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From Here To Singularity

"The time from here to Singularity depends sensitively on the particulars of what we humans do during the next decade (and even the next few years)."

Three schools of thought on the Singularity.

The Singularity ’08 summit is well on its way, and to get ready for it, I am re-publishing selected videos from last year’s event. I hope that, if you are new to the concepts being discussed on this blog, these will entice you to join us at the event. If you are more familiar, but haven’t seen these, you should. For more videos from this conference (and others), visit the Singularity Institute.

Eliezer Yudkowsky, one of the world’s foremost researchers on AGI Friendly AI and recursive self-improvement presents three different schools of thought on the Singularity. Eliezer has created the Friendly AI approach to AGI, which emphasizes the importance of the structure of an ethical optimization process and its supergoal, in contrast to the common trend of seeking the right fixed enumeration of ethical rules a moral agent should follow. At the 2007 Singularity Summit, he introduced three schools of thought currently associated with the word “Singularity,” their core arguments and bolder conjectures, while noting where they support or contradict each other.

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The singularity hits the mainstream

Last week,at the Intel developer forum, Justin Rattner did everything but speak the S-word. From the intel press release:

Justin Rattner, during his keynote today at the Intel Developer Forum in San Francisco, predicted big changes are ahead in social interactions, robotics and improvements in computer’s ability to sense the real world. He said Intel’s research labs are already looking at human-machine interfaces and examining future implications to computing with some promising changes coming much sooner than expected.

“The industry has taken much greater strides than anyone ever imagined 40 years ago,” Rattner said. “There is speculation that we may be approaching an inflection point where the rate of technology advancements is accelerating at an exponential rate, and machines could even overtake humans in their ability to reason, in the not so distant future.”

So, there you have it – depending on your take of things, this is either very good news- executive level people now understand the importance of singularity research, and so the resources to get this happening will come to bear – or very bad news – executive level people now understand the importance of singularity research and so will rape and pillage their way through it as is often their wont. (I’m kidding, of course).

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The singularity: nearer than last year. Singularity Summit’08: October 25th

I spent an very enjoyable evening last week kicking off preparations for this year’s singularity summit, to take place in San Jose on the 25th of october.

– There are a number of high profile speakers lined up, with more being organized as I write this. When things are firmer, I will blog about them here.

– This years event is intended to be smaller and splashier than last: I will let you know when tickets are available for sale. (They will also be more expensive than last year, so those of you with relatively limited means (like myself) may want to volunteer to with preparations. It is, in my opinion, the best way to attend the event.)

To promote the summit, and whet the appetite of those that didn’t attend last year, I’m going to be rebroadcasting videos from the 07 summit, a couple each week.

CNN covers Catastrophic Risks conference, reports on the Singularity instead.

Words escape me.

A CNN article reporting on the Global Catastrophic Risks conference explains the singularity (or at least, Ray Kurzweil’s conception of it) to its readers.

…Kurzweil is predicting the impending arrival of something called the Singularity, which he defines in his book on the subject as “the culmination of the merger of our biological thinking and existence with our technology, resulting in a world that is still human but that transcends our biological roots.”

The real news here is that it’s in the news – the main stream media news. Does that mean the singularity is now last week’s meme? Will we need to find another topic to stop conversations at cocktail parties with?

If anyone is worried that somehow the world is ending because the MSM is actually reporting on news, rather than the missing white girl of the month, fear no more: they missed the whole point of the Global Catastrophic Risks conference which is that other world-ending kind of singularity – the one we all want to avoid. (Well, those of us who aren’t drinking the Brawno.) So, the world isn’t ending because CNN is actually reporting news, it’s ending because of all sorts of things that are being discussed at the conference.

Mankind to ‘transcend biology in posthuman world’ –

5 Billion Dollars, in Rubles, in Nanotech Research.

nanotech robot in bloodstreamThe information revolution mainly occured in english. Why? Because, being developed in the United States, english speakers had a head start on things before other countries and cultures could get involved. If anything, this has sealed English’s position as lingua franca, quite likely in perpetuity of the human race (is there any reason for another lingua franca to emerge, now that the entire world speaks english, via the web?)

However, the next technological revolutions aren’t necessarily going to happen in silicon valley. They are going to happen where the willpower and resources to make them happen exists. And, increasingly, that is overseas. Like, for instance, Russia, which is taking a diametrical tack to the U.S. in this regard. Take their new nanotechnology program, for example.

Nanowerk reports:

Rosnanotekh was set up last year with a budget of five billion dollars (3.2 billion euros), an unprecedented level of funding for Russian scientists starved of resources since the 1991 Soviet collapse.

The corporation aims to make the creations of Russian scientists commercially viable and, through co-financing, to promote private investment — the main source of technology funding in countries such as Japan and the United States.

With the removal of state funding after the Soviet collapse, hundreds of thousands of scientists emigrated to places such as Silicon Valley. The often remote research institutes they abandoned largely stagnated.

Russian officials are hoping all that will change. When Rosnanotekh was set up last year the then president, Vladimir Putin, said nanotechnology was “a key direction” for the country’s economy.

Another current buzzword is “technology clusters,” which the government hopes will be based around research institutes and universities to develop inventions and bring them to market more efficiently.

The global market for nanotechnology will be worth 2.9 trillion dollars by 2014, according to research data shown at the forum. Russia has signalled it wants to be up there with industry leaders such as the United States.

Up there with industry leaders, or biting at their heels? Brain power isn’t an anglosaxon invention, and, thanks to the equalizing power of information age, the thousands of scientists and entrepreneurs that would have been left farming the grandfather potato field (or rice paddy, or cow herd) will get the opportunity to enjoy the pleasures of the cubicle farm :>

And, overtaking won’t take much, with current policital candidates unafraidly (proudly?) admitting that they don’t know computers.

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