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Live from New York: The Singularity Summit

Singularity Summit 09 - Photo by David OrbanThis year’s Singularity Summit has begun, and I’m here at the 92nd St. Y on Manhattan’s Upper East Side with my EnlightenNext senior editor Carter Phipps to learn about the latest thinking in artificial intelligence, quantum computing, human brain emulation, nanorobotics, and other trippy transhumanist topics. Below you’ll find a running update of my own observations mixed with tweets (in red), posts, and pics from other attendees to help provide all of your sensory input streams with a reasonable representation of the original, non-digital conference. :) You can follow the main Singularity Summit discussion on Twitter using hashtag #ss09.
[UPDATED, 10/7/09: Check out this very comprehensive index of Singularity Summit 2009 talk summaries and blog posts about the conference.]

Sunday, 4 October 2009

The 2009 Singularity Summit is now over, to much applause from the crowd. I may post more pics when I get a chance, along with videos, links, etc., and further commentary in a future post. Thanks for reading!

@whitneyhess #ss09 Anna Salamon making argument that since so few people are involved in the Singularity full-time, any one of us could make huge impact

H+ magazine, a transhumanism/singularity-themed publication, has just posted Singularity Summit updates on their H+ Editors’ Blog.

Anna Salamon, who opened the conference, is now giving the final talk: “How Much It Matters to Know What Matters.”

@Brioneja #Singularity Summit 2009: How is super-intelligent artificial intelligence going to be created? #AI #SS09

@whitneyhess #ss09 “Status is very overrated. If you want it, you won’t get it. People trying to make money generally don’t make money.” –Peter Thiel

Now on the stage, a panel discussion between Singularity Institute leaders and advisors: Aubrey de Grey, Eliezer Yudkowsky, and Peter Thiel. It’s moderated by the Singularity Institute’s young and very bright Gen-Y leader, Michael Vassar.

“Real dissent doesn’t feel like going to school wearing black. Real dissent feels like going to school wearing a clown suit.” –Eliezer Yudkowsky

See EnlightenNext’s issue on transhumanism and radical life extension here.

@whitneyhess #ss09 The Methuselarity: the point at which we reach longevity escape velocity. Read h+ Magazine’s interview with Aubrey

@whitneyhess #ss09 Aubrey de Grey: The first 10^N-year-old is probably less than 2 years younger than the first 1000-year-old. Craziness!

Aubrey de Grey just said, “The first 1000-year-old is probably less than 20 years younger than the first 150-year-old.” Hmm…

@sandysantra: #SS09 de Grey: “Post-Methuselarity, uploading will be pointless. It will be fine to be made of squishy stuff.”

The extraordinarily long-bearded, 46-year-old English immortalist Aubrey de Grey, of SENS Foundation (devoted to finding scientific methods for radically prolonging human life-spans), is now speaking on “The Singularity and the Methuselarity: Similarities and Differences.”

Now up: The Venture Capitalist Panel with Peter Thiel, David Rose, and Mark Gorenberg, moderated by Robert Pisani.

@whitneyhess #ss09 Q: What in the horizon excites you most? And don’t say Twitter. A: Globalization of communication, cloud computing, spaceships

@orian @positiveneuro So there was an example… Thiel notes he’s invested in SpaceX for privately operated space flight #ss09

Humans and computers have already fully merged, here at the Singularity Summit…
human augmentation

@whitneyhess #ss09 If anyone is curious, Peter Thiel is said to have a net worth of $1.3 billion. No wonder so many people are up at the mic.
Wow. Can we have some? Apparently he donated 400k to the Singularity Institute (the group behind this conference). Here’s a Forbes profile on him.

@orian #ss09 Peter Thiel: Looking at predictions from the ’60s, we are not doing a good job at all. No lunar bases, no human expeditions to Mars.

Peter Thiel says that the Singularity is the single most important political, cultural, and technological question we’ll have over the next twenty years. He’s reiterating that it isn’t going to happen quickly enough. “We need to redouble our efforts.”

Peter Thiel of Clarium Capital Management, cofounder and former CEO of PayPal, is now speaking on “Macroeconomics and the Singularity.”

@whitneyhess #ss09 Peter Thiel walking through all the reasons that people are afraid of The Singularity. Robots taking over the world, mind control, etc

@sandysantra #SS09 Peter Thiel, doomsday Scenarios: Robots kill humans, runaway biotech, grey goo, WW III, Matrix, global warming, sing. takes too long

@whitneyhess #ss09 1) Robots going to kill all humans. 2) Dangerous biotech. 3) Runaway nanotech grey goo. 4) Israel bombs Iran. 5) Totalitariansm …

@dresdencodak Founder of PayPal says the most dangerous catastrophe is if the Singularity doesn’t happen fast enough or at all #ss09 (Audience voted on that one, and he agreed.)

T-800 Cyberdyne Systems Model 101Skynet, the evil AI computer system from James Cameron’s Terminator lore, has been referenced by speakers at least four or five times during the conference this weekend. It’s amusing to see that, at least with this crowd, Skynet is a household word. I’m at home, here among the geeks…

@sandysantra #SS09 Gary Marcus WIRED article on Jill Price:, the woman who never forgets anything.

@Thuris Gary Marcus of NYU convincingly explains why human memory is crap and undermines our efforts at clear thinking and good decisions. #ss09

@singulatarian #ss09 Gary Marcus: current state of human biology is an accidental compromise. Lots of room for improvement.

Check out Andrew Cohen and Ken Wilber’s classic Guru & Pandit discussion on transhumanism and immortality, “A Vow to Live Forever: Embracing the Tension Between the Finite and the Infinite.”

Back from lunch break and finally nabbed a power outlet for the Mac in the press section. People are starting to wander into the auditorium to take their seats. The next speaker, due up in fifteen minutes, is Gary Marcus, author of Kluge: The Haphazard Evolution of the Human Mind. His talk is titled, “Can the Human Mind Be Improved Upon?” and like most of the speakers here, he sports an impressive bio:

Gary Marcus, Professor of Psychology at New York University, and Director of the NYU Center for Child Language, has published extensively on the nature and origins of human cognition, in leading journals such as Science, Nature, Cognition, and Cognitive Psychology, as well as The New York Times and Wired Magazine. His books include The Algebraic Mind: Integrating Connectionism and Cognitive Science, The Birth of the Mind: How A Tiny Number of Genes Creates The Complexity of Human Thought, and Kluge: The Haphazard Evolution of the Human Mind, which was a New York Times Book Review Editors’ Choice in 2008.

Brad Templeton of the Electronic Frontier Foundation is giving a talk titled “The Finger of AI: Automated Electrical Vehicles and Oil Independence.” He just played us this video from Wired on robotic cars.

You can learn more about robocars here.

@dresdencodak Ex 2: you could own a robocar, but while you’re not using it, it can be “rented out” and drive other people around.

@positiveneuro Dude–do you know how much I would get done during driving time with fully automated vehicles?? #ss09

@achaido Brad Templeton shows with real examples, the beauty of #AI Cars. Transportation revolution is here.

Kurzweil just gave everyone a direct link to his PowerPoint charts and graphs. You can download the file (11.5mb) here.

Visit Kurzweil’s site:

singulatarian #ss09 Kurzweill: an entity with twice your intelligence, or a million times your intelligence, that doesn’t like you is not a good thing.

sanford #ss09: “Only about a million lines of code needed to replicate the complexity of brain processing” –Ray Kurzweil

@singulatarian #ss09: Kurzweil – the downtime for the Internet over the last decade is zero seconds.

Ray Kurzweil is onstage now to address “Criticisms of the Singularity.” He just tackled the concern that AI (artificial intelligence) doesn’t really exist yet, so how does he know it’s going to become so intelligent so fast? He points out how pervasive AI technologies actually are in our culture already; they’re incorporated into countless things that everyone takes for granted.

Kurzweil: “The brain is a recursive probabilistic fractal.” I always suspected as much. Um…yeah. :)

RT @dresdencodak Kurzweil: our civilization would grind to a halt if AI was removed today. This was not the case 15 years ago. #ss09

Beyond InfinityGregory Benford is finishing up a talk on “Artificial Biological Selection for Longevity,” using experiments being done on the fruitfly genome as his primary example.

@Methuselarity RT @orian: #ss09 Benford asked a woman over 110 yrs old what’s the best thing about her life: “No peer pressure”

During Q & A session with Benford:
“There are no limits to increasing human lifespan. There is no resistance from evolution or biology.” –Michael Rose, University of California, Irvine

@orian #ss09 Gregory Benford reminds me a bit of the guy who created Jurassic Park. Very charismatic and energetic.

Popular Science has a short piece up on the Singularity Summit titled, hilariously, “Open the Pod Bay Door, HAL.”

“The Future of the Scientific Method” panel discussion is happening now, featuring Michael Nielsen, Robin D. Hanson, and Gary Wolf. Moderated by James Jorasch.

@orian Just rejoining the Summit after getting coffee, a bagel, and a signature from Aubrey de Grey #ss09

Good blog posts on the Singularity Summit at The New Atlantis. There’s also a nice write-up on David Chalmers’ talk, “The Leakproof Singularity,” from yesterday here.

Michael Nielsen, quantum teleporter extraordinaire, is giving a talk on “Collaborative Networks In Scientific Discovery.”

@positiveneuro New wave collaborative science “is to normal research what driving is to pushing a car.” -M. Nielsen #ss09

@sandysantra #SS09 Michael Nielsen on crowdsourcing, with some amazing insights on development of Linux, Wikipedia, and crowdsourcing math problems.

@positiveneuro Expert attention is the ultimate scarce resource in science. Restructuring expert attention will accelerate science. -M. Nielsen #ss09

@Sarah_Hines Galaxy Zoo!!!! They’ve gone Voorwerp hunting! #ss09

Listen to the Singularity Summit live with David Orban’s audio stream here.

Gary Wolf of a little publication called Wired is speaking about the “quantified self.”

@goodside Gary Wolf is telling us how to use text analytics to predict which poets will kill themselves.

Wolf referenced FitBit…interesting. Turn your life into hard data!

Bela Nagy of the Santa Fe Institute is giving a presentation called “More than Moore: Comparing Forecasts of Technological Progress.”

Saturday, 3 October 2009

Carter and I went up and spoke with Kurzweil briefly after his talk ended. “I love your magazine,” he said. “It’s one of the few I get that I actually read!” Nice!

Ray Kurzweil is giving more props to the inherent multidimensionality, universality, and mystery of consciousness than anyone else at the Singularity Summit today. Very cool.

Now taking the stage: the Singularity master, Ray Kurzweil. Read our classic interview with him here:

Kurzweil: How the brain facilitates the phenomenon of consciousness remains a mystery.

Northeastern University’s William Dickens is giving a talk on cognitive ability–how IQ test scores have been improving over time and how it might be caused by positive feedback loops in the individual and in the collective. Fascinating… Not sure yet what it has to do with computers, artificial intelligence, or the concept of the Singularity yet, though.

Marcus Hutter
from Australian National University is now onstage, speaking about the “Foundations of Intelligent Agents.” He’s talking about different definitions of artificial intelligence, leading progressively to Universal AI, or “ultimate superintelligence.” He has a slide with C-3PO and R2-D2 up, which I understand very well. Below them are insane mathematical equations that I don’t understand at all. I need a faster processor.

MacBook battery dying… I’m going to switch over to iPhone tweeting for now. Follow EnlightenNext’s tweets here.

Consciousness philosopher David Chalmers, now of NYU, is up!

@orian RT @positiveneuro: If a machine realizes that a greater intelligence will cause its own obsolescence, it may not create that machine #ss09

Interesting… Wolfram is defining life as that which comes from what came before–i.e., that which is the result of the natural evolutionary process–as opposed to “that which moves of its own accord” or “that which self-reproduces,” which are old definitions that have been superseded by technology.

@whitneyhess Stephen Wolfram: Nature can generate incredibly complex systems because it has no deadlines & no budgetary constraints #ss09

@whitneyhess #ss09 “It’s really hard to know what people are going to type in that little box” — @stephenwolfram, referring to search queries

@mcmurrak Wolfram suggests that “natural selection is a force fighting for simplicity.” #evolution #SS09

A very valid observation:
@GregoryLent singularity summit with concept of need for compression of knowledge is hardly aware of nature of consciousness #ss09

Consciousness, surprisingly, isn’t a term being used very frequently today. I’m sure Chalmers will bring it in, as Hameroff did earlier…

Stephen Wolfram and Gregory BenfordStephen Wolfram and Gregory Benford are now onstage, about to dialogue about the Singularity.

Check out

Jürgen Schmidhuber‘s talk, “Compression Progress: The Principle Behind Curiosity and Creativity,” was very cool. He’s hilarious, and he likes Teilhard de Chardin too…

@CourtneyBMyers Schmidhuber renaming the Singularity, the OMEGA POINT! the next level of humanity. Plus “Omega sounds so much like Oh my God!” -Jürgen Schmidhuber #ss09

Schmidhuber: “Columbus did not become famous because he was the first to discover America. He became famous because he was the last!”

@LeeBillings RT @orian: I think Schmidhuber’s talk is very powerful. Learning means improving compression of knowledge. #ss09

@whitneyhess #ss09 Check out Juergen Schmidhuber’s research

Time to supplement our biological substrates with biomolecular nutrients to provide energetic support for continued mobility. That is, time for lunch!

@troed Ned Seeman describing one of the ways we might make universal (nanotech) assemblers – through DNA. #ss09

@mikeanissimov dr. seeman is showing some beautiful movies of complex engineered molecular crystals. #ss09

@keystroke #ss09 Seeman creates macro object where he knows the place of each of 100s of millions of atoms! about a trillion per crystal. Amazing.

Great real-time notes from David Orban: “Live Blogging the Singularity Summit.”

Another excellent tweeter to follow today: Whitney Hess.

Some videos here and photos here.

Now up, Ned Seeman of NYU on “DNA: Not Merely the Secret of Life.”

@whitneyhess #ss09 Ray Kurzweil at the mic (speaking to Michael Nielsen): “That was the clearest explanation of quantum computing I’ve ever heard” Either he’s bullshitting or I’m dumb

Live audio stream of Singularity Summit from a guy sitting in front of me (says quality is iffy but better than nothing):

Tweet of the hour:
@rfurlan We don’t understand conciousness and we don’t understand quantum physics therefore they must be the same (NOT!) #ss09

Neilsen says US intelligence agencies are funding over 70 different groups devoted to AI and quantum computing research!

Nielsen: “AI may be the first to build / take full advantage of the first quantum AI”–computers using computers, and improving computers, at an accelerating rate. “A second Singularity?” First-gen AI’s, he says, may create next-gen AI’s that the first-gen’s can’t understand…

Ray Kurzweil is sitting in front of us, paying close attention to Nielsen’s points about the Singularity.

Nielsen attempted to explain quantum computing in 10 minutes or less. I think he succeeded–well, at least at giving his explanation in 10 minutes or less. It wasn’t exactly clear, though. Too much math for the non-mathematically inclined (such as yours truly–though I seem to be in the minority here!).

One of his slides: “In mathematics, you don’t understand things, you just get used to them.” –John von Neumann

Michael Nielsen is up now: “Quantum Computing: What It Is, What It Is Not, What We Have Yet to Learn.” They’re moving people through fast, TED-style.

Hameroff just played a clip from the super-advanced AI beings at the end of Spielberg’s A.I.

See Hameroff’s website for more info:

@LeeBillings The “heretical” notion of human consciousness mediated by quantum effects in microtubules has also been dev’d by Sir Roger Penrose. #ss09

3 tweents from @whitneyhess
#ss09 Computational capacity of the human brain: 10^11 neurons/brain, 10^7 switches/second, 10^7 microtubule subunits/neuron

#ss09 Essentially Stuart Hameroff’s thesis is that a shortcut to The Singularity is working with microtubules directly

#ss09 Alzheimers disease is a degeneration of microtubule functioning. Microtubules have an enormous capacity for information processing

Hameroff: “The neural correlate of c-ness (NCC) is a self-organizing ‘zone of synchrony’ moving thru the brain’s neuronal networks.” He’s explaining his microtubule theory of consciousness (“gamma synchrony is the neural correlate of consciousness”), which comes in both cellular automata and quantum physics varieties.

Hameroff is tough to follow–he’s speaking fast, flipping through slides fast, but I’m getting a general sense of his theory. I think. :) The premise of Robert J. Sawyer’s science fiction novel Mindscan was based on Hameroff’s and Roger Penrose’s microtubules-as-neural-correlates-of-consciousness theory.

@whitneyhess #ss09 Stuart Hameroff showing diagrams of biological and artificial neurons to patterns of input/output mappings, model assumed by AI

@sandysantra #ss09 Stuart Hameroff: “Buddhist monks meditating had the highest gamma wave level during controlled test.”

@whitneyhess #ss09 Stuart Hameroff: “Moving and distributing around the brain is consciousness.” I really like that definition. Not just a single thought but a collection

Stuart Hameroff
, University of Arizona, up now: “Neural Substrates of Consciousness and the ‘Conscious Pilot’ Model”

Goertzel just directed us to, “Society for the Promotion of Universal Nonexistence through Malicious AI” (a joke, of course–or is it?). He’s talking about the multifaceted nature of ethics and morality–all different aspects will need to be programmed into AI to ensure that intelligent computers behave morally. Or to at least try to keep them in check…

Goertzel says we currently have “useful early-stage AGI” (artificial general intelligence), but it isn’t yet useful on its own, only for supplementing other tools and research efforts.

Ben Goertzel is walking us through Second Life-esque simulations of artificial intelligence–watching a dog respond to its owners commands to fetch different items, based on contextual references (“Pick up the ball by the fountain full of water”).

@whitneyhess #ss09 Check out Ben Goertzel’s book The Hidden Pattern: A Patternist Philosophy of Mind

Ben Goertzel of Novamente (company behind Ray Kurzweil’s “Ramona” AI chatbot) is now on stage, speaking on “Pathways to Beneficial Artificial General Intelligence.”

Good live-blogging speaker summaries by Benjamin Peterson at Sentient Developments.

@orian I’m impressed that Aubrey de Grey takes the time out to match his ponytail hair band to his shirt. #ss09

ITAMAR AREL (speaker): AGI, Artificial General Intelligence, could be around the corner… Need to discuss moral implications.

#ss09 He asked the audience, “Who thinks artificial general intelligence is possible in the next 10 years?” ~10% raised their hands. NOT ME! (via @whitneyhess)

@kenberger Singularity Summit: nerd factor tips the scale here. Could be a star trek convention. #ss09

#ss09 about 10% of the audience here thinks we can build human level AI within the next decade (via @orian)

@orian #ss09 now discussing the philosophy of mind transfer – is it an illusion for the copy to think it’s the original?

Q: I’m a little nervous about your use of the word “transfer.” I’d not be willing to have my brain sliced up to make any number of copies. It isn’t a ‘transfer”–it’s a copy.

A: I disagree. It’s identical. If you do copy all the essential information to represent what a brain is, then that will equal a fully functioning brain–something with the ability to think, with consciousness. (RANDAL KOENE, speaker)

@orian #ss09 I am oddly mesmerized watching Aubrey de Grey stroking his beard.

@johncarneyau Ah the singularity summit. A region of space so warped by the force of nerdity that the laws of common sense do not apply #ss09

Should we preserve the original human substrate when we digitize his/her brain? Question of wholesale brain emulation (scanning all at once) vs. scanning gradually, so we don’t have to kill someone to do it…

@sandysantra #SS09 Randal Koene on Whole Brain Emulation (WBE): “Turn biological signals into something more easily readable.”

@rfurlan #SS09 Randal Koene on Whole Brain Emulation (WBE): “We must free the mind from its single fragile substrate.” (via @sandysantra)

@bengoertzel “Moving a mind out of a brain into a different substrate is not intrinsically more challenging than anti-aging” — Randal Koene #ss09

@dw2 RT @dresdencodak Assuming AI will inherently help us is like apes assuming humans will rise & make an ape utopia. #ss09

@orian #ss09 Why build space stations when we could build new bodies that work in space?

@whitneyhess #ss09 “Substrate independence is the mark of a truly intelligent being.” Live in other environments: no space suits, no biospheres

The Singularity Summit is underway!

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About the Author

Tom Huston is the Senior Online Editor of EnlightenNext magazine. Follow him on Twitter @KosmicTom.

Comments (6)

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  1. ~C4Chaos says:

    sweet. thanks for live-blogging the Singularity Summit, Tom. looking forward to more scoop.

    btw, so when it comes to singularity and transhumanism, do you still agree with Wilber’s and Cohen’s interpretation? in my case, i’ve always taken the side of Kurzweil on this one (at least the Right-hand quad :) see my old post ~ )

    anyway, keep the geekiness flowing… :)


    • Tom Huston says:

      Hey, C4. Thanks for following the live-blog effort (my first–it ain’t easy!). As for whether it changed my position on the matter of the Singularity, AI, etc., I agree with what Stuart Hameroff said to Carter and I when we were speaking with him after the conference: These AI guys don’t understand consciousness at all. They talk about it in terms of “intelligence” or “information processing,” but that barely scratches the surface of the Mystery of mysteries.

      Kurzweil also spoke to that a bit, which was surprising–he had a healthy respect for the complexity of consciousness. But it was amazing how little most of these guys actually think about consciousness or even mention the word. And when you see how they’re thinking about AI, it makes sense: AIs don’t need to be “conscious” in order to be seemingly conscious and virtually indistinguishable from human beings. As for genuine self-aware bots, Ken’s comments in the footnotes of A Theory of Everything still seem spot-on to me. Here are some choice excerpts, from pp. 171-172:

      The problem with Artificial Intelligence (AI) and robotics is that most of its advocates are naive psychologists with an astonishingly impoverished view of consciousness, what it is and how it develops. If you look at the UL quadrant, you can trace the history (and the constitutive holons) of human consciousness: the prehension of atoms and molecules is taken up into the irritability of cells, which is taken up into the sensations of neuronal organisms, which are taken up into the perceptions of animals with neural cords, which are taken up into the impulses of animals with reptilian brain stems, which are taken up and into the emotions and feelings of animals with limbic systems, which are taken up and into the symbols and concepts of animals with a neocortex, at which point the complex neo-cortex, in certain human brains, can produce formal operational thinking or logic. But each and every one of those holons, enfolded into its successors, is a crucial part of the net result, human consciousness….

      In order to produce an artificial intelligence that is truly human-like, AI engineers would have to be able to recreate the consciousness of each and every holon making up the superholon of human consciousness. They would have to be able to create and animate everything from cell irritability to reptilian instincts to limbic-system emotions to neocortex rationality and connectivity (a neocortex that has more neuronal connections than there are stars in the known universe). AI is not even close to being able to recreate organic cell irritability, so we can, for the foreseeable future, ignore its other grandiose claims….

      There is another major difficulty: consciousness is a four-quadrant affair. AI is trying to program merely UR-quadrant behavioral rules and learning mechanisms, and that will never produce the four-quadrant thing we call real consciousness….

      Finally, there is the argument from deep-spirituality itself: consciousness is not the product of anything, whether that be human brains or robots. Pure consciousness is instead the Source and Ground of all manifestation, and if you think you can put that into a computer . . . The computer is a manifestation of consciousness, not vice versa, and all that you can get into (or out of) a computer is, again, nothing but a thin, partial, superficial slice of the incredible Kosmic Pie. Besides, this whole notion that consciousness can be downloaded into microchips comes mostly from geeky adolescent males who can’t get laid and stay up all hours of the night staring into a computer screen, dissociating, abstracting, dissolved in disembodied thinking. I’m a geek myself, so don’t get me wrong, but please. . . . There are more holons in human consciousness than are dreamt of in AI.

      And when Ken spoke about the possibility of genuinely self-aware robots at the end of Boomeritis, it was in line with what he said above: entities whose holonic complexity recapitulates every holonic stage in the makeup of human consciousness, whose physical composition involves some biotechnological fusion of carbon and silicon (or at least some way of infusing life-force or prana into the system, which Ken speculates is actually zero-point energy), and whose existence is far, far away from anything we’re even close to coming up with in the foreseeable future. I think Ken’s inclusion of prana as a prerequisite for genuine artificial life is important, but I also think it goes beyond that: for human-level self-awareness, or even mammalian awareness, you’d need to replicate or at least create a conduit for the soul…which means taking into account all the gradations of subtle energies in the right-quadrant domains, from etheric to astral to mental to psychic to deeper psychic to causal.

      And in line with (but expanding on) Deno Kazanis‘s theory, I suspect that all of those gradations of subtle energy may turn out to be what’s currently called dark matter, with the causal body (UR/LR) corresponding to space itself, and the most primal, low-level (right-quadrant) manifestation of Eros corresponding to dark energy.

      So, given that scientists have no clue what dark matter and dark energy are and thus aren’t anywhere close to being able to manipulate or control them, I think that genuinely self-aware AI beings (and/or robots), who could pass the Turing test even in direct dialogue with a human enlightened master, are a long ways off. :)

  2. ~C4Chaos says:

    P.S. maybe the Dalai Lama should be invited in the next Singularity Summit to get his perspective. from what i know, he’s down with the idea of consciousness in a computer ~

  3. ~C4Chaos says:

    Thanks for addressing my question. I respect Wilber’s on the matter but his take is mostly philosophical. so when it comes to technology, I put more weight on Kurzweil, due to his track record. i don’t necessarily buy into everything that Kurzweil says about the singularity, but i find it fascinating so i continue to follow it. however, i’d rather hear a debate between Wilber and Kurzweil so Kurzweil can address all the hifalutin points raised by Wilber :)

    that said, regarding consciousness downloading into a computer the Dalai Lama seems to be more down with the idea than Wilber. see – and last time i checked the Dalai Lama is not one of those “geeky adolescent males who can’t get laid”… geeky “who can’t get laid” maybe, but adolescent, far from it! :)


    P.S. Ben Goertzel is one of those working on AI (or AGI) who has a different perspective on consciousness –

    • Tom Huston says:

      Yeah, I agree–I find Kurzweil’s ideas extremely compelling. I just balk at his runaway, science-is-God modernism. It’s overly simplistic, not too integral. But a debate between him and Wilber could be awesome. I’m sure he’s familiar with Wilber’s work, at least somewhat, since he apparently reads each issue of EnlightenNext cover to cover.

      I didn’t realize Ben Goertzel was the same guy who wrote that “Enlightenment 2.0″ piece! Very cool. Everyone at the conference knew who he was, though, judging by the applause he got when he took the stage. I was reading thru the first Buddhist Geeks transcript–Goertzel used to live just down the road from here, “out in the middle of the woods” of Western Mass–but I didn’t get the impression that he has a different position on the feasibility of imbuing computers with consciousness than that of most AI researchers…

      That argument from the Dalai Lama you linked to, however, seems much more plausible and along the lines of that excerpt from Wilber I quoted above. He’s basically saying that you can’t create consciousness from scratch, because consciousness is a continuity (of holons, or actual occasions, or incarnations), but that a stream of consciousness could conceivably inhabit an “artificial” vehicle (like a computer). So you can’t just install AI program on your MacBook and expect it to be self-aware. Zeros and ones and CPUs do not constitute consciousness. No “thing” constitutes consciousness. Rather, everything that exists is constituted in, and of, consciousness.

      Still, I think we’ll be able to create AI beings in the relatively near future that will be virtually indistinguishable from ordinary human beings. But “virtually” is the key word.

      (Here’s a cool YouTube video addressing the stark dearth of women at the Singularity Summit, and also pointing out how women seem more inclined to address issues of consciousness or spirit, as opposed to all those cold, disembodied, abstract males–at least according to these women…)

      • ~C4Chaos says:

        Kurzweil “reads each issue of EnlightenNext cover to cover”? neat. i wouldn’t be surprised :)

        anyway, the more i read up on Kurzweil views, the more i think that he can’t be classified as a reductionist (he calls himself a “patternist”). take for example this quote from Kurzweil in his debate on machine consciousness:

        “So some people feel that actual consciousness doesn’t exist, since it’s not a scientific concept, it’s just an illusion, and we shouldn’t waste time talking about it. That’s not fully satisfactory, in my view, because our whole moral and ethical and legal system is based on consciousness. If you cause suffering to some other conscious entity, that’s the basis of our legal code and ethical values. Some people describe some magical or mystical property to consciousness. There were some elements in David’s remarks, say, in terms of talking about a new node of consciousness and how that would suddenly emerge from software.

        “My view is it’s an emergent property of a complex system. It’s not dependent on substrate. But that is not a scientific view, because there’s really no way to talk about or to measure the subjective experience of another entity. We assume that each other are conscious. It’s a share human assumption. But that assumption breaks down when we go out of shared human experience. The whole debate about animal rights has to do with are these entities actually conscious. Some people feel that animals are just machines in the old-fashioned sense of that term, not—there’s nobody really home. Some people feel that animals are conscious. I feel that my cat’s conscious. Other people don’t agree. They probably haven’t met my cat, but —(laughter)

        “But then the other view is apparent consciousness, an entity that appears to be conscious, and that will require emotional intelligence. There are several reasons why I feel that we will achieve that in a machine, and that has to do with the acceleration of information technology—and this is something I’ve studied for several decades.”

        that said, i’m really looking forward to a Kurzweil/Wilber (intellectual) showdown and see what gives. and since you are one of the ENext peeps, why don’t you set up a Kurzweil v. Wilber on machine consciousness? i’d be the first in line to buy that issue :)

        in the meantime, allow me to speculate. based on Kurzweil’s response to Kevin Kelly’s attack, Kurzweil might fend off Wilber by saying that: “Some people really are resistant to accepting this exponential perspective, and they’re very smart people. ” :)