Joining SIAI and participating in the Singularity Summit

Image by David Trowbridge

This spring I joined the Singularity Institute for Artificial Intelligence (SIAI). After having followed Ray Kurzweil‘s, Eliezer Yudkowsky‘s, and Ben Goertzel‘s work for some time, it is my opinion that the institute that they are directing, together with Tyler Emerson, Bruce Klein, and others, is one of the most important today, and for the next few decades, for the future of humankind.

With three kids, and a keen understanding of the perils of modern society, our growing powers, and the responsibilities that come with them, it is for me rather natural to seek out the organization that can create the highest possible impact in what I deem a positive direction. Shaping the future is a privilege that we know to have since Illuminism. We have an understanding that the accumulation of our knowledge, tools, and the way we apply them define not only how we live, but also how future generations will live. It is not a coincidence that this has developed so profoundly in the last three centuries, but that is for an other post.

SIAI believes that human intelligence is just one in a vast space of possible other intelligences, and that humanity is on the verge of being joined by its own creations among the active agents that shape the planet’s future. We can stumble into this future blindly, where the speed of change is going to be further increased, and the complexity of events compounded by the intentions of the multiplicity of other players. Or we can try to map it out, and even better, plan for it, or in the best possible scenarios, craft the seeds of the intelligences that are going to soon join us in a way that the probabilities of a peaceful coexistence with them are maximized.

Artificial General Intelligences
(AGIs) are going to be as different from us and from each other, as the body plans of the crazy forms emerging from the cambrian explosion, and many of their concerns and aims are not going to be shared by us. For a while however we will definitely share the planet, and we already realize how fragile are its environment, and resources, to leave them unmanaged, and unattended.

On Monday I am leaving for the US, where I will end my trip with the Singularity Summit in San Francisco:

The Singularity Summit to address promise and peril of advanced AI to future of humanity

What are the major challenges to achieving advanced AI? What are the benefits and dangers? How far are we from self-improving AI? How should we prepare for this potentially powerful innovation?

These are among the questions that 17 outstanding thinkers will explore and debate at the Singularity Summit, to be held Saturday and Sunday, September 8-9, at the Palace of Fine Arts in San Francisco, California. The summit is organized by the Singularity Institute for Artificial Intelligence, a 501(c)(3) not-for-profit institute in Silicon Valley for the study of safe advanced AI.

“Advanced AI has the potential to impact every aspect of human life. We are in a crucial window of opportunity where we have temporary but powerful leverage to influence the outcome,” said Tyler Emerson, chair of the summit and executive director of the Singularity Institute for Artificial Intelligence. “Only a small group of scientists are aware of the central issues. It is essential to expand discussion of this critical 21st century issue, which is why I have created the summit.”

Peter Thiel, PayPal Cofounder, Clarium Capital President, and Facebook’s initial investor, will MC the summit and present his new ideas on financial markets and the Singularity. “It’s clear that the term ‘AI’ means a lot of different things,” said Thiel. “It’s one of these terms that has been bandied about a great deal, and has been misused a lot. It has been predicted for a long time that AI is right around the corner, and it’s taking longer than many people thought it would, with many disappointments along the way. However, it’s clear that there’s a massive set of issues happening, and people who don’t think there’s something important going on are living in a fantasy, and need to wake up.”

Confirmed Summit speakers include:

  • Dr. Rodney Brooks, famous MIT roboticist and founder of iRobot
  • Dr. Peter Norvig, director of research at Google
  • Paul Saffo, Stanford, leading technology forecaster
  • Sam Adams, distinguished engineer within IBM’s Research Division
  • Jamais Cascio, cofounder of World Changing and creator of Open the Future
  • Dr. Ben Goertzel, director of research at SIAI and founder of Novamente
  • Dr. J. Storrs Hall, author of Beyond AI: Creating the Conscience of the Machine
  • Dr. Charles L. Harper, Jr., senior VP at John Templeton Foundation
  • Dr. James Hughes, executive director of Institute for Ethics and Emerging Technologies
  • Neil Jacobstein, prominent AI expert and CEO of Teknowledge
  • Dr. Stephen Omohundro, founder of Self-Aware Systems
  • Dr. Barney Pell, founder and CEO of Powerset
  • Christine Peterson, cofounder of Foresight Nanotech Institute
  • Peter Thiel, cofounder of PayPal and founder of Clarium Capital
  • Wendell Wallach, author of Machine Morality: From Aristotle to Asimov and Beyond
  • Eliezer Yudkowsky, Friendly AI pioneer and cofounder of SIAI
  • Peter Voss, founder and CEO of Adaptive Artificial Intelligence

“To any thoughtful person, the Singularity idea, even if it seems wild, raises a gigantic, swirling cloud of profound and vital questions about humanity and the powerful technologies it is producing,” said Douglas R. Hofstadter at last year’s Singularity Summit at Stanford, author of Gödel, Escher, Bach, which won a Pulitzer Prize in 1980. “Given this mysterious and rapidly approaching cloud, there can be no doubt that the time has come for the scientific and technological community to seriously try to figure out what is on humanity’s collective horizon. Not to do so would be hugely irresponsible.”

I will try to liveblog and twitter from the summit, wifi connections permitting…

This post is also available in: Hungarian