Documenting the Coming Singularity

Thursday, October 08, 2009

Robot Masters - Will they be kind to us? - Ronald Bailey | October 6, 2009

Notes from the Singularity Summit in New York City.

NEW YORK—The singularity grows nigh. A happy band of technophiles, futurists, transhumanists, and, yes, singulatarians gathered in New York City this past weekend to talk about prospects for life before and after the technological creation of smarter-than-human intelligence. The phenomenon gets its name from science fiction writer Vernor Vinge, who analogized a future full of super-smart artificial intelligence(s) (AIs) to the way black holes work. Black holes are singularities—surrounded by event horizons past which outside observers simply cannot see. Self-improving super-smart AIs will so radically speed up the pace of technological change that it is simply impossible to describe what the future would look like afterwards.

But that doesn't stop people from trying to peek beyond the event horizon into the post-singularity future. Convened by the Singularity Institute for Artificial Intelligence (SIAI) for the first time on the East Coast, this fourth annual meeting attracted about 900 participants. The SIAI was created to address the urgent problem of how to create super-smart AIs that are friendly to human beings. The worry is that, unless we are very careful, AIs might evolve value systems that treat us as annoying organic matter that should be more usefully turned into computronium. As the Singularity Institute's Anna Salamon explained in her opening presentation at the summit, smarter intelligences might choose to get rid of us because our matter is not optimally arranged to achieve their goals.

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