Monday, August 16, 2010
My Singularity Summit Awards
Here's my highlights and lowlights of the Singularity Summit. All in all it was a better use of my time than I had anticipated. For better or worse, libertarian memes were not very visible (the Seasteading Institute had a table, that was about it). Links here.
Ramez Naam. The Digital Biome
I wouldn't say I learned anything radically new, but he had excellent slides, very engaging speaking manner, and gave a talk that was mostly grounded in the reality of actual environmental problems.
Most New Information:
Brian Litt, The past, present and future of brain machine interfaces
Lance Becker Modifying the Boundary between Life and Death
Ellen Heber-Katz: The MRL mouse - how it regenerates and how we might do the same
These were all actual scientists (including two MD researchers) presenting interesting new developments.
Michael Vassar, The Darwinian Method
Ray Kurzweil, The Mind and How to Build One
Partly for speech style (lispy and drony respectively); but mostly for speaking in huge generalities and saying nothing new.
Steve Mann, Humanistic Intelligence Augmentation and Mediation
For wearing computers on his head and playing a water piano. Weird in a good way. Runner-up: the guys making very lifelike and creepy robots modelled on Einstein and Philip K. Dick. Now that I think of it, there was nothing really all that weird, which was somewhat disappointing.
Person I would most like to argue with:
Eliezer Yudkowsky: Simplified Humanism and Positive Futurism
Highest BS level:
Jose Cordeiro: The Future of Energy and the Energy of the Future
For claiming, among other things, that in 30 years we will have unlimited free energy (from space-based solar, I think, but he was all over the place). Extra points for having an MIT degree and presumably capable of thinking more critically.
[[update: PZ Myers takes Kurzweil to town. I pretty much agree, but I've heard Kurzweil's kind of stuff for so long that I just screen it out. Still, I'd put the odds of whole-brain simulation somewhat lower than free energy in 30 years, so maybe Cordeiro has to share his prize.]]
Irene Pepperberg: Nonhuman Intelligence: Where we are and where we're headed
I'd heard a lot about this research, but the presentation had very little intellectual depth to it. Yes, birds and other animals can do some amazing things. And this proves what, exactly? She didn't say. Could be the talk was just pitched at too low a level.
James Randi, of course.
Oh well, I'm never going to be a member of this church but I didn't mind visiting for a service, in the ecumenical spirit.