Japan Invests Millions in Robotics/AI

The following is a translation of a Japanese website by the blog Pink Tentacle:

Japan’s Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry (METI) has set aside over 2 billion yen (US$17.4 million) in its 2007 budget to support the development of intelligent robots that rely on their own decision-making skills in the workplace. The objective of METI’s robot budget is to support the development of key artificial intelligence technology for robots over the next 5 years, with the goal of introducing intelligent robots to the market by 2015.

Robots typically need to be pre-programmed with their operation patterns before they can function properly, so their applications tend to be limited and they tend not to adapt well to changes in their surroundings. Intelligent robots capable of working in tandem with humans, on the other hand, will analyze their environments based on voice and image data obtained through their sensors and adapt their behavior accordingly.

METI plans to use the 2 billion yen budget to commission universities and manufacturers to research and develop artificial intelligence and voice/image recognition technology, …

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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 …

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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 …

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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 …

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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:

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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.

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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 …

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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

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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, …

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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 …

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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

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