of a ‘Terminator’ scenario or anything of the sort. “
” In the end, I expect we’ll have AI that is better than we are at nearly every narrow task but which are still our tools, not our masters. “