Singularity Summit 2009

Michael Vassar, Singularity Institute

Shaping the intelligence explosion
Anna Salamon, Singularity Institute

Technical roadmap for whole brain emulation
Anders Sandberg, Future of Humanity Institute

The time is now: As a species and as individuals we need whole brain emulation
Randal Koene, Fatronik-Tecnalia Foundation

Technological convergence leading to artificial general intelligence
Itamar Arel, University of Tennessee

Pathways to beneficial artificial general intelligence: Virtual pets, robot children, artificial bioscientists, and beyond
Ben Goertzel, Novamente

Neural substrates of consciousness and the 'conscious pilot' model
Stuart Hameroff, University of Arizona

Quantum computing: What it is, what it is not, what we have yet to learn
Michael Nielsen

DNA: Not merely the secret of life
Ned Seeman, New York University

Compression progress: The algorithmic principle behind curiosity, creativity, art, science, music, humor
Juergen Schmidhuber, IDSIA

Conversation on the Singularity
Stephen Wolfram and Gregory Benford

Simulation and the Singularity
David Chalmers, Australian National University

Choice machines, causality, and cooperation
Gary Drescher

Synthetic neurobiology: Optically engineering the brain to augment its function
Ed Boyden, MIT Media Lab

Foundations of intelligent agents
Marcus Hutter, Australian National University

Cognitive ability: Past and future enhancements and implications
William Dickens, Northeastern University

The ubiquity and predictability of the exponential growth of information technology
Ray Kurzweil, Kurzweil Technologies

More than Moore: Comparing forecasts of technological progress
Bela Nagy, Santa Fe Institute

The "petaflop macroscope"
Gary Wolf, Wired Magazine

Collaborative networks in scientific discovery
Michael Nielsen

How does society identify experts and when does it work?
Robin Hanson, George Mason University

Artificial biological selection for longevity
Gregory Benford, University of California, Irvine

Critics of the Singularity
Ray Kurzweil, Kurzweil Technologies

The finger of AI: Automated electrical vehicles and oil independence
Brad Templeton, Electronic Frontier Foundation

The fallibility and improvability of the human mind
Gary Marcus, New York University

Macroeconomics and Singularity
Peter Thiel, Clarium Capital Management

The Singularity and the Methuselarity: Similarities and differences
Aubrey De Grey, SENS Foundation

Cognitive biases and giant risks
Eliezer Yudkowsky, Singularity Institute

How much it matters to know what matters: A back of the envelope calculation
Anna Salamon, Singularity Institute


Edited by Andy Ross

By David Orban
Singularity Hub, October 5, 2009

The Singularity Summit 2009, New York, October 3-4, was a resounding success. Over 800 attendees crowded the venue at the 92 Street Y, and there were over 30 speeches and panels in a row.

A welcome addition to the program was a conversation between science-fiction author, and now chairman of Genescient, Gregory Benford, and the developer of symbolic computation system Mathematica, Stephen Wolfram.

Eliezer Yudkowsky illustrated the unacceptable downsides of not properly dealing with the issues of the singularity and of artificial general intelligence in his talk on cognitive biases and giant risks.


By Stuart Fox
Popular Science, October 3-4, 2009

Edited by Andy Ross

Open The Pod Bay Door, HAL

Ray Kurzweil's concept of the Singularity rests on two axioms: that computers will become more intelligent than humans, and that humans and computers will merge, allowing us access to that increased thinking power.

According to Anna Salamon, artificial intelligence greater than our own is inevitable and dangerous. She argued that biological brains have finite intellectual capacity.

Salamon believes we will create super computers to solve those problems for us. She worries that if humans and AI have divergent goals, we could find ourselves in competition with the AI for resources to achieve those different goals. Salamon advocates starting now to ensure that human-assisting missions get hardwired into the basic architecture of artificial intelligence.

Anders Sandberg believes that engineers have to base their first attempts at AI on the human brain. So the first artificial brain would contain elements of the personality of the test subject that the artificial brain copied. These traits could become locked into all artificial intelligence as the initial AI software proliferates.

Just How's This Thing Gonna Work, Anyways?

How are we going to create artificial intelligence, and how are we going to integrate ourselves with this advanced technology? Luckily, philosopher David Chalmers was there to break it all down.

Chalmers rejected the idea of brain emulation as the path to super-intelligent AI. He thinks that we have to evolve AI by planting computer programs in a simulated environment and selecting the smartest bots. Basically, set up the Matrix, but with only artificial inhabitants.

To ensure that the resultant AI adheres to pro-human values, we would have to set up a "leak-proof" world where we control what goes in, and can prevent any of the artificial consciousness from becoming aware of us too early and escaping.

As Chalmers sees it, the second the artificial personalities become as smart as us, they will emulate our leap by creating AI even smarter than themselves inside their simulated world. Essentially, they will undergo their own, digital Singularity.

This will start a chain reaction that quickly leads to a digital intelligence far greater than anything we ever imagined. Unless, of course, the first AI more intelligent than us uses that additional foresight to realize creating intelligence greater than itself is a bad idea, and cuts off the entire process.

But assuming that AI does manage to get smarter than us, we will have to either integrate with it, coexist with it as a lower form of life, or pull the plug. Chalmers sees integration as the only way to go. He advocates physically replacing one neuron at a time with a digital equivalent, while the person is awake, so as to retain continuity of personality.

Supreme Mathematics of Gods and Earths

Stephen Wolfram believes that fundamental programs underlie all the behavior in our universe, as well as many phenomena that don't exist in a universe with our physics. These computations that Wolfram identifies as embedded in reality exist independently of our observation.

Wolfram calls the total set of all possible programs the computational universe. By running mathematical experiments, examining the natural world and decoding the behavior of reality, we can explore this universe, uncovering programs new to humanity, but not new to the universe.

Wolfram likened these programs to minerals like crystals and magnetic metals. He described a world where scientists and mathematicians mine the computational universe for new programs.

Wolfram identifies computerized computational mining as the catalyst for the emergence of artificial intelligence. But he isn't concerned that this AI will immediately threaten our extinction. After all, the program only exists to find new knowledge. How could killing us help in that goal?

Not everyone at the conference bought this idea of a benign artificial intelligence. Maybe this pervasive fear of AI-led extermination just reflects our own inability to imagine a consciousness without the aggressive need to destroy humanity.

Thus Spake Kurzweil

Kurzweil is the man everyone came to see. After the standing ovation died down, the auditorium reached its quietest point yet, as the collected skeptics, crazies, and disciples waited to hear from the first prophet of Singularity.

Kurzweil shored up the faithful, calming any doubts they had about the sheer ambition of his claims, and presenting even stronger evidence that the Singularity is inevitable and impending. The blatant clarity and simplicity of his argument and evidence left no doubts about Kurzweil's profound intellect.

Since 1890, computing power has become a trillion times more powerful, and a billion times more powerful in the last 25 years. A single computer will equal the storage capacity and speed of the human brain by around 2029. And once a computer can map out every single neuron, connection, and firing of a brain, someone will make a digital version.

Kurzweil didn't convince me that a digital brain will spontaneously assume human-like consciousness and self-awareness. In fact, he didn't convince me that anyone had even the slightest clue as to what will really happen once we cross that threshold.

I was reminded of the Human Genome Project, which assumed that once every gene got mapped out, it would be easy to put a person together from scratch. Now the simple theory that DNA codes, RNA prints, and protein acts seems increasingly simplistic and naive.

Neuroscience will soon start revealing similar complexities in the brain. And as the process of consciousness proves more and more intricate, the computing power needed to reproduce it will rise and rise, pushing back the date of the Singularity.

Kurzweil is on to something. But no knows what that something is, or when it will really be here.

What Does a Beer Taste Like After the Singularity?

By Glenn Derene
Popular Mechanics, October 5, 2009

Edited by Andy Ross

Imagine a techno-futurist rapture when artificial intelligence becomes smarter than human intelligence, and computers are able to improve and refine themselves at an accelerated pace. Many singularians support the idea of uploading one's consciousness to the machines. With your mind freed into the digital realm, you will be immortal.

Gary Marcus, director of the NYU Center for Child Language, described the human mind as an evolutionary kluge, producing a wonderfully refined sense of vision, but a terribly deficient cue-based memory recall system. Altering the mind with a more logical computer system could reduce errors and improve our basic capacity to reason.

But I think this stuff is a lot harder than these folks make it out to be. Before we can decide what we want from artificial intelligence, we need to figure out just what we mean when we describe human intelligence.

If any computer becomes self-aware enough to start refining its own intelligence at an accelerated rate, I'm going to unplug that thing and take a baseball bat to it.

Will Our Robot Overlords Be Friendly?

Ronald Bailey, October 6, 2009

Edited by Andy Ross

The Singularity Institute for Artificial Intelligence (SIAI) was created to address the urgent problem of how to create super-smart AIs that are friendly to us. Smarter intelligences might choose to get rid of us because our matter is not optimally arranged to achieve their goals.

Anders Sandberg offered a technical roadmap for whole brain emulation. He argued that it is possible to foresee how developments in neuroscience and computer science are leading to emulation of specific people's brains. Sandberg believes that emulating a human brain is only 20 years away. But we don't know if a one-to-one emulation would produce a mind or not.

Randal Koene argued that the time is now to go after mind uploading. Radically increasing human longevity solves a few problems, but doesn't deal with our dependence on changeable environments and scarce resources. Nor does it deal with our intellectual limitations, death by traumatic accidents, or disease.

David Chalmers argued that personal identity would be maintained if the functional organization of the upload was the same as the original. In addition, gradual uploading might also be a way to maintain personal identity. Chalmers also speculated about reconstructive uploading in which a super-smart AI would scour the world for information about me, then instantiate that information in the appropriate substrate. On the optimistic view, being reconstructed from the informational debris you left behind would be like waking up from a long nap.

Ray Kurzweil envisions integration between humans and their neural prosthetics. Over time, more and more of the neural processing that makes us who we are will be located outside our bodies and brains so that uploading will take place gradually. Our uploaded minds will function much faster and more precisely than our meat minds do today. We will join the singularity as our artificial parts become ascendant.

Peter Thiel asked us to vote on which of seven scenarios we're most worried about:

— Singularity happens and robots kill us all (the Skynet scenario)
— Biotech terrorism using something more virulent than smallpox and Ebola combined
— Nanotech grey goo escapes and eats up all organic matter
— Israel and Iran engage in thermonuclear war that goes global
— A one-world totalitarian state arises
— Runaway global warming
— The singularity takes too long to happen

Aubrey de Grey says progress in regenerative medicine could develop faster than a person approaches death from aging.

Anna Salamon argued that an intelligence explosion can't be controlled once it starts.


Al Fin, October 7, 2009

The singularity is only the latest of names for an idea that has been around for millennia. The singularity movement can be seen as a religious faith. The combination of religious faith and goal orientation with scientific and engineering rigor can lead to something truly amazing.


My selections from an IEEE Spectrum Special Issue on the Singularity

Kurzweil says anyone alive in 2040 or so could be close to immortal