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.

Global Catastrophic Risks – Jamais Cascio

Cyborg Jamais CascioPart of the 2015 interview Jamais Cascio focused on the Global Catastrhopic Risks, Existential Risks and empathy.  It was both fun and serious.
Transcript: We are surrounded by catastrophic existential risks – you know, personally, societally, civilizationally. The intriguing thing about them is that the chance of any one of the happening is extremely slim. So very low likelihood, very significant results. Yet there is a non-zero chance that at the end of this sentence a meteor will come down and strike me in the head. It didn’t happen, but it could – there is no physical reason why it wouldn’t and given enough time eventually something will happen.
So we face – We are dealing with existential risks, catastrophic, globally & civilizationally catastrophic risks all the time and it’s easy to ignore them. The problem – the dilemma – is when you have a slight uptake in the the likelihood of a catastrophic risk.
NASA has a risk scale for the likelihood of an asteroid impact that would and the damage that it would produce – we’ve never gotten above essentially a level 1 risk – out of 10 – at least since they started taking measurements. There has been a couple of times when the likelihood of this happening has gotten up to – I think the highest we ever got was a temporary 4 – but were pretty likely that this level of risk isn’t going to be maintained. But we have these metrics of deciding – ok these risks are plausible – how can we contextualize them? So we do that with telling stories.
We deal with catastrophic risks by creating mythologies – and what the mythologies do – mythologies here count as making movies or writing novels or engaging in speculative conversations.. and playing with toys.
We craft the mythologies as a way of understanding how these catastrophic events could play out, and more importantly, how humans respond to catastrophe.
So you know, recently there was a movie called “San Andreas” starring ‘The Rock’ – scientifically terrible – but ultimately it was a story about ‘how do humans respond to seeing each other in mortal terror? in mortal peril?’ and ‘how do we try to help each other?’ – and that I think becomes a really important ‘pedagogy of catastrophe’. It’s not about understanding the details of every possible dooms day scenario – it’s about understanding what our options are for helping each other afterwards, or helping each other avoid the catastrophe. And – I think all to often, especially the world of science/scifi/foresight, there’s kind of a dismissal of those kinds of ‘soft narratives’ “they’re not scientifically accurate therefore we can ignore them”. But I think we ignore them at our peril – because those are the stories that we viscerally, we as a human society viscerally respond to. We are driven by emotion, we are driven by empathy – and intelligence a way of contextualizing why we feel things – what our relationship is to things that we have emotional connections with. Allowing us to continue to have – our intelligence allows us to continue to have and maintain persistent emotional connections.

As I’ve gotten older, I’ve really come to recognise the power of empathy, and how critical emotional connection is to building a viable future. We are as futurists all too often fascinated by tools – fascinated by gadgets and technologies – because they’re understandable, they’re quantifiable, they’re profitable. And we don’t pay enough attention to the feelings that surround us…Jamais Cascio

As I’ve gotten older, I’ve really come to recognise the power of empathy, and how critical emotional connection is to building a viable future. We are as futurists all too often fascinated by tools – fascinated by gadgets and technologies – because they’re understandable, they’re quantifiable, they’re profitable. And we don’t pay enough attention to the feelings that surround us – whether we are talking politics or gender relations or all different kinds of things that are squishier, much more political, much harder to forecast – they’re harder to forecast because we shy away from them. We forget that these are the things that drive most of our behaviour – the desire to be liked, a desire to be wanted, a desire to be heard, a desire to connect.


Thought it was worth adding Jamais Cascio’s Eschatological Taxonomy poster

Eschatology: (noun) The study of the end of the world.
Taxonomy: (noun) A classification in a hierarchical system.

Exchatological Taxonomy - Global Catastrophic Risks taxB

What do we mean when we talk about the “end of the world?” It’s a term that get thrown around a bit too often among a variety of futurist-types, whether talking about global warming, nanofabrication, or non-friendly artificial intelligence. “Existential risks” is the lingo-du jour, referring to the broad panoply of processes, technologies and events that put our existence at risk. But, still, what does that mean? The destruction of the Earth? The end of humankind? A “Mad Max” world of leather-clad warriors, feral kids, and armed fashion models? All are frightening and horrific, but some are moreso than others. How do we tell them apart? Here, then, is a first pass at a classification system for the varying types of “end of the world” scenarios. Jamais Cascio


jamais cascio solar flare-274x155Cascio’s talk at BAASICS – Ready or Not (Doomsday talk in San Francisco, June 2012) – “I spoke at an event in San Francisco for a group called “BAASICS” (Bay Area Art & Science Interactive Collaborative Sessions). My talk — on the end of the world, and why it matters — was fairly brief (under 12 minutes), but reasonably fun….Highlights include old favorites the Eschatological Taxonomy, Legacy Futures, and the Singularity!”

Cascio gave the closing talk at GCR08, a Mountain View conference on Global Catastrophic Risks. Titled “Uncertainty, Complexity and Taking Action,” the discussion focused on the challenges inherent in planning against future disasters emerging as the result of global-scale change:



DOOM!!! Jamais Cascio juggles conceptual risk whilst avoiding being struck by stray metaphorical meteors.

Michio Kaku – The Future of the Mind – Intelligence Enhancement & the Singularity

Scifuture interview with popular scientist Michio Kaku on the Scientific Quest to Understand, Enhance & Empower the Mind!

The audio of this interview is found here.

Dr. Michio Kaku advocates thinking about some of the radical Transhumanist ideas we all know and love – here he speaks on the frontiers of Neuroscience, Intelligence Enhancement, the Singularity, and his new book ‘The Future of the Mind’!

String theory stems from Albert Einstein’s legacy; it combines the theory of general relativity and quantum mechanics by assuming the multiverse of universes. String field theory then uses the mathematics of fields to put it all into perspectives. Dr Kaku’s goal is to unite the four fundamental forces of nature into one ‘unified field theory’, a theory that seeks to summarise all fundamental laws of the universe in one simple equation.

Note Scifuture did another interview with Michio Kaku – the article can be found here, audio can be found here, and the video can be found here.


The Future of the Mind‘ – Book on Amazon.

Many thanks to Think Inc. who brought Dr Kaku to Australia!

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Robin Hanson – Attitudes to the Future – Future Day Discussion 2015

Robin-Hanson-200x200Topics covered: Attitudes to the future, Prediction Markets, SciCast, Blockchain currency, Quadratic Voting, Artificial Intelligence Development etc.

Notes on interview:
People are engaged in extreme futures – heaven or hell scenarios – are people’s attraction towards, or engagement with certain futures informed by evolved biases?

Prediction Markets in contrast to narratives about the future informed by Moralising Tales – whatever is likely to happen is probably a muddled up mix, a mixture of heaven and hell, not just one or the other – Moralising Tale, ignores statistics – it will all be terrible or fantastic, nothing in between…

Could the world do with futurists in industry? Hard to tell. Sometimes firms (i.e. google) are tied to a particular image – google have the image of innovation – google gets attention for projects like calico – pie in the sky moonshot projects are a compliment to their image. Employees are more likely to want to work for google because of its sexiness…

Justin Rattner (former CTO of Intel) spoke about the singularity quite a bit.. but not many CEOs/CTOs bring it up – with the exception of a few… though this could change.

Updates blockchain currency (bitcoin, etherium) – opportunities / risks

Futurists are often eager for big change – enthusiastic – people who are itching for big change often focus on scenarios for the future where there is big change.

Robin-Hanson-Oxford-Adam-Ford-Interview-1Why is there little interest in quadratic voting compared to small iterations in gadgetry (which seems to get a lot of press)?
There is a lot of new and inventive gadgets, and ideas in physics that have huge communities of interest – but social technologies, ways we organise meetings, for instance Quadratic Voting… Many voting systems don’t do a good job at weighing different votes based on how much you care about the issue. QV pays for votes in proportion to the square of the number of votes – can produce outcomes that weigh votes based on how much the voters care about the issue. People can be given votes as a point system, and they can choose to distribute their points based on how much they care about certain issues.

AI Dev – what are the big improvements? Whole new trend? Or progress in existing ideas?

Omens! There was always the new thing, the omen that promised this and that, cries in the wilderness – what kinds of omens should we be listening to? well… don’t follow individual news events, listen to aggregates – for instance there was a whole data series of terrorist attacks – don’t make a decision on one terrorist event.

Prediction Markets / Strategic forecasting – SciCast

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