Many people have blogged about the SS2009 talks much better than I could, so instead I’ll talk about the atmosphere I experienced over the last two days here in New York.
Everyone seemed to be very excited about being here. I’ve never felt such a buzz before from attending a conference. In addition, everyone seemed interested in everyone else, which is certainly not usually the case at Physics conferences 🙂
SS seemed to be a place where ideas could be generated too. It seemed that immersing people in an environment where they talk about AI, human enhancement, robotic cars, longevity and anti-aging research allowed ideas to cross the conventional bounds of these individual fields.
Peter Thiel gave an inspiring and motivational presentation about how we need to be doing more, and faster, to maintain economic growth as we head towards the SIngularity. Along with David Rose and Mark Gorenberg, he also explained how Venture Capital could possibly help, and addressed some of the difficulties entrepreneurs have in finding VC funding for Singularity-based business ideas, and indeed what something like a Singularity might mean for investment and growth.
I find it vaguely amusing that business people appear to view the Singularity as a more serious idea than most scientists do 🙂
Robin Hanson also discussed similar concepts in his talk, where he explained that the driving goal of academics is to affiliate with certified ‘impressive’ people rather than to further human knowledge, and described how this effect led to progress toward the Singularity being driven by tech and business rather than scientific research.
Another highlight of the day was Eliezer Yudkowsky tying people’s brains in knots again with an enlightening talk about our neglect of scope with respect to existential risk, and how we must be wary of conjunction fallacies and the ‘bystander effect’.
Some talks, video clips and other bits from SS are available here, I think it’s great for them to be available for anyone to watch.