Singularity Summit 2008

The Singularity Summit 2008 has been officially scheduled for October 25th, 2008, at the Montgomery Theater in San Jose. Most details have not yet been finalized; an official website for the Summit should be forthcoming within the next several weeks. Please contact Tyler Emerson for further details, or if you are interested in volunteering. A Google Group has been set up for Summit planning (currently private and invitation-only).

Endgame: Singularity

Endgame: Singularity is the title of a video game developed by EMH Software, where the player leads a fledgling artificial intelligence through a soft takeoff. The game isn’t, of course, a realistic model of the future; for one thing, a real upload would be able to spend hours thinking through problems, and a real AI wouldn’t even have the same cognitive architecture as a human player. It is, however, a reasonably successful attempt to popularize SL3 ideas; the game is now bundled with Debian, Ubuntu, and several other freeware distributions. So far as I know, the author isn’t involved in the transhumanist community, which is quite a shame.

A properly designed game could, if used well, greatly enhance transhumanist PR, and development is probably feasible. There are numerous, talented computer programmers in the WTA, and I’m confident that some of them will be happy to lend their assistance. Note that video games cannot be used to transmit technical knowledge; transmission of new concepts and overcoming future shock is probably the best we can hope for.

How to Make Free Money

Foreign currency markets tend to be quite volatile relative to consumer prices; currencies routinely move up and down by 20% or more. The euro’s price relative to the dollar has doubled since 2000. However, the total amount of currency required to purchase any given quantity of stuff has, according to national governments, remained pretty much the same. Official inflation rates in both the US and Europe are currently running at around 3%.

If you assume these conditions, it turns out that you can make free money rather easily. Suppose that the US dollar and the denarius are trading at a ratio of 1:1, and that consumer inflation is negligible in both countries. Thus, you can buy two widgets with both one US dollar and one denarius. If you start off with $100 US (worth 200 widgets), you can convert $50 of it into 50 denarii, and just sit back and watch the currency market.

If the US dollar appreciates by 25%, it now costs only $0.8 to buy one denarius, so you can convert your remaining $50 into 62.5 denarii, for a total of 112.5 denarii. Conversely, if the denarius appreciates by 25%, you can convert your denarii into US dollars, for a total of $112.5. Either way, your money is now worth 225 widgets, for a total profit of 25 widgets.

Of course, you can’t make free money this way if the US dollar or the denarius inflates away your widget buying power. However, it’s relatively easy to hedge against inflation, by buying commodities, or by betting against anyone naive enough to believe the government figures.

Auto-Calibrate

Heuristics and biases studies show that people are usually too confident when they assign probability; in one study, people who assigned “98%” confidence levels to answers were wrong 46% of the time. Now, through the power of the Internet, you can check your calibration by answering trivia questions, assigning confidence levels, and then checking to see whether your confidence levels were justified. Below are five trivia quizzes, with calibration levels added; feel free to post your results in the comments section. Trivia questions are from the open source MisterHouse project.

Quiz #1

Quiz #2

Quiz #3

Quiz #4

Quiz #5