Singularity Summit 2009 day 2 – some thoughts

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.

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4 thoughts on “Singularity Summit 2009 day 2 – some thoughts

  1. Julian Morrison says:

    Business has a lot more experience with things that suddenly explode into importance and completely change the game.

  2. rrtucci says:

    Was any venture capitalist in the audience seriously interested in investing in quantum computing?

  3. rrtucci says:

    Did you find anyone (I mean, not just venture capitalists) interested in quantum computing more than average?

  4. physicsandcake says:

    There were only a few VCs there, and none of them mentioned QC to my knowledge. I didn’t speak with them personally. They did say feel free to approach them with ideas, even if they were 5-10 years to market, they were willing to listen to such ideas and offer advice.

    I was quite impressed with the amount people did know about QC. People knew, for example, that there were only a few fundamental algorithms that had been discovered so far and what the actual (proposed) maximum speedups of those algorithms are over classical ones, which is interesting as you usually get the ‘Quantum Computers – oh they can solve all problems exponentially faster than classical computers’ reaction. They seemed to understand the limitations of QC. So in response to your second question, I thought that people sounded more skeptical than usual (but in a good, informed way).

    Although getting people to see beyond crypto apps is still tricky 🙂

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