Posts from 2023

Remembering the Improbable Life of Ed Fredkin (1934–2023) and His World of Ideas and Stories

Programmer of the Universe

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“OK, so let me tell you…” And so it would begin. A long and colorful story. An elaborate description of a wild idea. In the forty years I knew Ed Fredkin I heard countless wild ideas and colorful stories from him. He always radiated a certain adventurous joy—together with supreme, almost-childlike confidence. Ed was someone who wanted to independently figure things out for himself, and delighted in presenting his often somewhat-outlandish conclusions—whether about technology, science, business or the world—with dramatic showman-like panache.

In all the years I knew Ed, I’m not sure he ever really listened to anything I said (though he did use tools I built). He used to like to tell people I’d learned a lot from him. And indeed we had intellectual interests that should have overlapped. But in actuality our ways of thinking about them mostly didn’t connect much at all. But at a personal and social level it was still always a lot of fun being around Ed and being exposed to his unique intense opportunistic energy—with its repeating themes but ever-changing directions. Continue reading