Quotable (#147)

Lots of stimulation in this John Horgan interview with Eliezer Yudkowsky (via). Among the gems:

Horgan: I’ve described the Singularity as an “escapist, pseudoscientific” fantasy that distracts us from climate change, war, inequality and other serious problems. Why am I wrong?
Yudkowsky: Because you’re trying to forecast empirical facts by psychoanalyzing people. This never works.

(Note on ‘Singularity’ FWIW by EY here: “I think that the “Singularity” has become a suitcase word with too many mutually incompatible meanings and details packed into it, and I’ve stopped using it.”)

One more EY snippet: “… human axons transmit information at around a millionth of the speed of light, even when it comes to heat dissipation each synaptic operation in the brain consumes around a million times the minimum heat dissipation for an irreversible binary operation at 300 Kelvin, and so on. Why think the brain’s software is closer to optimal than the hardware? Human intelligence is privileged mainly by being the least possible level of intelligence that suffices to construct a computer; if it were possible to construct a computer with less intelligence, we’d be having this conversation at that level of intelligence instead.”

Quick links (#32)

Shenzhen rises. Global Shanzhai. A giant (but mediocre) FT special report on Shanghai.

Anomie in Japan. A deadly nap in North Korea. Hersh swears by his story.

Complexity economics (plus). What is money? Non-economics.

Singularity — don’t hold your breath. A step towards brain mapping. Accelerated genomics. Crypto-frenzy and schizo-security. Robophobia. Retrocomputing. Social media polarization. After the cookie.

Evolutionary heresy, today. DSM-5 as OCD. Experimental music (plus, math and music).

Wark on Pasquinelli. Marxian eschatology. Weak cosmists. The ‘crawling horror’ of kludge. Refactored agency. Banana media.

Graphic ASI

Tim Urban’s exercise in visualizing Artificial Superintelligence guides intuition step by step. Jumping impatiently to the end of the diagrammatic staircase:


In an intelligence explosion — where the smarter a machine gets, the quicker it’s able to increase its own intelligence, until it begins to soar upwards — a machine might take years to rise from the chimp step to the one above it, but perhaps only hours to jump up a step once it’s on the dark green step two above us, and by the time it’s ten steps above us, it might be jumping up in four-step leaps every second that goes by. Which is why we need to realize that it’s distinctly possible that very shortly after the big news story about the first machine reaching human-level AGI, we might be facing the reality of coexisting on the Earth with something that’s here on the staircase (or maybe a million times higher) …

It’s not difficult to understand why some people get nervous. (The Urban link was scavenged from Musk‘s reliably-gripping twitter stream, btw.)

Quotable (#66)

Thomas Schulz is dazzlingly appalled in Spiegel:

Machines that can learn, intelligent robots: We have begun overtaking science fiction.

The phenomenon is still misunderstood, first and foremost by policymakers. It appears they have not yet decided whether to dive in and create a usable policy framework for the future or to stand aside as others create a global revolution. After all, what we are witnessing is not just the triumph of a particular technology. And it is not just an economic phenomenon. It isn’t about “the Internet” or “the social networks,” nor is it about intelligence services and Edward Snowden or the question as to what Google is doing with our data. It isn’t about the huge numbers of newspapers that are going broke nor is it about jobs being replaced by software. It’s not about a messaging service being worth €19 billion ($21.1 billion) or the fact that 20-year-olds are launching entire new industries.

We are witnessing nothing less than a societal transformation that ultimately nobody will be able to avoid. It is the kind of sea change that can only be compared with 19th century industrialization, but it is happening much faster this time. Just as the change from hand work to mass production dramatically changed our society over 100 years ago, the digital revolution isn’t just altering specific sectors of the economy, it is changing the way we think and live.

This time, though, the transformation is different. This time, it is being driven by just a few hundred people.

Raptures of the Nerds

Eliezer Yudkowsky and Scott Aaronson talk Technological Singularity and Many Worlds (from summer 2009). Peculiarly, given the trend of the conversation, it’s aged well.

The Paperclip Maximizer is on its way to becoming the most significant bad argument in existence. EY’s high-intensity rants about how thoroughly one-world theories are busted, however, are truly awesome. You have to hang on to the end to reach Dr Evil (but it’s worth it).

Quick links (#26)

China’s ‘Cybercrats‘. The trouble with Alibaba. Chinese reforms are hard.

The Free World: Hong Kong, Singapore, New Zealand, Australia, Switzerland (and that’s it, understandably). America bets on Modi. The European dream is dying. Strange alliances. Žižek is excited. Nigeria and Egypt in the firing-line.

Messy but sporadically insightful reflections on Bitcoin (from the left). It’s “highly problematic“. ISIS apparently likes it.

Technology and finance are breaking away. Unbundling the banks. Mechanization and the future of work. Singularity and X-Risk buzz (1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6). The business of human cryopreservation.

Flexible brain implants. New steps in robotics.

Anomaly Detection. A call to the edge. Interviews with Pamela Rosenkranz and Peter Boettke. Terminator versus Ghostbusters. Accelerationism under discussion. Property and Freedom 2015. Leaderless. Reason worries about Creeping Neo-Victorianism.

Dark Matter sounds. This is intense.