This year’s Singularity Summit was a great collection of lectures, debates, and impromptu discussions among the technologically minded. Now, thanks to the Singularity Institute, you can share in those events by watching videos available online. SI recently uploaded several of the lectures and the debates from Singularity Summit 2010 to Vimeo, with more on their way. For those who were unable to travel to San Francisco and attend the summit, these videos are a great way to join the Singularity community. While the two days held plenty of great lectures, the events I enjoyed most were the debates between those who had just presented. Watch the panel discussion on artificial general intelligence featuring Ben Goertzel, Eliezer Yudkosky, Shane Legg, and John Tooby in the video below. It’s followed by the one on one conversation between Terrence Sejnowski and Dennis Bray about emulating biological systems. It’s friendly debates like these that really make the Singularity Summit so unique.
When I attended this year’s summit, I was struck by the camaraderie among attendees. For those who regularly espouse the possibilities of accelerating technologies, meeting someone else who is ready to agree with, rather than argue against, your position can be rare. At the Singularity Summit, however, the air of techno-optimism was almost universal. That made for some very frank and open discussions about far out concepts in AI and bioengineering without someone shouting “that’s insane” or “you’ll destroy us all.” It’s really cool to see what experts in a field will admit to when they don’t have to worry about ridicule.
Panel discussion on artificial general intelligence.
Debate on emulating biological systems.
The same air of camaraderie at the Summit kept discussions from heating to the point where they would have gotten really out of hand. You’ll notice that Ben Goertzel (in the first video) is forced to start arguing with himself because no one else is directly attacking his point of view. While it is nice that the Summit is a place where techno-optimists can discuss ideas openly, it did feel a little ideologically homogeneous. There were several (including James Randi, Dennis Bray, and Irene Pepperberg) who asked for caution moving forward, but there wasn’t a lot of outright opposition between speakers. Even if two people agree that the world’s technological progress is accelerating, they should still have plenty to argue about. Hopefully the Singularity Institute, and the Singularity community as a whole, will garner enough clout in the years ahead that they can invite respected scholars who directly oppose some of the basic assumptions made by Summit attendees. I think the ensuing debate would be even more interesting to watch than the ones we’ve seen so far. Until then, keep checking the SI account on Vimeo for new videos from the 2010 Singularity Summit, and keep reading Singularity Hub. We may be techno-optimists (most days at least) but we love arguing against ourselves, too.
*Thanks to Michael Vassar, President of SI, for providing the videos and notifying me about their arrival.
[screen capture and video credits: Singularity Institute]
[source: Singularity Institute]