Tuesday, November 27, 2007

Singularity summit

Someone once said that the Singularity is like the Rapture for geeks :-)

Nevertheless, some of the talks from the recent Singularity Summit are interesting.

So far I've enjoyed Omohundro, Jurvetson and Thiel. (Respectively, a physicist turned computer scientist, an engineer turned venture capitalist, and a derivatives trader turned PayPal CEO turned hedge fund manager.) Omohundro argues that AI beings will be much more rational than we are, using game-theoretic ideas of Von Neumann. Jurvetson thinks that we'll use evolutionary algorithms to create AI. But the resulting beings will be so complex that, while we understand the process of their creation, we won't understand how they really work -- any more than we understand evolved biological beings. Thiel's talk about investing for the singularity is goofy, but the comments near the end about Buffet's positions are quite interesting. The talk by robotics pioneer Rodney Brooks is surprisingly lame. There are quite a few talks I haven't yet had time to listen to...


tim said...

Omohundro gave a talk at Stanford in October (video). The CS people there were not very impressed by the fact that he could give no details on his approach to solving the problems encountered by other researchers who have attempted to build self-improving AI.

As far as the singularity institute talks, I liked Norvig's.

steve said...

I think I may have heard a similar Norvig talk at some other event, but I will give it a try.

I was particularly interested in Omohundro because I remember him as one of the core Mathematica team. In the early days the (much thinner) Mathematica book gave credit to a very impressive group of people who worked with Wolfram on the product. Those people have all disappeared from the later versions of the manual :-)

I will say this about almost all of the Singularity optimists: they seem especially naive in a very geeky way. In particular, they are very optimistic about AI and machine learning, while it seems quite plausible to me that the lion's share of progress we've seen recently is more due to Moore's law than to any algorithmic breakthroughs.

Anonymous said...

I've listened to about half the talks in whole or in part. A few were pretty interesting, but for the most part, what a wankathon. How do you translate "shut up and calculate" into CS-ese?

steve said...

>How do you translate "shut up and
> calculate" into CS-ese?

That about sums it up... :-)

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