Foresight Institute Announces Kartik M. Gada Humanitarian Innovation Prizes

From RepRap blog:

The Foresight Institute has announced its Kartik M. Gada Humanitarian Innovation Prize to design and build a better RepRap. There is an interim prize of $20,000, and a grand prize of $80,000. They consulted with the core RepRap team before the announcement and we were initially concerned that the prizes might drive developers to secrecy in order to give themselves a competitive edge. As you will see they have addressed those concerns by making it a condition of winning the prize that solutions should be pre-published and made available under a free licence. For ourselves and on your behalf, we would like to thank the Institute for the enthusiasm that these prizes demonstrate for the RepRap project and for their magnificent generosity.

Congrats to Foresight Institute and Kartik Gada for establishing this interesting and substantial prize. There is another prize, too. Besides the Personal Manufacturing Prize, there is a Water Liberation Prize, described …

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Smart Fraction Theory

Here is a paper from Talent Development and Excellence, Vol. 1, No. 1, (2009), “The impact of smart fractions, cognitive ability of politicians and average competence of peoples on social development”. Abstract:

Smart fraction theory supposes that gifted and talented persons are especially relevant for societal development. Using results for the 95th percentile from TIMSS 1995-2007, PISA 2000-2006 and PIRLS 2001-2006 we calculated an ability sum value (N=90 countries) for the upper level group (equivalent to a within country IQ-threshold of 125 or a student assessment score of 667) and compared its influence with the mean ability and the 5th percentile ability on wealth (GDP), patent rates, Nobel Prizes, numbers of scientists, political variables (government effectiveness, democracy, rule of law, political liberty), HIV, AIDS and homicide. Additionally, using information on school and professional education, we estimated the cognitive competence of political leaders in N=90 countries. Results of correlations, regression and path analyses generally show a larger impact of the smart fractions’ ability on positively valued outcomes than of the mean result or the 5th percentile …

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Assorted Links 1/26/2010

John Robb on Homemade Microwave Weapons James Hughes: Problems of Transhumanism: Liberal Democracy vs. Technocratic Absolutism Technology Review: Defining an Algorithm for Inventing from Nature New Study: Human Running Speeds of 35 to 40 mph May be Biologically Possible NASA’s Puffin: Will It Be the Personal Transport Vehicle of our SciFi Future? Simon Conway Morris: Aliens are Likely to Look and Behave Like Us Current TV’s Max and Jason on Connecting Science and Culture

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Singularity Institute Featured in January Issue of GQ

If you haven’t picked up this month’s GQ magazine, do it soon. There is a feature on the Singularity Summit and Singularity Institute. (I also hear there is a piece by Carl Zimmer on the Singularity in Playboy but I haven’t picked it up yet.) Seeing community names like Rick Schwall (an SIAI donor and supporter) in a national magazine sure is a trip. According to the National Magazine Awards, circulation is somewhere between 500,000 and 1,000,000 and is up in recent years.

Here is the Singularity portion (I removed the magazine cover due to copyright concerns and complaints from the comments section):

Really freaky, mmhmmm! Freaky like our ancestral past or Pandora freaky, I hope.

H/t to Gus K. for pointing out the article earlier this month.

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Excellent Article by Bill Gates on Global Warming

In case you hadn’t heard, there is an article by Bill Gates up at Huffington Post, “Why We Need Innovation, Not Just Insulation”. Here’s how it starts:

People often present two timeframes that we should have as goals for CO2 reduction – 30% (off of some baseline) by 2025 and 80% by 2050.

I believe the key one to achieve is 80% by 2050.

But we tend to focus on the first one since it is much more concrete.

We don’t distinguish properly between things that put you on a path to making the 80% goal by 2050 and things that don’t really help.

Most people “concerned” about global warming are caught up in Gaianist nonsense, Al Gore-flavored uneducated alarmism, and eco-bling. They will think whatever a small cadre of politicians and elite academics want them to think.

Stewart Brand, thankfully, has been

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Chapter Nine of Age of Spiritual Machines

Here is the link. This is a good place to start to review Kurzweil’s 1996-1997 predictions. I remember reading this chapter myself in 2000 and analyzing the way in which the predictions did sync up with my own and the way they did not.

There are two categories of qualifying words used for the technology predictions: either they’re 1) “ubiquitous”, “common”, or the like, or 2) they simply exist. For something to qualify as “common” in my eyes would perhaps mean that a third of the white collar business world in the United States uses it on a weekly basis. (To be very generous.) For #2, the prediction can be regarded as having come “true” even if the product only exists as a prototype in a lab and has for some time.

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Keith Norbury on Ray Kurzweil Response

Here’s a comment from Keith Norbury on the Kurzweil response post that I agree with:

It looks as though Kurzweil and Anissimov are both quibbling. I had similar thoughts as Anissimov did when I scrolled through the predictions in The Age of Spiritual Machines. But I also thought, well, Kurzweil is just a little hasty in his enthusiasm. Yes, there’s a danger in setting firm dates for predictions of technological progress. However, because he makes them, Kurzweil gets people’s attention. Even when he is wrong on the exact date, he is still able to point to a trend that indicates he will be right soon enough (in most cases). So far, though, the dates have passed for the easier predictions. It gets harder going ahead.

Kurzweil’s main point is that technology is improving exponentially not linearly. That’s a difficult point to grasp. However, we still don’t know if even exponential growth is enough to tackle some sticky problems, such as simulating human intelligence. Nobody knows where the goal posts are yet. Nor do we understand yet the principles involved …

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January 19, 2010 Response to Ray Kurzweil

I have written Ray a short initial response, which I pursued one or two lines of criticism but mostly admitted that he’s right that 7 is a narrow selection of predictions and that if he is 102 for 108 then I would be very impressed. The key issue is how vague or precise these predictions were to start with, as Brian writes here.

Kurzweil requested that I withhold further judgment until he produces his point-by-point analysis of his 1996-1997 predictions, so I will be waiting on that before posting my full response. In truth, it’s been a few years since I looked at The Age of Spiritual Machines, but I remember reading it several times in the 2000-2005 date range.

I think that Kurzweil is one of the best futurists out there, but here he is essentially claiming that his ability to predict the future is unparalleled. I think that such a claim deserves a lot of skepticism and verification before acceptance. Maybe he is right, though — this issue is complex, …

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Ray Kurzweil Response to “Ray Kurzweil’s Failed 2009 Predictions”

Today, I received an email from Ray Kurzweil responding to my January 5th post titled “Ray Kurzweil’s Failed 2009 Predictions”, where I said that I found a list of seven of his “1999 predictions for 2009″ that I thought were false. Below is the letter in its entirety. I have read the letter and am thinking about it. I will conduct further research on all the claims and produce a response with my new thoughts shortly.


January 17, 2010

Dear Michael,

I want to respond to your Blog post “Reviewing Kurzweil Predictions from 1999 for 2009.”

This starts out “Michael Anissimov notes that Ray Kurzweil had several predictions from 1999 for 2009 and those predictions are in general wrong.”

You also write “Ray Kurzweil’s Failed 2009 Predictions. In May 2008, a poster on ImmInst (the life extension grassroots organization I co-founded in 2002) pointed out that it looked like Kurzweil’s 1999 predictions for the year 2009 would fail. Now that 2009 is over, we can see that he was mostly correct.”

Your review is biased, incorrect, and misleading …

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Foresight 2010 Slides

Here are the slides from my Foresight presentation, “Don’t Fear the Singularity, but Be Careful: Friendly AI Design”. According to Foresight’s blog, video will be posted later, “funds permitting”. Unfortunately, due to the conference starting late, I had to stop at slide 39 to keep pace with the schedule, but I got most of my important points in. (The only parts that got cut off were my commentary on the recent AAAI Presidential Panel on Long-Term AI Futures and my summary of Singularity Institute work, though I did mention the latter several times.) I would like to record this talk for Vimeo as long as my hardware is high-quality enough to make it look good.

See Brian Wang’s notes on my talk here. Brian provided excellent liveblogging coverage of the entire conference.

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