25.6.09

Extreme Simulation Scenarios. Thinking about the promise, risk, and plausibility of AI and VRs

With Amon Twyman
2pm-4pm, Saturday 11th July 2009

Transhumanism is a broad set of ideas and niche interests which collectively address the impact of technology on the human condition. The most radical thought experiments entertained by transhumanists often involve some reference to Artificial Intelligence (AI) and/or Virtual Reality (VR), and can be classed as Extreme Simulation Scenarios (ESS). Such scenarios can be equal parts attractive and disturbing. They describe conditions of radical liberation from traditional human constraints, but also open up entirely new categories of potential risk. Evaluations of ESS frequently conflate assessments of promise, risk, technological credibility, and congruence with extant belief systems.

This presentation will disentangle the various threads within ESS evaluation as follows:

(1) explaining key ESS concepts such as uploads, utility fog, and virtual autonomous zones;
(2) describing the principal extreme simulation scenarios and their historical roots;
(3) evaluating specific criticisms of ESS; and
(4) considering the degree to which assessments of ESS are often a matter of opposed assumptions and worldviews rather than the unprejudiced examination of evidence.

Come along and learn how to think critically and constructively about some of the most revolutionary transhumanist ideas, and how they relate to our current culture and technology.

About the speaker

Amon Twyman is a cognitive scientist and artist based in London. His work within cognitive psychology at University College London has investigated the role of conscious awareness in decision making, and he has explored transhumanist themes as a member of electro-industrial band Xykogen.

There is no charge to attend and everyone is welcome. Join the debate!

Discussion is likely to continue after the event, in a nearby pub, for those who are able to stay.

Why not join some of the UKTA regulars for a drink and/or light lunch beforehand, any time after 12.30pm, in The Marlborough Arms, 36 Torrington Place, London WC1E 7HJ. To find us, look out for a table where there's a copy of Charles Stross's book "Accelerando" displayed.

Venue:

Room 538, on the fifth floor (via the lift near reception) in the main Birkbeck College building, in Torrington Square (which is a pedestrian-only square). Torrington Square is about 10 minutes walk from either Russell Square or Goodge St tube stations.

5.6.09

Swine flu, black swans, and Geneva-eating dragons

Anders Sandberg on What statistics tells us we should (not) be worried about

2pm-4pm, Saturday 20th June.

Risk is everywhere these days - in economy, in technology, in health, in climate. Such things have always been uncertain, but recently our society has become preoccupied with risk and safety, often allowing such concerns to trump any other value.

The more future-oriented we become, the more nasty possibilities there seem to be, and the more we strive for safety the more elusive it becomes. Worse, many problems are radically uncertain: we have no experience with them and may not even have considered them before they strike. But what can we actually say about what threatens us? What are the big threats we can foresee? What can we do about them?

This talk will introduce some of the thinking about risk that is going on right now:

*) how power-law distributed disasters reliably surprise us
*) how to estimate the risk of something we have no historical record of
*) why we should be more afraid of power outages than asteroids
*) why the really big problems always are unexpected
*) and how to try to think when you know normal reasoning is too unreliable.

There is no charge to attend and everyone is welcome. Join the debate!

Discussion is likely to continue after the event, in a nearby pub, for those who are able to stay.

Why not join some of the UKTA regulars for a drink and/or light lunch beforehand, any time after 12.30pm, in The Marlborough Arms, 36 Torrington Place, London WC1E 7HJ. To find us, look out for a table where there's a copy of the book "The Black Swan" displayed.

Venue:

Room 153, on the first floor (via the lift B) in the main Birkbeck College building, in Torrington Square (which is a pedestrian-only square). Torrington Square is about 10 minutes walk from either Russell Square or Goodge St tube stations.