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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)."

DNA Network Members Discuss Personal Genomics Service Providers 23andMe, deCODEme, and Navigenics

What’s so special about 23andMe, deCODEme, and Navigenics? What makes them stand out of the crowd? After all, DNA testing is nothing new…DNA Direct, has been offering consumers a whole slate of different tests for several years complete with genetic counseling and informative

DNA Network Members Discuss Personal Genomics Service Providers 23andMe, deCODEme, and Navigenics
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The meaningful DNA specifying a human must fit into at most 25 megabytes.

A very fascinating post from Elizer Yudkowsky’s Overcoming Bias blog on the upper limits on DNA based evolution, with a startling conclusion:

Among mammals, the rate of DNA copying errors is roughly 10^-8 per base per generation. Copy a hundred million DNA bases, and on average, one will copy incorrectly. One mutation, one death; each non-junk base of DNA soaks up the same amount of selection pressure to counter the degenerative pressure of copying errors. It’s a truism among biologists that most selection pressure goes toward maintaining existing genetic information, rather than promoting new mutations.

Natural selection probably hit its complexity bound no more than a hundred million generations after multicellular organisms got started. Since then, over the last 600 million years, evolutions have substituted new complexity for lost complexity, rather than accumulating adaptations. Anyone who doubts this should read George Williams’s classic “Adaptation and Natural Selection”, which treats the point at much greater length.

In material terms, a Homo sapiens genome contains roughly 3 billion bases. We can see, however, that mammalian selection pressures aren’t going to support 3 billion bases of useful information. This was realized on purely mathematical grounds before “junk DNA” was discovered, before the Genome Project announced that humans probably had only 20-25,000 protein-coding genes. Yes, there’s genetic information that doesn’t code for proteins – all sorts of regulatory regions and such. But it is an excellent bet that nearly all the DNA which appears to be junk, really is junk. Because, roughly speaking, an evolution isn’t going to support more than 10^8 meaningful bases with 1 bit of selection pressure and a 10^-8 error rate.

Each base is 2 bits. A byte is 8 bits. So the meaningful DNA specifying a human must fit into at most 25 megabytes.

Singularity Summit 2007 | The Singularity Institute for Artificial Intelligence

I volunteered at the singularity summit a few weeks ago and. It was quite a weekend. What is the singularity? Well Eliezer Yudkowsky ‘s introductory presentation outlined this conception of it:

Sometime in the future technology will advance to the point of creating minds that are smarter than human through brain computer interfaces or purely biological neurohackery or by constructing true artificial intelligence.

Vernor Vinge was a professor of mathematics were also wrote science fiction. And he realised he was having trouble writing story set in the future past the point where technology creates smarter than human minds because he was having to try to write characters that were smarter than he was, and at that point his crystal ball cracked down the centre.

That is why Vernor Vinge originally called [this] the singularity, after the centre of a black hole where 1970s models of laws of physics break down. Note that it’s the model that is the breaking down not necessarily the future itself. If I am ignorant about the phenomenon. that is a fact about my mind, not a fact about the phenomenon.

Stripped to its barest essentials, the core thesis of the event horizon is that smarter the human minds imply a weirder future than flying cars and amazing gadgets with lots of blinkenlights.

The core of Vinge’s event horizon is about intelligence. Improving the brain is a very serious business it tampers with the roots of the technology tree, goes back to the cause of all technology, and that makes the future a lot more uncertain.

Now the best news is that all the sessions got recorded, and now the audio from all the sessions for the whole weekend is online, and you can listen to the whole weekend’s stuff. They can be a tad confusing, since they were giving accompanied by slideware, and this is just the audio, but I think there will be video too in a while.

Here’s the rest of Eliezer’s talk that I’ve I quoted above.

And here’s the rest of the conference: Singularity Summit 2007 | The Singularity Institute for Artificial Intelligence

Game designers are exploiting the players: Unethical Games

It’s hard to argue that video games are not capable of developing a dependency in their users. As I’ve posted before, the situation has grown so acute that 10 South Koreans — mostly teenagers and people in their twenties — died in 2005 from game addiction-related causes.

At a recent conference in Melbourne, Australia, Jonathan Blow, a prominent independent developer labeled modern games such as World of Warcraft unethical.

[The reward system used by many online games] is very easily turned into a Pavlovian or Skinnerian scheme,” he says. “It’s considered best practice: schedule rewards for your player so that they don’t get bored and give up on your game. That’s actually exploitation.”

Developers should provide activities that interest players “rather than stringing them along with little pieces of candy so that they’ll suffer through terrible game play, but keep playing because they gain levels or new items”, he says.

“I think a lot of modern game design is actually unethical, especially massively multiplayer games like World of Warcraft, because they are predicated on player exploitation,” Mr Blow says.

He believes players will naturally avoid boring tasks but developers “override that by plugging into their pleasure centres and giving them scheduled rewards and we convince them to pay us money and waste their lives in front of our game in this exploitative fashion”.

Link to article.

It may be relevant to trot out this old gem – The View From the Top – a post from a highly successful online gamer who, after a year of toiling away online, quit ‘cold turkey’ from the entire environment.

Don’t get me wrong, WoW did a lot of things right. At times it was a fun game that allowed me to keep in contact with friends who lived far away. More importantly it introduced me to some of the best real life friends I’ve ever met. However, it did take an undeniable toll on me and is taking a far greater one on many, many people when taken too far.

Wheelchair Controlled by sub vocalized speech

One step closer to mind reading – this wheel chair interprets sub-vocalized speech – in other words, your stream of internal self-talk, and turns it into movement.

I can see how this would be useful. I can also see how thinking “that pillock on my left is really annoying me.” might turn you to face them.

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