Posts

The Simpsons and Their Mathematical Secrets with Simon Singh

You may have watched hundreds of episodes of The Simpsons (and its sister show Futurama) without ever realizing that cleverly embedded in many plots are subtle references to mathematics, ranging from well-known equations to cutting-edge theorems and conjectures. That they exist, Simon Singh reveals, underscores the brilliance of the shows’ writers, many of whom have advanced degrees in mathematics in addition to their unparalleled sense of humor.

A mathematician is a machine for turning coffee into theorems. Simon Singh, The Simpsons and Their Mathematical Secrets

The Simpsons and their Mathematical SecretsWhile recounting memorable episodes such as “Bart the Genius” and “Homer3,” Singh weaves in mathematical stories that explore everything from p to Mersenne primes, Euler’s equation to the unsolved riddle of P v. NP; from perfect numbers to narcissistic numbers, infinity to even bigger infinities, and much more. Along the way, Singh meets members of The Simpsons’ brilliant writing team—among them David X. Cohen, Al Jean, Jeff Westbrook, and Mike Reiss—whose love of arcane mathematics becomes clear as they reveal the stories behind the episodes.
With wit and clarity, displaying a true fan’s zeal, and replete with images from the shows, photographs of the writers, and diagrams and proofs, The Simpsons and Their Mathematical Secrets offers an entirely new insight into the most successful show in television history.

Buy the book on amazon

An astronomer, a physicist, and a mathematician (it is said) were holidaying in Scotland. Glancing from a train window, they observed a black sheep in the middle of a field. “How interesting,” observed the astronomer, “all Scottish sheep are black!” To which the physicist responded, “No, no! Some Scottish sheep are black!” The mathematician gazed heavenward in supplication, and then intoned, “In Scotland there exists at least one field, containing at least one sheep, at least one side of which is black. Simon Singh, The Simpsons and Their Mathematical Secrets

 

 

Simon Singh is a British author who has specialised in writing about mathematical and scientific topics in an accessible manner. His written works include Fermat’s Last Theorem (in the United States titled Fermat’s Enigma: The Epic Quest to Solve the World’s Greatest Mathematical Problem),The Code Book (about cryptography and its history), Big Bang (about the Big Bang theory and the origins of the universe), Trick or Treatment? Alternative Medicine on Trial[6] (about complementary and alternative medicine) and The Simpsons and Their Mathematical Secrets (about mathematical ideas and theorems hidden in episodes of The Simpsons and Futurama).

Singh has also produced documentaries and works for television to accompany his books, is a trustee of NESTA, the National Museum of Science and Industry and co-founded the Undergraduate Ambassadors Scheme.

Subscribe to the Sci Future Channel

As a society, we rightly adore our great musicians and novelists, yet we seldom hear any mention of the humble mathematician. It is clear that mathematics is not considered part of our culture. Instead, mathematics is generally feared and mathematicians are often mocked. Simon Singh, The Simpsons and Their Mathematical Secrets

Science, Technology & the Future

Aubrey de Grey – Artificial Organs as Replacement Parts to aid in Defeating Aging

Aubrey de Grey discusses using artificial organs and synthetic devices as replacement parts to aid in defeating aging. (Also see this interview where Aubrey discusses some of the various approaches that SENS therapy will likely be delivered.)


Replacing a failing organ with a healthy one can sidestep the need for the various SENS therapies for that organ only – however there are two limitations – 1) much of the body is made up of non-transplantable organs, 2) transplanting organs or tissue engineering involves invasive surgery, something that involves risks if it is done too much.
Organ transplantation/Tissue engineering is useful today and will be useful when early forms of SENS delivery become available – however there will continue to be a very high priority in approaches that mitigate the need for invasive organ transplantation.
Non-biological organs are useful today – for instance the cochlear implant – and there will continue to be a place for them. Though in the long run biological organs will likely work more effectively because they are ‘evolved’ for that purpose.


Aubrey de Grey is the chief science officer of the SENS Research Foundation, which is a 501(c)(3) public charity that is transforming the way the world researches and treats age-related disease.

The research SENS funds at universities around the world and at SENS own Research Center uses regenerative medicine to repair the damage underlying the diseases of aging. The goal of SENS is to help build the industry that will cure these diseases.


Aubrey de Grey was interviewed by Adam Ford in 2012.

Here is a playlist of all the interview sections:

Star Wars on Trial – A Feudalistic Fantasia Pushing an Elitist Anti-Democratic Agenda

The Star Wars movie series has been the mainstay of imaginative fiction for children and adults since the mid 70s – many saw it as the gold standard of science fiction. When I was a child I used to collect all sorts of Star Wars paraphernalia – figures of some of the characters, tie & x-wing fighters, and cards that came with bubble gum.  Meeting David Brin at a science fiction conference in Los Angeles in 2012 (see resulting interview), and coming across a book he co-edited Star Wars on Trial rooted in an infamous Salon article made me think twice about some of the messages that the Star Wars franchise has so far conveyed.  I thought it was a good time to ask David Brin his thoughts on the topic – here is the resulting interview.
– foreword by Adam Ford.

Interview with David Brin

Adam Ford: What did Yoda mean when he said “Do or do not. There is no try.”?

David Brin: That was just some faux-eastern-mystical gobbledygook that George Lucas insisted upon, amid the otherwise excellent screenplay for The Empire Strikes Back, penned by Leigh Brackett and Laurence Kasden… the one time that George Lucas showed real wisdom and hired experts to do what he clearly cannot.  Write.

In fact though, can you name one thing that evil green oven mitt — Yoda — ever says that is verifiably right and wise and the truth?  A less “wise” character would be hard to find and no character across all of storytelling history wrought as much death as this nasty creature.

“There is no try”?  Bull!  Trying is how human beings learn. You have a stab at something.  You look at the resulting mess.  You send brain signals reinforcing the actions that had good results and gradually repressing those that failed. It is how we improve and become people who are capable of gymnastic gold medals, or astronauting through space, or writing dialogue that actually makes sense.

 

AF: You mention that George Lucas “has spent the last 20 years relentlessly pissing in modernity’s face, preaching Romantic claptrap about how demigods and mystic warriors are better than democracy.”

DB: JRR Tolkien had a grievance against modernity, but he came by it honestly, at the Battle of the Somme, watching the flower of his generation mowed down by modern implements of death.  He saw what coal dust did to the buildings and lungs of London Town.  The Lord of the Rings rails against modernity — painting it as a tool of Mordor — while extolling the elfish demigods and mystic chosen-one warriors of Numenor.  And it’s great stuff!  We are on opposite sides of this argument.  But Tolkien is very good and makes his case in a gorgeous story.

In contrast, George Lucas was given everything by modernity… health and fun and riches and all the tools he needed for his dream – to direct movies — to come true.  Modernity provides the brilliant artists whom he hires by the bushel-load.  When he rails against modernity – along with democracy and science and the hopeful possibilities of the common woman or man – he is simply being an ingrate.

 

AF: You mentioned in an article at Salon.com that the message George Lucas puts across in Star Wars is : “True leaders are born. It’s genetic. The right to rule is inherited. Justified human emotions can turn a good person evil.”

DB: That’s romanticism, in a nutshell. But it went beyond forbearance with the apotheosis of Darth Vader.  The notion that a killer of billions should be forgiven because he saves the life of his own son? Or that Luke was ever in any danger of becoming “evil” just because he got a little angry?  Oh my.

“I never cared for the whole Nietzschian Ubermensch thing: the notion — pervading a great many myths and legends — that a good yarn has to be about demigods who are bigger, badder and better than normal folk by several orders of magnitude…. wherever you witness slanlike superbeings deciding the fate of billions without ever pausing to consider their wishes.”David Brin - Salon.com

 

 

AF: Would George Lucas, or anyone for that matter, be a good benign dictator – (by good I mean successfully benign)?  If so, how do you pick a correct one?
DB: We all daydream about what laws we would command, if we got to be king.  I am no exception.  Moreover I admit there have sometimes been good kings.  Only look at what happened when their sons took charge.  It took a special kind of maturity for George Washington and his band of geniuses to say: “Let us limit our own power. Instead, we’ll ask the people to argue and negotiate with each other.”

The result is noisy, messy, frustrating… and so vastly better and more just and more productive than the preceding 6000 boring years of brutal, nasty feudalism.  We are in a revolution.  It is ongoing.  And science fiction is the one form of literature that says: “look, we can spot mistakes!  We can criticize and maybe cooperate.  Look at how far we’ve come.  Maybe – just maybe – we can go farther.”

 

AF: You mention “Romanticism is an enemy meme. I think it is deeply contrary to the Enlightenment, and deeply harmful.”  – while I like some of the beautiful portrayals, narratives in some art, Rousseau writes wonderfully  – it’s the implementation that in the real world that bothers me.
DB: Romanticism can be spectacularly beautiful! As I said, it was the core mythic system across most cultures.  But its dark side is promoting endlessly the form of governance that filled those cultures.  Feudalism — kings and the priests who pushed kingliness as the best thing.

We are revolutionaries, no less than Washington and Franklin! We can find a way to have the adventure and fun of fantasy without the relentlessly and tediously repeated lessons: that only annointed ones can rule… and that everything must stay the same.

 

AF: What do you see are the main differences between Fantasy and Scifi? Why are people attracted one more than the other?
DB: Fantasy is the Mother Genre. Until about 1700, nearly all literature and storytelling, in nearly all cultures, contained elements of the fantastic — demigod heroes who confronted monsters or whole armies, for example. Only with Thackery and Defoe and Balzac and so on did we start to get a very recent fixation on the narrow “here and now.” Both fantasy and science fiction break out of the myopic constraint, positing that things might be different than they are, elsewhere and elsewhen… or else right before our eyes.

The difference between these two cousin genres is not – fundamentally – about science and machines versus magic and dragons. Tales like Star Wars seem to revolve around techno wonders like starships and lasers, but the plots and characters and assumptions that weave through that fictional universe are all those of a fantasy tale.

Powerful wizards and kings and chosen-one heroes are the figures who matter. Normal people only get to choose which ubermensch mutant-superman demigod they’ll carry a spear for.

Not once does a single democratic institution actually function, or even do anything much, at all.

The inherent notion underlying fantasy is romanticism. Feudalism is the natural social order. A hero may fight for one prince over another, but there will be wizards and kings and nothing about that will ever change. In this respect, Star Wars is very similar (though much lower in quality) to the romantic fantasies of Tolkien.
The fundamental premise of good science fiction is inherently different. Things may change — even basic things like the kind of government or how children are raised or what gender roles might be like. A hero isn’t someone who puts the nicer prince on the throne, but someone who empowers ten million kids to lift their gaze and say: “this might all be different.”
AF: What are your hopes for the next three episodes?
DB: That JJ Abrams and his peers actually read Star Wars on Trial. Even if you are a defender of Lucas’s saga, you’d surely want to see the final trilogy avoid earlier mistakes, delivering what we got in The Empire Strikes Back — entertainment and thrills that are also thoughtful and thought provoking and that encourage us to feel that we all might be heroes in a civilization that deserves the name.

Star Wars on Trial: The Force Awakens Edition: Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers Debate the Most Popular Science Fiction Films of All Time

Star Wars on TrialStar Wars on Trial on Amazon!
“Order in the Court!

Star Wars: the most significant, powerful myth of the twenty-first century or morally bankrupt military fantasy?

Six films. Countless books. $20 billion in revenue. No one can question the financial value or cultural impact of the Star Wars film franchise. But has the impact been for the good?

In Star Wars on Trial’s courtroom—Droid Judge presiding—Star Wars stands accused of elitist politics and sexism, religious and ethical lapses, the destruction of literary science fiction and science fiction film, and numerous plot holes and logical gaps.

Supported by a witness list of bestselling science fiction authors, David Brin (for the prosecution) and Matthew Woodring Stover (for the defense) debate these charges and more before delivering their closing statements.

The verdict? That’s up to you.

The release of Star Wars: The Force Awakens is the perfect time to look back at George Lucas’ crimes, and new forewords by Brin and Stover discuss the newest generation of Star Wars films and what JJ Abrams must do to live up to—or redeem—the franchise.”

 

 

Resources:

[1] http://www.davidbrin.com/starwarsontrial.html

[2] http://www.davidbrin.com/starwars1.html

[3] https://www.quora.com/What-did-Yoda-mean-when-he-said-Do-or-do-not-There-is-no-try

[4] http://www.wired.com/2012/08/geeks-guide-david-brin/all/

 

 

 

Biography of David Brin

Brin at an Association of Computing Machinery conference in 2005

David Brin is a scientist, speaker, technical consultant and world-known author. His novels have been New York Times Bestsellers, winning multiple Hugo, Nebula and other awards. At least a dozen have been translated into more than twenty languages.

His 1989 ecological thriller, Earth, foreshadowed global warming, cyberwarfare and near-future trends such as the World Wide Web. His 2012 novel Existence extends this type of daring, near future extrapolation by exploring bio-engineering, intelligence and how to maintain an open-creative civilization.

A 1998 movie, directed by Kevin Costner, was loosely based on The Postman.

Brin serves on advisory committees dealing with subjects as diverse as national defense and homeland security, astronomy and space exploration, SETI and nanotechnology, future/prediction and philanthropy. He has served since 2010 on the council of external advisers for NASA’s Innovative and Advanced Concepts group (NIAC), which supports the most inventive and potentially ground-breaking new endeavors.

Read more here

 

Aubrey de Grey – Engaging the Disengaged

There is likely a lot of mileage in engaging the disengaged in untapped support for more efficient progress in regenerative medicine. We need to talk about the familiar and positive aspects of rejuvenation medicine!

Aging issues have appeared in the media a lot recently – all to often the narrative is skewed in the direction of sci-fi sounding future scenarios, and are embedded in sensationalized media stunts, to the effect that for many the ideas ‘go out one ear and out the other’ – the people whom are currently disengaged forget about rejuvenation medicine and loose interest when they hear about the latest patch for their iphone.

There are a lot more people out there in the world besides transhumanists who have resources and energy to transform into meaningful progress in the science of rejuvenation biotechnology.
People also get fixated on long term Malthusian visions or the pseuodoscientific and religious connotations of words like ‘immortality’ and loose sight of the fact that SENS and others are working on _health_.

History shows a bleak picture, but the further back we go, the worse it seems. It seems civilization is getting better at healthy living into older age – now it really is a priority to get better at getting better – effective aging, so to speak.
There is so much in the world to do – many people grow old and unable to do the things they want to do before they have finished doing much of what they want to do. Live is precious – it’s an imperative that we focus on giving people extra healthy life-time for them to do more of the things they love to do.

Aubrey-de-Grey-Engaging-the-Disengaged

The main thing that people misunderstanding is the actual relationship between aging and the diseases of old age – and this is largely the fault of gerontologists….people would go out and say, all the time, ‘Aging is not a disease’ – that’s not useful. Ultimately it’s very counter productive. What happened was people would think to themselves ‘well ok then, aging is this natural thing that’s never going to be amenable to medical intervention, because it’s not a disease – and also because it’s not a disease, then why should we care about it?’ – so it was absolutely the wrong thing to be saying… it’s even more the wrong thing to be saying because it’s not even true. Aubrey de Grey

Aubrey de Grey is the chief science officer of the SENS Research Foundation, which is a 501(c)(3) public charity that is transforming the way the world researches and treats age-related disease.

The research SENS funds at universities around the world and at SENS own Research Center uses regenerative medicine to repair the damage underlying the diseases of aging. The goal of SENS is to help build the industry that will cure these diseases.


Aubrey de Grey was interviewed by Adam Ford in 2012.

Here is a playlist of all the interview sections:

Vernor Vinge on the Turing Test, Artificial Intelligence

Preface

the_imitation_game_bOn the coat-tails of a the blockbuster film “The Imitation Game” I saw quite a bit of buzz on the internet about Alan Turing, and the Turing Test.  The title of the movie refers to the idea of the Turing Test may someday show that machines would ostensibly be (at least in controlled circumstances) indistinguishable from humans.
Vernor Vinge is a mathematician and science fiction author who is well known for many Hugo Award-winning novels and novellas*   and his 1993 essay “The Coming Technological Singularity”, in which he argues that the creation of superhuman artificial intelligence will mark the point at which “the human era will be ended”, such that no current models of reality are sufficient to predict beyond it.

 

Alan Turing and the Computability of Intelligence

Adam Ford: Alan Turing is considered the “Father of Theoretical Computer Science and Artificial Intelligence” – his view about the potential of AI contrasts with much of the skepticism that has subsequently arose.  What is at the root of this skepticism?

Vinge_Singularity_Omni_face250x303Vernor Vinge: The emotional source of the skepticism is the ineffable feeling that many (most?)  people have against the possibility that self-awareness could arise from simple, constructed devices.

 

AF: Many theorists feel that the combined talents of pure machines and humans will always produce more creative and therefore useful output – what are your thoughts?

VV: When it comes to intelligence, biology just doesn’t have legs. _However_ in the near term, teams of people plus machines can be much smarter than either — and this is one of the strongest reasons for being optimistic that we can manage the new era safely, and project that safety into the farther future.

 

AF: Is the human brain essentially a computer?

VV: Probably yes, but if not the lack can very likely be made up for with machine improvements that we humans can devise.

 

AF: Even AI critics John Searle and Hubert Dreyfus (i.e. “What Computers (Still) Can’t Do”) agree that a brain simulation is possible in theory, though they argue that merely mimicking the functioning brain would in itself be an admission of ignorance (concerning intelligence) – what are your thoughts?

VV: The question of whether there is self-awareness behind a mimick may be the most profound issue, but for almost all practical purposes it isn’t relevant: in a few years, I think we will be able to make machines that can run circles around any human mind by all externally measured criteria. So what if no one is really home inside that machine?

Offhand, I can think of only one practical import to the answer, but that _is_ something important: If such minds are self-aware in the human sense, then uploads suddenly become very important to us mortality-challenged beings.

For reductionists interested in _that_ issue, some confidence might be achieved with superintelligence architectures that model those structures in our minds that reductionists come to associate with self-awareness. (I can imagine this argument being carried on by the uploaded supermind children of Searle and Moravec — a trillion years from now when there might not be any biological minds around whatsoever.)

 

AF: Do you think Alan Turing’s reasons for believing in the potential of AI are different from your own and other modern day theorists?  If so in what ways?

VV: My guess is there is not much difference.

 

AF: Has Alan Turing and his work influenced your writing? If it has, how so?

VV: I’m not aware of direct influence. As a child, what chiefly influenced me was the science-fiction I was reading! Of course, those folks were often influenced by what was going in science and math and engineering of the time.

Alan Turing has had a multitude of incarnations in science fiction…   I think that besides being a broadly based math and science genius, Turing created accessible connections between classic philosophical questions and current issues.

 

AF: How do you think Alan Turing would respond to the specific concept of the Technological Singularity as described by you in your paper “The Coming Technological Singularity: How to Survive in the Post-Human Era“?

VV: I’d bet that Turing (and many AI pioneers) had extreme ideas about the consequences of superhuman machine intelligence. I’m not sure if Turing and I would agree about the potential for Intelligence Amplification and human/machine group minds.

I’d be _very_ interested in his reaction to modern analysis such as surveyed in Bostrom’s recent _Superintelligence_ book.

 

AF: In True Names, agents seek to protect their true identity. The guardian of the Coven’s castle is named ‘Alan Turing’ – what was the reason behind this?

It was a tip of the hat in Turing’s direction. By the time I wrote this story I had become quite aware of Alan Turing (contrasting with my childhood ignorance that I mentioned earlier).

 

AF: Your first novella Bookworm Run! was themed around brute forcing simpler-than-human-intelligence to super-intelligence (in it a chimpanzee’s intelligence is amplified).  You also explore the area of intelligence amplification in Marooned in Realtime.
Do you think it is possible for a Singularity to bootstrap from brute forcing simple cognitive models? If so do you think Super-Intelligence will be achieved through brute-forcing simple algorithms?

VV: I view “Intelligence Amplification” (IA) as a finessing of the hardest questions by building on top of what already exists. Thus even UI design lies on the path to the Singularity. One could argue that Intelligence Amplification is the surest way of insuring humanity in the super-intelligence (though some find that a very scary possibility in itself).

 

The Turing Test and Beyond

AF: Is the Turing Test important? If so, why, and how does it’s importance match up to tracking progress in Strong AI?

VV: In its general form, I regard the Turing Test as a marvelous, zen-like, bridge between reductionism and the inner feelings most people have about their own self-awareness.  Bravo Dr. Turing!

 

AF: Is a text conversation is ever a valid test for intelligence? Is blackbox testing enough for a valid test for intelligence?

VV: “Passing the Turing Test” depends very much on the setup:
a) The examining human (child? adult? fixated or afflicted adult? –see Sherry Turkle’s examples of college students who passed a chatbot).
b) The duration of the test.
c) The number of human examiners participating.
d) Restrictions on the examination domain.

In _The Emperor’s New Mind_, Penrose has a (mostly negative) critique of the Turing Test. But at the end he says that if the test was very broad, lasting years, and convincing to him (Penrose), then it might be meaningful to talk about a “pass grade”.

 

AF: The essence of Roger Penrose’s argument (in the Emperor’s New Mind)
–  It is impossible for a Turing machine to enumerate all possible Godel sentences. Such a program will always have a Godel sentence derivable from its program which it can never discover
–  Humans have no problem discovering these sentences and seeing the truth of them
And he concludes that humans are not reducible to turing machines.  Do you agree with Roger’s assessment  – Are humans not reducible to turing machines?

VV: This argument depends on comparing a mathematical object (the Turing Machine) with whatever kind of object the speaker considers a “human mind” to be.  As a logical argument, it leaves me dubious.

 

AF: Are there any existing interpretations of the Turing Test that you favour?

VV: I think Penrose’s version (described above) is the most important.

In conversation, the most important thing is that all sides know which flavor of the test they are talking about 🙂

 

AF: You mentioned it has been fun tracking Turing Test contests, what are your thoughts on attempts at passing the Turing Test so far?

VV: So far, it seems to me that the philosophically important thresholds are still far away. Fooling certain people, or fooling people for short periods of time seems to have been accomplished.

 

AF: Is there any specific type of intelligence we should be testing machines for?

VV: There are intelligence tests that would be very interesting to me, but I rather not call them versions of the Turing Test. For instance, I think we’re already in the territory where more and more [forms->sorts] of superhuman forms of creativity and “intuition” are possible.

I think there well also be performance tests for IA and group mind projects.

 

AF: Some argue that testing for ‘machine consciousness’ is more interesting – what are your thoughts?

VV: Again, I’d keep this possibility separate from Turing Test issues, though I do think that a being that could swiftly duplicate itself and ramp intellect up or down per resource and latency constraints would have a vastly different view of reality compared to the severe and static time/space/mortality restrictions that we humans live with.

 

AF: The Turing Test seems like a competitive sport.  Though some interpretations of the Turing Test have conditions which seem to be quite low.  The competitive nature of how the Turing Test is staged seems to me to select for the cheapest and least sophisticated methods to fool judges on a Turing Test panel.

VV: Yes.

 

AF: Should we be focusing on developing more complex and adaptive Turing style tests (more complex measurement criteria? more complex assessment)? What alternatives to a Turing Test competition (if any) would you suggest to motivate regular testing for machine intelligence?

VV: The answers to these questions may grow out of hard engineering necessity more than from the sport metaphor. Going forward, I imagine that different engineering requirements will acquire various tests, but they may look more like classical benchmark tests.

 

Tracking Progress in Artificial Intelligence

AF: Why is tracking progress towards AI important?

VV: Up to a point it could be important for the sort of safety reasons Bostrom discusses in _Superintelligence_. Such tracking could also provide some guidance for machine/human/society teams that might have the power to guide events along safe paths.

 

AF: What do you see as the most useful mechanisms for tracking progress towards a) human equivalence in AI, b) a Technological Singularity?

VV: The approach to human equivalence might be tracked with a broad range of tests. Such would also apply to the Singularity, but for a soft takeoff, I imagine there would be a lot of economic effects that could be tracked. For example:
–  trends in employment of classic humans, augmented humans, and computer/human teams;
–  trends in what particular jobs still have good employment;
–  changes in the personal characteristics of the most successful CEOs.

Direct tests of automation performance (such as we’ve discussed above) are also important, but as we approach the Singularity, the center of gravity shifts from the programmers to the programs and how the programs are gaming the systems.

 

AF: If you had a tardis and you could bring Alan Turing forward into the 21st century, would he be surprised at progress in AI?  What kinds of progress do you think he would be most interested in?

VV: I don’t have any special knowledge of Turing, but my guess is he would be pleased — and he would want to _understand_ by becoming a super himself.

 

AF: If and when the Singularity becomes imminent – is it likely that the majority of people will be surprised?

VV: A hard takeoff would probably be a surprise to most people. I suspect that a soft takeoff would be widely recognized.

 

Implications

AF: What opportunities could we miss if we are not well prepared (This includes opportunities for risk mitigation)?

VV: Really, the risk mitigation is the serious issue. Other categories of missed opportunities will probably be quickly fixed by the improving tech.  For pure AI, some risk mitigation is the sort of thing MIRI is researching.

For pure AI, IA, and group minds, I think risk mitigation involves making use of the human equivalent minds that already exist in great numbers (namely, the human race). If these teams and early enhancements recognized the issues, they can form a bridge across to the more powerful beings to come.

 

AF: You spoke about an AI Hard Takeoff as being potentially very bad – can you elaborate here?

VV: A hard takeoff is too fast for normal humans to react and accommodate to.  To me, a Hard Takeoff would be more like an explosion than like technological progress. Any failure in mitigation planning is suddenly beyond the ability of normal humans to fix.

 

AF: What stood out for you after reading Nick Bostrom’s book ‘Superintelligence – paths, dangers, strategies’?

VV: Yes. I think it’s an excellent discussion especially of the pure AI path to superintelligence. Even people who have no intense interest in these issues would find the first few chapters interesting, as they sketch out the problematic issues of pure AI superintelligence — including some points that may have been missed back in the twentieth century. The book then proceeds to a fascinating analysis of how to cope with these issues.

My only difference with the analysis presented is that while pure AI is likely the long term important issue, there could well be a period (especially in the case of a Soft Takeoff) where the IA and groupmind trajectories are crucial.

vernor_vinge_LosCon

Vernor Vinge at Los Con 2012

Notes:
* Hugo award winning novels & novellas include: A Fire Upon the Deep (1992), A Deepness in the Sky (1999), Rainbows End (2006), Fast Times at Fairmont High (2002), and The Cookie Monster (2004), and The Peace War (1984).

Also see video interview with Vernor Vinge on the Technological Singularity.

Simulating for Computational Biology – Arun Konagurthu

Arun Konagurthu - Simulating for Computational Biology v2Arun Konagurthu is a Senior Lecturer at the Clayton School of Computer Science and Information Technology, Faculty of Information Technology, Monash University. Between 2011-2013, Arun was additionally a Larkins Fellow at this faculty.

Arun leads a small research group that researches mainly in computational biology and bioinformatics. His other research interests include data structures and algorithms, computational modeling and simulation, combinatorial optimization, and, since joining Monash in 2011, statistical learning using Minimum Message Length inference.

Points of discussion:
– What’s your overall research problem? If you solved it, how would things change?
– What is ‘stringology’ and how is it relevant to your research problem?
– Describe your use of simulation methods in bioinformatics. What problems do they overcome and how?
– Why do you prefer Bayesian statistics? What difference does it make?
– How do simulation and scoring work together? What kind of scores do you use?
– What’s been the impact of simulation on bioinformatics generally?
– What’s the future of sampling in data science? What’s coming around the corner?

#bayesian #artificialintelligence #datascience

 

 

Many thanks for watching!
Support me via Patreon
Please Subscribe to this YouTube Channel
Science, Technology & the Future

Arun Konagurthu Simulating for Computational Biology v1