Making choices

Brian Wang posts a very cogent article about how global forces exist which delay progress and cause global harm. This includes the use of coal instead of cleaner energy (including nuclear), causing hundreds of thousands of deaths per year. It also includes corruption and violence preventing distribution of food and medicine and preventing economic growth.

I find it amazing that the human race spends on the order of a million dollars per year on molecular manufacturing when the potential impacts are measured in trillions. In other words, the race is spending less than one ten millionth of its efforts on this technology. The shortfall is mostly due to political issues, such as a lack of interdisciplinary thinking.

VCs at the Singularity Summit

Steven Jurveston and Peter Thiel gave presentations today. I found these to be very interesting perspectives.

Thiel’s theorized
that the increase in frequency and magnitude of boom and bust cycles are a prelude to the Singularity, which would be a sustained boom driven by radical increases in productivity. Something to watch.

Jurveston’s main thesis was that AI created by evolutionary algorithms would have a strong competitive advantage over attempts to use traditional design. Some of the advantages include lack of brittleness and speed of implementation. Once you go down the evolution path, you diverge from the design path, because reverse engineering an evolved system is either very difficult or impossible. One idea I had while listening to this is that you can evolve subsystems with well defined I/O and connect the subsystems into a designed overall architecture.

Presentation by Artificial Development

Artificial Development is giving a presentation at the Singularity Summit about their CCortex and CorticalDB products. Seems like a full featured product to create biologically plausible neural networks/brain maps (CorticalDB) and simulate the resulting network (CCortex). They claim biological high fidelity simulation, 8 bit action potentials, etc. .

The claim of up to 100 million neurons seems pretty aggressive. Not sure why they would be so much ahead of the IBM effort using x86 CPUs, even if they have thousands of them.

CCortex will be open-source.

They claim multiple levels of simulation: 1. detailed equations 2. “estimation of action potentials” 3. a proprietary method.

At the Singularity Summit

The most memorable morning session at the Singularity Summit 2007 was the inimitable Eliezer Yudkowsky‘s.

He talked about three different schools of thought about the Singularity:

Vingean – where prediction becomes impossible
Accelerationist – exponential technological change
Greater than Human Inteligence – in a positive feedback loop

His thesis was that the three schools reinforce but also contradict each-other.

Another good point Eliezer makes is that advances in scientific knowledge and algorithms reduce the threshold for the Singularity.