Abstract – Rationalism, Transhumanism and the Technological Singularity – Meredith Doig

At first reading, these concepts sound far-fetched and somewhat ‘out of this world’.  But as rationalists, we have an obligation to keep an open mind to new ideas and to evaluate them on their merits.  Are these ideas just wacky or are they the extrapolation of a particular line of scientific research?  And if the latter, what moral implications are there?
The Rationalist Society is in favour of science and evidence, as opposed to superstition and bigotry. When Transhumanism hits the general public, what sort of moral support and moral opposition might be encountered?  If it looks as though the Singularity is really about to happen, what sort of public mood is likely to be encountered?

This discussion will raise issues of rational evaluation of Transhumanism and the Technological Singularity, and the implications for those in the H+ and Singularity ‘communities of interest’ if these ideas really hit the public consciousness.

Binh Nguyen

Binh NguyenBinh Nguyen is a PhD candidate at La Trobe University.

His focus is on evolving artificial intelligences with human like embodiments and environments. His work draws inspiration from artificial life, embodied artificial intelligence, evolutionary psychology, and human evolution. He believes that an artificial intelligence that can survive the physical and social challenges that humans face will be a step towards artificial general intelligence.

He is working on a simulation that exposes artificial intelligences to increasingly human like embodiments and environments. He is doing so by introducing the physical traits that differentiate humans from animals and that create pressures for complex social interactions. These traits include the human form, gender differences, and a slower growth rate compared to almost every other animal. In addition, he is increasing the environmental challenge by improving the level of physical realism, introducing predators, prey, and elements that reward exploring, learning, and cooperation.

He co-wrote with Dr. Andrew Skabar, “Evolutionary Intelligence, and Communication in Societies of Virtually Embodied Agents” in Artificial Life: Borrowing from Biology, 2009.

ABSTRACT – “Evolving Artificial Intelligences with Human Like Embodiments and Environments”

There are a number of breathtaking projects underway including the Blue Brain Project led by Dr. Henry Markram, the China Brain Project formerly led by Dr. Hugo De Garis, and the OpenCog Project led by Dr. Ben Goertzel. They are breathtaking in their vision and complexity.

This talk is instead about a relatively simple idea. What if instead of scanning and modelling biological neural networks with ever more detail, or building neural networks with a staggering number of neurons, or designing cognitive architectures with immense knowledge databases, we did something different? What if we instead evolve artificial intelligences by requiring them to learn to survive with increasingly human like bodies and environments?

Skilfully coping with the world requires a lifetime of experiences. It requires engaging in a form of life, interacting with the physical world and with others in the social world. Artificial intelligences are evolving behaviours that are ever more sophisticated. Behaviours include walking, hunting, evading, foraging, reproducing, cooperating, competing, using objects, and altering environments. Most interestingly, artificial intelligences are evolving natural language, one of the most powerful human abilities.

The talk will touch upon a few key ideas. Firstly, life is an incredibly persistent force given the chance, and persistence itself can compel artificial intelligences to act. Neural networks are capable of continual reconfiguration based simply on frequency of activation. Human beings are essentially the same as they were ten thousand years ago in Africa. Finally, computing power is developing at an exponential rate, allowing us to develop more and more realistic simulations.

This talk will look at evolving artificial intelligences to cope with human embodiments and environments. It will discuss the relevant techniques, technologies, challenges, and common criticisms.