Coverage of This Year's Singularity Summit

As I noted in the latest Longevity Meme newsletter, this last weekend saw the Singularity Summit event held in New York.

The Singularity Institute is pleased to host the Singularity Summit 2009, a rare gathering of thinkers to explore the rising impact of science and technology on society. The summit has been organized to further the understanding of a controversial idea - the singularity scenario.

While the technological singularity is ostensibly about the creation of self-improving artificial intelligence and consequences thereof, you will find a great many advocates for longevity science mixed in with the AI crowd. Indeed, there has long been significant overlap between these two fields: shared luminaries (e.g. Ralph Merkle), shared funding sources (e.g. the Thiel Foundation), and even shared workers and researchers (e.g. Aubrey de Grey, who worked on an attempt at commercial AI development back in the day).

I see that the Summit garnered an impressive array of coverage - a good job of preparation there on the part of the busy bees at the Singularity Institute and the other Summit backers, and something that we longevity advocates need to work on harder for our events. But take a look at what's out there; here's a selection of links from various mainstream perspectives that include the usual level of fact-mangling:

What Does a Beer Taste Like After the Singularity?

You can see how believable and even plausible a technological singularity seems once you take a few things for granted. If it were possible to improve your memory with a digital device, for example, then everybody would want one, because not having such a device would put you at a disadvantage to those who had such technology. Then an escalation of biodigital enhancement would naturally occur until some people were walking around with more microchips than neurons. At some point the hand off between human intelligence and machine intelligence would have occurred. And that's just one possible singularity scenario.

Man vs. Machine: The Singularity Summit 2009

Kurzweil looks forward to living in an age in which human intelligence is enhanced by brain implants that extend our memories, enhance our senses, and allow us to solve problems faster and with greater accuracy. There is only a small population of people who are more optimistic about the future than Kurzweil. He believes that futurism is about thinking exponentially, not linearly, and points to technology’s history of rapid acceleration. When we reach the Singularity, Kurzweil believes that by using technology like nano-sized blood cells that swim through our body, zapping cancer and bad cholesterol, humans will be able to live forever.

Methuselah Speaks

De Grey is running through the standard gamut of life-extension medical technology. Gerontology, he says, is becoming an increasingly difficult and pointless pursuit as it attempts to treat the inevitable damage of old age. But if we reverse the damage, he says, we might be able to extend our biological age at a rate approaching the pace of time.

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There are some interesting implications of his calculations. One of them, he notes, is that once we increase average longevity past the current maximum (about 120 years), the hardest part is over (since LEV will steadily decrease). This means that, he says, the first thousand-year-old will probably be not much more than twenty years older than the first 150-year-old.

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