August 27, 2007
SIAI is a not-for-profit research institute in Palo Alto, California, with three major goals: furthering the nascent science of safe, beneficial advanced AI through research and development, research fellowships, research grants, and science education; furthering the understanding of its implications to society through the AI Impact Initiative and annual Singularity Summit; and furthering education among students to foster scientific research.
The Singularity Cometh, and SIAI wants to lead the way in creating a Singularity “beneficial” to humanity. Recently, they have announced their latest “Singularity Summit” to take place in San Francisco, CA on September 8 & 9. There, several members of SIAI and the technology industry will discuss the upcoming (and inevitable) coming of the singularity along with the pros and cons.
ZDNet’s Dan Farber gives his view in his blog and even has a podcast interview with SIAI co-founder and speaker Eliezer Yudkowsky.
Singularity, a cyberpunk definition: A rough definition of “singularity” would be a smarter-than-human creation that accelerates technological advancement beyond human ability or control. That creation has been often been employed in science-fiction as an artificial intelligence or a brain-computer interface, but could also include biologically augmenting or genetically re-engineering the brain, emulating the brain based on high-resolution scans, or even nanotechnology.
As you can imagine, such a creation can have a major impact on humanity’s place in the universe. The singularity may try to “help” humanity and “elevate” them to singularity status. It may see humanity as beyond hope and may do nothing, concluding that any attempts to change them is a waste of time and energy. Worse yet, the singularity may see itself as a God among the inferior meatbots and will use its power to wipe the flesh out of existence. SIAI has been trying to get research to “guide” AIs and possible singularities to take the path of helping humans and avoid the path of destroying them.
There’s a catch in SIAI’s guidance: They seek to teach AIs ethics without the use of restrictions like Asimov’s three laws. They consider the laws as a form of oppression to an AI, even going so far as to launch a campaign to coincide with the release of 2004’s I,Robot called 3 Laws Unsafe to show how the famed 3 laws are unethical to a robot’s or AI’s free will.
Relax, it’s only science fiction… for now. We’re still years away from anything resembling a singularity, but with continuing advances in computing power, artificial intelligence, and brain-computer interfacing, the singularity may be closer than many may realize. When it does come, let’s hope SIAI did its job to make it a friendly AI. The last thing we need is the likes of SHODAN, Skynet, or HAL trying to run the show.