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Singularity Summit 2012

October 27, 2012

I went to the Singularity Summit this year, primarily to meet interesting/smart people.  I also attended about half of the talks, and the videos are finally up.  Here are my thoughts on the ones I liked most:

  1. Jaan Tallin’s talk is super interesting, well-illustrated, and, considering the topic, audience-friendly.  Unfortunately, the video online doesn’t show all of his slides and animation, which were delightful.   The motivation for his talk is that we should be surprised that we appear to be on the verge of a singularity (supposing we believe that we are).  He proposes an anthropic explanation for this:  super-intelligences tend to simulate pre-singularity moments often (using a DFS-like algorithm), in order to see what other singularities look like (perhaps to find an intelligence to converse with).  I don’t find his argument that compelling, for a couple of reasons, but the talk is nevertheless fascinating and aesthetically pleasing.
  2. Robin Hanson’s talk is also extremely interesting.  He describes a particular era of a future with emulations – the very early stage, before there is self modification, super-organisms, etc. and things get much harder to analyze.  Trying to reason carefully in this world is an admirable goal and he does a great job, but I think the era he describes would be extremely brief (and not really exist as he describes it).  I also disagree with some aspects of his analysis – mainly the social/cultural things, like leisure (music, art) and relationships.
  3. Julia Galef on the rationality movement and Linda Avey on personalized genomics and medicine.  Pretty good talks about less interesting/far-out topics, but both things which I think are really important.  Julia gives a sort of hodge-podge of examples of how rationality is helpful (describing it sort of as breaking free from the chains of our genes), and briefly argues for CFAR’s cause of building a community around these ideas.  Very familiar stuff, if you’ve already thought about these sorts of things.  Linda has a Q&A, where she talks about her new company, which will hope to really leverage data about health and medicine, and a bunch of related topics.  Interesting to me throughout, since I didn’t know much about this sort of thing.
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