Lawrence Krauss, Ben Goertzel and Steve Omohundro on the Perils of Prediction

Panel on the Perils of Prediction where Lawrence Krauss , Steve Omohundro and Ben Goertzel set sail on an epic adventure careening through the perilous waves of prediction! And the seas are angry my friends! Our future stands upon the prow our past drowns in the wake. Our most foolish sailors leave the shore without a compass and an eyeglass. We need to stretch our forecasting abilities further than our intuitions and evolved biases allow.

Video of the panel

Filmed at the Singularity Summit Australia 2011

Lawrence Krauss - SmilingLawrence Maxwell Krauss (born May 27, 1954) is a Canadian-American theoretical physicist who is a professor of physics, Foundation Professor of the School of Earth and Space Exploration, and director of the Origins Project at Arizona State University. He is the author of several bestselling books, including The Physics of Star Trek and A Universe from Nothing. He is an advocate of scientific skepticism, science education, and the science of morality.


Ben Goertzel (born December 8, 1966 in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil), is an American author and researcher in the field of artificial intelligence. He currently leads Novamente LLC, a privately held software company that attempts to develop a form of strong AI, which he calls “Artificial General Intelligence”. He is also the CEO of Biomind LLC, a company that markets a software product for the AI-supported analysis of biological microarray data; and he is an advisor to the Singularity Institute for Artificial Intelligence, and formerly its Director of Research.

steve_omohundro_headSteve Omohundro is an American scientist known for his research on Hamiltonian physics, dynamical systems, programming languages, machine learning, machine vision, and the social implications of artificial intelligence. His current work uses rational economics to develop safe and beneficial intelligent technologies for better collaborative modeling, understanding, innovation, and decision making.

AGI Progress & Impediments – Progress in Artificial Intelligence Panel

Panelists: Ben Goertzel, David Chalmers, Steve Omohundro, James Newton-Thomas – held at the Singularity Summit Australia in 2011

Panelists discuss approaches to AGI, progress and impediments now and in the future.
Ben Goertzel:
Ben Goertzle with backdrop of headsBrain Emulation, Broad level roadmap simulation, bottleneck, lack of imaging technology, we don’t know what level of precision we need to reverse engineer biological intelligence. Ed Boyed – optimal brain imageing.
Not by Brain emulation (engineering/comp sci/cognitive sci), bottleneck is funding. People in the field believe/feel they know how to do it. To prove this, they need to integrate their architectures which looks like a big project. Takes a lot of money, but not as much as something like Microsoft Word.

David Chalmers (time 03:42):
DavidChalmersWe don’t know which of the two approaches. Though what form the singularity will take will likely be dependent on the approach we use to build AGI. We don’t understand the theory yet. Most don’t think we will have a perfect molecular scanner that scans the brain and its chemical constituents. 25 Years ago David Chalmers worked in Douglass Hofstadter’s AI lab, but his expertise in AI is now out of date. To get to Human Level AI by brute force or through cognitive psychology knows that the cog-sci is not in very good shape. Third approach is a hybrid of ruffly brain augmentation (through technology we are already using like ipads and computers etc) and technological extension and uploading. If using brain augmentation through tech and uploading as a first step in a Singularity then it is including Humans in the equation along with humanities values which may help shape a Singularity with those values.

Steve Omohundro (time 08:08):
steve_omohundro_headEarly in history AI, there was a distinction: The Neats and the Scruffies. John McCarthy (Stanford AI Lab) believed in mathematically precise logical representations – this shaped a lot of what Steve thought about how programming should be done. Marvin Minsky (MIT Lab) believed in exploring neural nets and self organising systems and the approach of throwing things together to see how it self-organises into intelligence. Both approaches are needed: the logical, mathematically precise, neat approach – and – the probabilistic, self-organising, fuzzy, learning approach, the scruffy. They have to come together. Theorem proving without any explorative aspect probably wont succeed. Purely Neural net based simulations can’t represent semantics well, need to combine systems with full semantics and systems with the ability to adapt to complex environments.

James Newton-Thomas (time 09:57)
james.newton-thomasJames has been playing with Neural-nets and has been disappointed with them not being thinks that Augmentation is the way forward. The AI problem is going to be easier to solve if we are smarter to solve it. Conferences such as this help infuse us with a collective empowerment of the individuals. There is an impediment – we are already being dehumanised with our Ipad, where the reason why we are having a conversation with others is a fact about our being part of a group and not about the information that can be looked up via an IPad. We need to careful in our approach so that we are able to maintain our humanity whilst gaining the advantages of the augmentation.

General Discussion (time 12:05):
David Chalmers: We are already becoming cyborgs in a sense by interacting with tech in our world. the more literal cyborg approach we are working on now. Though we are not yet at the point where the technology is commercialization to in principle allow a strong literal cyborg approach. Ben Goertzel: Though we could progress with some form of brain vocalization (picking up words directly from the brain), allowing to think a google query and have the results directly added to our mind – thus bypassing our low bandwidth communication and getting at the information directly in our heads. To do all this …
Steve Omohundro: EEG is gaining a lot of interest to help with the Quantified Self – brain interfaces to help measure things about their body (though the hardware is not that good yet).
Ben Goertzel: Use of BCIs for video games – and can detect whether you are aroused and paying attention. Though the resolution is very course – hard to get fine grained brain state information through the skull. Cranial jacks will get more information. Legal systems are an impediment.
James NT: Alan Snyder using time altering magnetic fields in helmets that shut down certain areas of the brain, which effectively makes people smarter in narrower domains of skill. Can provide an idiot savant ability at the cost of the ability to generalize. The brain that becomes to specific at one task is doing so at the cost of others – the process of generalization.

Ben Goertzel, David Chalmers, Steve Omohundro - A Thought Experiment

Ben Goertzel, David Chalmers, Steve Omohundro – A Thought Experiment

Altered States of Consciousness through Technological Intervention

A mini-documentary on possible modes of being in the future – Ben Goertzel talks about the Singularity and exploring Altered States of Consciousness, Stelarc discusses Navigating Mixed Realities, Kent Kemmish muses on the paradox of strange futures, and Max More compares Transhumanism to Humanism


Starring: Ben Goertzel, Stelarc, Kent Kemmish, Max More
Edited: Adam Ford

Topics : Singularity, Trasnshumanism, and States of Consciousness
Thanks to NASA for some of the b-roll



Ben Goertzel

It’s better perhaps to think of the singularity in terms of human experience. Right now due to the way our brains are built we have a few states of consciousness that follow us around every day.

There’s the ordinary waking state of consciousness, there’s various kinds of sleep, there’s a flow state of consciousness that we get into when we’re really into the work, we’re doing or playing music and we’re really into it. There are various enlightened states you can get into by meditating a really long time. The spectrum of states of consciousness that human beings can enter into is a tiny little fragment of all the possible ways of experience. When the singularity comes it’s going to bring us a wild variety of states of consciousness, a wild variety of ways of thinking and feeling and experiencing the world.

Well I think we’re expected to increasingly perform in mixed realities, so sometimes we’re biological bodies, sometimes we’re machiningly augmented and accelerated, and other times we have to manage data streams in virtual systems. So we have to seamlessly slide between these three modes of operation, and engineering new interfaces, more intimate interfaces so we can do this more seamlessly is an important strategy.

Kent Kemmish
Plenty of scientists would say that it’s crazy and there’s no way, I guess we could have that debate. But they might agree with me that if it is crazy, it’s crazy because of how the world works socially and not because of how difficult it is intrinsically. It’s not crazy for scientific reasons; it’s crazy because the world is crazy.

Max More
I think that people when they look at the future, if they do accept this idea that there’s going to be drastic changes and great advances, they will necessarily try to fit that very complex, impossible to really understand future, into very familiar mental models because they want to put things in boxes, they want to feel like they have some sort of grip on that. So I won’t be surprised to see Christian transhumanists and Mormon transhumanists and even Buddhist transhumanists and every other group will have some kind of set of ideas, they will gradually accept them, but they will make their future world fit with their pre-existing views as to how it will be.

And I think that the essence of transhumanism is not religious, it’s really based on humanism, it’s an extension of humanism, hence transhumanism. It’s really based on ideas of reason and progress and enlightenment and a kind of a secularism. But that doesn’t mean it’s incompatible with trying to make certain of the transhumanist ideas of self-improvement, of enhancement. I think those are potentially compatible with at least non fundamentalist forms of religion.

– Many thanks to Tom Richards for the transcription


Future Day

Future Day – March 1st

Why are nearly all our holidays focused on celebrating the past, or the cyclical processes of nature? Why not celebrate the amazing future we are collectively creating?

That’s the concept behind a new global holiday, Future Day (March 1), conceived by AI researcher Dr. Ben Goertzel.

past-and-futureFuture Day 2012 gatherings were held in more than a dozen cities, as well as in Second Life. In 2013 there were even more events – 2014 gatherings in Melbourne were fun!
Get in contact and tell us what you want to do for Future Day!

“Celebrating and honoring the past and the cyclical processes of nature is a valuable thing,” says Goertzel. “But in these days of rapid technological acceleration, it is our future that needs more attention, not our past.

“My hope is that Future Day can serve as a tool for helping humanity focus its attention on figuring out what kind of future it wants, and striving to bring these visions to reality.”

Read more