16.10.10

The neuropsychology of self control - and its implications for AI and brain simulation

13 November · 14:00 - 16:00

Room 416, 4th floor, Birkbeck College, Torrington Square WC1E 7HX, London

Tom Michael provides a summary of converging findings from neuropsychology, neurology and neuroscience, about how the frontal lobes (and to a lesser extent the limbic system) are involved in human decision making and self control, and how these processes can go wrong following brain injury.

By studying brain injured individuals we can make much ...more sophisticated psychological models of how the human brain works, which ultimately will be very useful for anyone wishing to reverse engineer the human brain in order to create an artificial intelligence

** About the speaker

Tom Michael is is currently carrying out research towards a PhD in neuropsychology. His area of research is about brain injury of the frontal lobes, an area of the brain which is critical to self control, and how the cognitive and behavioural difficulties that are caused by this type of brain injury affect relatives and carers of the brain injured person.

Tom's ambition is to work in clinical psychology rather than to remain in academia, although he intends to always maintain an interest in psychological and neuroscience research in order to better understand the human condition.

http://sites.google.com/site/tommichaelpsychologist/

** About the venue:

Room 416 is on the fourth floor 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.

** About the meeting:

There's no charge to attend, and everyone is welcome. There will be plenty of opportunity to ask questions and to make comments.

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

Why not join some of the UKH+ 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 a book displayed.

1.9.10

Towards the Abolition of Suffering. Reflections on the Abolitionist Project - by David Pearce

2pm-4pm, Sat 16th Oct, 2010

Room 417, 4th floor, Birkbeck College, Torrington Square, London WC1E 7HX.

About the talk:

The Transhumanist Declaration (1998, 2009) advocates "the well-being of all sentience, including humans, non-human animals, and any future artificial intellects, modified life forms, or other intelligences to which technological and scientific advance may give rise." Yet is "the well-being of all sentience" serious science - or just utopian dreaming? What does such a commitment entail? On what kind of realistic timeframe might we command enough computational power to police an entire ecosystem?

In this talk, the speaker wants to review recent progress in understanding the neurobiology of pleasure, pain and our core emotions. Can mastery of our reward circuity ever deliver socially responsible, intelligent bliss rather than crude wireheading? He also wants to examine and respond to criticisms of the abolitionist project that have been levelled over the past decade - and set out the biggest challenges, as he sees them, to the prospect of a totally cruelty-free world.

Links to the Transhumanist Declaration:

2009: http://humanityplus.org/learn/transhumanist-declaration/

1998: Contained in http://www.changesurfer.com/Acad/TranshumPolitics.htm

About the speaker:

David Pearce is an independent researcher and vegan animal activist based in Brighton UK.

In 1995, he wrote an online manifesto, The Hedonistic Imperative, advocating the use of biotechnology to abolish suffering throughout the living world. David predicts that our descendants will be animated by gradients of cerebral bliss orders of magnitude richer than anything accessible today.

David has also written on the philosophy of mind and perception; utilitarian ethics; psychopharmacology; life extension; cognitive enhancement technologies; mood enrichment; genetic recalibration of the hedonic treadmill; ecosystem redesign; reprogramming predators; and – more speculatively – on a posthuman future based on "paradise engineering".

In 1998, David and Nick Bostrom set up the World Transhumanist Association (now rebranded as Humanity +). Transhumanists promote the responsible use of advanced technology to overcome our biological limitations.

For more details, see David Pearce's entry on Wikipedia

About the venue:

Room 417 is on the fourth floor 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.

About the meeting:

There's no charge to attend, and everyone is welcome. There will be plenty of opportunity to ask questions and to make comments.

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

Why not join some of the Extrobritannia 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 a book displayed.

29.7.10

The Artificial Ape: How Technology Changed the Course of Human Evolution - by Dr Timothy Taylor

2pm-4pm, Sat 11th Sept, 2010.

Room 414, 4th floor, Birkbeck College, Torrington Square, London WC1E 7HX.

About the talk:

There are seven species of great ape on the planet. How did the weakest ape come out on top?

With breathtaking scope and depth, archaeologist and prehistorian Timothy Taylor presents a new and much-needed theory of technology. It not only turns Darwinian theory on its head, but also argues that (alongside physics and biology) it is the human relationship with artifice that has as powerfully framed and formed human evolution.

About the speaker:

Timothy Taylor, MA PhD FSA FRSA, is currently Reader in Archaeology at the University of Bradford. He is also editor-in-chief of the Journal of World Prehistory.

Taylor is known for his closely reasoned, wide-ranging, and provocative ideas, and for his ability to connect with general readers and viewers. He has an award winning track record in radio and television in UK, US and Canada on programmes including History Channel, Discovery, National Geographic, BBC Timewatch.

Taylor is the author of The Prehistory of Sex: Four Million Years of Human Sexual Culture and The Buried Soul: How Humans Invented Death. His latest book, The Artificial Ape: How Technology Changed the Course of Human Evolution, is being published in September.

About the venue:

Room 414 is on the fourth floor 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.

About the meeting:

There's no charge to attend, and everyone is welcome. There will be plenty of opportunity to ask questions and to make comments.

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

Why not join some of the Extrobritannia 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 Artificial Ape" displayed.

5.7.10

Cryonics: Purpose, History, and Problems - A Scientific and Cultural Perspective

Ben Best, President of the Cryonics Institute

Date: Friday 23rd July
Time: 6.30pm-8.30pm

Venue: Room 415, Birkbeck College, Torrington Square, London WC1E 7HX

About this talk:

The presentation will begin by outlining the motivation and procedures for implementing cryonics, touching on social problems. This will be followed by a brief history of the cryonics movement. Then some of the technical and scientific challenges will be described. A question period will follow.

About the speaker:

Ben Best has been President of the Cryonics Institute since 2003 and has been a cryonics activist since the late 1980s, joining Alcor in 1991. He has written extensively about every aspect of life extension on his website www.benbest.com

About the venue:

Room 415 is on the fourth 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 (map)

6.6.10

How to think rationally about the future

Saturday 3rd July 2010, 2pm - 4pm

Speakers: Paul Crowley and Roko Mijic

About the talk:

Over the past forty years, science has built up a substantial body of experimental evidence that highlights dozens of alarming systematic failings in our capacity for reason. These errors are especially dangerous in an area as difficult to think about as the future of humanity, where deluding oneself is tempting and the "reality check" won't arrive until too late.

How can we form accurate beliefs about the future in the face of these considerable obstacles?

This talk will outline ways of identifying and correcting cognitive biases, in particular the use of probability theory to quantify and manipulate uncertainty, and then apply these improved methods to try to paint a more accurate picture of what we all have to look forward to in the 21st century.

About the speakers:

Paul Crowley is a cryptographer and computer programmer whose work includes breaks in ciphers designed by Cisco and by Bruce Schneier. His website is http://www.ciphergoth.org/

Roko Mijic graduated from the University of Cambridge with a BA in Mathematics, and the Certificate of Advanced Study in Mathematics. He spent a year doing research into the foundations of knowledge representation at the University of Edinburgh and holds an MSc in informatics. He is currently an advisor for the Singularity Institute for Artificial Intelligence.

Both speakers are contributors to the community website for refining the art of human rationality, http://LessWrong.com/

There's no charge to attend this meeting, and everyone is welcome.

There will be plenty of opportunity to ask questions and to make comments.

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

Why not join some of the UKH+ 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 Singularity Is Near" displayed.

About the venue:

Room 416, Birkbeck College, Torrington Square, London WC1E 7HX (map)

Room 416 is on the fourth 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.

31.5.10

The future of economics

Saturday 5th June 2010, 2pm

- How does the monetary system actually operate, and what are its consequences upon society?
- What are the consequences of increasing displacement of human labour by machines?
- Are monetary incentives necessary to spur product development?
- What prospects are there to transition to more rational systems for allocating resources and pursuing technological innovation?
- Is an economy without money feasible?

The speaker:

Ben McLeish is one of the most active members of the Zeitgeist movement UK.

There's no charge to attend, and everyone is welcome. There will be plenty of opportunity to ask questions and to make comments. Discussion will continue after the event, in a nearby pub, for those who are able to stay.

The venue:

Lecture Room B20 is on the basement level 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.

For the ones who wish to do so, they can meet some of the London Futurist 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 Singularity is Near" displayed.

27.4.10

Cryonics UK, One Year On - An update from David Styles

Date: Sunday, May 16, 2010
Time: 2:00pm - 4:00pm
Location: Room 414, 4th floor (via main lift), Birkbeck College, Torrington Square, London WC1E 7HX.

Are you interested in the possibility of cryonics - sometimes called "a ticket to the future"?

Cryonics (to quote Wikipedia) is the low-temperature preservation of humans and animals who can no longer be sustained by contemporary medicine, with the hope that healing and resuscitation may be possible in the future. The rationale for cryonics is that people who are considered dead by current legal or medical definitions may not necessarily be dead according to the more stringent information-theoretic definition of death. It is proposed that cryopreserved people might someday be recovered by using highly advanced future technology.

About the speaker:

David Styles took over the role of "Organiser" for Cryonics UK from his long-serving predecessor a year ago, and has been the actor of a lot of change in that year. He is also serves on the Board of Directors for the Immortality Institute, though his work for ImmInst is not confined to cryonics-related matters.

About the talk:

David will describe the extent of changes in Cryonics UK over the course of the past year since he last spoke in London. The talk will include:

*) what problems and shortcomings have been remedied
*) how the organisation has grown and become stronger in that time
*) where UK suspension capabilities currently stand
*) where the organisation is going from here.

There's no charge to attend this meeting, and everyone is welcome.

Why not join some of the meetup 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 Stephen Hall's book "Merchants of immortality: chasing the dream of human life extension" displayed.

Informal discussion and socialising will continue after the event, back in the Marlborough Arms, for those who wish to spare the time.

Reminder: as a break with recent custom, this UKH+ meeting is happening on a Sunday, rather than on a Saturday.

5.3.10

Aging and dietary supplements - correcting some myths. With Michael C Price.

Venue: Room 416, Birkbeck College, Torrington Square, London WC1E 7HX (map)
Date: Sunday 28th March 2010
Time: 2pm-4pm


About the talk:

This talk will review where we are (and aren't) with respect to understanding aging. It will cover theories of aging, and the (largely failed) promises of gerontologists and immortalists, past and present. It will then make some suggestions for what we can do now - including a discussion of which dietary supplements may work, which may not, and why dietary supplements are generally discredited.

About the speaker:

Michael Price trained as a physicist and has a BSc and MSc from Imperial College, London, where he studied unified field theories. He has been involved in UK cryonics, extropianism and futurism for 30 years.

There's no charge to attend this meeting, and everyone is welcome.

There will be plenty of opportunity to ask questions and to make comments.

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

** Why not join some of the Extrobritannia 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 Stephen Hall's book "Merchants of immortality: chasing the dream of human life extension" displayed.

** About the venue:

Room 416 is on the fourth 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.

Reminder:

As a break with recent custom, this Extrobritannia meeting is happening on a Sunday, rather than on a Saturday.

9.2.10

The future of politics. Can politicians prepare society for the major technology challenges ahead? With Darren Reynolds.

Venue: Room 416, Birkbeck College, Torrington Square, London WC1E 7HX (map)
Date: Saturday 20th February 2010
Time: 2pm-4pm

About the talk:

With the rapid accelerating changes in many fields of technology and society, there's a risk we'll wake up one morning in (say) 2015 and realise that our politicians have failed to play their role in anticipating and preparing for major risks and opportunities - politicians were focusing on issues of the past, and neglecting issues of the future.

What should we be doing, now, to change the topic of political debate, to bring more focus on the transformative potential of emerging technologies?

How should the role of politicians evolve, over the near future, to improve the technological leadership of this country (and beyond)?

And what role can non-politicians play, to improve the way society makes collective choices about the allocation of funding and resources?

About the main speaker:

Darren Reynolds is a pro-technology campaigner and local government councillor for the UK's Liberal Democrats. In his professional career he has helped many public and private sector organisations to introduce new technology and improve the way they work. Darren believes in putting choices in the hands of ordinary people and ensuring that tomorrow's technological developments flourish in a balanced regulatory framework.

Darren is Chair of the Burnley Liberal Democrats.

In 1998, Darren was part of the international team of philosophers and activists who produced the original "Transhumanist Declaration"

Opportunity for additional speakers

The meeting will also feature a number of 5-minute pitches from audience members (agreed in advance) stating cases for specific changes in the allocation of national budget - for example, which areas of research deserve a larger share of funding (and which areas deserve less).

Anyone wishing to take part in this section of the meeting should get in touch asap.

There's no charge to attend this meeting, and everyone is welcome.

There will be plenty of opportunity to ask questions and to make comments.

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

** Why not join some of the Extrobritannia 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 "Citizen Cyborg: Why Democratic Societies Must Respond to the Redesigned Human of the Future" displayed.

** About the venue:

Room 416 is on the fourth 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.

2.1.10

The Friendly AI Problem: how can we ensure that superintelligent AI doesn't terminate us?

Venue: Room 416, Birkbeck College.
Date: Saturday 23rd January.
Time: 2pm-4pm.

About the talk:

Suppose that humans succeed in understanding just what it is about the human brain that makes us smart, and manage to port that over to silicon based digital computers. Suppose we succeed in creating a machine that was smarter than us.

What would it do? Would we benefit from it?

This talk will present arguments that show that there are many different ways that the creation of human-level AI could spell disaster for the human race. It will also cover how we might stave off that disaster - how we might create a superintelligence that is benevolent to the human race.

About the speaker:

Roko Mijic graduated from the University of Cambridge with a BA in Mathematics, and the Certificate of Advanced Study in Mathematics. He spent a year doing research into the foundations of knowledge representation at the University of Edinburgh and holds an MSc in informatics. He is currently an advisor for the Singularity Institute for Artificial Intelligence.

Roko writes the blog "Transhuman goodness"

For more details about Roko, see RokoMijic.com

** There's no charge to attend this meeting, and everyone is welcome. There will be plenty of opportunity to ask questions and to make comments.

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

** Why not join some of the Extrobritannia 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 "Beyond AI: creating the conscience of the machine" displayed.

** Venue:

Room 416 is on the fourth 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