Humanity+ Conference 2010 Caltech

I gave a presentation yesterday at the H+ conference at Caltech. The session in which I spoke was the ‘Redefining Artificial Intelligence’ session. I’ll try to get the video of the talk up here as soon as possible along with slides.

Other talks in this session were given by Randal Koene, Geordie Rose, Alex Peake, Paul Rosenbloom, Adrian Stoica, Moran Cerf and Ben Goertzel.

My talk was entitled ‘Pavlov’s AI: What do superintelligences really want?’ I discussed the foundations of AGI, and what I believe to be a problem (or at least an interesting philosophical gold-seam) in the idea of building self-improving artificial intelligences. I’ll be writing a lot more on this topic in the future, hopefully in the form of essays, blogposts and papers. I think it is very important to assess what we are trying to do in the area of AI, what the overall objectives are, and looking at what we can build from an objective point of view is helpful in framing our progress.

The conference was livestreamed, which was great. I think my talk had around 500 viewers. Add to that the 200 or so in the lecture hall; 700 is a pretty big audience! Some of talks had over 1300 remote viewers. Livestreaming really is a great way to reach a much bigger audience than is possible with real-life events alone.

I didn’t get to see much of the Caltech campus, but the courtyard at the Beckman Institute where the conference was held was beautiful. I enjoyed the fact that coffee and lunch was served outside in the courtyard. It was very pleasant! Sitting around outside in L.A. in December was surprisingly similar to a British summer!

I got to talk to some great people. I enjoy transhumanism-focused conferences as the people you meet tend to have many diverse interests and multidisciplinary backgrounds.

I was very inspired to continue exploring and documenting my journey into the interesting world of AGI. One of the things I really love doing is looking into the fundamental science behind Singularity-focused technologies. I try to be impartial to this and give both an optimistic account of the promise of future technologies whilst maintaining a skeptical curiosity about whether such technologies are fundamentally possible, and what roadmaps might lead to their successful implementation. So stay tuned for more Skepto-advocate Singularity fun!

Transvision2010 presentation: Thinking about the hardware of thinking

I will be giving a presentation at Transvision2010, which takes place next weekend. The talk will be about how we should consider novel computing substrates on which to develop AI and ASIM (advanced substrate independent minds) technologies, rather than relying on conventional silicon processors. My main example will be that of developing learning applications on Quantum Computing processors (not entirely unpredictable!), but the method is generalisable to other technologies such as GPUs, biologically based computer architectures, etc…


The conference is physically located in Italy, but I unfortunately cannot make in in person, as I will be attending another workshop. I will therefore be giving the talk remotely via the teleconferencing software Teleplace.

Anyway, here is some information about the talk, kindly posted by Giulio Prisco:

Thinking about the hardware of thinking:
Can disruptive technologies help us achieve uploading?

Online seminar on Quantum Computing

I’m giving a VIRTUAL seminar in Teleplace this Saturday…

I’m going to entitle the talk:

‘Quantum Computing: Separating Hope from Hype’
Saturday 4th September, 10am PST

“The talk will explain why quantum computers are useful, and also dispel some of the myths about what they can and cannot do. It will address some of the practical ways in which we can build quantum computers and give realistic timescales for how far away commercially useful systems might be.”

Here’s Giulio’s advertisement for the talk:
GIULIO’S BLOGPOST about quantum computing seminar which is much more explanatory than the briefly thrown together blogpost you are being subjected to here.

Anyone wishing to watch the talk can obtain a Teleplace login by e-mailing Giulio Prisco (who can be contacted via the link above). Teleplace is a piece of software that is simple to download and quick to install on your computer and has an interface a bit like Second life. Now is a great time to get an account, as there will be many more interesting lectures and events hosted via this software as the community grows. Note the time – 10am PST Saturday morning (as in West Coast U.S. time zone, California, Vancouver, etc.)

The seminar is also listed as a Facebook Event if you would like to register interest that way!

H+ Summit 2010 @ Harvard

I’m currently in Harvard listening to some pretty awesome talks at the H+ Summit. I always really enjoying attending these events, the atmosphere is truly awesome. So far we have had talks about brain preservation, diy genomics, neural networks, robots on stage, AI, consciousness, synthetic biology, crowdsourcing scientific discovery, and lots lots more.

The talks are all being livestreamed, which is pretty cool too. I can’t really describe the conference in words, so here are some pictures from the conference so far:

Audience pic:

General overview:

Here is a picture of Geordie’s talk about D-Wave, quantum computing and Intelligence:

Here is a picture of me next to the Aiken-IBM Automatic Sequence Controlled Calculator Mark I. This thing is truly amazing, a real piece of computing history.

The MIT museum was also really cool 🙂 More news soon!

H+ Summit 2010 coming up!

I’ll be attending the upcoming H+ Summit at Harvard University on the 12-14th June.

The Summit’s main theme is: Rise of the citizen scientist, and I do indeed look forward to having lots of interesting discussions about the future of science, in addition to (hopefully) meeting people with the specific intent of sparking AGI discussions and potentially ideas for projects. So let me know if you are going along and want to discuss Quantum Computing, AI/AGI, the future of science or anything else! The conference has a fantastic, diverse lineup of speakers, and the topics range from Controlling Brain Circuits with Light to Building a Services Market for the Transhuman Era. Pretty cool, huh?

I think it is really important that Physicists consider how science might be conducted in the upcoming decades. That is a subject for another blogpost, maybe even an essay or two 😉 – but I certainly think that the way we are currently going about making discoveries is rather inefficient, and there are several ways in which we can improve on this.

AGI-10 Monday

Last day of the AGI-10 conference. As usual the live-blogging attempt failed 🙂 but that was kind of to-be expected. I blame the tiny netbook keyboard, which makes it very hard to type. Additionally, I found myself taking quite a lot of notes.

So what have I learnt from this conference? (I’ll probably go into all these ideas in much more detail in subsequent posts, but for now I’m just putting down some thoughts.)

* AGI is a young field, with many disputes and disagreements, which makes the conference both interesting and useful.

* People seem very passionate about the subject, which manifests both as optimism about the field and fierce debates over the problems anticipated, and already being encountered.

* There is a wide range of people here with very diverse backgrounds. I’ve spoken to computer scientists, physicists, mathematicians, philoshophers, neuroscientists, software programmers, entrepreneurs, and many others.

* There is an interesting split between the theoretical (understanding, defining and bounding what AGI is) and the experimental (building candidate systems). It actually strikes me as being similar to the QIP community, except QIP has had about 20 extra years for the theory to race ahead of the experimental verification. I worry that the same might happen to AGI.

* There is another split, which is a bit more subtle, between those that believe that bio/brain inspired investigation can help push AGI forward, and those that believe it won’t – or even worse, that it might cause the field to go backward, by ‘distracting’ researchers who would be working on other potential areas.

* The major problem is that people still can’t agree on a definition of intelligence, or even if there is, or can be one.

* There is also a problem in that the people actually trying to build systems do not know what cognitive architectures will support full AGI, so lots of people are trying lots of different architectures, basically ‘stamp collecting’, until more rigorous theories of cognitive architecture emerge. Some (most) of the current architectures that are being used are bio-inspired.

* There were a few presentations that I thought were much closer to narrow AI than AGI, especially on the more practical side. I guess this is to be expected, but I didn’t get the feeling that the generalization of these techniques was being pursued with vigour.

AGI-10 Friday session

Brilliant conference so far, and it’s only the first day (*just* a workshop session). We’ve had four ‘tutorials’ today:

Marcus Hutter
Hutter described the AIXI model, which is a theoretically best case version of a goal-driven intelligent system.

Mosche Looks
Looks discussed program learning and ways in which this can be implemented. Program learning involves a system ‘discovering’ a program via altering its own code.

Ben Goertzel
Goertzel talked about developments of AI agents interacting with virtual environments versus robots interacing with real world environments and discussed the advantages and disadvantages of both appraoches.

Randal Koene
Talked about whether or not we can find correlations between some of the concepts encountered in AI/AGI an some of the neuronal mechanisms that are occurring in the brain. The specific concept under scrutiny was reinforcement learning. Koene demonstrated that collections of neurons can be modelled by cortical minicolumns and by connecting thes together in large groups, they simulate the same behaviour as is seen in trials undertaken by monkeys given a reward / no reward mechanism for recongnising certain images.

Another thing I love is the lecture theatre/conference venue (The USI). There are power sockets at every seat and there is free, easy-to-connect wifi. I don’t think I’ve been to a single conference where both those criteria have been fulfilled before. Lunch is provided on-site, and coffee and snack breaks are scheduled often. Those are really the only things I ask in terms of the conference venue to be honest. Power, wifi, coffee, lunch.

Yesterday I had a great meal at one of the local Lugano pizzaria restaurants, and talked about AGI and what it actually means.

Anyway, more soon, it’s buffet-networking time now…

Humanity+ UK 2010

This one-day conference will be the first of its kind, to promote and encourage the (currently fast growing) interest in future technologies and transhumanism in the UK and beyond.

Humanity+ UK 2010

Confirmed speakers include Rachel Armstrong, Nick Bostrom, Aubrey de Grey, Max More, David Orban, David Pearce, Anders Sandberg, Amon Twyman, and Natasha Vita-More. It’s a great opportunity for those who are curious about futurism, transhumanism and accelerating technological change to meet and talk to a wide range of people interested in these subjects.

There will be a conference dinner after the event at a nearby restaurant. Visit the website to find out more and register for the event.

QIP 2010 – Further thoughts and CAKE!

So I’m back from QIP now, and full of chocolate. One might say I am maximally satisfied. However I didn’t have time to post this final update so I’ll do it now.

I really enjoyed 2 talks on Thursday afternoon session. The first was by Roderich Moessner and the second by Julia Kempe. They were entitled:

“Random quantum satisfiability: statistical mechanics of disordered quantum optimization” and “A quantum Lovasz Local Lemma” respectively.

I enjoyed these talks because they weren’t completely theoretically based, even though the titles made them sound like they might have been. In particular, I liked the way that random, average and typical instances were considered.

The bounds of ‘hardness’ (going from always satisfiable (easy) to possibly satisfiable (hard) to unsatisfiable (easy)) as you increase the number of clauses compared to the number of variables in a SAT problem were explored, and what kind of phase transitions occur throughout this process. Entanglement can help make some of the possibly satisfiable ones easier, so effectively utilising quantum mechanics allows you to tighten the boundaries of the ‘region of hardness’.

One final thought that I had about the conference was that I think that QIP people need to think about Physics a bit more. Physics seems to underlie all these processes and ties them to the real world in some way. I found that quite a few people were advocating the point of view that Computer Science underlies Physics, but I believe this to be the wrong way of looking at the problem. Physics is all we are given really, it is fruitful to remember this and perhaps just considering it once in a while might help keep you a little more grounded in reality.

Anyway, enough Physics, lets talk about cake. So I mentioned in a previous post about this cake shop I found in Zurich called Cakefriends. Well now I have pictures.

The cake that I chose was a heterostructure of deliciously thick cream (almost cheesecake thick) with interstitial poppy seed sponge layers. To complete the unit cell there was some raspberry sauce around the outside of each sponge layers. It was served in a glass:

Here is a picture of me enjoying said cake. And yes, there were Physics discussions throughout the cakey experience, which should always be the case.

And a photo from the Cakefriends menu:

Yes. Yes we do.

Also thanks to this conference I finally understand the meaning of the complexity class qpoly. Thanks QIP for clearing this one up for me.