Singularity Summit 2011

by Wendy M Grossman | posted on 22 October 2011

I spent last weekend at this year's Singularity Summit. Lots of stuff didn't make it into either of the write-ups I've done. I particularly liked Max Tegmark's discussion of the probability of extraterrestrial intelligence. Not so much for his broad assessment – which is that contrary to most people's interpretation of Drake's Law we are probably alone – but because of where it leads him. His argument is that if we are alone then instead of being insignificant compared to the universe we are in fact *more* significant – because how can a galaxy be beautiful if there is no intelligence there to appreciate it? It's sheer egotism on behalf of humanity, of course; but still. The other interesting speaker I couldn't quite fit into the write-up linked below was Stephen Wolfram, who is proposing that instead of being something we discover as natural law, mathematics is man-made. I don't pretend to understand his entire argument, though I recognize it as the same set of claims that was considered so controversial when he published them in his 2002 book, A New Kind of Science. But I want to understand his work better before commenting.

Wendy M Grossman

I have a write-up of this year's event at The Inquirer

Past related articles:<1/>

My write-up of the 2008 Summit

And, also from the 2008 Summit, an interview I did with Justin Rattner, CTO of Intel, who, despite being a self-confessed Singularitarian, came up with my favorite line about the limits of accelerating computer processing power. When he asked Intel researchers into speech recognition whether more processing power would help them, they told him no: it would just help them get the wrong answer faster.

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