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


Thiel Foundation Press Release Quotes Leaders of Singularity Institute, Halcyon Molecular

The Thiel Foundation recently formally announced the "20 Under 20" initiative:

SAN FRANCISCO, Sept. 29 /PRNewswire/ -- Warning that America's long-term economic prospects are uncertain without radical innovation in technology, Peter Thiel this week launched the Thiel Fellowship to foster the next generation of tech visionaries.

"Our world needs more breakthrough technologies," said Thiel. "From Facebook to SpaceX to Halcyon Molecular, some of the world's most transformational technologies were created by people who stopped out of school because they had ideas that couldn't wait until graduation. This fellowship will encourage the most brilliant and promising young people not to wait on their ideas, either. The Thiel Fellows will change the world and call it a senior thesis."

The Thiel Foundation will award 20 people under 20 years old cash grants of $100,000 to further their innovative scientific and technical ideas. In addition, over a two year period, Peter Thiel's network of tech entrepreneurs and philanthropists--drawn from PayPal, Facebook, Palantir Technologies, Founders Fund, the Singularity Institute, and others--will teach the recipients about creating disruptive technologies and offer mentorship, employment opportunities, support, and training.

Young geniuses -- that's where it's at! Untie their hands financially and academically, and they will do great things.

Filed under: intelligence 10 Comments

CNN: “Cyborg Professor Looks to Future of Bionic Technology”

I prefer the term "cybernetics" myself. Here's the video:

More is available at VICE, the original source.


Stephen Omohundro: The Basic AI Drives

More info on Stephen, thank you commenter Bettina:

Stephen Omohundro

Via Wikipedia:

He graduated from Stanford University with degrees in Physics and Mathematics. He received a Ph.D. in Physics from the University of California, Berkeley and published the book Geometric Perturbation Theory in Physics based on his thesis.

At Thinking Machines Corporation, he developed Star Lisp, the first programming language for the Connection Machine, with Cliff Lasser. From 1986 to 1988, he was an Assistant Professor of Computer science at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign and cofounder of the Center for Complex Systems Research.
He subsequently joined the International Computer Science Institute (ICSI) in Berkeley, California, where he led the development of the object-oriented programming language Sather in 1990 and developed novel neural network and machine learning algorithms. He subsequently was a Research scientist at the NEC Research Institute, working on machine learning and computer vision, and was a co-inventor of U.S. Patent 5,696,964, “Multimedia Database Retrieval System Which Maintains a Posterior Probability Distribution That Each Item in the Database is a Target of a Search”

He then started the consultancy OLO Software, and is now President of Self-Aware Systems in Palo Alto, California. He has been an advisor to the Singularity Institute for Artificial Intelligence since April 2007.

Filed under: AI, friendly ai, videos 2 Comments

Eric Drexler: “Give the “D Word” a Rest”

In a recent blog post, father of nanotechnology Eric Drexler quotes a historian who wrote in to correct mistakes in a Nature article that claimed that the NNI (National Nanotechnology Initiative) caused enthusiasm in nanotechnology, rather than the other way around. He also explains why he loathes the term "Drexlerian".

Filed under: nanotechnology 6 Comments

Jamais Cascio’s Reaction to Being Asked to Predict the Future in a Live TV Interview

I like Jamais Cascio. I think he's funny. I completely disagree with many of his ideas, but at least he's a futurist with personality.

Filed under: random 5 Comments

Brian Wang: “Molecular Nanotechnology Was Explicitly Excluded from Funding… You Get What You Pay For”

A recent post on Next Big Future responding to Scott Locklin's recent nanotech-smearing piece, Brian Wang explains why there has been almost no progress on molecular nanotechnology throughout the last 25 years -- it hasn't been funded:

Again there are people complaining that the vision of Eric Drexler was not realized after 25 years since he wrote Engines of Creation and other research papers on molecular nanotechnology.

However, almost no money was spent funding the research and development of molecular nanotechnology. Significant amounts of money were devoted to mostly relabeled chemistry starting in November, 2003.

Locklin (link to his site removed, since he is a flamebaiting troll) gets facts wrong and the target of his outrage is totally misdirected. The billions for NNI were hijacked for the falsely labeled nanotech starting in 2003. It is idiotic to blame Drexler, Merkle, Freitas when they did not get the money.

Locklin and people like him ignored what has been happening for eight years and allowed the funding to be hijacked for what they do not believe is nanotechnology. Now they have stain proof pants buyers remorse and are not satisfied with carbon nanotubes and the other non-molecular nanotech research. The proper response is to write to congressmen and senators to direct NNI appropriations into an actual effort to develop molecular nanotechnology. If after actually getting funding and work for 10-25 years, then there could be some comparison of progress expected versus results delivered. For now the results match the effort that has been performed. There are very little results from almost no societal effort. Your team did not do any laps in the Daytona 500 because you did not buy a car for your team or pay for an entry fee. Whining about it now, makes me ask - Where the hell have you been for the last eight years ? When you buy your SUV from Ford Motors do you send your complaints to Porsche or DeLorean about the race car you did not buy ?

Read the rest here.

I love when Brian Wang gets worked up about something, because the knowledge base he brings to bear in any rebuttal is really huge. All science and futurist sites of similar quality and quantity of information to his are run by teams, not a single individual.


Assorted Links for 9/24/10

Fab Lab bill before Congress
Full-bore transhumanist advocacy for brain implants in MIT Technology Review
Current decisions shape your future preferences
Lifelong exercising yields sensational results
Nano antenna increases light capacity 1000 fold
Technology Review: Artificial Ovary Could Help Infertile Women
Technology in the extreme -- radio transmitters that can survive 900 °C (1652 °F)
Carbon nanotubes twice as strong as once thought

Filed under: random 1 Comment

Researchers Engineer Adult Stem Cells That Do Not Age


( -- Biomedical researchers at the University at Buffalo have engineered adult stem cells that scientists can grow continuously in culture, a discovery that could speed development of cost-effective treatments for diseases including heart disease, diabetes, immune disorders and neurodegenerative diseases.

UB scientists created the new cell lines - named "MSC Universal" - by genetically altering mesenchymal stem cells, which are found in bone marrow and can differentiate into cell types including bone, cartilage, muscle, fat, and beta-pancreatic islet cells.

The researchers say the breakthrough overcomes a frustrating barrier to progress in the field of regenerative medicine: The difficulty of growing adult stem cells for clinical applications.

Because mesenchymal stem cells have a limited life span in laboratory cultures, scientists and doctors who use the cells in research and treatments must continuously obtain fresh samples from bone marrow donors, a process both expensive and time-consuming. In addition, mesenchymal stem cells from different donors can vary in performance.

The cells that UB researchers modified show no signs of aging in culture, but otherwise appear to function as regular mesenchymal stem cells do - including by conferring therapeutic benefits in an animal study of heart disease. Despite their propensity to proliferate in the laboratory, MSC-Universal cells did not form tumors in animal testing.


Filed under: biology 6 Comments

io9 Continues to Perpetuate Ridiculous “IBM Simulated a Cat Brain” Meme

In a recent post at io9, Esther Inglis-Arkell perpetuates the stupid claim that IBM successfully simulated a cat cortex in a computer, which the site made right after it happened. Doesn't anyone consider it odd that we have supposedly simulated a cat's brain, but full-resolution simulations of the brains of lower animals, including insects, are nowhere to be found? There isn't even a simulation of a flatworm that displays behavioral isomorphism to a real flatworm. Behavioral isomorphism is something we would expect from a real simulation.

That the writers and editors of io9 don't even question this news item shows that their knowledge of the technology they write about is very poor. This is what happens when you focus too hard on pop culture -- there's no time for real science reading. The end result is poor coverage and the perpetuation of obviously false memes. Perhaps io9 should stick to covering sketches of Wookies and UFOs, and leave science/AI reporting to others.

Shortly after IBM's announcement, computational neuroscientist Henry Markram at EFPL's Blue Brain project called the announcement a "hoax", which I covered in November 2009. I'm not sure whether I would call it a "hoax" myself, but I do think that Dharmenda Modhi's website and announcement were deliberately created to mislead the media into thinking his team had simulated a cat brain, rather than merely creating a cat-SCALE simulation of point neurons without even one thousandth the complexity of real neurons. The key science result was the observation of oscillations in the neural network, which is trivial. It is presented as profound. What is also not mentioned is that Prof. Eugene Izhikevich has already created similar models with as many as a hundred billion point neurons, therefore "human-scale" neural net simulations already exist. Such investigation is apparently beyond the capabilities of the teams running the Internet's pop-sci blogging community.

Read Henry Markram's comments on why IBM's announcement is profoundly misleading.

Filed under: AI 7 Comments

Flattering Words from CounterPunch


...the singularity movement enjoys nearly universal praise from both conservative and progressive media outlets. Their futurist claims charm bloggers and reporters from across the political spectrum, from Forbes to the Daily Kos, from Wired Magazine to the Huffington Post.

These words make me happy, because Singularity awareness is important to me. It's relevant to note, however, that the Singularity movement is not a monolith; it contains quite a bit of internal complexity. One side claims that everything is going to be alright and success is more or less inevitable, and another side claims that the "default Singularity" is human extinction, and that urgent measures are required to survive.

Filed under: singularity 13 Comments

Radio Theologian: “Time is Running Out to Influence Debate on Transhumanism”

Thomas Horn of the Raiders News Network, a radio show, recently issued a statement on ChristianNewsWire titled, "An Open Letter to Christian Leaders on Biotechnology and the Future of Man". Here's the beginning of the letter:

Theologian believes time is running out to influence debate on transhumanism

Dear Christian Leader,

In recent years, astonishing technological developments have pushed the frontiers of humanity toward far-reaching morphological transformation that promises in the very near future to redefine what it means to be human. An international, intellectual, and fast-growing cultural movement known as transhumanism, whose vision is supported by a growing list of U.S. military advisors, bioethicists, law professors, and academics, intends the use of biotechnology, genetic engineering, nanotechnology, cybernetics, and artificial intelligence as tools that will radically redesign our minds, our memories, our physiology, our offspring, and even perhaps -- as Joel Garreau, in his bestselling book "Radical Evolution", claims -- our very souls.

As a recent taxpayer funded US National Science Foundation Report suggests, the technological, cultural, and metaphysical shift now underway unapologetically forecasts a future dominated by this new species of unrecognizably superior humans, and applications under study now to make this dream a reality are being funded by thousands of government and private research facilities around the world.

Horn sees transhumanism as threatening traditional Judeo-Christian values. Can't argue with that.

Here's a video of Horn discussing transhumanism:

Horn's full letter is quite long. Feel free to leave your impression in the comments if you read the whole thing.

Can someone try to dig up that interview with James Hughes that he mentions? I can't find it.

He says that "Avatar carries a tremendous amount of transhumanist themes in it." I said that too, in my post "Transhumanism Has Already Won".

Filed under: transhumanism 50 Comments

Assorted Links for September 15, 2010

Self-taught rocketeer's backyard is Jetson-like reality
Artificial skinlike material 1000 times more sensitive than human skin
Advanced Space Launch System would use railgun, scramjet, and rockets
Big Think: The Singularity's Branding Problem
10 minutes could prevent one-third of road deaths
American women are happier going to church than shopping on Sundays
MJSL2050: Good reasons to hire transhumanists
Moral Machines: Survey on Attitudes Regarding Unmanned Systems
Telomere breakthrough at Sierra Sciences
Katja Grace: Ignorance of non-existent preferences
CounterPunch: "If Only Glenn Beck Were a Cyborg"
Synthetic Pathogens Might Pose Bioterror Threat, Scientists Warn

Filed under: random 4 Comments