Views of Lester Donald Earnest on 2017.08.01
Les in 2004 with his 3D drawing of a 6D hyper-cube, also known as a super-hyper-tesseract
Impeach and Dump Trump now!
See also “Trumps Ties to Russian Mobsters” and “Assessing Russian Activities and Intentions in Recent US Elections.” Trump’s recent decision to fire the person in charge of the FBI investigation into interactions between his staff members and Russian manipulators should result in his prompt impeachment but it is not clear whether his Republican colleagues who control Congress have the intelligence and guts to do that.
For longer term reform, let’s create a new nation composed of California, Hawaii, Nevada, Oregon and Washington and make it a true democracy opposed to war, unlike USA -- see Form Pacifica Now. There is also an online interview of me on this topic.
My wife Marian and her daughter Carrie made friends with a prominent Irishman
Marian is a retired PhD psychologist. Carrie worked as a model in Paris and elsewhere during college and is now a photographer and mom. O’Bama and I each have substantial Irish heritage and we both now enjoy the freedom of retirement while still stirring the pot.
An Eye for Lies and a Tooth for Truth. I aim to make this web site as accurate as possible and to put down some of the many lies about computer history that appear in books, museums, television and periodicals. However, like everyone, I am subject to confirmation bias: a tendency to reject information that conflicts with my viewpoint and embrace what I agree with. Because of that, you may wish to look at a summary of my viewpoint.
After a medical scare in early 2016 I decided that Steve Jobs set a Precedent that I Will Not Followand then created a Bucket Listwith the general goal of ending corruption in governments, corporations and athletic organizations while avoiding the sixth mass extinction of life on Earth. To do that, I plan to live to age 112.
This is a work in progress and you may occasionally find a broken link or other problem. If so, please send a note to les at cs.stanford.edu. You will also see entries of the form Soon see “Title” and if one of those titles interests you, feel free to ask me to write it sooner.
Family Heritage. Like everyone, my ancient ancestors lived hard lives as hunter-gatherers for millions of years and formed some odd ways of thinking that they passed down to us. Beginning around 10,000 years ago, most of my ancestors converted to farming and ranching as a safer way of life and kept that up until the early 20th Century when they joined the industrial revolution and urbanized.
At age 86 I have 15 direct descendants that I know of, including 6 great grandchildren so far, who are various mixtures of Eurasian, Yupick Eskimo, Filipino, West African and Puerto Rican. Other grandparents of some of my grandchildren still live in a small tribe of hunter-gatherers and my spending some time with them enabled me to understand how their communist lifestyle works so well.
Sailaway Email. If you would like to begin or end receiving announcements about new postings on this web site, go to Sailaway Mailman a moderated email forum.
Stalking Up. Based on stock market capitalization, the five most valuable companies on Earth in 2017 are Apple, Alphabet, Microsoft, Amazon, and Berkshire Hathaway, in that order, and the top four happen to be Spinoffs from a small Stanford University research group called SAIL (Stanford Artificial Intelligence Laboratory). SAIL was started just after the Computer Science Department spun off from the Mathematics Department in 1965 and I was recruited to design and set it up. I also named and managed it in collaboration with Professors John McCarthy, Edward Feigenbaum and others.
In addition to the SAIL spinoffs cited above, others include iRobot, Rambus, D.E.Shaw and Associates, Sun Microsystems (somewhat corruptly and now part of Oracle), Cisco (with a thoroughly crooked beginning), the abominable Facebook (which I plan to destroy), and dozens more that have been well behaved.
ACM Turing Awards, widely viewed as the Nobel Prize of Computer Science, provide another measure of success. Of the 65 awarded worldwide so far, 18 have gone to people from SAIL, which I believe beats the competition.
In addition to being a manager, I was also an innovator and initiated the creation of many new technologies that are now in use around the world including spelling checkers (1961), search engines (1961), self-driving vehicles (1966), digital photography (1967), documentation with spreadsheets (1971), social networking with blogging (1972), online restaurant reviews (1973), network news service (1974) and many other things as summarized below and throughout this web site.
I generally considered it an honor when others took my inventions and turned them into commercial products worth hundreds of billions of dollars even though they never gave me a nickel. For example, the search engine that I started in 1961, called ROUT (Retrieval Of Unformatted Text), functioned much like Google, which appeared 40 years later, but ROUT was created for searching classified military intelligence reports, so it didn’t get talked about much.
After taking up bicycle racing along with my sons in the early 1970s I also started officiating, then became Editor of the U.S. Cycling Federation Rulebook, then rewrote all the American racing rules and got them adopted in 1979, then fought hard to get a strong helmet rule adopted and succeeded in 1985. Similar helmet rules were then adopted by national bicycle racing organizations around the world and recreational cyclists then also started wearing strong helmets. The net result has been thousands of lives saved and I am proud of that, though I haven’t talked about it much.
If I really did all that, why have you never heard of me? Because I did it quietly in open source mode, taking no patents and freely providing device designs, programs, and other documentation to anyone who wanted it. I also wrote no journal articles about this work, which was probably a mistake. Unlike many corporations, I did not recruit journalists to tell big lies about what I had accomplished.
While I am proud of most of these accomplishments, there are exceptions. I consider Facebook to be an abomination because they have made a business out of collecting personal information and selling it. I believe that their leader has misspelled his name – he should be called “Mark Suckerberg”. I have a plan to destroy Facebook by providing open source social networking that preserves privacy, just like the first social networking service that I created, called FINGER.
Having now reached the age of 86, I have decided to start blowing my horn. I also continue to oppose the use of patents. The two most important inventions of the last 70 years, namely interactive computing and computer networking, were both initiated at MIT, then blossomed in many places through open source development. However, journalists have written many fake histories that don’t mention that.
As discussed below under Computer Networks, there have been four major developments in that field so far and I contributed to each of them, evidently the only person in the world who did that.
In summary, I believe that my innovations have generally helped make the world a better place. I haven’t done the accounting but suspect that my innovations have earned more money than those of anyone else alive, though almost none of that money ended up in my pocket. Happily, through some lucky investments, I got into the top 1% of people with assets about 40 years ago, which enabled me to retire in 1988 and will enable me to live well until my death, planned for 2043.
Happily, I am starting to get recognition. Early In 2017 the Sigma Chi fraternity made me a “Significant Sig” provided that I give them a Two Minute Acceptance in which I brag a bit.
Racial Classification is Pure Nonsense. When I was a kid there were supposedly two races: White and Colored, with the latter including native people from Africa, Americas, Asia, or Australia. It has now been made more complex, with one category being African-American. Given that everyone alive today is a direct descendant of the ancient black African tribe called Sapiens and that we each got over 95% of our genes from members of that tribe, “African-American” includes all Americans, though many like to pretend that only people with dark skin are in that category. Given that I tan easily, that categorization causes me to change races twice in most years and I have done that over 150 times so far. When asked for my race, I always say “Mongrel.” That seems to be a good term for everyone alive. For more on racist nonsense, see How modern fake racial classification systems came out of the old fake continent of Europe
Lester Earnest (1930-2043) believes that evaluations of the importance of inventions should be based on how much they improve the quality of life, not their financial returns. On that basis, his inventions show up well. However modern corrupt corporations such as Comcast, AT&T, and Time Warner pretend that they invented the Internet and are manipulating governmental authorities to give themselves local monopolies and to end network neutrality so that they can raise service fees on everyone. If they succeed, American networking services, which are already low-grade compared with many other countries, will continue to go downhill.
My innovations that worked to some extent or a lot: here is a partial list by starting year:
Š 1942 Private cryptographic system,
Š 1959 Interactive drawing and writing on a computer display,
Š 1960 Cursive handwriting recognizer,
Š 1961 Spelling checker,
Š 1961 Search engine (ROUT),
Š 1962 High quality TV for the U.S. President and the later Moon Landing,
Š 1965 Created the Stanford Artificial Intelligence Laboratory (SAIL), including the first Do-it-yourself office,
Š 1966 Personal online calendar (LESCAL),
Š 1966 Hand-eye-ear robot, which manipulated children’s blocks in response to verbal instructions,
Š 1966 Initiated a self-driving vehicle (Stanford Cart),
Š 1967 Initiated digital photography,
Š 1971 Document compiler with spreadsheets (PUB),
Š 1971 Desktop graphical display terminals with television service,
Š 1972 Social networking and blogging service (FINGER) was initially just for SAIL but became a network service in 1975,
Š 1973 Online restaurant reviews (California YumYum),
Š 1974 Network news service (NS), using Associated Press and New York Times Newswires,
Š 1974 Computer controlled vending machine (Prancing Pony), which had a gambling option and automatically billed via email,
Š 1979 Desktop publishing using laser printers, which I subsequently developed by founding Imagen Corp.
Š 1979 Rewrote all American bicycle racing rules to make them less ambiguous and to standardize penalties, then got them adopted effective 1980.01.01.
Š 1984 Initiated a rule prohibiting blood doping in American bicycle racing, which then spread around the world in many sports and eventually nailed Lance Armstrong and his fellow crooks,
Š 1984 Developed a scheme for cryptographically distributing software, which unfortunately was patented to make some vulture capitalists happy,
Š 1985 Initiated a rule requiring strong helmets to be worn in American bicycle racing, which then spread around the world, then was adopted by recreational riders and has since saved thousands of lives.
Retired in 1988 because of chronic fatigue and depression, the cause of which had been misdiagnosed by my doctor. That caused 14 years of reduced productivity until I got it fixed in 1998. I am continuing to innovate now though it will take time for some of this work to bear fruit.
My Innovations That Have Not Yet Borne Fruit
Š 1950 Planned a new electronic musical instrument called a Choremin that would be played by waving your hands near two antennas, like the Theremin, but able to play either chords or single notes.
Š 1963 Began advocating that the racial classification systems used by public media and various governmental agencies be dropped because they are all based on scientific nonsense.
Š 1965 Began advocating that the U.S. Interior Department augment roadside signs indicating points of interest and providing historical information with low powered radio systems providing this information, so that motorists could get it without necessarily pulling off the highway,
Š 1983 Began pointing out that the SAGE air defense system had been an enormous fraud on American taxpayers and that other similar ongoing Military-Industrial-Congressional frauds are continuing today,
Š 1994 Pointed out that the corrupt U.S. Olympic Committee and its “nonprofit” component organizations in various sports are being manipulated to maximize the profits of commercial interests engaged in sports because of mishandling of Federal Laws by the U.S. Congress,
Š 2003 Began arguing that software patents are a bad idea even though venture capitalists, lawyers and patent trolls love them,
Š 2015 Advocate removing most Stop signs and replacing some of them with Yield signs. Also modify traffic signals to promote yielding instead of unnecessary stopping which will save time and fuel,
Š 2016 Advocate using a much simpler calendar than the Gregorian and a unified time system,
Š 2016 Propose forming a new democratic and peaceful nation called Pacifica, composed of California, Hawaii, Nevada, Oregon, and Washington.
Š 2017 Advocate forgetting Christmas, which has several things wrong with it, including being illegal.
Computer networks are a result of four main developments so far, with more to come. By chance I contributed to all four and am evidently the only person in the world who did that.
1950s: Creation of the SAGE air defense system, the first interactive computer system and the first computer network. Initiated by the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) with funding from the US Air Defense Command. This technological marvel introduced the use of modems for packetized digital communications as well as packet radio systems for control of manned interceptors and missiles. I designed the weapons guidance and control functions.
1960s: ARPAnet, the first general purpose network, was also initiated by people from MIT inspired by J.C.R. Licklider and led by Lawrence G. Roberts. I served on the startup committee, influenced the design features and choice of contractor, and my Stanford lab (SAIL) became an early participant.
1970s: Internet Protocols developed at Stanford University by a group headed by Vint Cerf, which enabled networks of different types to be interconnected in the 1980s. I helped set up that project, which ran under a DARPA contract that I administered.
1990s: The World Wide Web, developed by Tim Berners-Lee at CERN in Switzerland, provided a standardized interactive user interface, enabling cooperative research, commercial development, and improved search engines. The HTML language used many features of our earlier PUB language but with a better syntax. Further developments are now housed at MIT.
Cyclops USA (1979- ) is an irregular journal of bicycle racing, proposed reforms and helmet standards. It was initially published in pamphlet form and switched to the web in the new millennium.
I started cycling in 1933 but didn’t get involved in racing until 1972 when my sons dragged me into it.
1970s I was successful in improving many racing rules and in 1979 I completely rewrote the American rules, adding penalty standardization, and got them adopted.
1980s I wrote the first medical control rules for cycling in 1984 and got them adopted. After investigating the unethical but legal use of blood doping by the American cycling team in the 1984 Olympics, I introduced a rule prohibiting that practice, which then spread around the world in many sports and eventually helped nail Lance Armstrong and his fellow crooks.
After a lengthy battle, I also got a rule adopted in 1986 requiring that strong helmets be worn. It too spread around the world and has since saved thousands of lives.
1990s I initiated the creation of a new national bike racing association called USA Cycling. However corrupt commercial interests bribed their way into control of the legislative process and succeeded in giving a majority of the seats on the Board of Directors to commercial interests who made up less than 1% of the participants in the sport. Unfortunately, despite repeated attempts at reform, the crooks still control this sport as well as most of the US Olympic Committee and its other subordinate athletic organizations.
John McCarthy (1927-2011) was a world-class innovator who introduced the term “artificial intelligence” (AI) and did a lot of pioneering work in that field. He was raised as a Communist and later learned to speak Russian, then made friends with a number of Russian scientists.
1948 Graduated from the California Institute of Technology (Caltech) in mathematics, then spent another year in graduate studies.
1950-53 went to Princeton University and received a PhD in 1951, then taught there.
1953-55 Assistant Professor of Mathematics at Stanford.
1955-58 Assistant Professor of Mathematics at Dartmouth College and co-editor of a book with Claude Shannon titled Automata Studies (1956). Also introduced the term “artificial intelligence” at a summer conference there.
1958-62 Assistant Professor of Communications at MIT and with Marvin Minsky cofounded the AI Project there. Created the list programming language called LISP, which has been widely used in AI work, and oversaw creation of one of the earliest chess-playing programs. He also wrote a paper on how to do general purpose timesharing that inspired several groups in the MIT community to develop such systems. That technology soon dominated the world of computing and enabled computer networking.
1962-1965 Returned to Stanford as a Professor of Mathematics and started a new AI Project funded by ARPA (Advanced Research Projects Agency), a part of the U.S. Defense Department. When a Computer Science Department was formed in early 1965, McCarthy joined it, as did Edward Feigenbaum. They then put together a proposal to ARPA for an expanded AI research facility that was funded.
1965-2000 Earnest joined McCarthy and Feigenbaum in late 1965 and set up the new SAIL facility (see below). In 1980, after SAIL moved back to the main campus, McCarthy shut it down. In 2000 he retired, then passed away in 2011. Meanwhile Sebastian Thrun revived SAIL in 2003 and it has continued.
Planet Earth. Life first appeared here about 3.8 billion years ago and has evolved a lot while surviving five mass extinctions caused by environmental disasters, the most recent being the result of a large asteroid striking the north end of the Yucatan Peninsula about 66 million years ago, which wiped out all life above ground including the large dinosaurs. Mammals then took over and eventually hominids (proto-humans) appeared about 6 mya and evolved as hunter-gatherers for millions of years. Adaptations to that lifestyle put a lot of genetic attitudes in their minds that have been passed down to us but many of those attitudes do not work well in the modern world of rapidly advancing technology. Consequently, mankind is now causing the sixth mass extinction of life, which will turn the planet over to a new species unless we can find a way to change our ways quickly.
SAIL, the Stanford Artificial Intelligence Laboratory came out of the Artificial Intelligence Project initiated in 1963 by Prof. John McCarthy with funding from the Defense Department's Advanced Research Projects Agency (ARPA).
Funding was substantially increased in 1965 and Lester Earnest joined as Executive Officer. He designed a new computer research facility to fit in an incomplete building in the foothills above the Stanford Campus, got it built, named it SAIL, and managed it for many years. It ran with a population of 100+ doing graduate research on various projects in AI as well as computer music and sound synthesis.
SAIL was also a hotbed of innovation that directly or indirectly produced dozens of commercial spinoffs. The founders of both Microsoft (Bill Gates & Paul Allen) and Apple Computers (Steve Jobs & Steve Wozniak) were introduced to interactive computing by people from SAIL and many other successful companies were founded directly or indirectly by people from SAIL including Amazon, Sun Microsystems (now part of Oracle), Cisco Systems, D.E. Shaw & Associates, Google, and Rambus.
SAIL people spun off many successful academic research groups. For example, after Raj Reddy earned his PhD doing pioneering research in speech understanding in 1964-66, then joined the Stanford faculty for a while, he went to Carnegie Mellon University (CMU) and started a Robotics Institute there. A bit later Hans Moravec completed his PhD using the Stanford Cart, a self-driving vehicle, then joined that Institute. In between those events, Rodney Brooks earned his PhD at SAIL in 1981 then went to MIT and in 1997 formed the Computer Science and Artificial Intelligence Laboratory (CSAIL), an indication that he liked the name SAIL. He also founded IRobot, maker of the Roomba vacuum cleaner, and another robotics company.
In the late 1970s SAIL undertook a planetary research project in collaboration with astronomer Carl Sagan, who came by every few weeks to view photos of Mars taken by satellite and looking for visible changes. I found it interest that he always chose to have someone else manage the keyboard on our display system but when he later put together the very popular PBS television series called Cosmos: A Personal Voyage he managed the keyboard himself.
SAIL staff member Whit Diffie initiated the development of Public Key Cryptography and developed it in collaboration with Prof. Martin Hellman, for which they were given ACM Turing Awards, and a practical version of that scheme was developed by RSA Corp., which was initiated by Ron Rivest, who earned his PhD at SAIL.
SAIL was shut down in 1980 after a move to the newly reconstructed Margaret Jacks Hall in the Outer Quad of the Stanford campus, then after the Computer Science Department moved to the larger William Gates Hall, SAIL was revived in 2004 by Sebastian Thrun, who went on to create Stanley, the first successful self-driving vehicle, then took that technology to Google, where it has recently been moved into a new company called Waymo. SAIL is still in operation today.
A SAIL document and program archive beginning in 1972 is available online, courtesy of Bruce Baumgart, at SAILDART.
Silly Con Valley (1972-2018) is the promotional name given to the southern part of San Francisco Bay in 1971 and became a great marketing success as the name “Silicon” was added to other places around the world. This place had earlier developed an innovative culture but it needs a better name. Soon see Renaming Silly Con Valley.
When I came to Stanford at the end of 1965 and bought a house in the Town of Los Altos Hills it was a quiet and friendly rural community dominated by apricot orchards, with a few horse ranches and cattle fields. There were few fences or gates so people could walk or ride cross-country in almost any direction. Some people now pretend that it was called the “Valley of Heart’s Delight,” which was a myth. Now, after real estate values have shot skyward, my home value is well over 700 times what I paid for it and the construction of many mansions has caused this place to become very snooty.
Stanford Spinners. During 1963-89, five related research groups at Stanford trained hundreds of computer scientists, engineers, musicians and others who have settled around the world but have especially influenced the development of Silly Con Valley. We call them spinners because they produced a lot of spinoff organizations, products and services:
Š SAIL (Stanford Artificial Intelligence Laboratory),
Š HPP (Heuristic Programming Project),
Š CCRMA (Center for Computer Research in Music and Acoustics),
Š NPDP (Network Protocol Development Project),
Š TeX+MF (TeX/METAFONT Project)
Most started as parts of SAIL, then blossomed separately.