Archive for the ‘futurism’ category: Page 638

Jun 5, 2010

Friendly AI: What is it, and how can we foster it?

Posted by in categories: complex systems, ethics, existential risks, futurism, information science, policy, robotics/AI

Friendly AI: What is it, and how can we foster it?
By Frank W. Sudia [1]

Originally written July 20, 2008
Edited and web published June 6, 2009
Copyright © 2008-09, All Rights Reserved.

Keywords: artificial intelligence, artificial intellect, friendly AI, human-robot ethics, science policy.

1. Introduction

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Apr 21, 2010

Software and the Singularity

Posted by in categories: futurism, robotics/AI

I am a former Microsoft programmer who wrote a book (for a general audience) about the future of software called After the Software Wars. Eric Klien has invited me to post on this blog. Here is my section entitled “Software and the Singularity”. I hope you find this food for thought and I appreciate any feedback.

Futurists talk about the “Singularity”, the time when computational capacity will surpass the capacity of human intelligence. Ray Kurzweil predicts it will happen in 2045. Therefore, according to its proponents, the world will be amazing then.3 The flaw with such a date estimate, other than the fact that they are always prone to extreme error, is that continuous learning is not yet a part of the foundation. Any AI code lives in the fringes of the software stack and is either proprietary or written by small teams of programmers.

I believe the benefits inherent in the singularity will happen as soon as our software becomes “smart” and we don’t need to wait for any further Moore’s law progress for that to happen. Computers today can do billions of operations per second, like add 123,456,789 and 987,654,321. If you could do that calculation in your head in one second, it would take you 30 years to do the billion that your computer can do in that second.

Even if you don’t think computers have the necessary hardware horsepower today, understand that in many scenarios, the size of the input is the primary driving factor to the processing power required to do the analysis. In image recognition for example, the amount of work required to interpret an image is mostly a function of the size of the image. Each step in the image recognition pipeline, and the processes that take place in our brain, dramatically reduce the amount of data from the previous step. At the beginning of the analysis might be a one million pixel image, requiring 3 million bytes of memory. At the end of the analysis is the data that you are looking at your house, a concept that requires only 10s of bytes to represent. The first step, working on the raw image, requires the most processing power, so therefore it is the image resolution (and frame rate) that set the requirements, values that are trivial to change. No one has shown robust vision recognition software running at any speed, on any sized image!

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Apr 18, 2010

Ray Kurzweil to keynote “H+ Summit @ Harvard — The Rise Of The Citizen Scientist”

Posted by in categories: biological, biotech/medical, business, complex systems, education, events, existential risks, futurism, geopolitics, human trajectories, information science, media & arts, neuroscience, robotics/AI

With our growing resources, the Lifeboat Foundation has teamed with the Singularity Hub as Media Sponsors for the 2010 Humanity+ Summit. If you have suggestions on future events that we should sponsor, please contact [email protected].

The summer 2010 “Humanity+ @ Harvard — The Rise Of The Citizen Scientist” conference is being held, after the inaugural conference in Los Angeles in December 2009, on the East Coast, at Harvard University’s prestigious Science Hall on June 12–13. Futurist, inventor, and author of the NYT bestselling book “The Singularity Is Near”, Ray Kurzweil is going to be keynote speaker of the conference.

Also speaking at the H+ Summit @ Harvard is Aubrey de Grey, a biomedical gerontologist based in Cambridge, UK, and is the Chief Science Officer of SENS Foundation, a California-based charity dedicated to combating the aging process. His talk, “Hype and anti-hype in academic biogerontology research: a call to action”, will analyze the interplay of over-pessimistic and over-optimistic positions with regards of research and development of cures, and propose solutions to alleviate the negative effects of both.

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Apr 2, 2010

Technological Singularity and Acceleration Studies: Call for Papers

Posted by in category: futurism

8th European conference on Computing And Philosophy — ECAP 2010
Technische Universität München
4–6 October 2010

Submission deadline of extended abstracts: 7 May 2010
Submission form


Historical analysis of a broad range of paradigm shifts in science, biology, history, technology, and in particular in computing technology, suggests an accelerating rate of evolution, however measured. John von Neumann projected that the consequence of this trend may be an “essential singularity in the history of the race beyond which human affairs as we know them could not continue”. This notion of singularity coincides in time and nature with Alan Turing (1950) and Stephen Hawking’s (1998) expectation of machines to exhibit intelligence on a par with to the average human no later than 2050. Irving John Good (1965) and Vernor Vinge (1993) expect the singularity to take the form of an ‘intelligence explosion’, a process in which intelligent machines design ever more intelligent machines. Transhumanists suggest a parallel or alternative, explosive process of improvements in human intelligence. And Alvin Toffler’s Third Wave (1980) forecasts “a collision point in human destiny” the scale of which, in the course of history, is on the par only with the agricultural revolution and the industrial revolution.

We invite submissions describing systematic attempts at understanding the likelihood and nature of these projections. In particular, we welcome papers critically analyzing the following issues from a philosophical, computational, mathematical, scientific and ethical standpoints:

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Mar 23, 2010

Risk intelligence

Posted by in categories: education, events, futurism, geopolitics, policy, polls

A few months ago, my friend Benjamin Jakobus and I created an online “risk intelligence” test at It consists of fifty statements about science, history, geography, and so on, and your task is to say how likely you think it is that each of these statements is true. We calculate your risk intelligence quotient (RQ) on the basis of your estimates. So far, over 30,000 people have taken our test, and we’re currently writing up the results for some peer-reviewed journals.

Now we want to take things a step further, and see whether our measure correlates with the ability to make accurate estimates of future events. To this end we’ve created a “prediction game” at The basic idea is the same; we provide you with a bunch of statements, and your task is to say how likely you think it is that each one is true. The difference is that these statements refer not to known facts, but to future events. Unlike the first test, nobody knows whether these statements are true or false yet. For most of them, we won’t know until the end of the year 2010.

For example, how likely do you think it is that this year will be the hottest on record? If you think this is very unlikely you might select the 10% category. If you think it is quite likely, but not very likely, you might put the chances at 60% or 70%. Selecting the 50% category would mean that you had no idea how likely it is.

This is ongoing research, so please feel free to comment, criticise or make suggestions.

Mar 6, 2010

Reflections on Avatar

Posted by in category: futurism

I recently watched James Cameron’s Avatar in 3D. It was an enjoyable experience in some ways, but overall I left dismayed on a number of levels.

It was enjoyable to watch the lush three-dimensional animation and motion capture controlled graphics. I’m not sure that 3D will take over – as many now expect – until we get rid of the glasses (and there are emerging technologies to do that albeit, the 3D effect is not yet quite as good), but it was visually pleasing.

While I’m being positive, I was pleased to see Cameron’s positive view of science in that the scientists are “good” guys (or at least one good gal) with noble intentions on learning the wisdom of the Na’vi natives and on negotiating a diplomatic solution.

The Na’vi were not completely technology-free. They basically used the type of technology that Native Americans used hundreds of years ago – same clothing, domesticated animals, natural medicine, and bows and arrows.

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Jan 18, 2010

Filling the Gaps in “Global Trends 2025″

Posted by in categories: futurism, geopolitics, nanotechnology

Because of the election cycle, the United States Congress and Presidency has a tendency to be short-sighted. Therefore it is a welcome relief when an organization such as the U.S. National Intelligence Council gathers many smart people from around the world to do some serious thinking more than a decade into the future. But while the authors of the NIC report Global Trends 2025: A Transformed World[1] understood the political situations of countries around the world extremely well, their report lacked two things:

1. Sufficient knowledge about technology (especially productive nanosystems) and their second order effects.

2. A clear and specific understanding of Islam and the fundamental cause of its problems. More generally, an understanding of the relationship between its theology, technological progress, and cultural success.
These two gaps need to be filled, and this white paper attempts to do so.

Christine Peterson, the co-founder and vice-president of the Foresight Nanotech Institute, has said “If you’re looking ahead long-term, and what you see looks like science fiction, it might be wrong. But if it doesn’t look like science fiction, it’s definitely wrong.” None of Global Trends 2025 predictions look like science fiction, though perhaps 15 years from now is not long-term (on the other hand, 15 years is not short-term either).

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Oct 1, 2009

Post-human Earth: How the planet will recover from us

Posted by in categories: existential risks, futurism, human trajectories, policy, sustainability

Paul J. Crutzen

Although this is the scenario we all hope (and work hard) to avoid — the consequences should be of interest to all who are interested in mitigation of the risk of mass extinction:

“WHEN Nobel prize-winning atmospheric chemist Paul Crutzen coined the word Anthropocene around 10 years ago, he gave birth to a powerful idea: that human activity is now affecting the Earth so profoundly that we are entering a new geological epoch.

The Anthropocene has yet to be accepted as a geological time period, but if it is, it may turn out to be the shortest — and the last. It is not hard to imagine the epoch ending just a few hundred years after it started, in an orgy of global warming and overconsumption.

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Jun 16, 2009

The Lifeboat Conversation

Posted by in categories: education, finance, futurism, lifeboat, policy, space

Many years ago, in December 1993 to be approximate, I noticed a space-related poster on the wall of Eric Klien’s office in the headquarters of the Atlantis Project. We chatted for a bit about the possibilities for colonies in space. Later, Eric mentioned that this conversation was one of the formative moments in his conception of the Lifeboat Foundation.

Another friend, filmmaker Meg McLain has noticed that orbital hotels and space cruise liners are all vapor ware. Indeed, we’ve had few better depictions of realistic “how it would feel” space resorts since 1968’s Kubrick classic “2001: A Space Odyssey.” Remember the Pan Am flight to orbit, the huge hotel and mall complex, and the transfer to a lunar shuttle? To this day I know people who bought reservation certificates for whenever Pan Am would begin to fly to the Moon.

In 2004, after the X Prize victory, Richard Branson announced that Virgin Galactic would be flying tourists by 2007. So far, none.

A little later, Bigelow announced a fifty million dollar prize if only tourists could be launched to orbit by January 2010. I expect the prize money won’t be claimed in time.

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Jun 9, 2009

Hack-Jet: Losing a commercial airliner in a networked world

Posted by in categories: complex systems, counterterrorism, futurism


When there is a catastrophic loss of an aircraft in any circumstances, there are inevitably a host of questions raised about the safety and security of the aviation operation. The loss of Air France flight 447 off the coast of Brazil with little evidence upon which to work inevitably raises the level of speculation surrounding the fate of the flight. Large-scale incidents such as this create an enormous cloud of data, which has to be investigated in order to discover the pattern of events, which led to the loss (not helped when some of it may be two miles under the ocean surface). So far French authorities have been quick to rule out terrorism it has however, emerged that a bomb hoax against an Air France flight had been made the previous week flying a different route from Argentina. This currently does not seem to be linked and no terrorist group has claimed responsibility. Much of the speculation regarding the fate of the aircraft has focused on the effects of bad weather or a glitch in the fly-by-wire systemthat could have caused the plane to dive uncontrollably. There is however another theory, which while currently unlikely, if true would change the global aviation security situation overnight. A Hacked-Jet.

Given the plethora of software modern jets rely on it seems reasonable to assume that these systems could be compromised by code designed to trigger catastrophic systemic events within the aircraft’s navigation or other critical electronic systems. Just as aircraft have a physical presence they increasingly have a virtual footprint and this changes their vulnerability. A systemic software corruption may account for the mysterious absence of a Mayday call — the communications system may have been offline. Designing airport and aviation security to keep lethal code off civilian aircraft would in the short-term, be beyond any government civil security regime. A malicious code attack of this kind against any civilian airliner would, therefore be catastrophic not only for the airline industry but also for the wider global economy until security caught up with this new threat. The technical ability to conduct an attack of this kind remains highly specialized (for now) but the knowledge to conduct attacks in this mold would be as deadly as WMD and easier to spread through our networked world. Electronic systems on aircraft are designed for safety not security, they therefore do not account for malicious internal actions.

While this may seem the stuff of fiction in January 2008 this broad topic was discussed due to the planned arrival of the Boeing 787, which is designed to be more ‘wired’ –offering greater passenger connectivity. Air Safety regulations have not been designed to accommodate the idea of an attack against on-board electronic systems and the FAA proposed special conditions , which were subsequently commented upon by the Air Line Pilots Association and Airbus. There is some interesting back and forth in the proposed special conditions, which are after all only to apply to the Boeing 787. In one section, Airbus rightly pointed out that making it a safety condition that the internal design of civilian aircraft should ‘prevent all inadvertent or malicious changes to [the electronic system]’ would be impossible during the life cycle of the aircraft because ‘security threats evolve very rapidly’.Boeing responded to these reports in an AP article stating that there were sufficient safeguards to shut out the Internet from internal aircraft systems a conclusion the FAA broadly agreed with - Wired Magazine covered much of the ground. During the press surrounding this the security writer Bruce Schneier commented that, “The odds of this being perfect are zero. It’s possible Boeing can make their connection to the Internet secure. If they do, it will be the first time in the history of mankind anyone’s done that.” Of course securing the airborne aircraft isn’t the only concern when maintenance and diagnostic systems constantly refresh while the aircraft is on the ground. Malicious action could infect any part of this process. While a combination of factors probably led to the tragic loss of flight AF447 the current uncertainty serves to highlight a potential game-changing aviation security scenario that no airline or government is equipped to face.

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