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


Nanowerk: Computational Microscope Peers into the Working Ribosome

Here is a press release.

Also, here is a video of a computer model of the Rho transcription factor from E. coli in action:

Via Foresight via Technology Review blog.


Foresight 2010: the Synergy of Molecular Manufacturing and AGI

There will be a Foresight 2010 conference on January 16-17th 2010, celebrating the 20th anniversary of the founding of Foresight. The conference will focus on the synergy of molecular manufacturing and AGI. I will be there speaking on behalf of SIAI. See you in Palo Alto.

Filed under: events No Comments

Kaj Sotala on AGI Safety Factors

”Evolved altruism, ethical complexity, anthropomorphic trust: three factors misleading estimates of the safety of artificial general intelligence”. Presented at the 7th European Conference on Computing and Philosophy (ECAP 2009) on July 4, 2009.

Filed under: friendly ai 11 Comments

World Map of Population Density

Mountains, underground, skies, oceans, deserts. Room for many.

Filed under: futurism, images 54 Comments

Darpa’s Physical Intelligence (PI) Initiative, and Its Ridiculousness

I was doing some research and ran across this story again -- Darpa's loony "Physical Intelligence" initiative. The way that Wired passes along this story with a straight face shows us that the magazine, or at least this blog, the popular Danger Room, is not very reliable or qualified when it comes to science or philosophy. One may recall that I criticized the grant solicitation initiative back when it first hit the news.

There are two absolutely ridiculous elements to the initiative. First is that the text of the solicitation implies that it needs to be concretely demonstrated that intelligence is physical, or that there is any doubt over whether intelligence is or is not physical. Second is this quote:

A central tenet is that intelligence spontaneously evolves as a consequence of thermodynamics in open systems.

No, it doesn't. Only a computer scientist that has never studied a single piece of the brain would ever even say this. Intelligence is a very precise thing that evolved due to selection pressures over hundreds of millions of years. It doesn't evolve spontaneously anywhere. The above statement seems to be derived from the pseudo-mystical notion that the universe is imbued with intelligence, and rocks everywhere are just waiting to burst forth with intelligence if we nudge them the right way.

Boltzmann brains are the exception, not the rule.

Filed under: AI 9 Comments

Michael Vassar on The Skeptics’ Guide To The Universe Podcast

There is a podcast featuring Singularity Institute President Michael Vassar talking to The Skeptics' Guide to the Universe, a podcast produced by the New England Skeptical Society in association with the James Randi Educational Foundation (JREF). It was recorded on September 23rd, a week and a half before the Summit. Skip to 26:00 to get past the news items. Here's a funny tidbit of Michael talking about some of the poor thinking seen when people discuss how to make AI friendly:

We have a lot of silliness, such as worst moral of the story ever... Lilo and Stitch. "If you're just nice enough to the fundamentally evil creature, it will have to love you.

That's at 31:50. So yeah, check it out. My and Michael's philosophy are quite similar, so you can learn more about how I think by listening to the podcast as well.

Check out 41:00, where Michael explains the whole reason for having a Singularity Summit and Singularity Institute.

At 49:30: "So how do we keep it from deciding that it wants to make ice cream out of human brains?"

Filed under: SIAI 1 Comment

Reprogramming Predators, Abolitionism

David Pearce on reprogramming predators. Thanks to Franz Fuchs for the pointer.

Filed under: animal rights 12 Comments

Eliezer Yudkowsky and Robert Greene on

Filed under: rationality 4 Comments

Molecular Rotor in Motion

This is an animation of a rotor from Drexler and Merkle's neon pump, animated using Blender. From Machine Phase, a molecular modeling blog.

As Vladimir Nesov points out in the comments, all videos like this should be taken with a grain of salt -- they're sped up to many times what the actual speed would be. This rotor, if it were really moving at that speed, would overheat due to friction in a fraction of a second. This video doesn't even try to show thermal vibration, but if it did, the vibrations would be much faster than could be portrayed with the frame rate.


PhysOrg Stuff

There are many press releases on PhysOrg in the last few days related to the subject matter of this blog.

Oscar Pistorius' artificial limbs give him clear, major advantage for sprint running
'Rationalizer' bracelet tells traders when they're stressed
The indefinite self-renewal of specialized cells without the need for stem cell intermediates
Are sterile mosquitoes the answer to malaria elimination?

You should subscribe to PhysOrg with an RSS feed reader if you haven't yet.

Filed under: technology 1 Comment

Lunar Subterrane Uncovered

The first "skylight", as in big hole in the ground like the amazing ones on Mars, has been found on the Moon by Japan's Kayuga spacecraft. They are thought to be the collapsed ceilings of lava tubes. There has not been volcanic activity on the Moon for about 2.5 billion years, but it is volcanic activity that created the maria ("seas") on the Moon, and at one point the entire Moon was a glowing ball of magma.

"Lunar underground", lunar subterrane, what could possibly be cooler than that? Not much.

A certain Dresden Codak comes to mind.

The new Lunar X-Prize: "Navigate a robotic probe to that hole on the Moon and bring us back pictures!"

Filed under: space 9 Comments

Stephen Pinker Responds to Malcolm Gladwell

Here is the exchange of letters. Pinker's response:

What Malcolm Gladwell calls a "lonely ice floe" is what psychologists call "the mainstream." In a 1997 editorial in the journal Intelligence, 52 signatories wrote, "I.Q. is strongly related, probably more so than any other single measurable human trait, to many important educational, occupational, economic and social outcomes." Similar conclusions were affirmed in a unanimous blue-ribbon report by the American Psychological Association, and in recent studies (some focusing on outliers) by Dean Simonton, David Lubinski and others.

Gladwell is right, of course, to privilege peer-reviewed articles over blogs. But sports is a topic in which any academic must answer to an army of statistics-savvy amateurs, and in this instance, I judged, the bloggers were correct. They noted, among other things, that Berri and Simmons weakened their "weak correlation" (Gladwell described it in the New Yorker essay reprinted in "What the Dog Saw" as "no connection") by omitting the lower-drafted quarterbacks who, unsurprisingly, turned out not to merit many plays. In any case, the relevance to teacher selection (the focus of the essay) remains tenuous.

Why is Gladwell so defensive in his response? On his blog, he went to call one of Pinker's sources, Steve Sailer, a "racist," while the issue at hand was the value of performance indicators for football players. It is because he knows that he is finally being called out in a big way, this time by someone who carries significantly more weight than Richard Posner (an earlier critic) in the scientific community -- Pinker.

For some cringe-worthy profiles and interviews with Gladwell, see "Geek Pop Star" by New York magazine, "Author Malcolm Gladwell" at Time, a profile at Wired, and a review at The Guardian. A truly painful profile of Gladwell from Fast Company in 2007 is also available. Why do business people fall for this crap?

On the other side of the fence, the December 2009 issue of Vanity Fair has a mocking article on Gladwell. It is funny that Vanity Fair is one of the publications to see through his superficiality, whereas ostensibly more intelligent publications like TIME, Wired, and Fast Company fail terribly.

In the end, it is Gladwell that is on a lonely ice floe, and he knows it. He probably knows that the literature doesn't back him up, but like so many others, is in denial about IQ because of its political incorrectness. I am optimistic, however. As we gain powerful new experimental tools over the coming decades, we will be able to investigate the brain and mind in much greater detail and the truth will become too obvious to ignore.

It looks like Gladwell didn't pay attention to the eleventh virtue of rationality -- scholarship. If he spent less time traveling around giving talks, attending parties, and reading fluffy fiction, he might get some actual studies done. I mean, if I were making $40,000 per talk, I might fall a bit behind on my studies too, but 9 years of it? You have enough to live, man -- why not read an article from Intelligence once in a while?

Filed under: intelligence, IQ 38 Comments