his article was taken from the May 2011 issue of Wired magazine. Be the first to read Wired's articles in print before they're posted online, and get your hands on loads of additional content by subscribing online.
John Kane was on a hell of a winning streak. On July 3, 2009, he walked alone into the high-limit room at the Silverton Casino in Las Vegas and sat down at a video poker machine called the Game King. Six minutes later the purple light on the top of the machine flashed, signaling a $4,300 jackpot.
I'm sitting across from a blind man — call him patient alpha — at a long table in a windowless conference room in New York. On one end of the table there's an old television and a VCR. On the other end are a couple of laptops. They're connected by wires to a pair of home-made signal processors housed in unadorned gunmetal-gray boxes, each no bigger than a loaf of bread.
From the moment I became involved in the creation of new technologies, their ethical dimensions have concerned me, but it was only in the autumn of 1998 that I became anxiously aware of how great are the dangers facing us in the 21st century.
The plane slowed and levelled out about a mile aboveground. Up ahead, the Viennese castle glowed like a fairy tale palace. When the pilot gave the thumbs-up, Gerald Blanchard looked down, checked his parachute straps, and jumped into the darkness.
The Y Combinator offices sit at the dead center of Silicon Valley">Silicon Valley, in Mountain View, on a street called Pioneer Way. Y Combinator shares space with a company called Anybots—which makes robots that can be controlled remotely—and occasionally a droid will motor through the room on a Segway-style base.