Singularity Summit: My Index To The Content

Singularity Summit(Nov. 3 Update:  Videos of presentations are now available at :

The Singularity Summit ( happened last weekend in NY.  You can check out what this conference was all about by watching the promo video.  During the two days of the conference there were over 30 speeches and panels.  Around 800 people attended. 

I could not attend (no travel budget), but I really did not need to.  As it turns out Blogging and Twittering is alive and well.  There’s a flood of information available for consumption.  You just have to search for it.   So I did do the searches…and having done so, I thought I’d share with you what I found. 

There were a few key bloggers who were liveblogging the event, including Ari Schulman (covered for The New Atlantis), Stuart Fox (covered for PopSci), David Wood (covered for dw2), Benjamin Peterson(covered for Sentient Developments), and Lisa Rein (covered for h+ magazine).  Ari Schulman did the best job.

Below you will find the agenda of the event as sourced from the Singularity site peppered with URL links to blog posts and other content that can provide you with opinions and key summaries from the individual speakers.  From what I can read, there will be videos posted at some point in the future of most if not all of the talks.  If and when that happens, I will post those links here as well.

Saturday, October 3

9:00 am  – Introduction – Michael Vassar, Singularity Institute

9:05 am  – Shaping the Intelligence Explosion – Anna Salamon, Singularity Institute

9:35 am  – Technical Roadmap for Whole Brain Emulation – Anders Sandberg, Future of Humanity Institute

10:00 am  – The time is now: As a species and as individuals we need whole brain emulation  -  Randal Koene, Fatronik-Tecnalia Foundation

10:25 am  -  Technological Convergence Leading to Artificial General Intelligence  -  Itamar Arel, University of Tennessee

11:10 am  -  Pathways to Beneficial Artificial General Intelligence: Virtual Pets, Robot Children, Artificial Bioscientists, and Beyond  -  Ben Goertzel, Novamente

11:35 am  -  Neural Substrates of Consciousness and the 'Conscious Pilot' Model  -  Stuart Hameroff, University of Arizona

11:55 am   -  Quantum Computing: What It Is, What It Is Not, What We Have Yet to Learn   -  Michael Nielsen

12:35 pm   -  DNA: Not Merely the Secret of Life  -  Ned Seeman, New York University

  • Could not find anyone who blogged this session.  Check out the Twitter section at end of this post for the Twitter feed.

Lunch Break as blogged by Ari N. Schulman:  Liveblogging the Singularity Summit

2:20 pm   -  Compression Progress: The Algorithmic Principle Behind Curiosity, Creativity, Art, Science, Music, Humor   -  Juergen Schmidhuber, IDSIA

3:00 pm   -  Conversation on the Singularity  -  Stephen Wolfram and Gregory Benford

3:30 pm   -  Simulation and the Singularity  -  David Chalmers, Australian National University

4:15 pm   -  Choice Machines, Causality, and Cooperation  -  Gary Drescher

  • Could not find anyone who blogged this session

5:05 pm  -  Synthetic Neurobiology: Optically Engineering the Brain to Augment Its Function  -  Ed Boyden, MIT Media Lab

5:30 pm   -  Foundations of Intelligent Agents   -  Marcus Hutter, Australian National University

5:55 pm   -  Cognitive Ability: Past and Future Enhancements and Implications  -  William Dickens, Northeastern University

6:30 pm  -  The Ubiquity and Predictability of the Exponential Growth of Information Technology  -  Ray Kurzweil, Kurzweil Technologies


Content providing a summary of Day 1 

Sunday, October 4th

8:00 am -  More than Moore: Comparing Forecasts of Technological Progress  -  Bela Nagy, Santa Fe Institute

  • Could not find anyone who blogged this session, but here are a few comments from Twitterland.
    • sandysantra: #SS09 Bela Nagy, Santa Fe Institute, comparing prediction methodologies of Moore, Goddard, Wright, Wright, Sinclair, Nordhaus.
    • vangeest: Sinclair better forecasting model than Moore's Law #ss09
    • sandysantra: #SS09 Day 2 attendees are getting the most hardcore statistical analysis (by Bela Nagy) that they've seen yet. 3-D "error mountain" graph!
    • Sarah_Hines: Nagy argued convincingly we should switch to a different functional form–wish he had talked a bit on the implications of switching. #ss09
    • danothebeach: Nagy has very interesting comparison between various predictors of growth #ss09
    • fboosman: couldnt get excited about Nagy's #ss09 talk. Any straight line on an exponential graph is still exponential growth.

8:20 am   -  The "Petaflop Macroscope"  -  Gary Wolf, Wired Magazine

  • Could not find anyone who blogged this session, but here are a few comments from Twitterland.

8:40 am   -  Collaborative Networks In Scientific Discovery  -  Michael Nielsen

  • Could not find anyone who blogged this session, but here are a few comments from Twitterland.
    • troed: M Nielsen on collaborative science. This is how we'll create new exponentials. #ss09
    • sandysantra: #SS09 Michael Nielsen on crowdsourcing, with some amazing insights on development of Linux, Wikipedia, and crowdsourcing math problems.
    • dw2: Michael Nielsen reviews Fields medallist Tim Gowers experiment in collaborative mathematics & open source methods to advance science #ss09
    • ENextMag: Michael Nielsen, quantum maestro, concludes with the all-important question for evolutionaries: "How can cultural change be achieved?" #ss09
    • Sarah_Hines: Most excellent overview of open source/crowd-sourced scientific collaborations by Neilson. Would like to rewatch when published #ss09.

9:00 am   -  How Does Society Identify Experts and When Does It Work?   -  Robin Hanson, George Mason University

  • Could not find anyone who blogged this session, but here are a few comments from Twitterland.
    • sandysantra: #SS09 Robin Hanson opens his talk with a drive-by attempt to define the Singularity–first speaker to get even close.
    • positiveneuro: "Don't expect academics to study your 'silly' question if it makes them look less impressive to their colleagues." -Robin Hanson #ss09
    • j2d3: #ss09 hansom skewers academia: knowledge production merely a side effect; academia primarily concerned with narcissistic affiliations
    • sandysantra: #SS09 Robin Hanson takes the biggest risk of the summit yet: taking to task academia head-on.
    • Sarah_Hines: This morning's lineup has been good. Hanson added something new to the conversation. #ss09 (will want to rewatch this presentation on video)

9:20 am   -  Future of Scientific Method Panel -  Gary Wolf, Michael Nielsen, Robin Hanson. Moderator: James Jorasch

10:15 am  -  Artificial Biological Selection for Longevity  -  Gregory Benford, University of California- Irvine

10:40 am   -  Critics of the Singularity  -  Ray Kurzweil, Kurzweil Technologies

11:10 am   -  The Finger of AI: Automated Electrical Vehicles and Oil Independence  -  Brad Templeton, Electronic Frontier Foundation

1:15 pm   -  The Fallibility and Improvability of the Human Mind  -  Gary Marcus, New York University

1:40 pm  -  Macroeconomics and Singularity  -  Peter Thiel, Clarium Capital Management

2:20 pm   -  Venture Capitalist Panel: Peter Thiel, David Rose, Mark Gorenberg. Moderator: Robert Pisani

3:15 pm   -  The Singularity and the Methuselarity: Similarities and Differences  Aubrey De Grey, SENS Foundation

3:40 pm  -  Cognitive Biases and Giant Risks  -  Eliezer Yudkowsky, Singularity Institute

4:10 pm  -  Discussion: Eliezer Yudkowsky, Aubrey De Grey, Peter Thiel. Moderator: Michael Vassar

4:40 pm   -  How much it matters to know what matters: A back of the envelope calculation  -  Anna Salamon, Singularity Institute

Blog Post by Ari N. Schulman:  "How much it matters to know what matters"

Day 2 Summaries

Conference Recaps

Content that provides a review of the whole conference



In Closing

The conference organizers made a feeble attempt to launch a Facebook page for the event.  It looks like it never took off.

If I hear of anything else, I will update this post (Nov. 3 Update:  Videos of presentations are now available at :

Looking to 2050: Ten Challenges For The Human Race

Peter Schwartz is recognized internationally as a futurist and strategist.  He honed his skills at Royal Dutch/Shell Group in London, where he led a widely respected scenario planning effort.   He has written a number of interesting books about the future, including The Art of the Long View. 

This past May he gave the commencement address at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute.  During the address, he outlined ten longer term challenges for the human race as we look forward to the next 40-50 years.  He encouraged the graduates to come up with innovative solutions to these challenges. 

The top challenges Schwartz outlined are:

  1. Creating long-term solutions to meet our energy demands sustainably.
  2. Launching a bio-industrial revolution with sustainable manufacturing.
  3. Understanding and enhancing the human brain to avert age-related impairments.
  4. Improving agriculture to reduce costs and increase its energy and water efficiency.
  5. Building sustainable cities through better urban planning and "smart architecture”.
  6. Stimulating job growth and economic development.
  7. Fusing the technological with the spiritual and aesthetic dimensions of human culture.
  8. Advancing technological instruments to drive scientific discovery forward.
  9. Harnessing biological tools to advance human evolution.
  10. Discovering new ways to lower the costs and environmental impact of space flight and development.  

The list above is an interesting list.  I am not sure that these are the top ten most important challenges, but each of the above ten are certainly important. 

Some comments…

  • Energy tops his list and it is hard to argue that it should not be there.  I can’t see the demand for energy going down anytime soon and we need to figure out how to transition to clean energy. 
  • Improving agriculture processes in developing nations will have have a significant impact on the economy and quality of life.
  • Building smarter and sustainable cities is a very large challenge as the number of megacities grow and grow.
  • Number 9 on his list, “Harnessing biological tools to advance human evolution” sounds both scary and beneficial at the same time.
  • Regarding number 10, with announced plans to go back to the moon and to Mars, we will need innovative ways to travel through space and live at the destinations we travel to.

It is worth pointing out that many on the list kind of fall under the push for a smarter planet.

If you want to read a transcript of Peter Schwartz’s commencement address, check out

Can you think of any other challenges Schwartz’s list?  The only one that comes to my mind right now is the never ending desire to live in a world free from war and conflict, but I don’t suppose for one minute that that will be solved in the next 40-50 years.

Technology Review: 10 Emerging Technologies

The Massachusetts Institute of Technology's Technology Review has released its annual report on 10 Emerging Technologies of 2009.   I always look forward to this article for it consistently reports on the interesting work going on in labs and academic institutions.  The articles also provide a human element, telling us the person behind the work…how they have worked hard to innovate in the field they are researching.

The 10 emerging technologies MIT presents in this article have the potential to create fundamental shifts in areas from energy to healthcare, computing to communications.  Some of the listed technologies could reach the market within the year, others may take years, but all are expected to have a huge impact in the years ahead.  All of them are interesting to read and think about.  Here the list along with lots of links for more information.

  1. Liquid Battery:  Donald Sadoway, a materials chemistry professor at MIT, has developed a liquid battery that could store enough electricity to allow cities to run on solar power at night.   For more information:  Liquid Battery  
  2. Traveling-wave Reactor:  John Gilleland, manager of nuclear programs at Intellectual Ventures, is leading the development of a reactor that would run on depleted uranium, making nuclear power safer and less expensive.   For more information:  Traveling Wave Reactor 
  3. Paper Diagnostic Test:   George Whitesides, a professor at Harvard University, is using paper to create easy-to-use medical tests that could make it possible to quickly and cheaply diagnose a range of diseases in the developing world.   For more information:  Paper Diagnostics 
  4. Biological Machines: Michel Maharbiz, an assistant professor at the University of California, Berkeley, has developed interfaces between machines and living systems that could give rise to a new generation of cyborg devices.  Michel's wirelessly controlled beetle could one day be used for surveillance or search-and-rescue missions.   For more information:  Biological Machines 
  5. $100 Genome:  Han Cao, founder of BioNanomatrix, has designed a nanofluidic chip that could dramatically lower the cost of genome analysis.  Cao's chip could cut DNA sequencing costs dramatically.  Combined with the right sequencing technology, Cao’s chip could allow doctors to tailor medical treatment to a patient’s unique genetic profile, map new genes linked to specific diseases, and quickly identify new viruses and outbreaks.   For more information:  $100 Genome 
  6. Racetrack Memory:  IBM fellow Stuart Parkin has created an entirely new type of data storage on an ultradense memory chip using magnetic nanowires.  This “racetrack memory” could eventually replace all other forms of computer memory and lead to tiny, rugged, and inexpensive portable devices.   For more information:  Racetrack Memory   
  7. HashCache:  Vivek Pai, a computer scientist at Princeton University, has created a new method for storing Web content that could make Internet access speedier and more affordable around the world.   For more information:  HashCache 
  8. Intelligent Software Assistant:  Adam Cheyer, cofounder of the Silicon Valley startup Siri, is leading the design of powerful new software that acts as a personal aide.  This virtual personal-assistant software helps users interact more effectively with Web services to complete tasks such as booking travel or finding entertainment.   For more information:  Intelligent Software Assistant  
  9. Software-Defined Networking:  Stanford computer scientist Nick McKeown believes that remotely controlling network hardware with software can bring the Internet up to speed.   He has developed a standard called OpenFlow that allows researchers to tap into Internet switches and routers to easily test new networking technologies with the click of a mouse—all without interrupting normal service.   For more information:  Software-Defined Networking 
  10. Nanopiezotronics:  Zhong Lin Wang, a materials scientist at Georgia Tech, is pioneering the field of nanopiezotronics.  Wang is creating piezoelectric nanowires that generate electricity using tiny environmental vibrations; he believes they could power implantable medical devices and serve as tiny sensors.   For more information:  Nanopiezoelectronics 

Some of this year's choices, such as #3 – paper-based medical tests and #8 – Intelligent software that acts as a personal assistant, could reach the market within a year.  Others, like #4 – biological machines and #10 nanopiezotronics, could take longer but promise fundamental shifts in fields from computing to medicine, communications to manufacturing.  Its worth noting that three of the technologies are nanotechnology-based:  #5, #6, and #10.

For more information, see Technology Review's article 10 Emerging Technologies of 2009 .  Also the prior year's articles are also interesting to read