Cognitive Biases in the Assessment of Risk

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The study of reproducible errors of human reasoning, and what these errors reveal about underlying mental processes, is known as the heuristics and biases program in cognitive psychology. This program has made discoveries highly relevant to assessors of global catastrophic risks.  Eliezer Yudkowsky, who writes on the subject of cognitive biases at Overcoming Bias, presented at the  Global Catastrophic Risks conference in Mountain View on the subject of cognitive biases in the assessment of risk.

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Mitigating Impact Risks

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Bruce Damer is the CEO of DigitalSpace, an international corporation with a leading practice in virtual worlds for industrial design engineering, education and public outreach.  He is also the director of Contact Consortium, a California 501c(3) non-profit organization catalyzing the development of multi-user virtual worlds and virtual communities in cyberspace.  For the 2008 Global Catastrophic Risks conference in Mountain View, he presented on the subjects of mitigating impact risks from Near-Earth objects, and the long-term potential for utilizing the source of these possible threats as stepping stones to a sustainable space program.

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The Weather Machine

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J. Storrs Hall is the author of Nanofuture: What’s Next for Nanotechnology, a book covering the physical principles of engineering at the atomic scale, possible applications of nanomachines, and their potential alteration of human society. More recently he published Beyond AI: Creating the Conscience of the Machine, a review of the history of AI, discussing some of the major roadblocks that the field has recently overcome, and predicting the probable achievements in the near future. At October’s Global Catastrophic Risks conference in Mountain View he gave a presentation entitled “The Weather Machine” on the potential for nano-enabled “Climate Control for the Earth”

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Building a Resilient Civilization: An Introduction

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Mike Treder of the Center for Responsible Nanotechnology and J. Hughes of the Institute for Ethics and Emerging Technologies introduce the November 14 conference on Global Catastrophic Risks taking place in Mountain View, California.  The event followed a meeting on the same subject, an immensely diverse collection of events could constitute global catastrophes, in July at the Future of Humanity Institute at Oxford University in the United Kingdom.  The topic for the conference was “Building a Resilient Civilization.”

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Global Catastrophic Risks: An Overview

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Global catastrophic risks are risks that seriously threaten human well-being on a global scale. An immensely diverse collection of events could constitute global catastrophes: potential factors range from volcanic eruptions to pandemic infections, nuclear accidents to worldwide tyrannies, out-of-control scientific experiments to climatic changes, and cosmic hazards to economic collapse.  Anders Sandberg, James Martin Research Fellow of the Future of Humanity Institute at the University of Oxford, provides an overview of aims of the Global Catastrophic Risks conference series at GCR08, a meeting in Mountain View, California in November of 2008.

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The China-Brain Project

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Professor Hugo de Garis has been given a grant by Xiamen University in Fujian Province, China to build an artificial brain consisting of 10,000 – 15,000 neural net circuit modules evolved in an accelerator board 50 times faster than in a PC.  He is scheduled to head a conference session on the subject of artificial brains in May at AGI-09, the second conference on artificial general intelligence, after which he will be teaching at the first AGI Summer School in Xiamen, China in June.

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Stages of Ethical Development in Artificial General Intelligence Systems

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Photo by brewbrooks

At the AGI-08 post-conference workshop Ben Goertzel presented on a paper with Stephan Vladimir Bugaj on the theory of stages of ethical development as applied to artificial intelligence systems.  Incorporating prior related theories by Kohlberg and Gilligan, as well as Piaget’s theory of cognitive development, the theory is then applied to the ethical development of integrative artificial general intelligence systems that contain components carrying out simulation and uncertain inference – the key hypothesis being that effective integration of these components is central to the ascent of the AGI system up the ethical-stage hierarchy.

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Teaching Embodied Agents, Applied to Virtual Animals in Second Life

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 At AGI-08: The First Conference on Artificial General Intelligence, Novamente LLC CSO Ben Goertzel presented on a paper by Cassio Pennachin et al. on a teaching methodology called Imitative-Reinforcement-Corrective (IRC) learning, proposed as a general approach for teaching embodied non-linguistic AGI systems.  IRC  is a framework for automatically learning a procedure that generates a desired type of behavior.  A set of exemplars of the target behavior-type are utilized for fitness estimation, reinforcement signals from a human teacher are used for fitness evaluation, and the execution of candidate procedures may be modified by the teacher via corrections delivered in real-time.

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Strengthening Transnational Governance to Mitigate Risks

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The IEET, Center for Responsible Nanotechnology and the Lifeboat Foundation hosted a meeting on Global Catastrophic Risks on Friday, November 14 in Mountain View, California, one day prior to the Convergence 08 Unconference.  The seminar’s theme was “Building a Resilient Civilization,” for which IEET executive director J. Hughes argued in favor of strengthening transnational governance to mitigate risks.

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Before We Can Add Years to Life, We Must Add Life to Years

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The correlation between telomere length and age is very strong.  Shorter telomeres directly correspond to shorter human life expectancy, but “cause and effect” are still debated. Finding ways to prevent telomere shortening could be an ideal way to address these issues and answer the question once and for all: Does prevention of telomere shortening extend our lifespans? Dr. Laura Briggs of Sierra Sciences presented on the subject of the organization’s research at the Aging ’08 conference in Los Angeles, California in a presentation titled “Before We Can Add Years to Life, We Must Add Life to Years.”

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Unfocused Pulsed Lasers Selectively Destroy Lipofuscin

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Gilad Lehmann and Nason Schooler at Understanding Aging: Biomedical and Bioengineering Approaches

Lipofuscin accumulates in the lysosomes of aging post-mitotic cells and progenitor cells, interfering with autophagy. Thus it has been proposed that the removal of this indigestible aging pigment may be a highly effective rejuvenation therapy. It has been known for over forty years that pulsed unfocused lasers can selectively destroy pigmented structures without harming the surrounding tissue.  Aging researcher Nason Schooler offered his perspective on the potential benefits of the lipofuscin removal approach at the Understanding Aging scientific conference hosted by the Methuselah Foundation.

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