Robert L. Blum, MD, PhD




AI: Future of Humanity

Sphere of Interest

WebBrain: AI
neurosci psych

Stanford Brain Lecture Notes

The RX Project:
Robotic Discovery

CV Biblio (1985)


Index of Essays

Psychology &
Neuroscience brain-icon

Computer Science,
Robotics, and AI

Health & Biotech

Earth Wisdom: Universe

Be Saved by Bob!!!
(And Other Balms )

Optimal Nutrition:
Are Fats Killers
or Saviors?


Consciousness Video:
Who, What, When?

Stan Dehaene's
Consciousness & Brain

Near Death Experiences: In the Desert With Pim Van Lommel

Fine-Tuned for Life?

Neuron Videos Say
Forget Realistic AI

EUV 2014 - Future of Moore's Law

BAM: Brain Activity Map of Spikes

Beating Jeopardy!
What is Watson?
AI Overlord or Tool?

SETI: Search for Extraterrestrial Intelligence

KEPLER Seeks Earth-like Worlds

STEVE PINKER in the Amazon: photos

Billion Year Plan:
AI Formulation

AI Awakens

CONSCIOUSNESS as Global Resonance

SEAN's Accident

Coronary Artery
CT Scan: Yes!

Book Review: TRANSCEND

Book Review:
Create a Mind

Does Drug X


Total Recall:
Everything, Always

Ralph Triumphs:
Elbot Cheers

Scientists &
Evangelicals Unite

Thomas Berry,
Geologian: Obituary

Calorie Restriction
Works in Monkeys!

TheBrain &
WebBrain: Review


Aly and Sean win the UCSC Hackathon 2016
My kids, Aly and Sean, together as programming team Reveal, winning the People's Choice Award
at the UC Santa Cruz Hackathon in 2016. Call me a proud dad! Reveal is a Google browser extension.
As you shop (eg on Amazon), it reveals to you, product-by-product, the labor practices of the manufacturer.
Got Asian kids working in sweatshops? Team Reveal's gonna bust you!

With Ray Kurzweil at the SETI Institute. The plaque displays the Drake equation,
estimating the number of intelligent civilizations in the Milky Way. The day-glo shirt
is just one of my bike shirts, not a Starship Enterprise uniform.
Ray was a classmate of mine at the 'Tute (MIT).



And here is Frank Drake of Drake equation fame with Ray at SETI. Note that Cro Magnons
died at age 18, Renaissance humans in their thirties, and modern folk at age 78.
Jill Tarter (whom Jodie Foster portrayed in Contact) was seated next to me.
Ray was discussing the Fermi Paradox. "If there are so many ET's, where are they?"
Jill's answer to Ray spun heads. "Perhaps their technology is hidden
in the dark matter of the Universe!"

Introducing Mike Gazzaniga at Keplers Bookstore

In January 2012 Professor Mike Gazzaniga gave a presentation at Kepler's in Menlo Park,
which I introduced. His new book is called Who's in Charge? Free Will and
the Science of the Brain
. Our sense of free will is made possible because
1) the brain is incredibly complex and probabilistic and 2) like an iceberg,
most of its operation is hidden from view. Professor Gazzaniga is editor-in-chief
of the magnificent volume The Cognitive Neurosciences. In addition to being an essential
reference (1312 pages), at seven pounds, it's also useful for weight training!
In this wonderful clip Prof. Gazzaniga explains left vs right-brain to Alan Alda (of MASH fame).
Prof. G. did the original research.


Steve Pinker and Bob

      With Steve Pinker on CFI's 2008 trip to the Amazon.  A professor in Harvard's
Psych Dept., Steve is a "rockstar" cognitive psychologist and linguistics expert,
whose books regularly top the New York Times best sellers lists. Here is Steve
explaining free will and, here, in a deeply pensive mood.

Robert Burton at Keplers

June, 2013: introducing neurologist/author Robert Burton. Bob's new book is a
Skeptic's Guide to the Mind. He sounds a cautionary note concerning the hype surrounding
popular neuroscience. His writing caught my attention with his brilliant and courageous essay for Salon

BRAIN SCAM, which focused on Daniel Amen's extensive (and lucrative) clinical use of SPECT scans.
Bob with iguanas
2015 at the Iguanario Archundia in Manzanillo, Mexico. The Iguanario is an iguana refuge
operated solely on donations by ecology-minded Ramon and Olivia Medina. A must-see, if you're in Manzanillo.

With Team Rootberry

With Team Rootberry in Feb 2012 on the Crown Princess while cruising the Caribbean.
Jonathan Root and Bill Berry are world champion jugglers. See them in action in this
Team Rootberry demo. The guys'll do 7 balls during a performance. "We only do
what we can nail on no sleep and with the ship rocking." But they can hit 10,
maybe 11 balls in private. BTW when I do my 3 ball cascade every nite at sunset,
my neocortex (beginner land) is hard at work - occipital, parietal, and frontal lobes
playing ping-pong; when Rootberry juggles 7 balls, it's automatic (like sleep-walking).
11 balls for them is like 3 for me. The neocortex mainly lights up big time
when you're struggling or learning something new.


Bob watches Bill

That's a real dagger with a foot long blade. Bill is one of only a few score
sword swallowers on the planet.

Bob pulling a sword out from Bill

This was more anxiety-provoking for me than it was for Bill.

Flaming chainsaw

Being set afire while juggling a chainsaw is just part of the daily routine for
Bill (Root) Berry. Here are other stunning pix of Bill: hanging out by his skin,
on vacation, and in a quiet, contemplative mood,

During a week long back-packing trip to the Sierras.



       With Natasha Vita-More at Convergence 2008.  Natasha is the former President
of the Extropy Institute, and an advocate of transhumanism with her husband,
philosopher Max More. (That open chest look (on me not on Natasha) reflects
my large collection of bike shirts.  I almost always travel by bike: 3,000 miles a year.)



Pim Dave Bob

With Pim Van Lommel and Dave Chalmers at the 2010 Consciousness Conf. in Tucson, AZ.

Pim is a renowned cardiologist whose research on Near Death Experiences makes
worldwide headlines. Dave, a prof. of philosophy at the Australian National Univ., is famous
for defining the "easy vs the hard" problem of consciousness. The "easy" problem is "simply"
discovering the neural correlates of consciousness. The hard problem is understanding
precisely how and why brain stuff gives rise to a subjective universe in each of us.

Stanley Realizes He's a Brain in a Vat

An illustration from the always delightful collection at (Thanks, Snaggy!)
An audience member at one of my lectures pointed out, "And, she's reading
Scientific American!" Yeah, she's got it all. (Each of us is a brain in a vat
floating inside a skull connected to a bunch of peripherals (eyes, ears, body)
by high speed cable.)

With Cynthia Breazeal and Thad Starner at the Singularity Summit in 2008.


Cynthia is a  professor at the MIT Media Lab where she directs the Personal Robotics Group.
The highly expressive robot Kismet is one of her famous mind-children.

2014 Update: Cynthia's not sitting still. See her newest robot JIBO in this video.


Thad is a professor and director of Georgia Tech’s Contextual Computing Group.

He is best known as one of the original Cyborgs.  As co-founder of  MIT’s Wearable

Computing Group, he has used wearable computers daily for fifteen years.  Here you see

a heads-up display mounted on his left lens and a twiddler keyboard below.

Robo Like Human

"Robo Like Human" - April 2012 at Stanford's Robot Block Party - PR2 with friend. The PR2 was Willow Garage's flagship robot. (In 2014 Willow Garage partly disappeared and partly morphed.)

R2D2 and small terran 2015

R2D2, fascinated by small Terran (and vice versa) at 2015 Robot Block Party.

Anybot and child 2015

Anybot (telepresence bot 2015) looks a bit anxious here. Don't leave me with the little humanoid!

Knightscope robot
I discussed the form factor of the Knightscope surveillance bot with CEO Bill Li in 2015.
His team worked hard to get it right: not a Terminator but not a cuddly teddy bear either.
I'd like it better if it wielded a giant laser cannon that could hack out
giant smoking holes in the ground
right next to the perp (unless it's me!)

Decapitation Adolescent
In the year 2045 (The Singularity) decapitation by robot was contravened ...
but still permitted in the case of miscreant adolescents.

Tom Low Driving Omega 7

Tom Low is Director of Telerobotics at SRI. He is remotely operating two grippers using
Omega7 force feedback devices. These will be used for bomb inspection/ defusion.
Tom's group did the teleoperation research leading to Intuitive Surgical's widely used
da Vinci Robots (video). If you're my age, chances are fair that you or a friend will have
an organ removed by a da Vinci robot, as in this video. Getting to chat with experts
like Tom is a reason to attend Stanford's annual Robot Block Party every April.
Stanford Prof. Ken Salisbury's classes in robotic haptics use student-priced Novint Falcons.


Scott Hassan riding in on a Beam remote

 Scott Hassan, CEO of Suitable Technologies, rides in on a Beam Remote at Robo Madness 2014.
(Photo credit: Toru Hatanaka, The Asahi Shimbun)


Bill Softky DMV

As we all know from Men in Black, highly advanced aliens, seeking to infiltrate Earth unnoticed, would naturally choose the DMV
in order to blend in. But no, this is just my highly advanced friend Bill Softky, neuroscience theorist, with his new license plate.
Bill just presented a fascinating new paper on Elastic Nanocomputation in an Ideal Brain at a neurophysics seminar that I hosted recently.

Bill's thesis that mechanical dynamics are involved in brain function is clearly seen in this video of dancing dendritic spines.
And here is a recent review on The Mechanobiology of Brain Function, to quell doubters. The brain is loaded with actin
and other movement generating molecules.



            One of the great joys of my life is ballroom dancing.  As one of my good friends puts it,
it’s “no-fault flirting + cardio.”  Candy is one of my lovely dance partners.)



            The dance gang on a recent ride to Tiburon.



Dance Gang in Formal Attire

At Peers (vintage dancing), in formal attire. You rrrroook maahvelous, my dahlings!    



Paul Davies and Bob

Prof. Paul Davies, renowned physicist and cosmologist, on a recent book tour promoting
The Eerie Silence: Renewing Our Search for Extraterrestrial Intelligence.
The Eerie Silence refers to the Fermi Paradox. Paul's speculations about possible
origins of our Universe also figured prominently in my essay on the Fine-Tuned Universe.
I introduced the event by making an impassioned plea to the audience to support independent
bookstores and Earth Day. Longevity of civilizations (ours and theirs) is the key to finding ET.



With Michael Merzenich at the Bay Area Future Salon. Mike is a Professor Emeritus
of neuroscience at UCSF, my alma mater. His presentations on neural plasticity
are frequently televised nationally on pledge drives for PBS. His message: use it or lose it!
You CAN teach an old dog new tricks!  



     Masked Woman

Dancing with a mystery woman at Halloween.

Marina and Bob

At Last Revealed: Marina, Principal Ballerina with The Bolshoi (at least in our imagination).

Harem Girls

Ah, the joys of ballroom dancing (interpersonal communication nonexistent
in other social contexts, says Scientific American. Vavava voom!)
I deny being the Hugh Hefner of the cog sci world! ... I'm more a wannabe Fred Astaire.


Pantea and Bob

With my salsa teacher, Pantea. See her lovely dancing at Alberto's, Mountain View, Calif.


Aly in Bali 2010

Number one daughter, Aly, in Bali in 2010.


Sean Bouldering in Tuolumne

Number one son, Sean, bouldering in Tuolumne Meadows.

Sean during solar eclipse of 2012

Sean, during the May 20, 2012 solar eclipse, which is imaged to his left.
The photo link here proves that eclipses attract alien female robots.

Sean on the Ediza-Iceberg Loop outside Mammoth in 2007

 Sean on the Ediza-Iceberg Lakes trail in 2007 - Clyde Minaret in the background.



Up the hill from Minaret Lake, before the 4th class section leading to Iceberg Lake, 2007.


Sean at Merced Lake in 2006

Above Merced Lake in 2006.



Top-roping in Tuolumne Meadows in 2007.


Hannah and Sean at the Alpine Rose

Hannah owns the Alpenrose Inn at South Lake Tahoe. Sean and I stay there when we ski at Heavenly.


Sean and pals

A newly minted molecular biologist with his fellow grads

Sean and his roommates

Answers the question, "what's better for your academics than one Asian roommate?"
(Three is even better than two.)


Bob in the Garden

Ten years ago


Bob with Beard

After my two week Sierra backpacking trip in 2009. Personally, I like the rugged look.
Most of my dance partners voted "no," so I got rid of it (until hiking season in 2010).


Jenn in Zion in 2010

With Jenn on the Angels Landing Trail in Zion National Park in 2010


Bob and Linda at XMAS 2010

Christmas 2010
Dancing with Linda 2015
In 2015 with Linda, escaping El Niño (if not El Chapo) in Mexico

Dickens Fair 2015 Steampunk

The Victorian era reigns supreme at the Dickens Fair in 2015.
In this gravure, Linda and I are captured with some radical, steampunk suffragettes.
While a priori preposterous, the notion of women's "right to vote," appears to be gathering adherents.

Linda and I with the Pirate King at the 2016 Lamplighter's Pirates of Penzance Sing-Along

Three Tenors
The Three Tenors: XMAS 2014 with Samy and Rich. Santa Samy is our Salsa Rueda teacher
when he's not doing design-for-test for Apple, making sure your iPhones work. Routing electrons is similar to leading the ladies.

Kasia and Bob Zion 2011

With Kasia in Zion National Park in 2011.
Kasia is another of my superb dance partners and an avid hiker.

Bob on Zion 2011

On Angels Landing in 2011

Kasia Along the Trail in 2011

Kasia on the Observation Point Trail, 2011

Kasia at the Observation Point Lookout

Kasia at the Observation Point Lookout

Zion Landscape

Zion Canyon carved by the Virgin River below
Bob in Bryce Canyon 2011

In Bryce Canyon, 2011

August 2012 with beard August 2012 No Beard

August 23, 2012 BEFORE vs AFTER a shave and a haircut - following
my annual backpacking trips in the Sierras. I like the "messyanic" look;
my dance partners prefer the clean-shaven look. They win (except in August.)

Suited up for wedding
June, 2013: I was admonished NOT to wear my biking clothes to my daughter's wedding!

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population, control, biosphere, robert, blum, merzenich, kurzeil, neuron, plasticity, cortex