The Future of Life Institute (FLI)
Mission: To catalyze and support research and initiatives for safeguarding life and developing optimistic visions of the future, including positive ways for humanity to steer its own course considering new technologies and challenges.
We have technology to thank for all the ways in which today is better than the stone age, and technology is likely to keep improving at an accelerating pace. We are a charity and outreach organization working to ensure that tomorrow’s most powerful technologies are beneficial for humanity. With less powerful technologies such as fire, we learned to minimize risks largely by learning from mistakes. With more powerful technologies such as nuclear weapons, synthetic biology and future strong artificial intelligence, planning ahead is a better strategy than learning from mistakes, so we support research and other efforts aimed at avoiding problems in the first place.
We are currently focusing on keeping artificial intelligence beneficial and we are also exploring ways of reducing risks from nuclear weapons and biotechnology. FLI is based in the Boston area, and welcomes the participation of scientists, students, philanthropists, and others nearby and around the world. Here is a video highlighting our activities from our first year.
Dr. Sandra Faber is Professor Emerita of Astronomy and Astrophysics at the University of California, Santa Cruz, where she was the first woman to join the Lick Observatory. She received the National Medal of Science from President Obama, and she is the namesake for a minor planet. She co-authored the first comprehensive review of the evidence for the existence of dark matter — widely considered a turning point in the field — and she was also a co-author (along with FLI Advisory Board Member Martin Rees) of a paper that laid out a theory explaining dark matter’s role in galaxy structure and behavior. Prof. Faber is the co-discoverer of the Faber-Jackson relation, a law linking galaxy brightness to the speed of the stars within them. She was instrumental in the development of both the Keck and Hubble telescopes. In recent years Prof. Faber has turned her attention to the long-term future of humanity and life on Earth.
Morgan Freeman is an actor, film director, narrator and science communicator. He won a Golden Globe Award in 1989, an Academy Award in 2004 and an Oscar in 2005. He has been narrating and hosting the science documentary television series Through the Wormhole since 2010.
Alan Guth was awarded the Gruber prize and the Fundamental Physics Prize for developing the theory of cosmological inflation, which has emerged as the most broadly accepted theory of our cosmic origins. By showing how a tiny subatomic speck of matter can rapidly and repeatedly double its size, it provides a mechanism for causing our Big Bang, and many of its predictions have now been experimentally confirmed. Most of his research has centered on the application of theoretical particle physics to the early universe: what can particle physics tell us about the history of the universe, and what can cosmology tell us about the fundamental laws of nature?
Christof Koch has done pioneering work on the neural basis of consciousness, and spent 25 years as a professor at the California Institute of Technology. His interdisciplinary interests integrate theoretical, computational and experimental neuroscience, and he has published both popular books (Consciousness: Confessions of a Romantic Reductionist and The Quest for Consciousness: A Neurobiological Approach) and technical books (Biophysics of Computation: Information Processing in Single Neurons and Methods in Neuronal Modeling: From Ions to Networks).
Elon Musk is the founder, CEO and CTO of SpaceX and co-founder and CEO of Tesla Motors. In recent years, Musk has focused on developing competitive renewable energy and technologies (Tesla, Solar City), and on taking steps towards making affordable space flight and colonization a future reality (SpaceX). He has spoken about the responsibility of technology leaders to solve global problems and tackle global risks, and has also highlighted the potential risks from advanced AI.
Professor Perlmutter, who led one of two teams that simultaneously discovered the accelerating expansion of the universe, was awarded the 2011 Nobel Prize in Physics, which he shares with two members of the rival team. He is a physics professor at UC Berkeley and an astrophysicist at Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory. Research aside, he also has a strong interest in science education and outreach. He has written numerous popular articles and has appeared in many TV documentaries on astronomy and cosmology.
Martin Rees, Baron Rees of Ludlow and Astronomer Royal, is Emeritus Professor of Cosmology and Astrophysics at the University of Cambridge. He is the author or co-author of more than 500 research papers, mainly on astrophysics and cosmology, as well as eight books (six for general readership), and numerous magazine and newspaper articles on scientific and general subjects. In 2005 he was appointed to the House of Lords, and he has been Master of Trinity College as well as President of many organizations, including the Royal Society, the Royal Astronomical Society and the British Association for the Advancement of Science. His many awards include the Gold Medal of the Royal Astronomical Society, the Balzan International Prize, the Cosmology Prize of the Peter Gruber Foundation, the Einstein Award of the World Cultural Council and the Crafoord Prize (Royal Swedish Academy).
Francesca Rossi is a research scientist at the IBM T.J. Watson Research Center, currently on leave from the University of Padova, Italy. Her research interests are within artificial intelligence, and include constraint reasoning, preferences, multi-agent systems, and computational social choice. She has published over 170 papers on these and other topics related to AI. She has been president of the International Association for Constraint Programming (ACP) and of the International Joint Conference on Artificial Intelligence (IJCAI). She currently is the associate editor in chief for the Journal of AI Research (JAIR), and she is both an AAAI and ECCAI fellow.
Stuart Russell is a computer science professor at Berkeley and the director of the Center for Intelligent Systems. He has published over 100 papers on a wide range of topics in artificial intelligence, the standard textbook Artificial Intelligence: a Modern Approach and the books The Use of Knowledge in Analogy and Induction and Do the Right Thing: Studies in Limited Rationality. He has received the Presidential Young Investigator Award of the National Science Foundation and the Computers and Thought Award and is a Fellow of the Association for Computing Machinery. He is also a Fellow and former Executive Council member of the American Association for Artificial Intelligence.
Frank Wilczek is a physics professor at MIT and a 2004 Nobel laureate for his work on the strong nuclear force. He is known, among other things, for the discovery of asymptotic freedom, the development of quantum chromodynamics, the invention of axions, and the discovery and exploitation of new forms of quantum statistics (anyons). When only 21 years old and a graduate student at Princeton University, in work with David Gross, he defined the properties of color gluons, which hold quarks together in protons and neutrons.