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The Singularity Takes A Bite Out of the Big Apple

Ray KurzweilThis year’s Singularity Summit line-up features many familiar faces, but with some new twists on the usual AI, AGI, Longevity, Nanotech, Robotics and Biotech themes.

This year, we get two presentations by Ray Kurzweil. On Saturday, Ray will present updated versions of his now infamous exponential growth charts and graphs, while providing examples of real world technologies that are already beginning to demonstrate these information technology trends in action.

On Sunday, Ray’s "Critics of the Singularity" talk will address some of the arguments against the possibility of creating a superintelligence, such as  "Moore’s Law will not go on forever," "the brain is too complicated to understand or replicate," and "software is not capable of thinking or of consciousness."

Michael Nielsen is also giving two talks. Saturday’s talk is on quantum computing’s past, present, and future. Sunday’s talk will describe how mathematicians are using blogs, wikis and open source style collaboration to attack and rapidly solve difficult open mathematical problems, and how networked collaborative technologies are changing the process of scientific discovery.

Aubrey de Grey will be explaining the difference between the Singularity and what he calls "the Methuselarity," a threshold in the development of anti-aging technologies at which their rate of improvement reaches "longevity escape velocity", a rate of progress sufficient to postpone age-related ill-health indefinitely.

Novamente’s Ben Goertzel will explain and discuss the theoretical foundations of AGI (Artificial General Intelligence = a beneficial, human-level intelligence that will eventually surpass human intelligence, as opposed to the traditional, narrowly-focused AIs that do not attempt to simulate human thinking), along with an update on the open source Open Cog project. He will then go on to explain two different scenarios for AGI development: virtual or physical humanoid robots and artificial science assistants, and will describe how combining these scenarios may provide the fastest and most practical path to advanced AGI.

David Chalmers, author of The Conscious Mind: In Search of a Fundamental Theory, will be providing a philisophical analysis of the argument for I.J. Good’s intelligence explosion (the rapid transition from greater-than-human artificial intelligence to superintelligence), focusing on the likelihood that such an explosion will take place in a simulated world.

Electronic Frontier Foundation Board Chairman Brad Templeton will be discussing robocars and how their inevitable adoption will steer us towards fossil fuel independence and save millions of lives. 

 "I’m excited about this year from a theoretical perspective," explained Singularity Institute President Michael Vassar.  "We are really increasing the intellectual rigor of the subject matter. There’s going to be a lot more hard core phillosophy and cognitive science than previous years. This year we’ve structured the days.  Rather than just having everyone go in random order, the first day is focused on AI, moving from the most concrete issues to the most philisophical issues. The second day is focused on accelerated change, moving from, once again, the most concrete issues to the most speculative issues."

There’s also a new focus on community than at previous Summits. "We’ve set up workshops for the conference participants to meet for the two days after the conference, along with one, two, and five year follow-ups, so that they can keep in touch and see how their attitudes change over time," Vassar said. "We want very much to build community to a higher degree than we previously have, preferably one deeply entwined with mainstream academia."

Stephen Wolfram and Gregory Benford will have a "Conversation On the Singularity."

Reminder: if you are attending the summit and tweeting from the conference, remember to use the #singularitysummit tag.

See you Saturday morning!

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