Liveblogging the Singularity Summit 2007 – Day One – morning

Audience at the Singularity Summit

We got the power supply issues solved, and the wifi is also now working well thanks to the great help from the organizers.

09.40 Peter Thiel, Clarium Capital introducing the Summit:
“The 21st Century is going to be far more greater, and/or far more terrible then the 20th Century. We are here to make sure that it is going to be greater, and not more terrible.”


09.50 Rodney Brooks, MIT speaking
“In 1783 people were not asking the right questions about the airplane industry and flight when the hot-air balloon was invented
When an AGI will be invented the world will be a very different place than today
I am a great fan on AC Clarke, and 2001 Space Odissey is one of the films that is aging better.”

10.00 “AGI and Robots are needed for demographical reasons. And there will be a lot of VC, a lot of investment to provide them.
In 2016 we will have all movies worth watching in our pockets on our iPod… so much for RIAA and DRM!
There are 5000 deployed robots in Iraq now, up from zero in all of the military in 2001. These are not prototypes”

10.10 “From 2 meters in six hours in 1979 our cars at the Stanford AI Lab now do 200 kms in 6 hours in 2005. That is the power of exponentials.”

10.15 He is depicting various scenarios for the future, each of them however including the coming of the AGI, in which he does believe. Unless “as from Tau Ceti somebody is laughing at us as if we were chipmunks not just smart enough to get there”. Laughing.

10.20 Questions from the audience. One of the non-AI specific ones:
“You said that it is the time now to ask if it is a good idea to let robots aquire autonomous firing capacity, and that there are some governments following the Geneva Convention thinking about it. Do you think it is a good idea to give AI to the United States Government military?”
Answer from Rodney:
“This is a question that scientist face since Leonardo who was completely funded by the military. Scientist must think and implement control mechanisms, but this is a question outside of AI.

10.30 Eliezer Yudkowsky, Singularity Institute speaking
“Criticism of the bold thesis of accelerating change does not necessarily touch the core of the thesis.
If you want to be smart don’t be fooled by futures with blinking lights, but concentrate on cognitive enhancements!
He is quoting Geordie Rose of D-wave on Software Progress vs. Hardware progress (1977 hardware with 2007 algorithm is better then the other way around) to show that the threshold for the Singularity event horizon can be lowered by breakthroughs!
The three schools of Singularity (Event horizon, Accelerating Change, Intelligence Explosion) do not imply each other, or require each other’s thesis, but they support each other’s cores.”
Question time, and answers…
“The most important challenge in AI today is to keep improving our understanding of how to think how to think about thinking, which we have been doing on our own in science for hundreds of years.
One billion operations per second could be enough to be the basis of an Intelligence Explosion grenade, but we would need an additional 100 years’ worth of science to be able and code it there.”

11.00 Break


11.35 Barney Pell, CEO of Powerset “Most of AI reserchers don’t do AGI because it is very hard, and also because it is difficult to get funding.
At some point better AI and AGI becomes central to the creation of better products, and that becomes a virtuous circle where more revenues lead to more funding, better AGI, better product, and so on.
Within the next five years the introduction of natural language interfaces is going to create a huge difference.” Obviously he says that, since that is what Powerset is about! A few slides present Powerset’s approach.
Question from the audience if this is going to help people learn, and the answer is a definitive yes. Conversational interfaces are going to be powerful learning tools.


12.00 Sam Adams from IBM Research “We can beat Gary Kasparov, but no computer has the common sense of a six year old child.
Joshua Blue prject to develop a computer that pass the ‘Toddler Turing Test’, stopping at age three. They can do all kind of things that traditional AI says it is incredible hard.
Implementing analogs of this approach in a computer system we learned a lot of very counterintuitive stuff. For example superstition appears to be the source of all knowledge, since all experience for the first time is without understanding. Yes, but grounded in experience.
An other is ‘aggressive forgetfulness’ where most of the sensorial input received is quickly discarded.
Superstition + Forgetfulness = General Intelligence?
For the next two years I am going to study multicore systems because we don’t know how to program them now effectively and we need them to run our algorithms closer to real time.
The pathway to AGI is in following the Child!”


12.30 Wendell Wallach, Yale “In our current computational theories of the brain we take into consideration neurons and synapses. What role do other elements of the brain play, like glial cells, microtubules, variations of the neurons, etc.?
As Michelson was wrong in saying in 1894 about physics that “it seems probable that most of the grand underlying principles have been firmly established” we could be missing pieces that make our science of the brain inadequate.
If we want to approach machine consciusness, we need to better define the phenomenal experience.
We are just a few years away from a major catastrophy caused by autonomous computers systems making a wrong decision. That will precipitate the discussion on machine morality.
Artificial Moral Agents are necessary.
How can we make ethics computable?”
Great quote from the audience during questions: “Bureaucracy is our way of getting untrustworthy agents to be trusted. Are we going to corrupt our Moral Agents if we apply this trick to them?”

13.10 Panel discussion and question session
“Should we give these machines rights?”
Barney Pell answers “Robots will ahve rights when robots will claim rights. Today we are hypocritical about these issues, when we eat animals, etc.”

13.30 Lunch break


Here are more people liveblogging the Singularity Summit and photos of Flickr


Dan Farber’s blog Between The Lines, covers the Singularity Summit, is being updated frequently with great posts, and it doesn’t show up in the previous query since it doesn’t use the word ‘liveblogging’.

15.00 Continuing for the afternoon the live blogging of the Singularity Summit on a separate entry.