Nanotechnology’s Global Risk and Promises of Resilience

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Within the next few decades, and perhaps sooner, a new type of manufacturing will be made possible by molecular nanotechnology (MNT). Considering its enormous potential for profound social, environmental, economic, and military impacts, MNT has received insufficient attention in ethical and policy discussions. Mike Treder, co-founder and Executive Director of the Center for Responsible Nanotechnology, presented on the global risks posed by molecular nanotechnology and the potential for resilience at the November Global Catastrophic Risks conference .

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Digital Serfs and Cyborg Buddhas

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Mike LaTorra and J. Hughes led a group discussion at the Convergence 08 unconference titled “Digital Serfs and Cyborg Buddhas.” Digital (or data) serfdom currently exists — and is growing — among high-tech workers. In a future of mind-uploading, the situation could worsen into a dystopian horror. The bright alternative to this vision of servitude in dark digital mills is life as an enhanced, empowered, free individual, the Cyborg Buddha, who enjoys both technological abundance and the time to enjoy it in contemplative bliss.

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Comirit: Commonsense Reasoning by Integrating Simulation and Logic

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Rich computer simulations or quantitative models can enable an agent to realistically predict real-world behavior with precision and performance that is difficult to emulate in logical formalisms. Unfortunately, such simulations lack the deductive flexibility of techniques such as formal logics and so do not find natural application in the deductive machinery of commonsense or general purpose reasoning systems.

This dilemma can, however, be resolved via a hybrid architecture that combines tableaux-based reasoning with a framework for generic simulation based on the concept of ‘molecular’ models. Benjamin Johnston in a presentation on his paper with Mary-Anne Williams delivered at the AGI-08 Conference, argues that this combination exploits the complementary strengths of logic and simulation, allowing an agent to build and reason with automatically constructed simulations in a problem-sensitive manner.

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Nanotechnology: the Next Industrial Revolution Ramps Up


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The Technology Roadmap for Productive Nanosystems charts a path beginning with current nanotechnology capabilities to advanced molecularly-precise systems. Christine Peterson, co-founder of the Foresight Nanotech Institute, spoke on the organization’s attempts to lay out a step-by-step course of development for molecular nanotechnology at a Stanford graduate class in technology forecasting in January. After outlining near and mid-term projections for nanoscale technologies, she introduced the future objective of establishing open source physical security, a means to broadly protect both privacy and safety in a society empowered with sophisticated surveillance technologies.

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Toward Cognitively Robust Synthetic Characters

 

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At AGI-08: The First Conference on Artificial General IntelligenceAndrew Shilliday of the Rensselaer A.I. and Reasoning Lab reported on the attempts by researchers at the organization to enable artificial agents to reason about the beliefs of others, resulting in game characters that can predict the behavior of human players.

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The Basic AI Drives

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One might imagine that AI systems with harmless goals will demonstrate harmless behavior. A paper by Self-Aware Systems founder and president Steve Omohundro submitted for the AGI-08 conference on artificial general intelligence shows instead that intelligent systems will need to be carefully designed to prevent them from behaving in harmful ways. This presentation on the basic AI drives, taking place at the post-conference workshop, identifies a number of “drives” that will appear in sufficiently advanced AI systems of any design.

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