Saturday, June 25, 2011

Can there be a Singularity without superintelligence (or vice versa)?

Can there be a Singularity without superintelligence (or vice versa)?
Mitchell Howe:
Strictly speaking, it is possible for there to be both a Singularity that does not entail the creation of superintelligence, and for supertintelligence to not trigger the onset of a Singularity. Both are improbable, regardless of the specific criteria used to define Singularity or superintelligence, but some of the potential "loopholes" are worth discussing.

The potential for Singularity without superintelligence depends largely on which variant of the Singularity is being used. A predictive horizon, for example, can be reached if it is anchored at some particular date (which it never really is, in my experience.) In fact, if this date is sufficiently far back in our past, one could argue (uselessly) that we are living in a Singularity now. Also, if a Singularity is considered reached when the distance to the predictive horizon becomes sufficiently small, our own lack of foresight, not the arrival of superintelligence, may turn out to be the cause. If the idea of a developmental Singularity is used, it is possible that existing trends in automation will result in sharply spiking productivity without the need for any greater intelligence. Finally, even the "greater intelligence" definition of Singulairty need not neccessarily mean the arrival of superintelligence -- which implies minds vastly more intelligent than we are now. In each of these cases, however, one must wonder how long exponentially spiking rates of progress, foreseeable or otherwise, could contiune before superintelligence appeared as one of the many new products of such an age -- or before slightly greater intelligence helped design superintelligent successors. So, the Singularity has a very reasonable chance of preceeding superintelligence, but probably not by much. As other parts of this Q&A discuss, it would be very surprising if greater intelligence proved to be impossible or limited.

On the flip side of this question, that of superintelligence without Singularity, the salient concern is for just how "super" and involved superintelligence would be in our own affairs. If superintelligence were surprisingly unimpressive, malicious, or apathetic, its creation would not do much to initiate a Singularity for the rest of us. There are, in fact, a host of such concerns people tend to have about superintelligence, and the most important of these have their own extended responses in this Q&A. For now, let it be said that most of the common concerns are groundless -- based on flawed, if understandable ideas about intelligence -- and that the rest can probably be dealt with through responsible approaches to research and design.

Friday, June 24, 2011

the human hive-mind covers Radiohead

A version of "Paranoid Android" made using only clips of Youtubers covering the song. Pretty amazing.

ht: @keith_wilson

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

The Doctor explains how time works

People assume that time is a strict progression of cause to effect, but *actually* from a non-linear, non-subjective viewpoint - it's more like a big ball of wibbly wobbly... time-y wimey... stuff.

Friday, June 17, 2011

Dennettian Zimboes

From Cosma Shalizi's review of Daniel Dennett, Brainchildren

The standard objection to Dennett's view of the mind is that it makes no allowance for the difference between creatures with inner lives, namely us, and those without, namely zombies. Zombies might have quite sophisticated dispositions and sensitivities to their external environment, and even to their own information-processing (so the objection goes), but they'd have no inner experience --- they might be able to discriminate red roses from yellow roses, but they'd have no experience of redness, no red qualia. Dennett's quite characteristic response to this objection is to argue that there is no defensible difference between sufficiently nuanced sensitivities and qualia. Consider the case, he asks us, not of zombies per se but of zimboes, who are behaviorally just like us conscious human beings, but have no inner lives. Zombies are the mindless malevolent minions in a Boris Karloff movie; zimboes, when villainous, are more in the Sidney Greenstreet line but, by hypothesis, they show just the same range of heroism, vice, and moral muddle that we do. They'd certainly talk and act as though they thought they had qualia. Maybe brain damage can make people into zimboes --- only they'd insist nothing was wrong! Maybe lots of people (all, of course, normal-seeming) are zimboes --- John Searle, for instance, or this reviewer, or your landlord. They could be everywhere. Consciousness could be a genetic abnormality. Even your best-beloved could be a mere zimbo. In fact, how do you know that you are not a zimbo?

Dennett's answer is that you don't, because, as it happens, you are. Turned around: zimboes, creatures with sophisticated sensitivities to the external world and their inner environment, enjoy just as much consciousness as there is to be had.

Blink (Doctor Who) - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

Blink (Doctor Who) - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia: "The Doctor explains that he and Martha Jones were transported to the past by the Weeping Angels, beings that feed off the potential time energy of others. The Angels are 'quantum locked', allowing them to move incredibly fast when unobserved but when they are seen, they literally turn to stone. They cover their eyes to avoid looking at each other, giving them their 'weeping' appearance. He warns Sally not to look away or even blink when they are around."

Monday, June 13, 2011

The Quantum Mind?

From Chris Brand:
The Quantum Mind?:

Quantum Smell

From Cosmic Variance:

Quantum Smell: "

Over on the Facebooks, Matt Strassler points to a BBC story about the role of quantum mechanics in explaining our sense of smell. There aren’t any equations in the article, and I haven’t read the research papers, but the idea seems to be that electrons move from one part of a protein to another part via quantum tunneling. The potential that allows this to happen is only set up if you have the right chemical involved, which is how the protein purportedly “smells” the existence of this chemical. The resulting mechanism is just absurdly sensitive — apparently fruit flies can smell the difference between hydrogen and deuterium (chemically identical, but tiny differences in atomic energy levels from having an extra neutron in the nucleus).

It’s still a controversial theory, but apparently not crackpotty. The question of how important quantum mechanics (as opposed to just its classical limit) is for biological processes was brought up in our earlier post on quantum photosynthesis. Which reminds me in turn of this worthwhile talk by Seth Lloyd, on the basic topic of “quantum life” and photosynthesis in particular. In between learning about how quantum phenomena might remain relevant in the hot, warm environment of a plant, you can enjoy Lloyd’s principled stance not to use PowerPoint under any circumstances.


Would You be Willing to Enter the Matrix? | Psychology Today

Would You be Willing to Enter the Matrix? | Psychology Today

These are the biggest numbers in the universe - io9

These are the biggest numbers in the universe - io9

How the Experience Machine Works

How the Experience Machine Works:

Robert Nozick’s Experience Machine counterexample to hedonism is one of the most famous thought experiments in contemporary philosophy. It has convinced many that there is more to prudential value than the felt quality of our experiences. Yet it is often misunderstood, and too easily dismissed. Most recently, Felipe de Brigard’s ingenious experimental study, whose results he and others, including Josh Knobe, take to cast aspersions on the Experience Machine argument, is based on a misunderstanding of what is at stake in it, as I will argue below. The key points concern the structure of Nozick’s argument and the nature of the relevant comparison. (I’m afraid this’ll be rather long, but it does meet my criterion for a blog post, namely being written in the course of a day in a fit of inspiration.)


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