The Singularity

Singularity Summit ’08 from a non-nerd

Posted on October 27, 2008. Filed under: Layman's AI, The Singularity |

San Jose, California: the most expensive place to live in the USA. The international airport is only three miles from the historic downtown district, but my imaginative taxi driver was still able to get the meter up to $25. On Sunday morning, city employees are out power-washing the sidewalks and pedestrian alleyways. The “light train” seemingly goes everywhere, including right in front of the Hotel Montgomery, my home in Silicon Valley. Everything is clean, and the FBI says it’s the safest large town in the country. With only my orthotically-enhanced shoes for transportation, I easily enjoyed wonderful meals, great jazz, and mind-popping intellectual stimulation at the Singularity Summit.

Had he not passed on four days earlier (was he signed up for cryonics?), “Mr. Blackwell” could have found limitless fodder at the Summit for his worst-dressed lists. Singularitarians, for the most part, seem to practice the fashion credo: “I’m not like you, at all.” None were barefoot, but the footwear was imaginative, to say the least, including one young man whose “shoes” had ten individual toe compartments. As the age of the participants increased, there was a general decline in the volume of hair gel and spike points, with a trend toward less of what one might consider a “statement”, and more of a mere lack of good taste. It was reminiscent of a ghetto yard sale, except the clothes were moving around. As to the presenters themselves, there was a fashion spectrum: from one who easily could have passed for a hitch-hiker over from a ’60’s Big Sur commune, with hair and beard that had never been near a sharp object, to others in custom-tailored suits with Clintonesque coifs. Some were signaling “g” more than others, but all that I heard and met (stage and audience) were clearly quite sharp.

Singularity Institute volunteer Michael Vassar has written that non-nerds may be seen as “defective nerds”. I am definitely in the “defective” category, so my impressions of the Summit may differ significantly from other versions.

Perhaps the most all-encompassing concept about the Singularity that I gained from the Summit is this: millions of people are working on things that will cause the occurrence of the Singularity, even if they do not realize it. This idea is reminiscent of the human brain itself, in that there are millions of non-conscious interactive parts that somehow sum to create consciousness. This “wisdom of crowds” theme was injected into several presentations, and if accurate, confirms for me the inevitability of the Singularity, although not necessarily the pace. Ben Goertzel’s OpenCog project approaches AI through open sourcing (and is the only official entry of the Singularity Institute). Radar Networks CEO Nova Spivack envisions organizations increasing in intelligence, as opposed to individuals. He suggests that the most likely candidate for super-human intelligence already exists: the Internet. As it grows, he predicts the Web will “wake up”. In the view of Dr. Pete Estep, this and other developments would be part of a cooperative human/computer interface, described here. (more…)

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Do you know the way to San Jose?

Posted on October 24, 2008. Filed under: Layman's AI, Personal philosophy, Self-deception, The Singularity |

Long-time reader, first-time visitor to Silicon Valley. I just arrived for the Singularity Summit. It will be interesting to see how out-of-place a redneck sex doctor will be in this sea of geniuses. More to follow.

Add-On: see today’s Summit summary.

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    The director of the Sexual Medicine Center leaves penile implants behind, and launches a quest for knowledge about Artificial Intelligence, extended life, and the issues inside the health-care industry.

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