A week ago I made a pitch for the Singularity Institute to a crowd of interested potential donors, along with a number of leaders of other non-profit organizations with relatively radical and innovative goals.  The videos are here, and should be a good introduction to a significant part of the noosphere for people not yet familiar with it.


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It's not clear what the new project is about. Transcript of part of the video (starting at 5:09 in):

Once AI theory tells you what to look for, it's easy to identify scientists, in physics and elsewhere, who think in the manner needed to initiate scientific research programs in fields where currently, only the surface features of science are present. Over the next few years, the Singularity Institute will identify and hire scientists who reliably follow such norms, and who also have good research track programs. More senior scientists can be hired for summer sessions, more junior ones frequently full-time. A dozen of each sounds like it would be plenty to lay foundations for a real science of nutrition. That's more than it took to lay the foundations of physics, and really, although physics may be fundamentally simpler than nutrition, we're not asking to outrun the bear, we are just asking to outrun the work of amateur scientists [performed] in their spare time just to benefit themselves. It's certain that science better than that can be laid with less work than it took to bring about physics.

Is SIAI getting into nutrition science? (It was hopefully just an example confusingly used, but the wording in the talk seems to imply that it's really about nutrition science, and that about 20 scientists will be hired by SIAI over the next few years to research nutrition.)

Nutrition is introduced earlier in the talk with the phrase "For example, consider nutrition," and more examples are mentioned later, so I don't think you have to worry.

Personally, I would be quite excited if a bunch of really smart people got onto nutrition research.

I would guess the intention was otherwise, but the fact that the word 'nutrition' is used twice is rather strange.

Edit: After watching most of the video it seems Vassar is suggesting that nutrition -- amongst other possible fields -- be selected for a sort of intensive, cultivated overhaul, by hand selecting and supporting highly capable researchers. Interesting idea.

Of course, there already are many privately funded research groups, perhaps some working in nutrition, so the secret sauce SIAI would be bringing to the table would have to be an exceptional eye for capable researchers, and perhaps exceptional management to boot. Those are both things I would suspect SIAI to be good at, or to be able to become good at.

Hm - there already is a science of nutrition (a bit well established as part of the medical sciences, not changing radically every few decades - though obviously progress happens), it's just the non-science that sells better.

Artificial Intelligence is simply the scientific method specified precisely enough that it can be implemented by a computer.

No it isn't. The scientific method is something along these lines:

To be termed scientific, a method of inquiry must be based on gathering observable, empirical and measurable evidence subject to specific principles of reasoning.[2] A scientific method consists of the collection of data through observation and experimentation, and the formulation and testing of hypotheses.[3])

An AI does not need to limit itself to a scientific method by way of compensation for human weaknesses. Which isn't to say that "Equate AI with science. Yay science! Yay AI!" isn't an effective marketing approach.

There has been no space collonization organization there. No space elevator team either. And what about the FHI? Just wondering.

Surely those who have been there incorporate all of the above. And the SIAI does incorporate all of those who have been there, after all a superhuman AGI can solve all those other problems? But if you disregard fooming AI for a second, then I'd rather put my money with some more specific objective. Space elevator research seems to be very promising example here. A well-constrained problem with clear payoffs (x-risk mitigation through space colonization, new frontiers for resources etc.).

It's not clear how your comment relates to the talk.

[-][anonymous]11y -1

I didn't think that the post was solely about the talk given by Michael Vassar. I thought it was also about the Breakthrough Philanthropy event. Out of sheer curiosity I wondered why the Thiel foundation didn't care to invite other non-profits, for example the ones I mentioned. Not that Peter Thiel can't do what he wants with his money. I'm sorry if I have misunderstood something. Never mind.

Putting all those events together into one thing doesn't actually work. I find myself confused trying to contemplate the sort of mind that could simultaneously advocate cryonics and seasteading, as if social cohesion wasn't a useful thing in preserving a frozen head for a few centuries. Maybe I've missed something.

I don't know whether this is what Thiel was thinking, but if you believe that the experiments on seasteads add crucially needed flexibility to a government monoculture which has some serious problems, then seasteads would improve odds for survival.

The current "social cohesion" allows the government to perform autopsies that interfere with cryonics, and only allows cryonics at all under the guise of organ donation to scientiffic research.

It appears to me that Thiel just tries to sponsor some fringe charities. I guess I would do that as well, if I was as rich as him (maybe after finally reading all of LW I'd just sponsor the SIAI though ;-). I'm simply a bit disappointed that he didn't invite more charities and projects that are more focused on a single task. But maybe it isn't his fault, they just didn't apply.

“These innovative, big-thinking nonprofits are woefully underfunded compared to the potential benefit they can bring to humanity,” said Patri Friedman, opening speaker and executive director of The Seasteading Institute. “We need more visionary philanthropists like Peter Thiel who look to the long-term and invest in breakthrough technologies."

Link: Thiel Foundation Presents An Evening Of Breakthrough Philanthropy, Featuring Visionary Nonprofits Benefiting Humanity Through Technology