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Singularity Hypotheses: A Scientific and Philosophical Assessment

This event marks the publication of the important new book The Singularity Hypotheses: A scientific and philosophical assessment. Speakers will include Dr Amnon Eden and David Pearce.

What is the Singularity? Existential risk or cultist fantasy? Rapture of the nerds? An unstoppable intelligence explosion? The rapid acquisition by humanity of god-like powers? The rise of Terminator-style killer robots? The dramatic culmination of progress in enhancement technologies, enabling the emergence of a posthuman race which overcomes all existing human limitations, both physical and mental, and conquers aging, death and disease?

Computing pioneer Alan Turing wrote as long ago as 1951 that “at some stage therefore we should have to expect the machines to take control”. In 1965, IJ Good, who had been one of Turing’s colleagues in the wartime code-breaking labs at Bletchley Park, speculated as follows:

“Let an ultraintelligent machine be defined as a machine that can far surpass all the intellectual activities of any man however clever. Since the design of machines is one of these intellectual activities, an ultraintelligent machine could design even better machines; there would then unquestionably be an ‘intelligence explosion,’ and the intelligence of man would be left far behind. Thus the first ultraintelligent machine is the last invention that man need ever make.”

Since that time, the notions of ‘intelligent explosion’ and ‘technology singularity’ have increasingly passed into the public awareness.

But are any of the accounts of the technological singularity credible?

A new book, “Singularity Hypotheses: A Scientific and Philosophical Assessment”, is about to be published, that gathers the latest thinking about the singularity from a who’s who of deep thinkers. The book has its own website. It consists of a series of propositions followed by responses. See below for a listing of the contributors.

London Futurists are very fortunate that the lead editor of this book, Amnon Eden, will be presenting a summary of some key arguments about Singularity hypotheses, in our meeting on 11th May. He will be joined as a speaker by David Pearce, who has been actively involved behind the scenes in the planning of the book, and who contributed two articles in the book.

About Dr Amnon Eden:

Dr Amnon Eden PhD Tel Aviv, MSc (Cum Laude) Tel Aviv, is a lecturer and computer scientist at the School of Computer Science and Electronic Engineering, at the University of Essex. He is also a software design consultant, and a research fellow with the Center For Inquiry.

Dr Eden’s publications include:

Dr Eden is the ACM/IEEE Automated Software Engineering 2011 Most Influential Paper award winner. He also served as the associate editor of Minds and Machines, chaired of the software engineering diploma programme in Tel Aviv College of Management, held posts in Tel Aviv University, Israel Institute of Technology—Technion, Uppsala University, and Concordia University, and consulted the high-tech industry on programming and software design.

Dr Eden’s work concerns software design and architecture; the migration to object-oriented programming; and developing, testing, and deploying software infrastructure.

About David Pearce:

David Pearce is an independent researcher based in Brighton UK.  In 1995, he wrote an online manifesto,The Hedonistic Imperative, advocating the use of biotechnology to abolish suffering throughout the living world. He has also written on the philosophy of mind and perception; utilitarian ethics; psychopharmacology; life extension; cognitive enhancement technologies; mood enrichment; genetic recalibration of the hedonic treadmill; ecosystem redesign; reprogramming predators; and – more speculatively – on a posthuman future based on “paradise engineering”.

In 1998, in collaboration with Nick Bostrom, David Pearce set up the World Transhumanist Association – subsequently rebranded asHumanity+.

At this meetup, David will talk on “An Organic Singularity?“. This part of the meeting will examine the idea that recursively self-improving organic robots will modify their own source code and bootstrap our way to full-spectrum superintelligence.


2pm-4pm, Saturday 11th May

Venue: Room B20, Birkbeck College, Torrington Square WC1E 7HX, London.

Room B20 is on the Basement floor in the main Birkbeck College building, in Torrington Square (which is a pedestrian-only square). Torrington Square is about 10 minutes walk from either Russell Square or Goodge St tube stations.

Coffee and other light refreshments can be purchased from the Costa Coffee shop in the reception area of the building, either ahead of or after the meeting.

The event will be followed by a chance to continue the discussion in a nearby pub – The Marlborough Arms, 36 Torrington Place, London WC1E 7HJ

Optional pre-meeting rendezvous – please feel free to join a small number of regular London Futurist attendees at the Marlborough Arms any time from 12.30pm onwards, for general chat over a light lunch and/or drinks. To find us, look out for a table with a futurist book on it.

Covering meeting costs:

A small fee is payable to attend this meetup. This fee covers room costs. Any excess money collected will be split between speaker expenses and defrayment of expenses incurred in organising previous meetups.

The fee is £5 if paid in advance, at the time of RSVPing. (This will be refunded if the meeting is cancelled or rearranged, or if the attendee cancels at least 3 days before the meetup.)

Alternatively, payment can be made in cash at the door on the day – in this case, the fee is £10. (Requesting payment in advance assists with accurate planning of the event.)

Appendix: Full list of contributors to the book “Singularity Hypotheses”:

From the online table of contents:

  • Amnon H. Eden, Eric Steinhart, David Pearce & James H. Moor
  • Luke Muehlhauser & Anna Salamon; response from Robin Hanson
  • Itamar Arel; response from William J. Rapaport
  • Juergen Schmidhuber; response from Aaron Sloman; and from Selmer Bringsjord, Alexander Bringsjord & Paul Bello
  • Richard Loosemore & Ben Goertzel; response from Peter Bishop
  • Luke Muehlhauser & Louie Helm; response from Jordi Vallverdú
  • Roman V. Yampolskiy & Joshua Fox
  • James Miller; response by Robin Hanson
  • Steve Omohundro; response by Colin Allen & Wendell Wallach
  • Eliezer Yudkowsky; response by Colin Allen
  • David Pearce; response by Illah R. Nourbakhsh
  • Randal A. Koene; response by Philip Rubin
  • Dennis Bray; response by Randal Koene
  • David Roden
  • Eric Horvitz; response by Itamar Arel; and by Vernor Vinge
  • Theodore Modis; response by Vernor Vinge; and by Ray Kurzweil
  • Alessio Plebe & Pietro Perconti; response by Eliezer Yudkowski
  • Diane Proudfoot; response by Francis Heylinghen
  • Selmer Bringsjord, Alexander Bringsjord & Paul Bello; response by Vernor Vinge; and by Michael Anissimov
  • Eric Chaisson; response by Theodore Modis