Thoughts on NodeNet

Sarah Marr (
Fri, 05 Jun 1998 09:52:48 +0100

At 17:49 04/06/98 -0600, Michael Nielsen wrote:

>I'm curious as to how you plan to attract experts to use the nodes. Why
>should they use ExI's system when other perfectly good systems exist? I
>know many of my own most productive research discussions with other
>people involved in quantum computing go on in email; sometimes quite a
>large group of researchers is involved in a single discussion. What would I
>gain from using ExI's system over this system of discussion?

As Max mentioned in another mail, I original discussed the basics of what
is now know as 'NodeNet' with Greg Burch some time ago. To answer your
question perhaps I should describe the bases for my thinking at that time,
and the direction in which I saw ExI progressing. (At this point I should
say that I am in no position to dictate the progress of ExI, but that I do
have an interest in its continuing success, since its possible 'products'
may help me in my own goals regarding the future.)

ExI seems to be an institute which brings together people with a strong
desire to shape their own futures, and those of the world(s) which they
hope to inhabit. However, as I once mentioned in an article which Steve
Edwards contributed to 21C, the people who will have access to the sorts of
technologies which we seek in order to enhance our lives, will be those who
are very rich, very well-connected, involved in the initial research
themselves, or any combination thereof. Whilst ExI serves to analyse and
propagate the memes of researchers, economists, etc., it is not, in
general, part of the 'meme-set' of those people on whose work and thinking
it comments. There is a disjuncture between 'us' and 'them', in other words.

One has therefore to ask oneself, 'Whither ExI'? In an ideal world, ExI
would sponsor research of its own, working with the greatest innovators of
this and the next century. But those innovators ask themselves precisely
the question you raise, Michael: what's in it for me? I put forward the
idea of NodeNet to try and answer that question.

At this point in time, when ExI's revenues cannot support self-funded
research, I would say that it is the multi-disciplinary nature of ExI which
could most enhance people's communication processes through NodeNet. I
remember commenting that any posting member of a node should also,
automatically, be able to browse the other lists, applying for posting
access if and when s/he feels s/he has something to contribute. Put simply,
the key to success here is not the individual 'nodes', but the wider 'net'.

Is this a big draw to scientists, economists, etc.? Right now, probably
not, and I should imagine that initial progress will be slow. But with
appropriately targetted marketing, and free memebership for key
individuals, at least initially, the rate of take-up should increase.

I suppose my vision of ExI is one of a real-time 'Nature': prestigious,
multi-disciplinary and highly valued by its target community. In order to
facilitate this, it may be necessary to restructure ExI itself, to provide
a forum for 'lay members' and a forum for 'specialists'. The former are
kept abreast of developments, and on-going work, whilst the latter,
initially joining for communication purposes, are naturally guided in
directions desirable to Extropian Principles by their contact with ExI.

If this all sounds elitist and grandiose, that is because it is precisely
those things. It is the basis for the development of ExI to gain
recognition along the lines of the Nobel Institute. It will require time,
money and dedication. But if, after time, one can approach any of the top
hundred thinkers on this planet, the Hawkings and Clarkes and Watsons and
Cricks of the world, and ask, successfully, to see their ExI membership
cards, then it is worth it.

Time to put my money and time where my mouth is. Max: please mail me
details of how I can join the Institute, and my credit card number shall be
yours. If you need my time to come up with necessary marketing plans, cost
analysis, schedules, resource requirements, contact lists, etc., you have
it. I may be able to fly out to the US later this year, if necessary.

And for those of you who see money as the solution, then rest assured some
revenue generation planning would form part of the grand scheme. (Natasha:
in all that I have said above, I include all forms of artistic endeavour
within the NodeNet paradigm, although doing so may require some form of
separation of forums as far as marketing is concerned, but not in actual


cc: Greg Burch