Death Race

Getting anything done in this world, almost anything at all, is very expensive. Either you have a venture that makes more money than it consumes (a business), a volunteer effort (often including personnel lacking in motivation, time, resources, and/or experience), a university (funded by tuition and endowment payments) or that elusive beast, the non-profit, funded by individual and corporate giving.

Usually, the free market does a pretty good job of motivating people to do stuff that other people want. For instance, I can analyze some emerging technology like holographic displays for a company interested in the field, and get some money out of the deal. Maybe that sort of research can get a little boring, but they want it, so they pay me, right?

But the free market economy sometimes fails, or leads to suboptimal outcomes. It satisfies our vices just as much as our virtues. The market for alcohol, tobacco, prostitution and gambling is enormous. Addiction to these vices costs our society billions of dollars a year in treatment and lost potential. The actuaries can give it a number, …

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AGI from AI

Cross-posted from SIAI blog.

Will AGI emerge from a preexisting narrow AI field, incrementally improving?

In my opinion, the answer is likely no, but people working in narrow AI like to tell me that their work will eventually give rise to the Friendly AI I want to see.

Should the idea of AGI emerging from narrow AI be dismissed outright? Probably not. Let’s say AGI does indeed emerge from AI. If so, what are possible routes?

Entertainment robots, like the upcoming Zeno Combat robots, like SWORDS Systems used in mathematical finance Agents in virtual worlds, like Novamente’s latest effort

Can you think of any others? Different paths have different advantages from both a FAI and an AGI perspective. Some of these “narrow” applications, such as Novamente’s, are in fact built on an AGI-oriented architecture. Could the first AGI blindside us, by superficially appearing like narrow AI?

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Full-Body Haptic Suits

Full-body haptic feedback suits. They’re coming — the question is, what will we use them for? The best paper on the topic appears to be this one. Interesting fact — the human body’s pressure sensors responsible for deep pressure touch, Pacinian corpuscles, can’t even tell the difference between pressure and suction, so one can simulate touch simply by using tiny vacuums. Alternatively, miniature actuators could push downwards to create the sensation conventionally. Another, somewhat more advanced way to implement full-body haptics would just be to jack into the brain directly, though I think it could be difficult to justify brain surgery for recreational purposes in the near-term future.

The point of full-body haptic feedback is that it allows virtual communication of touch. I push you in an online game, and you actually feel like you get pushed. To help with the immersion, it would likely be accompanied by convincing VR goggles. We can expect VR goggles before full-body haptic suits because the former is technologically easier. I predict that convincing haptic …

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Yellowstone Caldera Rising

The Yellowstone caldera has moved upwards nine inches over the last three years, a record rate since geologists first began taking measurements in the 1920s. This is the result of a Los Angeles-sized blob of magma that recently rose up into the chamber only six miles below the surface. The Yellowstone caldera is an ancient supervolcano. Last time it erupted, 642,000 years ago, it ejected 1,000 cubic kilometers of magma into the air. If this happened in today’s world, it would kill millions and cover most of the United States in a layer of ash at least a centimeter thick. The lighter ash would rise up into the atmosphere, initiating a volcanic winter and ruining crops worldwide.

Calderas rise and fall worldwide all the time without erupting. But the activity in Yellowstone is still concerning. Like a reckless teenager in a sports car, it seems as if our civilization laughs off the possibility of its own demise like a complete joke. Yet the right sort of event, and we could be knocked flat. Instead of waiting for a disaster …

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Foresight Vision Weekend 2007 Review

This last weekend I attended the Foresight Vision Weekend 2007, which was in the innovative unconference format. Basically, an unconference means that people break into about seven groups for any given hour-long time slot, led by a person enterprising enough to write down a topic and tape it to a big paper grid on the wall. We did this in the afternoons. The mornings were more like a conventional conference, with a single star speaker and everyone in one room. Changing the Foresight Vision Weekend into the unconference format was a great idea by Brad Templeton.

This was an special Vision Weekend not just due to the unconference format. Unlike ones before it, this Vision Weekend was open to everyone for only $90, rather than being closed to just the Foresight Senior Associates. It was held at Yahoo headquarters, thanks to Chip Morningstar, a Foresight Associate and Yahoo employee. The venue was pretty cool. We could see a nice view of the empty marshlands which dominate the southern part of the San Francisco Bay.

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