ESP Biography



DAVID "DAVIDAD" DALRYMPLE, 21-yr-old double PhD drop-out; simulator of worms




Major: Media Technology

College/Employer: MIT

Year of Graduation: 2008

Picture of David "davidad" Dalrymple

Brief Biographical Sketch:

(You can find me at http://davidad.org)

Although it's shameless bragging, probably the most interesting thing about me is that at 14 years old, I was the youngest person to ever start a graduate program at MIT. I targeted the Media Lab as an awesome place to work since I was 8, reading a book about future developments written by a professor there. Unfortunately, you can only work there by moving to Boston, and having undergrad degrees is a requirement too. Somehow (I'm not quite sure how), I managed to do all that plus some software consulting without taking too much time, and I got my master's over four years ago. I've done research in programming language theory and computer architecture at MIT and biophysics at Harvard, and I now lead an independent science project in San Francisco, which you can read about at http://nemaload.davidad.org. My interests are anything that's related to math, from math itself to programming to biology to music to physics to engineering to philosophy. It's amazing how much can be seen as math if you're obsessed enough with it.



Past Classes

  (Look at the class archive for more.)


Mind Uploading: Theory and Practice in Splash! 2012
Many works of science fiction imagine a process for transferring a human mind to a computer: copying personality, memories, and identity to an artificial system. While current technology is a long way from this goal, it is catching up faster than one might think. Recent advances in genetic engineering, digital holography, machine vision, and statistical modeling have made it plausible to perform a complete upload of a nematode worm, the organism with the simplest known nervous system. I am currently leading a project in San Francisco to make this happen, and I'm flying in just for Splash to tell you all about how it works and answer your questions about neuroscience!


The Everyday Life of Math: a language for understanding the world in Splash! 2010
Why is it that scientists can build so many awesome things that actually work? It's not just because they're smart - science has developed a language for talking about things that's more precise than the languages we typically use, like English. But that language doesn't just apply to science and engineering! By choosing the right tools and applying a little creativity, we can explain issues in philosophy, psychology, sociology, and even everyday life. Without requiring any prior background knowledge, we'll explain concepts like graphs, maps, spaces, and distributions, and interactively apply them to interesting situations.


The Singularity in Splash! 2010
The concept of a technological singularity, originally proposed by legendary genius John von Neumann in 1958, reached the mainstream this year when it formed a major plot point in an episode of a prime-time CBS sitcom. Many popular news stories have been published about the Singularity concept, and its most prominent proponent, Ray Kurzweil, but most fail to capture the subtleties of the idea. If you're wondering what the Singularity is, or why "otherwise smart people" believe it's going to happen, come to this class and I will attempt to explain. (I will be showing Ray Kurzweil's personal slideshow on the topic as per usual, but in past iterations, the most interesting portion of the class is the question-and-answer session.)


The Future in Spark! 2010
What is the fate of human civilization? This is not a class about prediction, but about plausible speculation. Will we destroy ourselves with thermonuclear war, catastrophic climate change, or unfriendly artificial intelligence? Will we continue to improve with biotechnology, space colonies, or brain uploading? What forces are at work, and how do they interact? We'll give a lecture about some of our ideas, and then lead a lively discussion in a follow up class.


The Future: Discussion in Spark! 2010
See "The Future" (class 3231)


Minds and Machines in Spark! 2010
How does consciousness relate to the physical body? Do we all experience sensations like "red" and "cold" in the same way? How important is language to the way we think? Could a machine be conscious? What prerequisites would such a conscious machine require - a robot body? a quantum CPU? emotions? These are the sorts of questions that are considered by philosophers of mind. In this class, we'll present some of their arguments and have a lively discussion about these kinds of questions and the intersection of philosophy of mind with current neuroscience.


History of Computers (with a focus on Awesome) in Splash! 2009
This semester, I'm studying all sorts of wacky computational models, from 19th century mechanical automata to the BlueGene supercomputer, as part of my Ph.D. general exams. I'd like to share that knowledge with you. I won't limit myself to the mainstream history of the microprocessor, but will attempt to cover the most interesting technologies at each point in history, such as the circa-1953 learning robot with a seven-vacuum-tube "brain," and the "drum memory computer," which stored data as magnetic charge on the surface of a massive rotating drum. I will also include a segment on the history of the Internet, which has its fair share of exciting hacks also.


The Singularity: Is It Near? What Does It Mean? in Splash! 2009
“Radical life extension”, “transhumanism”, “posthumanism”, “techno-utopia”, “technological singularity”… Many terms, each with their own baggage, have emerged in the past decade representing one version or another of a future in which there is no useful distinction between human life and human-created technology (where human minds are no longer exclusively bound to organic bodies). Ray Kurzweil calls it the singularity in his popular book “The Singularity Is Near”. I have acquired Kurzweil’s slideshow, which he presents at conferences around the globe spreading his vision. While I may not agree with him on every point, I think it is a lot less crazy than it sounds, and I would like to present (as much as possible) a fair and balanced treatment of what the singularity means, how it could happen, and what it would mean for you.


Random A Cappella in Splash! 2009
From the same person who brought you Random Musical Adventures last year and the Random Numbers of MIT, it's Random A Cappella! Bring your voices and let's make some music! We'll make use of common chord progressions and rhythmic structures to bring some order to the chaos.


The Singularity: Is it Near? What Does it Mean? in Splash! 2008
"Radical life extension", "transhumanism", "posthumanism", "techno-utopia", "technological singularity"... Many terms, each with their own baggage, have emerged in the past decade representing one version or another of a future in which there is no useful distinction between human life and human-created technology (where human minds are no longer exclusively bound to organic bodies). Ray Kurzweil calls it the singularity in his popular book "The Singularity Is Near". I have acquired Kurzweil's slideshow, which he presents at conferences around the globe spreading his vision. While I may not agree with him on every point, I think it is a lot less crazier than it sounds, and I would like to present (as much as possible) a fair and balanced treatment of what the singularity means, how it could happen, and what it would mean for you.


Random Musical Adventures in Splash! 2008
Bring a musical instrument (your voice will do in a pinch) but don't bring any sheet music! We'll explore simple means for generating interesting music without everything written out in advance. For example, the most basic is to repeatedly play the same melody, bringing in one new instrument each time. More advanced techniques might include following hand signals, playing randomly from a limited set of notes, and modifying the melody in some way on each iteration. Come prepared to follow the rules, but don't expect anything like your typical music lesson.


Ask Me About Math in Splash! 2008
If you have a conceptual math question, there is a 70% chance that I can answer it (assuming that the obscurity/difficulty of such questions follows a Pareto distribution). The odds increase to 98% if you allow me the use of Google and Wikipedia, and to 99.9% if you allow me to randomly make stuff up. Come empirically verify these probabilities by asking me about math! Anything from the Monty Hall problem to calculus to higher-dimensional geometry is fair game. You could even try your luck by sneaking a computer science question or a physics question -- not that different, in many cases, to math...


The Mathematics of Physics-Based Computer Science in Spark! Spring 2008
If you like cellular automata, transistor-level logic design, finite state machines, group theory, the principle of least action, lambda calculus, or control theory, you'll love this. I'm a student at MIT's Center for Bits and Atoms working on next-generation computers by tossing out most of the properties you might attribute to computers, like having a central processor and a tiered memory. I want to involve YOU directly in this research over the coming weeks. I'll illustrate the history of this field, from von Neumann to Banks to Toffoli, touching on all manner of awesome math you may not have seen before, present my own work, and then finally, just have discussions about where to go next. If you have a really good idea and the stars all align, you might even be a coauthor on a published paper.


The Mathematics of Physics-Based Computer Science in HSSP Spring 2008
If you like cellular automata, transistor-level logic design, finite state machines, group theory, the principle of least action, lambda calculus, or control theory, you'll love this. I'm a student at MIT's Center for Bits and Atoms working on next-generation computers by tossing out most of the properties you might attribute to computers, like having a central processor and a tiered memory. I want to involve YOU directly in this research over the coming weeks. I'll illustrate the history of this field, from von Neumann to Banks to Toffoli, touching on all manner of awesome math you may not have seen before, present my own work, and then finally, just have discussions about where to go next. If you have a really good idea and the stars all align, you might even be a coauthor on a published paper. See http://hssp.davidad.net for more info.


Anti-Von Neumann Militia: Recruit Training in SPLASH (2006)
In 1945, John Von Neumann proposed that computers execute one instruction after another from memory to do computation. Today this ...