Accelerating Future Transhumanism, AI, nanotech, the Singularity, and extinction risk.

21Aug/0695

Transhumanist Discussion Venues

An overview of virtual venues where transhumanists get together to chat about issues ranging from sex to nuclear fusion to Jupiter Brains:

Extropy-chat

Extropy-chat, aka the extropians mailing list, has been around for more than two decades. It's the longest-running and most active transhumanist mailing list on the Internet. Lots of extremely smart people with a strong scientific/technical bent sending dozens of emails per day on multiple running threads, some which last for weeks. You can also find local extropian mailing lists, which are generally low-volume and are primarily used to arrange face-to-face events. The extropians mailing list is moderated by Spike Jones and Eugen Leitl.

WTA-talk

WTA-talk is a mailing list that has been around since January 2003. It's the official discussion forum of the World Transhumanist Association, the only generalist transhumanist outfit with any significant size. List volume fluctuates, but lately is fairly low and managable, i.e., about 5-15 emails a day. The list has many members, hundreds at the least and possibly even over a thousand, but as with most mailing lists, only a couple dozen people are responsible for 90% of the talking. The list is ideal for people scared off by the high volume of the extropians list, or for anyone who wants to keep up to date with happenings at the WTA. The discussion tends to focus on news articles or societal trends tangentially related to transhumanism, but can touch on anything. WTA-talk is moderated by the wry Eugen Leitl as well.

Betterhumans forums

Betterhumans has been around since late 2002, and is probably the most popular transhumanist site on the internet aside from KurzweilAI.net. Traffic likely falls somewhere in the 10,000 unique visitors per day range. BH only recently got some forums going, and they are still in the process of building momentum. Around 10-20 posts per day can be seen, and post quality has markedly improved in the past couple months alone. The site also features numerous blogs and some picture galleries. The forums are moderated by Simon Smith.

Immortality Institute forums

Otherwise known as ImmInst forums, these are based around an organization I helped get started back in 2002, but have since 2004 have been relatively uninvolved in. The name of the game here is life extension in all its forms: and the most popular area is the supplements discussion section. More than 50% of the talk on this site is about splitting hairs on whether you should take 50mg or 100mg of some particular supplement that has no scientific data to back up its effectiveness anyway, but the other 50% can be pretty good. It's a day to day thing. A few members post general news articles and sometimes some decent discussion gets going. At the very least, the majority of forum posters truly are transhumanists. There is a large moderation team with specific moderators for each forum.

SL4 list

SL4 is the ultimate mailing list for hardcore transhumanists. Billed as the mailing list for advanced topics in futurism and technology, SL4 definitely isn't a place for noobs. You will be expected to actually read links that are posted, instead of coming up with a response based on the title. SL4 doesn't have "moderators", it has snipers that can arbitrarily remove your posting privileges for no reason at all. You are expected to be scientifically literate and eliminate all punctuation and spelling errors from your posts. According to the site, "Posting to SL4 requires either a fair amount of intelligence and a fair amount of experience, or else a heck of a lot of intelligence." SL4 was founded and is owned by Eliezer S. Yudkowsky, who as far as I'm concerned is the single smartest person in the transhumanist community.

And that concludes my overview. If you liked it, link it.

Filed under: transhumanism 95 Comments
20Aug/067

Transhumanism can… What!?

Searching for transhumanism on Google (something I haven't done in a while), I stumbled across a gem of a blog post suitably entitled, "Transhumanism Can Eat a Dick!" I shall repost it here, in all its glory...

Timothy Leary has always creeped me out a little. Actually, sometimes it's quite a lot. It's partly his radical advocacy of drugs as the only spiritual pathway (which they are not), and it's also partly his adherence to the idea of transhumanism or posthumanism. The terminology is a bit confusing, but transhumanism seems to teach that the human condition is only a transitional phase before a higher evolution. This higher evolution is the posthuman condition. It generally connects to scientific fantasies of immortality and leaving the planet and the human body behind as an outdated piece of junk.

First of all, I see the quest for immortality as being a kind of ridiculous ego game. It indicates such a strong attachment to the ego and to the individual identity that you want to figure out how to maintain it forever at all costs. Certainly death is scary and mysterious, but to me it seems like the ultimate adventure - because you finally get to overcome (in one way or another) all the petty stuff that’s held you back.

Second: I'm all for space travel. I think it's both inevitable and sci-fi has done nothing if it hasn't made me excited about the wild possibilities of it. But I think it's fucking retarded to call ecology a "dinosaur" and to somehow suggest that it's going to hold us back from unlimited technological or spiritual growth. And it irritates me equally to hold this same view of the body. It's just a new dressed-up version of the old awful asceticism of the Christian belief that the flesh was evil and matter was basically synonymous with filth. That kind of thinking doesn't take you anywhere fun. In fact, it helps make sure you're going to have a bad time in your life. It's like going out to a party with the attitude you're going to have a bad time. It's pretty much a surefire guarantee that you will.

Now to repost a few of the comments:

All of the things transhumanists want to accomplish with their ideas, I find can already be accomplished by the powerful mind as the example of Tibetan monks and their many abilities.

As I read once that using drugs is the easy way out of the search for the alchemical holy grail - I also find that transhumanists are trying to accomplish the same thing, when everything they want is already there with discipline.

Monks can time-travel, control the temperture of their bodies, cause a chi force-field around their bodies, heal themselves--all with mind over matter.

Transhumanists are just lazy.

And another!

The Transhumanist ideology is so repugnant to me I don't even know where to begin.

Let's start with the physics. Any kind of space travel that would take us somewhere we would want to go would require technology so beyond our current understanding of Einsteinian physics that we might as well just call it parapyschological. Why bother going through all the trouble to build expensive and polluting machines to accomplish what can be done with the mind (as N.M. suggests in the above post).

Second, its condescension to environmental and ecological concerns is immoral.

Third, I agree with Tim that there is a deep vein of hatred of the biological body. Ascetism has its uses, but it should not be based on a hatred of the body. Otherwise, it is missing the point.

Fourth, Transhumanism contradicts what we already know about where the “soul” resides. You know, transplant recipients and all.

Fifth, all the other things Tim and N.M. say: insane attachment to ego, spiritual laziness blah blah blah. Others have said it already better than I can tonight.

Finally: it's just a really stupid ideology.

And one more:

you should read the blinkered, ego-centered postings on future hi to get more of a feel for the transhumanist personality.i got criticised for not being optimistic about thier descriptions of the next level of concious evolution and realised they weren`t interested in dialog so much as wanking to the images of thier transmutation into space gods.
one of thier own gurus,terence mckenna warned that when the eschaton arrives it may not include them.and i got slapped for pointing that out too.
timothy leary got too caught up in his own sugar cubes and his ego`s reflection in the media to be able to be of any more use to society after about 1968.by that time he was thunbing his nose at some pretty humourless types.
it is spiritually lazy to do mushrooms or dmt,but it is effective.and the drugs do you too.

No comment. These words speak volumes on their own.

20Aug/06124

Women in Transhumanism

There's an interesting thread over at the Betterhumans forums, regarding the topic of women in transhumanism. The thread opens with the following innocuous question:

Are there any women on this site? I mean I have been through some posts and I have not found one person with the female gender symbol on there information box. So just wondering.

Several males theorize about various reasons for this, then our friend Anne C., who has been among the most active (and brightest) female transhumanists in recent months, immediately shows up with her two cents in hand:

I'm female but I don't consider that to be some essential factor of my identity. It just "is".

I don't see any need to proclaim my gender with a little pink symbol, though.

And to the person who mentioned "emotional comfort" as a factor in discussions women as a group might tend to prefer, I'd just like to offer a reminder that this certainly doesn't apply to ALL women.

I usually get mistaken for a guy online unless I overtly reveal my gender or use a very feminine login name. Truthfully, I'm generally annoyed by most women and have never really tended to get along well in female social groupings. In elementary school if I bothered to talk to anyone, it was about Star Wars or video games.

And I'm very, very interested in transhumanist principles. I do plan to start posting more in the forums and on the main page. Right now, though, I am somewhat busy with work, and also with a side project I am working on (trying to put together a comprehensive essay that addresses, logically, why overpopulation is not likely to be a true negative consequence of superlongevity -- I know Max More did it reasonably well but I do not think that everything that needs to be said on that subject has already been said).

So, we (as in, transhumanist females, and females on Betterhumans) DO exist. But I'm admittedly an outlier in the world of girlhood.

In response to some brainstorming on getting other women into transhumanism, she states:

Well, I don't think I'd be much help in suggesting ways to entice or understand other women because I quite honestly don't understand the way most other women I've encountered think or relate. You may be right that "in general" men and women approach groupings or discussions differently, but I think that philosophies like transhumanism tend to attract certain sorts of *people* and gender really doesn't factor into the equation much at all. Granted I'm not much for RL socializing, but I honestly don't know any transhumanists, male or female, in real life at the moment (though a co-worker of mine supposedly has a friend who is a transhumanist). I don't think that these sorts of things -- discussion of life extension, cryonics, human enhancement, biological research, nanotechnology, etc. -- are very popular topics in the population at large.

Sadly, most people seem enamored with "reality TV" and celebrity gossip much more so than things that actually have the potential to improve their lives and make them a heck of a lot more interesting. There are probably more men interested in transhumanism simply because the "movement" is so internet-based and I think guys grow up being more encouraged to use computers (though there are exceptions -- my parents had to basically bribe me to get OFF the computer as a kid!). I have always been interested in things because, well, they're interesting to me and it's always been a surprise to discover that the things I find "interesting" don't tend to intrigue others of my own gender. I don't think my interests make me any less of a girl -- there's absolutely nothing about computers, science, math, etc., that is essentialy "male"...there are just some complicated social and biological factors at work that seem to make it somewhat rare for women to get really enthused about such things.

At any rate, I do have a few internet-friends who are female and intrigued by life extension. I don't know how significant this is, but I and these other females who have such interests tend very strongly to be diagnosed with "autistic spectrum" conditions. I think that people whose brains are "wired" in such a manner tend to, regardless of gender, be more able to resist dominant social pressures and trends.

Another resident female says the following:

As I stated in a previous post in this thread, it's rare for women to engage in intellectual discourse amongst themselves. The two women I have met in the past 5 years who had any interest in transhumanism didn't want to discuss it openly. For whatever reason it seems that most women would rather comiserate (sp?), whine, and talk about day-to-day things. Many, like me, turn to men for this type of interaction. I have been lucky enough to have a father who is interested in technology, philosophy, and world affairs, and who has supported my intellectual pursuits over my 32 years. I have also had the chance to meet and maintain friendships with some very open-minded and inquisitive people (again, mostly men).

Gender doesn't have anything to do with my interest in transhumanism. The interest in rooted in my passions for anthropology, linguistics, and technological innovation, which are not based in my gender either. In some ways I have a very male brain (good with math, good mechanical and spatial abilities, strong in both macro and micro views of things, pragmatic), but then I am also very female in that my empathy is well-tuned and I enjoy working cooperatively.

There is no question that women can bring different perspectives to debates about human enhancement, life extension, cyborgs, AIs, and so on, but don't think that gender frames all perspectives. If I feel my position is threatened *because* I am a woman, I will speak up, but if, in general, I see an even playing field (for example, what makes the uploading of my brain any different from uploading a man's?), gender doesn't come into it.

It's true, masculine and feminine views towards transhumanism and transhumanist technologies are different. Empirical research says so. Is the unavoidable future of transhumanism a unigender sausage fest? I surely hope not. And, thank goodness, if I think about it for about two seconds, I know some truly amazing female transhumanists:

Quote: "Death is only for those who tire easily, bore quickly, and are over-satiated with living. The rest of us just want to stick around."

Natasha Vita-More is the first who comes to mind. If the words "Natasha Vita-More" appeared on the screen during Jeopardy, the obvious answer would be, "who is a female transhumanist?" Natasha is the woman freeing herself from the shackles of the human genome in the opening image of this post. As an artist, she created that image. As an actor, she's been in films since 1982. As a writer, she promotes the Third Millenial Culture. She has outlined the concept for an upgraded human body. She was President of the Extropy Institute for years before its closing. She founded Transhumanist Arts and Culture. From 1987-1999, she produced and hosted Transhuman UPdate, a educational cable show on transhumanism and breakthrough technologies and culture. She was a transhumanist long before it was cool. Along with her husband Max More and the late F.M. Esfandiary, she is one of the key founders of modern transhumanism.

Quote: "Most businesses have a time horizon of 3-5 years... if you're lucky. We have timescales of decades."

Tanya Jones, Alcor's Director of Technical Operations, makes sure that your head (or body) gets dumped into a vat of liquid nitrogen when you kick the bucket, to be preserved for possible revival by the wonderful Drexlerian nanomachines of the far (?) future. She's also typically the public face for Alcor in documentaries or for reporters. When millions of baseball fans were whining annoyingly about Ted Williams getting frozen instead of being burned to ash, she was there to rebutt them. She's been quoted in the New York Times, CBS News, dozens of regional newspapers, and so many media outlets that I'm not going to bother hunting down their names. Along with many other leading transhumanists, she participated in the Immortality Institute film project. She personally welcomes the media into Alcor's facilities, hopefully making them think we are less crazy. Listen to her story of getting involved with Alcor!!!

Quote: "...it is an entirely human response to try to fix problems that are harming people -- including death. Some 150,000 people die globally every day. In the U.S., it's about 200,000 a month (6,500 a day). Given these numbers, it does seem rather odd that we aren't demanding a solution now."

Sonia Arrison is the one female transhumanist that I personally happen to be acquainted with the best. This is in no small part caused by the fact that she lives in the same city as me (San Francisco), and that we tend to frequent the same conferences. Sonia is Director of Technology Studies at the Pacific Research Institute, a widely influential free-market think tank. She writes articles for TechCentralStation.com, and her work has appeared in CBS MarketWatch, CNNfn, San Jose Mercury News, San Francisco Chronicle, San Diego Tribune, The Sacramento Bee, The National Post, Washington Times, and Boardwatch Magazine. One of the first google results for her name is the article, "Done With Death?", which is about as blatantly transhumanist as you can get. She constantly writes articles promoting transhumanism to the public. Timid transhumanists take heed - you can go public about your beliefs without your career falling apart. In fact, nowadays it can be a plus.

So, as we can see, there are many excellent female transhumanists, or Future Femmes, if you will. There are dozens more I don't have the space or time to list, but despite all this, the male/female ratio in transhumanism does remain lopsided, although we can remain optimistic that things will change with time.

For past posts on topics similar to this one, see A List of Human Problems, Aubrey de Grey on the CBC, The Transhumanist Collective, Letter to a Luddite, Human Upgrades - Our Obligation?, What is Uploading?, and What is SENS? There are many Accelerating Future posts on other topics available at the click of a button - just select the corresponding tag in the "categories" section to in the upper left corner of this page.

17Aug/0614

FirstLife, SecondLife

In the spirit of George Dvorsky's recent blog post on the same topic, here's a picture of me in Real Life a couple Christmases ago:


Followed by me in SecondLife:

Click on either for a larger version.

Filed under: technology 14 Comments
17Aug/060

Virtual Transvision ’06 Pictures

Every year since 1998, a bunch of transhumanists from all over the world get together in one place, in a conference held by the World Transhumanist Association, called Transvision. This year, it is in Helsinki, Finland, but is also being held as a virtual event on Internet Relay Chat and the virtual world of SecondLife. I was wandering around the venue (uvvy island) from about 1AM-3AM my time, which would have been about 11AM - 1PM Helsinki's time. There was a live video feed of the conference from inside SecondLife, but I couldn't get it to work, so I checked out the feed using the old-fashioned browser method. Here are my screenshots of uvvy island:























That's it for now. Some screenshots with the actual streams in view are located here. I would attend again tonight, but the conference just starts getting going at 1AM my time. I hope that video of the whole thing is recorded and uploaded to YouTube, in any case.

Filed under: transhumanism No Comments
15Aug/063

Google Trends on the Singularity

Hey, it's the top cities googling for the term "Singularity". Oh wow, they're among the best-educated and wealthiest cities in the U.S. When naysayers call the Singularity the "Rapture of the Nerds", what they're actually saying is "some really smart and successful people are excited about this and I don't understand it too well so it annoys me".

Here are the top cities searching for the term "Kurzweil":

Again, the same pattern. Blue states, economic powerhouses with excellent universities. The Sao Paolo thing is a mystery, though.

Filed under: singularity 3 Comments
14Aug/0650

Airships for Everyone

Last week, news broke that Skyacht Aircraft, Inc. is developing the world's first personal blimp, and would eventually it will be for sale. The prototype model is pictured above. I emailed the principal designer how much it cost them to build, and he said, "it was 1,000 hours of work to build and the materials cost was around $20,000. My guess is that both those numbers will change a fair bit before the descendants of the current design reach the marketplace." I'll bet they will - the materials cost will be greater and the time cost will decrease. I wouldn't be surprised if we saw high-quality personal airships for sale by 2008 for $50,000 a pop. The main downside is the cruising speed - around 12 mph. From the site:

While some hot air airships exist today, these craft are extremely limited in their abilities. These limits arise because the envelopes (a.k.a. "gas bags") of these ships consist only of fabric with no rigid structural members (i.e. They are "non-rigids".) These designs rely solely upon internal air pressurization (the way a toy balloon does) to retain their shape. This lack of structural rigidity leads to both low airspeed and very limited steering.

So we need rigid-shell airships that have high speeds and extreme steering capability. Duly noted. Here are the specs on the personal blimp:

Length: 105 ft. (32 meters)
Diameter: 70 ft. (21 meters)
Seats: 2
Maximum Weight: 4,100 lbs (1,860 kg)
Cruise Speed: 12 mph (19 kph)
Propulsion Type: Gasoline
Lifting Gas: Hot Air
Size in Flight: 205,000 cubic feet
Size When Deflated/Folded: 1,500 cubic feet

Assuming the dual-seat cabin area takes up maybe 1,000 cubic feet, this gives us the general ratio of 200:1 between the size of the balloon and its payload.

This all reminds me: this gem, the Moller Skycar, could be yours by the mid-2010s.

The blurb from the site:

From your garage to your destination, the M400 Skycar can cruise comfortably at 275 MPH (maximum speed of 375 MPH) and achieve up to 20 miles per gallon on clean burning, ethanol fuel. No traffic, no red lights, no speeding tickets. Just quiet direct transportation from point A to point B in a fraction of the time. Three dimensional mobility in place of two dimensional immobility.

Test videos here. Obviously, what needs to be done is to combine the two ideas:



...and the result is a craft that some of us may be familiar with. The balloon/payload ratio is improved to 10:1, or even 5:1. It is my prediction that the fusion of cheap VTOL technology with rigid-frame airships will lead to a transportation revolution greater in significance than the rise of the automobile. Combined with software based on descendents of Sebastian Thrun's for self-navigating cars, you have an airship that can go park itself innoculously and propel itself back to your home at the push of a button. Redundant navigation networks coupled with radar beacons and emergency auto-braking will minimize any accidents. According to Thrun's comments at the Stanford Singularity Summit, this technology may be less than 15 years away, for cars at least. A three-dimensional version of the same technology cannot be far off.

This is all bad news for real estate investors. Just like the advent of the automobile allowed the existence of suburbs and made it possible to commute dozens of miles to work, the advent of personal airships will expand the suburb radius by an order of magnitude, making it possible to commute and distribute goods over hundred-mile distances. It also threatens the environment by greatly opening up the number of places one can build a house or factory.

Over at Onotech, San Francisco techie Ethan Stock is arguing the value of derigibles for mass transit as well as personal transit, in an age of prohibitively expensive and environmentally unfriendly fossil fuels:

Right now it takes about 10 hours to fly the 6000 miles from SF to London, at about 600 miles per hour. An appropriately designed dirigible could do it in 24 hours at 250 miles per hour, at a vastly (90%?) reduced fuel cost -- since a dirigible would benefit both from the cubic reduction in power-required vs. speed flown, and the absence of the need to expend power to keep the aircraft up in the air, which accounts for a large percentage of airplane fuel cost. Imagine that, instead of spending 10 hours on a cramped, noisy, EXPENSIVE airplane, you spent a full day and a full night on a quiet, spacious, dirigible? Broadband internet access would be essential -- not only could you make crystal-clear phone calls, but you could transfer any volume of data. You'd get nice meals from a large kitchen. You could walk around and exercise. You could sleep in a real bed. And in a world of $70 - $140 a barrel oil costs, all of this might be CHEAPER to provide than a miserable 10-hour flight.

Meanwhile, DARPA is talking about using airships for surveillance superiority, a Swiss inventor wants to replace all cell phone transmission towers with a few high-altitude ships, Dynalifter will be a 300-meter airship designed to take the place of trucks, Millenium Airship is doing the same thing, a heavier-than-air airship hybrid prototype will be built by 2010, Lockheed Martin wants to use the things for missile defense, and some people are discussing building stratospheric zeppelin hotels. Is there anything these glorious machines won't do?

See you in the skies!

14Aug/0627

Hutter Prize for Compressing Human Knowledge

The €50'000 Prize for Compressing Human Knowledge was just announced via KurzweilAI.net. The motivation is as follows:

This compression contest is motivated by the fact that being able to compress well is closely related to acting intelligently. In order to compress data, one has to find regularities in them, which is intrinsically difficult (many researchers live from analyzing data and finding compact models). So compressors beating the current "dumb" compressors need to be smart(er). Since the prize wants to stimulate developing "universally" smart compressors, we need a "universal" corpus of data. Arguably the online lexicon Wikipedia is a good snapshot of the Human World Knowledge. So the ultimate compressor of it should "understand" all human knowledge, i.e. be really smart. enwik8 is a hopefully representative 100MB extract from Wikipedia.

This test is so much more meaningful than the Turing Test. It is quantitative, and amenable to incremental advances. It further emphasizes the relationship between general intelligence and ability to compress data. The Hutter Prize is a more concrete version of Jim Bowery's proposed C-Prize. A more detailed rationale is on the site here.

Filed under: AI 27 Comments
9Aug/065

Michael Vassar’s Papers

One of the most brilliant people I have ever met is Michael Vassar.

We are both focused on minimizing the probability of a planetary disaster that wipes out all life, be it biological, nanotechnological, or infosci in origin. Today, myself and Vassar share membership in two organizations: the Center for Responsible Nanotechnology (CRN) and the Lifeboat Foundation. At CRN, we are both members of the CRN Global Task Force, and at the Lifeboat Foundation, he is Director of Long-term Strategy while I am Fundraising Director for North America. We are also big advocates of the Singularity Institute.

Following are links to some papers of his, which you should consider checking out:

Corporate Cornucopia

The development of Molecular Nanotechnology (MNT) promises to rapidly lead to cheap superior replacements for a large majority of durable goods, all existing utilities, a substantial fraction of all non-durable goods and some services. For this reason and due to the relatively low expected cost of developing nanofactories, MNT represents the largest commercial opportunity of all time. Unfortunately, the very size of the opportunity, combined with its extreme suddenness, military significance, potential for disruption of existing institutions, and ease of duplication create certain severe complications which lead to difficulties in capturing the value created.

Memes and Rational Decisions

Although Transhumanism is not a religion, advocating as it does the critical analysis of any position; it does have certain characteristics which may lead to its identification as such by concerned skeptics. I am sure that everyone here has had to deal with this difficulty, and as it is a cause of perplexity for me I would appreciate it if anyone who has some suggested guidelines for interacting honestly with non-transhumanists share them at the end of my presentation. It seems likely to me that each of our minds contains either meme complexes or complex functional adaptations which have evolved to identify "religious" thoughts and to neutralize their impact on our behavior.

Sky High: What Distinguished the Highest Performing Team of All?

Radar, digital computation, and of course nuclear fission; World War 2 brought in the age of big science with a flurry of revolutionary technologies, each developed in only a few years with the help of government funding. Since then, the super well funded research project has continued to be an important model for scientific development, despite both the warnings of such illustrious figures as Freeman Dyson and Norbert Werner and the visible fact that it has lacked any noteworthy successes for a period exceeding thirty years.

Flexible Automated Manufacturing

The integration of distributed information systems with modern manufacturing techniques promises to enable a massive change in both production and distribution. Techniques are described. Economic and regulatory implications are addressed.

Pollution Credits

The molecular Manufacturing Revolution, like the Industrial Revolution and the Agricultural Revolution, should allow humans to live with a much smaller ecological footprint than their less technologically enabled ancestors could, but like previous revolutions it will also greatly increase the possible ecological footprint of a single individual. Transportation is one of the better examples of this.

Nanoscale technology energy products

Nanoscale technology promises several advanced and even breakthrough technologies that may reduce our dependence on fossil fuels. For many of these technologies, practicality requires advanced software controls and a very low cost per feature, but not molecular manufacturing.

There's also a talk of his at a Institute for Ethics and Emerging Technologies event in NYC in May 2007, it's called "Lead Me Not Into Temptation: Folk-Psychological Conceptions of Willpower and Their Implications for Policy".

9Aug/06158

Visiting SIAI

Last Saturday I visited SIAI's research wing, in Santa Clara, CA. It currently consists of one research fellow (Eliezer Yudkowsky), one associate researcher (Marcello Herreshoff), and two summer interns (Nick Hay and Peter de Blanc). It was a very pleasant time, filled with lively conversation and challenging theoretical discussions. Larger pictures are here. Among the topics discussed:

technical
combinatoric proof - what is it?
multiple heuristic ordering problem
success density and success sparsity
the "gluing trick" and links between heuristics
causal and evidential decision theory
difference between an algorithm and heuristic
defining what makes up a probabilistic trial
defining 'cost' in AI - time, complexity, etc?
decibels of evidence, rules of thumb
Kolmogorov complexity and assigning priors
likelihood of a 'simple universe' and anthropics
is the universe literally made of math or no?
organizational
congrats to Marcello on new research position
future directions of SIAI and AI research
ratio of research staff vs. support staff
how recent success is effecting SIAI's image
games
introduction to zendo and basics
introduction to go and basics

My favorite quote of the day (paraphrased):

"If you were to remove the top half of your head and examine it, it would lack consciousness. If you were to remove the bottom half and do the same, you would also find nothing. Since consciousness can be found neither in the top half nor bottom half of the brain, it doesn't exist."
- Peter de Blanc

(This is tongue-in-cheek, btw.)

Filed under: singularity 158 Comments
8Aug/063

Why We Shouldn’t Shy Away from Discussing Risk

"Therefore, if our actions have even the slightest effect on the probability of eventual colonization, this will outweigh their effect on when colonization takes place. For standard utilitarians, priority number one, two, three and four should consequently be to reduce existential risk. The utilitarian imperative "Maximize expected aggregate utility!" can be simplified to the maxim "Minimize existential risk!" - Nick Bostrom

For reasons, please see the following:

Astronomical Waste
by Nick Bostrom
Existential Risks by Nick Bostrom
Cognitive biases potentially affecting judgment of global risks by Eliezer Yudkowsky
Artificial Intelligence and Global Risk by Eliezer Yudkowsky
Immortalist Utilitarianism by Michael Anissimov
What are Existential Risks? by Michael Anissimov

Prominent persons advocating discussion of existential risk:

Martin Rees
Stephen Hawking
Brad Sherman
Most of the transhumanist community

Filed under: risks 3 Comments
7Aug/060

Last Week in Artificial General Intelligence

A2I2 is looking is expand its team again. Here is an interview with Voss from a year ago.
Bruce Klein, President of Novamente LLC, is moving to San Francisco tomorrow. Will Ben Goertzel be far behind?
The edited volume "Artificial General Intelligence" will finally ship this month.
The powerpoints from last May's AGI workshop have been available for a while now, in case you missed them.
The Singularity Institute's "Summer of AI" continues in Santa Clara.
Numenta doesn't seem to have been doing much publicly as of late.

Also, does anyone have a copy of the article being referred to here?

Filed under: AI No Comments