Comprehensive Copying Not Required for Uploading

Recently, there was some confusion by biologist P.Z. Myers regarding the Whole Brain Emulation Roadmap report of Anders Sandberg and Nick Bostrom at the Future of Humanity Institute.

The confusion arose when Prof. Myers made incorrect assumptions about the 130-page roadmap from reading a 2-page blog post by Chris Hallquist. Hallquist wrote:

The version of the uploading idea: take a preserved dead brain, slice it into very thin slices, scan the slices, and build a computer simulation of the entire brain.

If this process manages to give you a sufficiently accurate simulation

Prof. Myers objected vociferously, writing, “It won’t. It can’t.”, subsequently launching into a reasonable attack against the notion of scanning a living human brain at nanoscale resolution with current fixation technology. The confusion is that Prof. Myers is criticizing a highly specific idea, the notion of exhaustively simulating every axon and dendrite in a live brain, as if …

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A Future Worth Working Towards

There isn’t enough in the world.

Not enough wealth to go around, not enough space in cities, not enough medicine, not enough intelligence or wisdom. Not enough genuine fun or excitement. Not enough knowledge. Not enough solutions to global problems.

What we need is more. And we need it soon. The world population is doubling every 34 years. Instead of turning back the clock, we must move towards the future.

There is a bare minimum that we should demand out of the future. Without this bare minimum, we’re just running in place. Here is what I think that minimum is:

1) More space 2) More health 3) More water 4) More time 5) More intelligence

First off, we need more space. There are seven billion people on this planet.

There is actually a lot of space on this earth. About 90 million square kilometers of land isn’t covered in snow or mountains. That’s about 5,000 times larger than the New York City metro area. Less than 1% of this land has any …

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Response to Charles Stross’ “Three arguments against the Singularity”


super-intelligent AI is unlikely because, if you pursue Vernor’s program, you get there incrementally by way of human-equivalent AI, and human-equivalent AI is unlikely. The reason it’s unlikely is that human intelligence is an emergent phenomenon of human physiology, and it only survived the filtering effect of evolution by enhancing human survival fitness in some way. Enhancements to primate evolutionary fitness are not much use to a machine, or to people who want to extract useful payback (in the shape of work) from a machine they spent lots of time and effort developing. We may want machines that can recognize and respond to our motivations and needs, but we’re likely to leave out the annoying bits, like needing to sleep for roughly 30% of the time, being lazy or emotionally unstable, and having motivations of its own.

“Human-equivalent AI is unlikely” is a ridiculous comment. Human level AI is extremely likely by 2060, if ever. (I’ll explain why in the next post.) Stross might not understand that …

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Security is Paramount

For billions of years on this planet, there were no rules. In many places there still are not. A wolf can dine on the entrails of a living doe he has brought down, and no one can stop him. In some species, rape is a more common variety of impregnation than consensual sex. Nature is fucked up, and anyone who argues otherwise has not actually seen nature in action.

This modern era, with its relative orderliness and safety, at least in the West, is an aberration. A bizarre phenomenon, rarely before witnessed in our solar system since its creation. Planetwide coordination is something that just didn’t happen until the invention of the telegraph and radio made it possible.

America and Western Europe are full of the most security-deluded people of all. The most recent generations, growing up without any major global conflict — Generation X and Y — are practically as ignorant as you can get. Thousands of generations of tough-as-nails people underwent every manner of horrors to incrementally build the orderly and safe society many of us have …

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Forbes Cover Article on Thiel; Tom McCabe Quoted, SIAI Mentioned Indirectly

My friend, associate, and past SIAI Visiting Fellow Tom McCabe was quoted in the cover story of this month’s Forbes:

Yale math major Thomas McCabe, 19, is applying for a Thiel grant. McCabe hopes to commercialize low-cost 3-D printers that now make a range of plastic goods on demand. “We are living among the ruins of a fallen civilization,” he says, sounding a lot like Thiel must have 24 years ago. “Take all of the basic infrastructure, our roads and bridges and so on that we built in the 1950s and ’60s. If we tried to build them now we couldn’t do it.” But with a grubstake from Thiel we might get a little closer.

Fun to see ideas that begin as quirky conversations among SIAI employees and visiting fellows find their way into cover stories on Forbes!

The second paragraph of the article indirectly references SENS, Seasteading Institute, Singularity Institute, and Halcyon Molecular. In the last few years, I have …

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Kurzweil Reveals an In-Depth Analysis of His Predictions for 2009 in Letter to IEEE Spectrum

In a recent letter written to John Rennie responding to his recent critique of Ray’s predictions, Kurzweil defended himself and his predictions, and most importantly, linked to this. This huge document is over 150 pages long and packed with cool images and facts.

Kurzweil hits back at Rennie:

While I appreciate some of the things John Rennie has to say, his review of my predictions is filled with inaccuracies, including misquotes of mine, and misunderstandings of the meaning of my words and the reality of today’s technology. For starters, he takes note of my point about selection bias, but his entire article suffers from this bias. While he acknowledges that I wrote over 100 predictions for 2009, in a book I wrote in the late 1990s, he only talks about a handful of them. And he persistently gets these wrong. He writes that I predicted “widespread, foolproof, real-time speech translation.” We do in fact have …

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The Whiskerwheel — Flexible Locomotion

I have a fairly simple idea for a new kind of wheel that I will describe to you now. It’s not really possible to build a very good one with today’s technology, but it seems as if it could be possible with more advanced fullerene-based robotics.

I got the idea for this wheel while reading about Usain Bolt and the possible limits of human speed. One of the obvious factors that determines speed is the total amount of force applied to the ground per time interval. Humans and other animals with legs can only contact the ground as many times as they have legs per running cycle, limiting the amount of force they can apply.

The classic workaround to this limitation is the wheel, which can apply constant force to the ground as long as its power source holds out. Of course, the wheel has its weaknesses. A wheel can’t operate efficiently over uneven ground, and can’t scale certain obstacles. The solution is to create a “wheel” that consists of a bundle …

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Silicon Valley Billionaire Backs Futuristic Philanthropy

Here’s the article from yesterday’s San Jose Mercury News:

Silicon Valley billionaire Peter Thiel worries that people aren’t thinking big enough about the future.

So he’s convening an unusual philanthropic summit Tuesday night , where he’ll introduce other wealthy tech figures to nonprofit groups exploring such futuristic — some might say “far out” — ideas as artificial intelligence, the use of “rejuvenation biotechnologies” to extend human life and the creation of free-floating communities on the high seas.

“We’re living in a world where people are incredibly biased toward the incremental,” said Thiel, explaining that he wants to challenge his peers to pursue more “radical breakthroughs” in their philanthropy, by supporting nonprofit exploration of technological innovations that carry at least the promise of major advances for the human condition.

“Obviously there are a lot of questions about the impact of these things,” he added. “If you have radical life extension, that could obviously lead to repercussions for society. But I think that’s a problem we want to have.”

The 43-year-old financier and …

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Robin Hanson: The Future Seems Shiny

Robin Hanson:

Our minds have two very different modes (and a range between). We model important things nearby in more detail than less important things far away. The more nearby aspects we notice in a thing, the more other nearby aspects and relevant detail we assume it has. On the other hand, the more far aspects we see in something, the more other far aspects we assume it has, and the more we reason about it via broad categories and relations.

Since the future is far in time, thinking about it tends to invoke a far mode of thought, which introduces other far mode defaults into our image of the future. And thinking about the far future makes us think especially far. Of course many other considerations influence any particular imagined future, but it can help to understand the assumptions your mind is primed to make about the far future, regardless of whether those assumptions are true.

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I Get Quoted in IEEE Spectrum Blog by the Former Editor-in-Chief of Scientific American

Here’s the article, by John Rennie. Quote:

It seems only fair to allow some latitude for interpretation on the dates. But even then, it is hard to define the rightness or wrongness of Kurzweil’s predictions.

Kurzweil himself has no such difficulty, however. He knows precisely how well he’s doing. Last January, Michael Anissimov of the Accelerating Future Web site posted an item in which he suggested that seven of Kurzweil’s predictions for 2009 seemed to be wrong. Kurzweil replied with a note that argued it was wrong to single out merely seven predictions when he had actually made 108 in The Age of Spiritual Machines.

“I am in the process of writing a prediction-by-prediction analysis of these, which will be available soon and I will send it to you,” he wrote. “But to summarize, of these 108 predictions, 89 were entirely correct by the end of 2009.” Another 13 were “essentially correct,” by which he meant that they would be realized within just a few years. “Another 3 are partially correct, 2 look …

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