I continued my strategy of mostly skipping talks in favor of socializing today at the Singularity Summit. However, so many people I talked to raved about the Jaan Tallinn talk that I regretted missing that one. Many people were impressed by his presentation and the prezi platform he apparently used for his presentation. My friend Peter McCluskey explained that his thesis builds on Nick Bostrom’s “Are You Living In a Simulation?” paper but expanded it in new directions. Robin Hanson tried explaining to me that there were only three plausible descriptions of our current perceived reality if we accept the premise that future agents will have the ability to simulate humans:
- We are on the verge of extinction. (Really?! Wow I am really missing something.)
- We are living in a simulation now.
- No one in the future cares to simulate humans. (Ok, unlikely that NO one would care to simulate human perceived reality.)
I find it quite hard to get my head around this one. My initial reaction is to question the assumption that future entities will be able to simulate humans. But since we can simulate so much stuff now, that’s a pretty dark vision of the future too. I will go read Bostrom’s paper and wait impatiently for the video to get posted.
I had the rare privilege to briefly meet James O’Neill who sits on the board of the Thiel Foundation, SENS, and the Seasteading Institute (among others), though I had no idea who he was at the time. He talked a bit about Mithril Capital, Thiel’s new VC firm. (Yes. This is a $400 million dollar firm named after a mythical metal from the writings of J.R.R. Tolkien.)
O’Neill is also involved with Breakout Labs which seeks to fill the funding gap for radical early stage science projects that can’t get funding from VC investors with short-term goals or risk-averse long-term government sources. They are funding Dalrymple’s Nemaload worm neuron mapping project I learned about yesterday.
I also spoke further with Paul Bohm who has some interesting ideas about leveraging social network topologies to help people share information. He suggested that these social networks mights be isomorphic to the neural networks of a brain. He further suggested that the per capita decrease in innovation that we may be seeing might be corrected by reducing the cost of information sharing. Now I really need to dig back into Christakis!
Then suddenly a girl in shiny clothes appeared with a camera and whisked Bohm away to be filmed for the SpaceCollective website. She said they were from LA and looking to collect profiles of transhumanist types. It seems pretty interesting, I look forward to seeing some of the profiles that they gathered at the Summit this year.
I didn’t refer to a specific paper by Nick Bostrom. Jaan Tallinn tied together ideas from more than one of Nick’s writings. I had in mind his book Anthropic Bias more than anything else. I can’t recall whether Jaan Tallinn added new ideas or just did a good job of showing the implications of anthropic arguments for the simulation argument.
One reason why no one in the future would simulate humans is that they might consider it unethical to recreate that much suffering. My gut reaction is there’s less than a 50% chance of all beings capable of simulating us reaching that conclusion, but I don’t have much of an argument to back up that feeling.
Thanks for correcting me Peter. I am going to stop putting people’s names on the blog. I guess it’s not good journalistic practice to quote or paraphrase people’s comments without permission. I don’t really see myself becoming a journalist. I prefer to have normal conversations with people and then just relay my impressions of their ideas without attribution going forward. It would be too weird to stop a conversation and ask people if I could put their comments on my blog.
I think paraphrasing people is reasonable. My comments at the summit were ambiguous, and provoking me to clarify them was good. Mixing meatspace and blog conversations can work well.
I prefer having you attribute my ideas to me. I don’t expect you to ask permission unless there’s some unusual reason to think the topic is private. But please spell my name correctly – you missed the ‘e’ in my last name.
Peter, Thanks for letting me use your name, it makes the blog more personal. Sorry for screwing up the spelling, I just fixed it.