Singularity Summit 2012 – be there!

By Razib Khan | September 25, 2012 12:48 am

As regular readers know I have been to two previous Singularity Summits (2008 and 2010), and will be at the 2012 event. The speakers look particularly interesting to me this year. I may finally be stupid enough to blurt out to Vernor Vinge how awesome the adolescent me thought Fire Upon the Deep was (I downed a beer with Vinge in 2008, but didn’t say a word to him). Carl will be there again, and we’ll definitely catch up in the “meat-space.” More importantly I have a lot of socializing to do, since I haven’t seen any of my friends from the Berkeley LW community since I left the Bay Area in the summer of 2011. But I hope to meet new & interesting people, as I always have at these events (the social circle overlaps a great deal with BIL). So if you read this weblog and are going to the Singularity Summit and think I’m worth talking to in person just come on up, I’m not very shy. With the prior that you’re actually at the Summit my assumption is that you’re interesting, unless proven otherwise!

Addendum: Some people are curious if I am a “believer” in the Singularity. I’ll be honest and say I don’t think that the idea is necessarily crazy, but I spend my days thinking about genetics far too much to really be a hardcore A.I.-obsessive, which is what is needed to entertain the concept with any seriousness. Rather, my interest is rather in the social milieu where I can temporarily dispense with niceties and get down to the type of verbal blood-sport which I truly relish: engagement with intent not to thrash your opponent, but to wrestle with reality and perhaps squeeze out a few points against it.

MORE ABOUT: Singularity Summit

Comments (10)

  1. Karl Zimmerman

    I too loved A Fire Upon The Deep as a child, although I think that the kinda-prequel A Deepness In The Sky may have been a better book (if more straightforward) overall. Next to David Brin in Earth, Vinge came closest out of the non-cyberpunk science-fiction authors of that era to understanding what the internet was going to become. Although in retrospect, the idea of futuristic aliens interacting on a (FTL) galactic scale through a text-only browser is hilarious.

    Regardless, compare it to something like Kim Stanley Robinson’s Mars Trilogy, which despite being written entirely in the 1990s, has zero references to the internet until the last book (by 1996 he couldn’t totally avoid it anymore). I recall rereading the series recently and finding it amazing how many times they reference people “watching television.”

  2. Enjoy! I’d go if I could.

  3. jose

    I loved Neuromancer as a kid. Re-read it recently and it’s impossible not to notice the lack of wireless data connections as everybody races around trying to find a wired connection to “jack-in”. They already have cat-5 connectors in the back of their skull, just throw in at least a wi-fi chip!

  4. T

    Superhuman AI is a given, and almost inevitable at this point. What the Singularity people get wrong is what this implies. It does not imply a heaven-on-earth end-of-history Nirvanna. It implies that everything that you write *now* will someday be read by a superhuman computer in the year 2030. Many of us might find ourselves in concentration camps for our present-day heresy.

  5. Chris_T_T

    Superhuman AI is a given, and almost inevitable at this point.

    Hardly, we don’t even have a physical definition of intelligence (versus an operational one) at this point. Until we have that, ‘superhuman’ and other relative terms are meaningless and we have no way of knowing if human cognitive function can be replicated in any way other than the existing one.

    A major problem I have with the singularity concept is that it assumes there is no physical limit to how fast society or technology can change (the basic concept; I have a lot of problems with specific ideas of how it can be achieved). At some point the rate at which you can physically implement innovation is going to the limit the speed of further innovation.

  6. What the Singularity people get wrong is what this implies. It does not imply a heaven-on-earth end-of-history Nirvanna.

    you don’t characterize “their” views correctly. that’s usually the first problem, and so why i discuss it rarely.

  7. Amos Zeeberg (Discover Web Editor)

    Funny to see that graph of sequencing costs here: I first saw that graph at Science Online NYC last week [#sonyc], when Matthew Herper showed it as his only slide.

  8. AllenM

    The real question is why would a transhuman retain much interest in the world of standard humans- especially if they could get off world and into the larger area of at least the solar system. A fifty year transit to Alpha Centauri for an ai based intelligence or uploaded human in a virtual world might be comfortable as taking the subway today.

    Too much conjecture to see clear and easy pathways to that future.

  9. Thomas Goodey

    Referring to Vernor Vinge’s ‘A Fire Upon The Deep’, Karl Zimmerman says “… the idea of futuristic aliens interacting on a (FTL) galactic scale through a text-only browser is hilarious.” This is mistaken. First, it’s not hilarious, because the premise is that the system has very low bandwidth, and on that assumption, text-only usage is completely logical. Secondly, it wasn’t a text-only system; at one point the Perversion broadcasts an extremely expensive propaganda message in full sensory format.

  10. Abelard Lindsey

    I subscribe to what Brian Wang (Next Big Future) calls the mundane singularity. However, I am skeptical of the A.I. based singularity.

    I read “Fire Upon the Deep” when it first came out, and was not particularly impressed with it. Of Verner Vinges stuff, I liked his “Across Realtime” novels better. He wrote these novels, “The Peace War” and “Marooned in Realtime”, in the mid 80’s.


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About Razib Khan

I have degrees in biology and biochemistry, a passion for genetics, history, and philosophy, and shrimp is my favorite food. In relation to nationality I'm a American Northwesterner, in politics I'm a reactionary, and as for religion I have none (I'm an atheist). If you want to know more, see the links at


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