aku-aku: v.. To move a tall, flat bottomed object (such as a bookshelf) by swiveling it alternatively on its corners in a "walking" fashion. [After the book by Thor Heyerdahl theorising the statues of Easter Island were moved in this fashion.] source: LangMaker.com. Aku Aku also has another meaning to the islanders: a spiritual guide.
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accelerating change
Posted by dav at 2005 September 18 09:45 PM
File under: Geek

This weekend I attended my third Accelerating Change Conference. The past two were great (the first one is still one of my favorite conferences ever). This one was perhaps a little less so fantastic, but it was worth it nonetheless. THe topic this time around was Artificial Intelligence and Intelligence Amplification. Speakers included Ray Kurzweil, Esther Dyson, Joi Ito, Rudy Rucker, Vernor Vinge and the perennial Steve Jurvetson.

Audio and video recordings will be available soon, and podcast recordings of the sessions will be available (one per week for the rest of the year) at IT Conversations. There's some photos under the Flickr tag ac2005, but not from me since I forgot my camera both days.

I got a copy of Kurzweil's new book The Singularity is Near for registering early. Looking forward to reading that. I even got a chance to ask him about his supplement scheduling (I'm following the diet he created in Fantastic Voyage).

Saturday's schedule was focused on Artificial Intelligence and Sunday was Intelligence Amplification. Squeezed in between I made it back up to San Francisco for Ben and Mena's 28th birthday party where I finally got to try out the new suit I had made in Thailand. Unfortunately, I have lost nearly 20 pounds since then so it's a little loose on me now, and, the horror, Anil was wearing the same outfit!

I took notes sporadically. I'll post them in the extended section below since they might not make much sense if you aren't me :P Click the More link if you're curious. There were some good sessions and I'll throw in what appropriate links I can find.

So here's the notes I took during the conference. The format should be clear except that I'll make my aside comments in courier font


Vernor Vinge keynote

"can we avoid a hard takeoff: speculations on issues in AI and IA"

common growth patterns: exponential growth
technological singularity: when machine surpass us in creativity and intellect
Sir Martin Rees pointed out that this century may be the most important in the history of the universe
The Singularity not a sure thing, but the most likely non-catostrophic scenario that we have for the next century

What role does the literacy of cooperation play in advancing the singularity?

From audience:

Q: how do i make money off of a hard takeoff?
A: I'll sell you hard take-off insurance


ray kurzweil: when humans transcend biology

intuitive linear perspective vs historical exponential perspective
inventions have to make sense when you finish the project, not when you start it

predictions of human activity difficult, like thermodynamics in which individual molecules are impossible to predict their path, but overall system is predictable

1st vr tech was telephones

evolution builds on prior inventions RNA->DNA->Cambrian explosion->thumbs->stone tools->etc

chimps have a 1 inch diff in thumb placement, so they lack the same benefits from their opposable thumb (no power grip)

6 epochs of evolution

end of moores law? no, 3rd dimension unexploited.
brain signals are only 100 feet/sec but get power from 3D layout

moore's law is the 5th paradigm.
supercomputer will reach X power in next decade, PCs by 2020 I forget what the value of X was now
lots of examples of eponential growth in technology trends

we are reverse engineering biology
gene sequencing is doubling every year
will have a mature understanding of how the body works in another 10-15 years
gaining the means to reprogram (RNA interference)
would be nice to shut off the fat receptor gene, lots of work in this area already completed, human trials coming soon?

need to go back and read the bridge 2 and bridge 3 sections in Fantastic Voyage, since I skipped them in the first reading.

communications tech growing exponentially
and also miniaturization tech

respirocyte (artificial red blood cell).

as we reverse engineer artificats of biology we see that we could engineer them to be more efficient. with respirocyte as 10% replacement we could sit at the bottom of a pool for hours

we are reverse engineering the brain, making exponential progress
we can now watch individual signals firing in real-time and in vivo
we're getting better at modeling it (slide 67 cerebellum)
only a few genes that define the wiring of the cerebellum, repeated billions of times with a little bit of randdomness thrown in

FatKat pattern recognition for the stock market

2010: computers disappear (slide 83)
they become ubiquitous, in clothes and environment.
retina images delivery
augmented real reality

2029 (slide 85)
pc 1000x brain power
brain completely reverse engineered

juicy predictions! w00t, go ray.


opposable thumb was big push, is IA an opposable mind?

many slides available on kurzweilai.net


Talk with Wolfgang from Hamburg, doing study of how hackers work collaboratively.


Panel: Evolution of AI
speaker 1, dry
speaker 2, sri, main point of AI is intelligence augmentation
- great slides
- UAV requires more and more people to control
- SAT is NP complete (satisfaction problem)
- byzantine-fault-tolerant, 3n+1 where n are traitors
- drive by wire cars
- collectively getting better at solving urgent and important problems - englebart 1951
speaker 3,peter norvig, google
1 machine learning, we can't do it
2 knowledge engineering
3 AI in the Middle
- intelligent authors write
- AI mediates
- Intelligent reader makes sense of results
speaker 4, bruno olshausen, neuroscience
- jumping spiders, advanced visual systems with 30k neurons
- we dont understand the power level of a single neuron
* psychology: learned that we are unaware of much of our surroundings
* neurobiology: signalling mechanisms
* math/cs: information theory
recurrent computation is pervasive throughout the cortex


Imaging the Internet project of the Pew Internet & American Life Project

"springtime for schizophrenia" - nicole stenger 1992
long quote-fest round up of futurist sayings (moravec, hillis, w gibson, etc)


David Fogel, Natural Selection Inc.; Author, Blondie 24

Accelerating Problem Solving

Intelligencce: ability to adapt to solve complex problems

adaptation leads to evol. computing.
checkers thought experiment
all rules except goal
how many games ncessary to become and expert player
Chinook, the Deep Blue of checkers, all engineered, pre-programmmed. No learning.
(440B positions to remember)

Evolving stategies for checkers
player consists of
- neural network evaluator
- unique king value
- both are evolvable
- minimax search
slides are in the notes, or formulas at least
avoid deceptatron on MS zone
Blondie24 was upgrade bot
also have Chess (Carlos?)
now evolving new electronic circuits and drugs

jeopardy clip, pinnaccle of career (Fogel was an asnwer on Jeopardy!)


esther dyson
- accountability
sounded like a good talk, but I missed most of this because I had to do some work.
got into a bit of a tussle with Brad Templeton of EFF of privacy and anonymity.


Ray Kurzweil Q&A

* How will the singularity get memore sex?
Sex often linked to technology. VR will be important.
Ray has some sort of VR sex patents?
piping sigals to andd from body to vr world
could play with your projected image, be someone else, be your partner
what would constitute cheating?

spindle cells tied to emotional intelligence
consciousness is at core of moral and legal system
but no test for concsiousness (animals?)

claims that if we can capture the pattern of neurons (not the actual atom states) then we will achieve consciousness.
(what about quantum consciousness)

moira: 92% of all scientists ever are alive today, 85% of all engineers

- "purpose of life is creating knowledge" -kurzweil

what is unique about humans is creating knowledge and passing down over generations, accumulating it
moira: timeshifting interferes with economic situation of industries, what other paradigm shifts can be expected in the next 10-30 years

new paradigms expand the pie, not just steal slices.

every new communication paradigm expands more quickly than the last

fear of new tech (like GM food) causes harm, ex: golden rice which can prevent blindness in 100k+ kids(?)

Q: longevity, population explosion problems?
- people 120 now, no one goes to them "ok you've had enough"
- nanotech will create tremendous wealth, we'll have all resources we need
- not just radical life exxtension, radical life expansion (expansion of intelligence and ability to appreciate greater knowledge)

decentralized technologies inherently more stable (nuclear energy was centralized, that's why it never saved us as predicted in the 50s).

if we captured .03% we could meet all energy needs projeccted to 2030
.001% captured today
by that time we'll be capturing that energy and storing in highly reliable and portable fuel cells


Panel Progress in Search: A Conversational User Interface by 2015?
Sibley Verbeck, StreamSage (Moderator)
Ron Kaplan, Fellow, ISTI at PARC; Principal, CSLI, Stanford
Marti Hearst, Professor, SIMS, UC Berkeley; Science Advisor for Search, Yahoo!

where we are now (in search space), like talking to a 1 year old
- cant say what you want, dont get what you need
few words, too many hits, more words no hits
- work arounds
order by popularity
classify humans in broad categories (order book on cooking as gift, now you get cooking book recommendations)

ordinary conversation to describe what you need
conversation with search engine ensues for clarification
discussion of good and bad responses
- refined drill down search
q&A not just keywords&documents

* typing is unnatural
* language is efficient, unsaid but understood
* language is complex (many overlapping patterns to encode meaning)
* conversation is a cooperative social activity (participants share conventions)

components needed:
accurate speech (no tping)
robust grammar analysis
ontologies and inference
personalization: context and expectatios
dialogue models (what's been said)

prediction 8 year old level by 2010


spelling correction on the web,
use search query logs as the spelling correction dictionary
map other peoples mistakes to your mistake
- assume less wrong a misspelling is, the more frequent it is and # correct > # wrong
responds to changes in what's topical to search on

predictions fo conversation UI:
decent factoid Q&A, 3 years
Good travel agent conversation, 4 years
Decent desk-top assistant, 5 years (government putting a lot of effort into this)
renaissance in natural language queries in databases

over heard halflife/cs conversation, ban cheaters but people can buy new version of the game for dollars so people still cheat. they don't care so much about people cheating where they dont get much of an advantage at it. the also dont ban annoying people.


Tom Malone, MIT
The Future of Work
- Intelligence Amplification via combing intelligence of humans
example: wikipedia
new technologies (communications) have enabled the ability to invent new ways of doing business

we are in the early stages of an increase of human freedom in business that in the long run will be as important to business as the invention of democracy was to government

if the people making a living off of ebay were employees of ebay, ebay would be the 2nd largest employer in the country, behind walmart and ahead of mcdonalds.

there is a historical pattern of human societies and businesses are following:
(Decentralized, Unconnected -> Centralized -> Decentralized, Connected)
Bands -> Kingdoms -> Democracies
the progress through the pattern is enabled through better cheaper communication.
Small Local Businesses -> Large centralized corporations -> Empowerement, Outsourcing, Networked Organizations

Prediction: E-Lance Economy
More firms of 1-10 people with temporary combinations for various projects (like the movie industry now)

Internal Market for manufactiring capacity.
Managers and Sales folk could engage in a "futures" market for production

Showed video of an audience flying a plane collectively


Dileep George, Numenta
Understanding the Neocortex to Accelerate our Understanding of Intelligence

Working with Jeff Hawkins to implement an AI based on the neocortex theories outlined in On Intelligence. Gave a good overview of the neocortex (he should fill in the wikipedia entry for it).

Good presentation, too busy listening to take notes!


Daniel Amen, MD, Amen Clinic
SPECT and the Future of Mental Health

Couple came in, having problems with their marriage. Brain scan looked like the husband was a drug abuser. Man denied it, even his wife said now way "he's just an asshole." Turns out he worked in a furniture factory in the finishing position. They realized he started turning into an asshole a year after he took that job, he was a drug abuser (inhalants) without knowing it!

character disorder = psychologist talk for 'asshole'
9 rules to understand for a better brain, from book Making a Good Brain Great

1 your brain is involved in everything you do
2 when your brain works right, you work right
3 brain is most complex organ, trillion cells, 100B neurons, 40k connections, 20-30% o calories used in brain
4 brain is very soft housed in hard skull. consistency of soft butter or tofu. skull has hard sharp ridges. more table tennis, less soccer
5 one size does not fit everyone: most problems are not single or simple disorders. people are different. medications needed are different. imaging finds the underlying physiology for your depression.
6 how do you know unless you look? imaging is important. woman got diagnosed with ADD, she had tumor the size of a lemon. Ritalin wasn't going to help.
7 The brain can change.
8 Myth of the perfect brain. Normal is a myth, we all need a little help.
9 Brain is not completely developed until around age 25. Myelinization. Insurance companies discovered this, rates change at 25 because that's when people get less impulsive.

presidents should have brain scans.
- they use single photon emission computed tomography.
- by using imaging, he sees how much disruption there is from common drugs and now promotes alternatives (acupunture, etc)
- can tell alzheimers 9 years ahead of symptoms if you are likely to get it. everyone at age of 50 should get a scan
- you can have a serious injury and never lose consciousness
- brainmatch.com (anyone who dates his daughter > 4mos has to get a scan)
- having sex 3x/week decrease heart atttacks by 50% in me


Second Life, had short conversation with VP of Product Development, Cory

xml-rpc still crippled
whitelist coming
probably will charge for bandwidth (already have set a price by charging to upload 400k image)


Brhama Kumaris World Spiritual Organization
"When I change, the world changes"

Sounds like a cool meditation practice. No gurus. No rituals. Hopefully no hokieness. I'm going to try making the free introduction on Tuesday.



Open source 3D VR aimed at becoming a desktop OS for remote collaboration. Like VR version of WWW.
Built all in Squeak, a great version of Smalltalk.

This is the real Metaverse. Second Life will become the AOL to its WWW.


- Cecily Sommers, PUSH

- Joichi Ito, Neoteny
BRIC don't give a shit about the US internet initiatives
Brazil, Russia, India, China

- Beth Noveck, NY Law School

- George Gilder, Gilder Technology Report
ray kurzweil's charts (exponential growth) are all learning curves, or more specifically experience curves

- Rudy Rucker
computational equivalence (from wolfram)
it's a male thing to push everything into virtual rreality
need to remember nature is doing complex computations all the time
wolfram: you can have free will even if you're deterministic
you can't predict what you'll do, even with free will, because you can't do the computations
WOW I'm going to buy his new book and never miss a chance to hear him speak again!

- Alex
US is Rome, making paved roads to the visigoths to allow them to sack Rome
models predict that world population will go to 8B and then go to 1B

- joi
marxists are saying now that maybe lenin misfired by trying communism during the industrial revolution


OK, it's been a long weekend and I'm tired. I might come back and fill these out more later, but now I'm beat. Publish and sleep! Sorry for typos, etc.


20 pounds?!?! Dude- did you even have 20 lbs to lose?

I am jealous! Would love to lose 20-30 lbs.

Posted by: Gen on September 26, 2005 06:55 PM

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