Life/Art/Science/Technology (LAST) Festival
The Art
Life/Art/Science/Technology (LAST) Festival
The Art

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The L.A.S.T. Festival

Science of the LAST Festival

The Life Art Science and Technology (L.A.S.T.) festival includes a symposium, called Homo Digitalis, on the science and technology that will change the world in the near future. We invite a visionary speaker for each one. We combine talks (originally we wanted to call them "Q&A"), panels and Q/A with the audience. The "L" in "LAST" stands for how digital media are changing our lives, minds and communities. Here is a list of science talks:

Drew Endy

"Genome Editing"

Drew Endy is a member of the faculty for Stanford Bioengineering and president of the BioBricks Foundation. He helped start the newest engineering major, bioengineering, at both MIT and Stanford. Drew's students pioneered the redesign of genomes and invented the transcriptor, a simple DNA element that allows living cells to implement Boolean logic. In 2013, President Obama recognized Drew for his work with The BioBricks Foundation to bootstrap a free-to-use language for programming life. He has been working with artists, social scientists, and others to transcend the industrialization of nature, most recently co-authoring Synthetic Aesthetics (MIT Press, 2014). He is a voting member of the National Science Advisory Board for Biosecurity and the Committee on Science, Technology, & Law. Drew is also a co-founder of Gen9, Inc., a DNA construction company, and the iGEM competition, a genetic engineering `olympics' now engaging ~4,000 students annually. Esquire magazine named Drew one of the 75 most influential people of the 21st century. He lives in Menlo Park, CA with his wife and Stanford colleague Prof. Christina Smolke

Bruno Olshausen


Bruno Olshausen directs the Redwood Center for Theoretical Neuroscience, a multidisciplinary group focusing on building mathematical and computational models of brain function. He received B.S. and M.S. degrees in Electrical Engineering from Stanford University, and a Ph.D. in Computation and Neural Systems from the California Institute of Technology. He did his postdoctoral work in the Department of Psychology at Cornell University, and at the Center for Biological and Computational Learning at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. He joined the faculty at the University of California at Davis in 1996, and in 2005 joined UC Berkeley, where he is currently Professor of Neuroscience and Optometry.

Jennifer Dionne


Jennifer Dionne, assistant professor in the department of Materials Science and Engineering, investigates metamaterials - engineered materials with optical and electrical properties not found in nature - for applications ranging from high-efficiency solar energy conversion to bioimaging. Jen received her Ph. D. in Applied Physics in 2009 at the California Institute of Technology and B.S. degrees in Physics and Systems & Electrical Engineering from Washington University in 2003. Prior to joining Stanford, she served as a postdoctoral research fellow in Chemistry at the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory. Her work has been recognized with a NSF CAREER Award, AFOSR Young Investigator Award, Hellman Faculty Scholar Award, and MRS Gold Award. In 2011, she was named one of Technology Review's TR35 - 35 international innovators under 35 tackling important problems in transformative ways.

Peter Norvig

"Artificial Intelligence"

Peter Norvig is a Director of Research at Google Inc. Previously he was head of Google's core search algorithms group, and of NASA Ames's Computational Sciences Division, making him NASA's senior computer scientist. He received the NASA Exceptional Achievement Award in 2001. He has taught at the University of Southern California and the University of California at Berkeley, from which he received a Ph.D. in 1986 and the distinguished alumni award in 2006. He was co-teacher of an Artifical Intelligence class that signed up 160,000 students, helping to kick off the current round of massive open online classes. He has over fifty publications in Computer Science, concentrating on Artificial Intelligence, Natural Language Processing and Software Engineering, including the books Artificial Intelligence: A Modern Approach (the leading textbook in the field), Paradigms of AI Programming: Case Studies in Common Lisp, Verbmobil: A Translation System for Face-to-Face Dialog, and Intelligent Help Systems for UNIX. He is also the author of the Gettysburg Powerpoint Presentation and the world's longest palindromic sentence. He is a AAAI Fellow, ACM Fellow, and American Academy of Arts & Sciences Member.

Chris McKay

"Space Exploration"

Chris McKay is a Planetary Scientist with the Space Science Division of NASA Ames. His current research focuses on the evolution of the solar system and the origin of life. He is also actively involved in planning for future Mars missions including human exploration. Chris been involved in research in Mars-like environments on Earth, traveling to the Antarctic dry valleys, Siberia, the Canadian Arctic, and the Atacama desert to study life in these Mars-like environments. His was a co-I on the Titan Huygen's probe in 2005, the Mars Phoenix lander mission in 2008, and the Mars Science Lander mission for 2011. He is the deputy program scientist for Constellation - the NASA program for future human exploration of the Moon and Mars.

Daniel Kaufman

"DARPA's Advanced Projects"

Daniel Kaufman is the Director of the Information Innovation Office. In this position he is responsible for identifying and creating promising new information technologies and developing DARPA programs to exploit these advances for the benefit of the DoD. Mr. Kaufman staffs the Office and works with I2O program managers to develop concepts and plans for new programs and to transition I2O research and development products to end users. Before being named Director of I2O, Mr. Dan Kaufman served as the DARPA Defense Science Office (DSO) Program Manager for the RealWorld Program, a computer system designed to allow soldiers to rapidly create their own mission rehearsal scenarios in geo-specific terrain over a scalable and fully distributed network. Before joining DARPA/DSO, Mr. Kaufman worked for Auratio Consulting, where he handled a wide variety of deals with a number of investment bankers, venture capitalists and private companies. Prior to his consulting efforts, Mr. Kaufman worked for Kalisto Entertainment on general business operations and producing/designing the products Dark Earth, Nightmare Creatures and Ultim@te Race. Before Kalisto, Mr. Kaufman was Co-Chief Operaing Officer at Dreamworks Interactive, a joint venture between Microsoft and Dreamworks SKG. Earlier in his career Mr. Kaufman was an attorney with Brobeck, Phleger & Harrison (Palo Alto, CA), conducting transactions in the high technology industry ranging from semiconductor chips to biotechnology to software companies. Mr. Kaufman co-authored an 800-page textbook entitled: Corporate Partnering: Structuring and Negotiating Domestic and International Strategic Alliances. He has lectured at Harvard, MIT, Stanford, and U.C. Berkeley.

Alvy Ray Smith

"Computer Graphics"

Alvy Ray Smith is the cofounder of Pixar and a pioneer of computer graphics. He was present at Xerox PARC for the invention of the personal computer, then at the New York Institute of Technology where the vision of the first digital movie was conceived, then Lucasfilm, where he was its first director of computer graphics. HIs second startup company was sold to Microsoft, where he was the first Graphics Fellow. He has received two technical Academy Awards, and holds four patents. He created and directed the Genesis Demo in Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan. The made a short piece with artist Ed Emshwiller, Sunstone, part of MOMA's collection. He hired Pixar's star animator, John Lasseter, and directed him at Lucasfilm in The Adventures of Andre & Wally B. He was responsible at Lucasfilm/Pixar for the Academy-Award winning Disney animation production system CAPS. As a regent of the National Library of Medicine, he helped initiate the Visible Human Project. He helped argue the progressive scan format into the national HDTV standard. He has a PhD from Stanford in computer science and an honorary doctorate from New Mexico State University. He is a member of the National Academy of Engineering. He has published widely in theoretical computer science and computer graphics, and is currently writing a book about the pixel and modern media. Smith is a fellow of the AAAS (American Association for the Advancement of Science)

Mikey Siegel

"What is Consciousness Hacking?"

Mikey Siegel is a robotics engineer turned consciousness hacker. He envisions a present and future where science and technology support psychological, emotional and spiritual flourishing. Where our devices not only connect us to information, but also connect us to ourselves and each other, acting as a catalyst for individual and collective awakening. He is currently teaching at Stanford University, founder of Consciousness Hacking, BioFluent Technologies,, and the Transformative Technology Conference. He received an MS in robotics from the MIT Media Lab.

John Law

"Why we need Monsters"

John Law was a member of the Suicide Club, a primary member and principal organizer of the Cacophony Society, and a co-founder of the Burning Man festival. He co-authored "Tales of the San Francisco Cacophony Society" (2013) and has spoken internationally about the San Francisco counterculture.

Dave Deamer

What is the origin of life?

Dave Deamer is Research Professor of Biomolecular Engineering at the University of California, Santa Cruz. He recently published First Life: Discovering the Connections between Stars, Cells, and How Life Began (University of California Press, 2011). Deamer also co-edited Origins of Life with Jack Szostak, published by Cold Spring Harbor Press, 2010. Deamer's research focuses on molecular self-assembly processes related to the structure and function of biological membranes, and particularly the origin and evolution of membrane structure. In collaborative work with colleagues at NASA Ames, Deamer showed that photochemical reactions simulating those occurring in the interstellar medium give rise to soap-like molecules that can self-assemble into membrane structures. This confirmed earlier studies in which Deamer demonstrated that microscopic vesicles were produced by similar molecules present in carbonaceous meteorites. These results led to a new hypothesis about how primitive forms of cellular life could appear on the early Earth, which will be described in his talk.

Michael Snyder

Managing and Extending Health

Michael Snyder is the Stanford Ascherman Professor and Chair of Genetics and the Director of the Center of Genomics and Personalized Medicine. He is a leader in the field of functional genomics and proteomics, and one of the major participants of the ENCODE project. His laboratory study was the first to perform a large-scale functional genomics project in any organism, and has developed many technologies in genomics and proteomics. These including the development of proteome chips, high resolution tiling arrays for the entire human genome, methods for global mapping of transcription factor binding sites (ChIP-chip now replaced by ChIP-seq), paired end sequencing for mapping of structural variation in eukaryotes, de novo genome sequencing of genomes using high throughput technologies and RNA-Seq. These technologies have been used for characterizing genomes, proteomes and regulatory networks. Seminal findings from the Snyder laboratory include the discovery that much more of the human genome is transcribed and contains regulatory information than was previously appreciated, and a high diversity of transcription factor binding occurs both between and within species. He has also combined different state-of-the-art "omics" technologies to perform the first longitudinal detailed integrative personal omics profile (iPOP) of person and used this to assess disease risk and monitor disease states for personalized medicine. He is a cofounder of several biotechnology companies, including Protometrix (now part of Life Technologies), Affomix (now part of Illumina), Excelix, and Personalis, and he presently serves on the board of a number of companies.

Melissa Merencillo

Virtual and Augmented Reality

Melissa Merencillo is an X-Reality (XR = AR/VR/MR) enthusiast and technophile focusing on social presence, behavioral communication and interaction design in digital reality systems. She received her Bachelor of Arts in Mass Communication from California State University East Bay (2012) and a Master of Arts in Multimedia in Interaction Design also from California State University East Bay (2017). Her work on the collaborative thesis, Project: This Way!, explored the concepts of copresence in VR and was shown at the VR Mixer of the Game Developer's Conference in San Francisco, Maker Faire Bay Area in San Mateo, and at the symposium, If You Weren't: Playing with Realities in ARG, AR, and VR held at Stanford University in Palo Alto. She is a member of various AR/VR MeetUps and attends industry conferences on AR/VR technology throughout the Bay Area. She is currently the Instructional Support Technician II and Video Lab Coordinator of the Department of Communication at California State University East Bay supporting courses in digital video and media production.

Steve Omohundro

Blockchain for a Society Based on the Truth

Steve Omohundro founded Possibility Research and Self-Aware Systems to develop beneficial intelligent technologies. He has degrees in Physics and Mathematics from Stanford and a Ph.D. in Physics from Berkeley. He was a computer science professor at the University of Illinois and cofounded the Center for Complex Systems Research. He published the book "Geometric Perturbation Theory in Physics", designed the A.I. programming languages StarLisp and Sather, wrote the 3D graphics system for Mathematica, invented many machine learning algorithms (including manifold learning, model merging, bumptrees, and family discovery), and built systems that learn to read lips, control robots, and induce grammars. He's done internationally recognized work on AI safety and strategies for its beneficial development. He is on the advisory board of AI startups AIBrain and Cognitalk, and is past chairman of the Silicon Valley ACM Special Interest Group in AI. He is also on the advisory board of blockchain startup Dfinity and the Institute for Blockchain Studies. See for example his Presentation on Deep Learning for Business and TED talk on A.I.

Alison Gopnik

Child Development

Alison Gopnik is a professor of psychology and affiliate professor of philosophy at the University of California at Berkeley. She is an internationally recognized leader in the study of children's learning and is the author of over 100 articles and several books including the bestsellers "The Scientist in the Crib" and "The Philosophical Baby; What children's minds tell us about love, truth and the meaning of life". She has also written for Science, The Times Literary Supplement, The New York Review of Books, The New York Times, New Scientist and Slate. She has three sons and lives in Berkeley, California.

Ken Goldberg

The Uncanny

Ken Goldberg is an artist and professor UC Berkeley. Ken is a pioneer in internet-based robotic telepresence and Cloud-Based Robotics / Automation and has published over 200 peer-reviewed technical papers on algorithms for robotics, automation, and social information filtering; his inventions have been awarded eight US Patents. He is Editor-in-Chief of the IEEE Transactions on Automation Science and Engineering (T-ASE), Co-Founder of the African Robotics Network (AFRON), Co-Founder of the Berkeley Center for New Media (BCNM), Co-Founder and CTO of Hybrid Wisdom Labs, Co-Founder of the Moxie Institute, and Founding Director of UC Berkeley's Art, Technology, and Culture Lecture Series which has hosted over 150 presentations by artists and curators. Ken's artwork has?been exhibited at Ars Electronica, ZKM, Centre Pompidou, ICC Biennale, Kwangju Biennale, Artists Space, The Kitchen, and the Whitney Biennial.

Maya Ackerman

Machines Creativity

Maya Ackerman is a computer engineering professor at Santa Clara University and was previously at San Jose State University. She specializes in Artificial Intelligence, with an emphasis on Computational Creativity and Machine Learning. Her work has been featured on NBC News and New Scientist, and her research appears at top academic venues. She received her PhD from the University of Waterloo and was a Postdoctoral Fellow at Caltech and UC San Diego, followed by two years as an Assistant Professor at Florida State University.

Piero Scaruffi

A Brief History of Artificial Intelligence

Piero Scaruffi is a cultural historian who has lectured in three continents and published several books on Artificial Intelligence and Cognitive Science, the latest one being "Thinking about Thought" (2014). He pioneered Internet applications in the early 1980s and the use of the World-Wide Web for cultural purposes in the mid 1990s. His poetry has been awarded several national prizes in Italy and the USA. His latest book of poems and meditations is "Synthesis" (2009). As a music historian, he has published ten books, the latest ones being "A History of Rock and Dance Music" (2009) and "A History of Jazz Music" (2007). His latest book of history is "A History of Silicon Valley" (2011). The first volume of his free ebook "A Visual History of the Visual Arts" appeared in 2012. His latest book on A.I. is "Intelligence is not Artificial" (2013, expanded edition in 2018). He has also written extensively about cinema and literature. He founded the Leonardo Art Science Evening Rendezvous (LASER) in 2008 and the Life Art Science Tech (LAST) festival in 2014. Since 2015 he has been commuting between California and China, where several of his books have been translated.

Vivienne Ming


Vivienne Ming, named one of 10 Women to Watch in Tech in 2013 by Inc. Magazine, is a theoretical neuroscientist, technologist and entrepreneur. She co-founded Socos, where machine learning and cognitive neuroscience combine to maximize students' life outcomes. Vivienne is also a visiting scholar at UC Berkeley's Redwood Center for Theoretical Neuroscience, where she pursues her research in neuroprosthetics. In her free time, Vivienne has developed a predictive model of diabetes to better manage the glucose levels of her diabetic son and systems to predict manic episodes in bipolar suffers. She sits on the boards of StartOut, The Palm Center, Emozia, and the Bay Area Rainbow Daycamp, and is an advisor to Credit Suisse, Cornerstone Capital, and BayesImpact. Dr. Ming also speaks frequently on issues of LGBT inclusion and gender in technology. Vivienne lives in Berkeley, CA, with her wife (and co-founder) and their two children.

Melanie Swan


Melanie Swan is an Economic Theorist at the New School in New York. She is the founder of several startups including the Institute for Blockchain Studies, DIYgenomics, GroupPurchase, and the MS Futures Group. She is a faculty member at Singularity University and the University of the Commons, an Affiliate Scholar at the Institute for Ethics and Emerging Technologies, and a contributor to the Edge's Annual Essay Question.


When A.I. makes it, is it still "Art"?

As "deep learning" and other A.I. technologies increase the power of machines to perform like humans, where is the border between "us" and "them"? In 2016 an A.I. made art that was sold at an auction. When does creativity end and mechanical procedure begin? Can we build machines capable of finding creative solutions to complex problems?

Technology for Peace

Which technologies of the future can enhance trust and empathy? Social media had the potential to build stronger communities but are often used to generate and spread hate (and fake news). How can we make sure that today's accelerating progress will lead to a more peaceful, collaborative and empathic society?

Silicon Valley and the Bay Area Counterculture

Why did Silicon Valley "happen" here instead of New York or London? What was special about the Bay Area that the rest of the world didn't have? Where does Creativity come from?

Virtual/Augmented Realities and Social Engineering

Buckminster Fuller (of "geodesic dome" fame) envisioned global virtual reality as accelerating human imagination. How can we use the immersive tools of VR and AR to expand our perception of reality and make sense of the world?

Robots and People

Can robot and people coexist and collaborate? How do they influence each other's design?

Art in the Digital Age

How has the practice of artists changed after the advent of the computer, of the Internet and of the smartphone? What is an artist today? What is art today?

Counterculture vs Technology

What was the relationship between the San Francisco counterculture and the high-tech world?

Venues: Email the founding director if you are interested in holding a L.A.S.T. festival at your location (it does require a large space for art pieces plus a 100-seat theater for the science talks).

Artists: email us if you want to be on our mailing list for future