Singularity Summit 2010 – Program

The Singularity Summit Australia represents a great opportunity, because Singularity-related ideas, being once a vague and strange to most, are growing into an increasingly powerful force of possibilities in the minds of anyone who is technologically literate. For those who are already familiar with the accelerating pace of technological change, the Summit will help broaden peoples awareness of the widening vista of possibilities resulting from technological developments (for instance in biotechnology, nanotechnology and AI).

It will be a fantastic opportunity for networking with people who are not ignoring the importance of technological growth, and who are aware of trends of technology moving into almost every endeavor, the impact this has on industry direction/headroom, and the mechanics of which society floats – not to mention the advantages that strategic vision can give.

We hope to see you at the Singularity Summit in Melbourne. If this is of interest, please consider registering now as tickets are limited – feel free to contact us with any questions you have.

The Summit will be held in Casey Plaza at RMIT in Melbourne on September the 7th, 11th and 12th 2010.


*This will most likely change slightly, though the days will stay the same. Registrants will be emailed a final copy close to the 7th.

* Tues 7th at 5.30p@ Capitol Theatre 113 Swanston Street Melbourne (opposite the Town Hall): It is recommended to eat beforehand or bring food, as there will be no long break for dinner until afterwards

5.30pm Tuesday, September 7, 2010 @ RMIT Capitol Theatre
113 Swanston Street Walk

5.30pmRegistration, Reception and Introduction
6.00 to 6.45pmPresentation: Stelarc – “Virtual Worlds”
6.45 to 7pmBreak
7 to 7.45pm

Panel: Speculative Fiction, Hard Science and up and coming technologies that surprise most of us

7.45 to 8.30pmPresentation: Gregory Benford“Artificial Biological Selection for Longevity”
8.30 – lateStumble to the pub or drinks and nibbles

9am Saturday, September 11, 2010 @ Casey Plaza RMIT
- Bowen St  off Latrobe Street Melbourne

9amWelcome and Introduction
9.15Presentation: Robert Sparrow - “A Not-So-New Eugenics: The Harsh Logic Of Human Enhancement”
10amPresentation: Mike Georgeff“Rationality, Intelligent Agents, and Survival”
11.15Presentation: Lev Lafayette – “Social Formations in a Transhumanist World”
12.00Panel: Cultural responses to futurism  (Lev L, Cameron R, James NT, Kevin K)
12.30Break: Lunch & US Singularity Summit 2010 Video – Brian Litt, MDBrain-Computer Interfaces: Past, Present and Future
1.30Presentation: Slade Beard – “Complex Systems and the Human Journey”
2.15Presentation: Hugo deGaris“AI – An Artilect war or a Technological Utopia? ”
3.45Panel: Future Dystopia or Utopia? (Hugo dG, Lev L, Robert S, Mike G)
4.30Presentation: Cameron Reilly“The Singularity & Social Media”
5.15Presentation: Binh Nguyen“Evolved AI, embodiment in virtual worlds”
6.00Break: Dinner – US Singularity Summit 2010 Video
7.00Presentation: Kevin B. Korb – “The Ethics of AI”
7.45Panel: AI Roadmaps (Kevin K, Binh N, Mike G)
8.20Video: Demis HassabisCombining systems neuroscience and machine learning: a new approach to AGI
9.00Stumble to the pub – Probably Carlton Club

9am Sunday, September 12, 2010 @ Casey Plaza RMIT
- Bowen St  off Latrobe Street Melbourne

9amWelcome and Introduction
9.15Presentation: Craig Pearce – “The Future of IT Security”
10.00Presentation: Greg Adamson“Hindrances to Socially Beneficial Technology”
11.00Panel: Avoiding hindrances / How to foster the development of beneficial technologies (Greg A, James NT, Hugo dG) 
11.45Presentation: Video from US Singularity Summit – Ben Goertzel AI Against Aging (related to G Benfords talk on Tuesday)
12.30Break: Lunch & US Singularity Summit 2010 Video

Presentation: James Newton-Thomas

2.15Presentation: Stelarc – “The Cadaver, The Comatose and the Chimera”

Panel: Self expression in a Transhumanist and Posthuman World (Stelarc, Peter E)

4.30Presentation: Philip Rhoades – “The Race for Survival”
5.15Presentation: Russell Blackford – “Survival Beyond the Flesh”
6.00 Break: Dinner – US Singularity Summit 2010 Video

Panel: Longevity/Cryogenics Development (Phil R, James NT, Peter E, Mike G)

7.45Panel: Peter Ellyard – “Designing 2050 Pathways To Sustainable Prosperity On Spaceship Earth”
9.00Stumble to the pub

(Note: Meals/Drinks not included in registration fee, though some complimentary snacks will materialize)


Below is a list of presenters, topics, and abstracts:

gregory_benford_rc100x120Gregory BenfordArtificial Biological Selection for Longevity” – Gregory Benford of Genescient on his company, how it bred “Methuselah flies” with 5 times the normal lifespan of normal fruit flies, and what this could mean for humans. Interpretation of genetic data from fruit flies bred for longevity suggests the major culprit [behind poor health, disease and limited healthspan] may not be accumulated damage, or any particular mechanism, but rather the intersection of biological complexity with evolutionary adaptation.

russell_blackford_rc100x120Russell Blackford“Survival Beyond the Flesh” – Mind uploading would involve the use of an artificial substrate – some kind of advanced computational system – to emulate the activities of a biological brain. Proponents of uploading typically imagine this as a way to achieve survival beyond the flesh (and perhaps other advantages, such as greatly enhanced speed of thought and/or the opportunity to extend cognitive capacities in multiple ways).

The main advantages proposed for mind uploading presuppose that the same individual somehow “occupies”, or is instantiated by, both the biological brain (or the entire biological organism) and the computational system. But this is problematic. The problem can be thought of in terms of personal identity: if I have been uploaded onto an artificial computational system, is the resulting intelligence really “me” or is it in some sense a mere duplicate? Even if the cybernetic intelligence is not strictly “me”, is there at least some sense in which I can be said to have survived the experience, though my biological brain may have been destroyed? We will explore whether uploading would really represent survival beyond the flesh, and whether this might depend in some way on the details and circumstances. What is needed for cybernetic survival?

phil rhoadesPhilip Rhoades“The Race for Survival” – Homo sapiens is in a race for survival – can the species get smart enough, fast enough, to survive the world’s current crises – which have been caused by the species itself? As individuals, what can we do to improve our longevity? – and even if we can, is it going to be worth the effort?

robert_sparrow_rc100x120Robert Sparrow“A Not-So-New Eugenics: The Harsh Logic Of Human Enhancement”Discussions of the potential for human enhancement through the use of genetic technologies, such as human cloning and preimplantation genetic diagnosis, take place in the shadow of the “old eugenics” of the beginning of the 20th century. Enthusiasts for making “better” human beings at the beginning of the 21st century typically hold that their “new” eugenics will respect the human rights that the old eugenics so brutally violated. Yet if the politics of the new eugenics is liberal—indeed, often libertarian—its ethics is typically consequentialist. In this presentation, I will argue that the tension between these two positions is much larger than advocates for human enhancement typically acknowledge. The logic of human enhancement pushes towards requiring parents to enhance their children. When applied to human beings, rather than offering a world of increased freedom, genetic technologies are likely to subject human nature to the narrow demands of technological rationality.


Cameron Reilly“The Singularity & Social Media” – Selling the Singularity to Mum and Dad, and Socialising The Shite Out Of The Singularity. How social media will play an important role in helping the general public learn to stop worrying and love the Singularity. From Augmented Reality, to Immersive Reality and Beyond!

peter_ellyard_rc100x120Peter Ellyard“Designing 2050 Pathways To Sustainable Prosperity On Spaceship Earth” An inspirational blueprint for those wanting to be future makers rather than future takers, there is a third choice. We are at a tipping point in history. Globalisation, increased technological and social innovation,the growth of the educated middle class and democracy, and a shared awareness of our ecological vulnerability are combining to offer us a chance of designing sustainable, diverse societies which are prosperous in every way.

prosthetic_head_rc100x120Prosthetic Head “AI – Are we there yet? Are we there yet?” – This is not an illustration of a disembodied intelligence. Rather, notions of awareness, identity, agency and embodiment become problematic. Just as a physical body has been exposed as inadequate, empty and involuntary, so simultaneously the ECA becomes seductive with its uncanny simulation of real-time recognition and response. Initially decisions would have to be made about its database and whether The PROSTHETIC HEAD is a pathological, philosophical or simply a flirting head. A problem would arise though when the PROSTHETIC HEAD increases its database, becoming more autonomous in its responses. The artist would then no longer be able to take full responsibility for what his head says.
stelarc_rc100x120Stelarc“The Cadaver, The Comotose and the Chimera” – We are living in an age of excess and indifference. Of prosthetic augmentation and extended operational systems. An age of Organs Without Bodies. Of organs awaiting bodies. There is now a proliferation of biocompatible components in both substance and scale that allows technology to be attached and implanted into the body. Organs are extracted and exchanged. Organs are engineered and inserted. Blood flowing in my body today might be circulating in your body tomorrow. An artificial heart circulates blood without pumping. A person is alive but his heart does not beat. Ova are fertilized by sperm that was frozen. We can
take the skin cell from an impotent male and reengineer it into a sperm cell. More interestingly, the skin cell from a female body might be made into sperm cell. Limbs can be reattached and reanimated. The face of a donor body becomes a third face on the recipient Cadavers can be preserved forever with plastination whilst comatose bodies can be sustained indefinitely on life-support systems. Cryogenically suspended bodies await reanimation at some imagined future. The dead, the near-dead, the undead and the yet to be born now exist simultaneously. This is the age of the Cadaver, the Comatose and the Chimera. Of proliferating liminal spaces where what becomes important is no longer what it means to be alive, but rather what constitutes being dead. The chimera is the body that performs with mixed realities. A biological body, augmented with technology and telematically performing with virtual systems. The chimera is an alternate embodiment. The body acts with indifference. Indifference as opposed to expectation. An indifference that allows something other to occur, that allows an unfolding- in its own time and with its own rhythm. An indifference that allows the body to be suspended with hooks into its skin, that allows an inserting of a sculpture into its stomach and that allows a ear to be surgically constructed and stem-cell grown on its arm.

Binh Nguyen“Evolving Artificial Intelligences with Human Like Embodiments and EnvironmentsThere 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.

Kevin B. KorbKevin B. Korb“The Ethics of AI” There are two questions about the ethics of artificial intelligence (AI) which are central:

  • How can we build an ethical AI?
  • Can we build an AI ethically?

The first question concerns the kinds of AI we might achieve — moral, immoral or amoral. The second concerns the ethics of our achieving such an AI. They are more closely related than a first glance might reveal. For much of technology, the National Rifle Association’s neutrality argument might conceivably apply: “guns don’t kill people, people kill people.” But if we build a genuine, autonomous AI, we arguably will have to have built an artificial moral agent, an agent capable of both ethical and unethical behavior. The possibility of one of our artifacts behaving unethically raises moral problems for their development that no other technology can. Both questions presume a positive answer to a prior question: Can we build an AI at all? We shall begin our review there.

Greg AdamsonGreg Adamson“Hindrances to Socially Beneficial Technology” - Technologies service many human needs. Socially beneficial technologies can also assist in resolving some of the world’s most pressing problems: climate change; access to safe drinking water; quality housing; universal health care. Often a technology already exists, awaiting to be applied. In other cases it is within grasp given appropriate prioritisation. This paper considers approximately 100 theories of and approaches to technology innovation and adoption regarding the question, How is the failure of socially beneficial technology explained? Approaches include legal, regulatory, political, philosophical, sociological, usage, psychological, technical, economic, commercial, and marketing…

mike_georgeff_rc100x120Mike Georgeff“Rationality, Intelligent Agents, and Survival” – How do we build rational machines and what does it mean to be rational? This talk will look at the evolution of intelligent software agents, including the early work at SRI International on Shakey the Robot and the beginnings of the modelling of the mental state of software agents in terms of their beliefs, goals and intentions.
What is the importance of these key mental attitudes and how do they affect the way an intelligent agent perceives the world and acts to accomplish its goals? How can an agent recognise the intentions and goals of others, including agents (or people) that are not cooperative? Why do some propose that decision theory won’t work in practice, and why do intelligent machines have to throw away potential solutions if they are going to survive in the real world?

The talk will also look at some of the early applications of these intelligent agents, including managing malfunctions on NASA’s space shuttle and air combat missions, to later business applications and their potential role in the management of people with chronic disease, such as diabetes. Finally, we will consider where these agents will go in the future, and how emotional states may be key to their survival.

lev_lafayette_rc100x120Lev Lafayette“Social Formations in a Transhumanist World” – A theoretical analysis of social formations assigns qualitative differences to social structures in socio-historical structures and in terms of individual development along formal pragmatics and action, differentiating between social systems and cultural lifeworlds. In the former, broad social formations (primitive, traditional and modern), correlated with means of communication (speech, writing, print), means of production (gathering, agriculture, industry), institutional means (kinship, the state, the corporation), systematic differentiation (kinship, political rank, economic class) and a mode of consciousness (mythic, religious, secular). In the latter, biological evolution of the self (infancy, early childhood, late childhood, adolescence and adulthood) correlates with neurological and social development of the person along cognitive, moral, identity and expressive dimensions.
Positing a technological self-transformation of the species through genetic engineering, artificial intelligence, prosthetics and animal uplifting, or a combination thereof, will also witness changes in cultural mores and social systems. Speculation on the social structural content of a transhuman, post-modern social formation poses some difficulty, due to ontological differences. Nevertheless expressions can be made based on elaborations of best current knowledge which suggest qualitative changes of thought-transference, information economics, collegial management of economic rent, and a universalistic mode of consciousness, challenged by the cognitive capability to adapt mature thought with an accelerated growth phase. The probable postmodern social formation of transhuman life has strong collectivist and environmentalist orientations which may be contrary to the desires of many of its advocates.
hugo_degaris_rc100x120Hugo deGaris – “AI – An Artilect war or a Technological Utopia? “ A major war before the end of the 21st century, resulting in billions of deaths, is almost inevitable. Intelligent machines (or ‘artilects’, a shortened form of ‘artificial intellects’) will be far more intelligent than humans and will threaten to attain world domination, resulting in a conflict between ‘Cosmists’, who support the artilects, and ‘Terrans’, who oppose them (both of these are terms of his invention). He describes this conflict as a ‘gigadeath’ war, reinforcing the point that billions of people will be killed.

craig_pearce_rc100x120Craig Pearce“The Future of IT Security” – IT security is often referred to as an arms-race between the builders and breakers. Some feel that the breakers currently have the upper hand and that the gap will continue to grow. What will most likely concern us most about security and privacy in events leading towards a Technological Singularity; specifically: trends of privacy versus a ‘Participatory Panopticon’, conventional and quantum cryptography and every-day security threats that we will be up against in times ahead.

james_newton-thomas_rc100x120James Newton-Thomas - “Impact of the Singularity to the Citizen” – The problem with developing Strong AI is what goes into its seed, its initial conditions. It could prove very problematic if the Singularity sprouts from a Strong AI created by someone who’s ideology includes enslaving the world, or for some other completely selfish reasons.

slade_beard_rc100x120Slade Beard“Complex Systems and the Human Journey”At the start of 2001-A Space Odyssey there is a scene where a group of apes experiencing a singularity style event is represented. The scene shows an ape learning to use a bone tool to kill for food. A new technology is developed and as a result the ape species can more effectively control a constrained resource. Then the ape turns the new tool to the task of defending another limited resource – in this case water. A new process is applied to an existing technology resulting in the killing of an enemy. Now a single group of apes can dominate the landscape. The game has changed.
Singularity is one of these future pivotal events. The Kuhnian paradigm shift that changes the game completely.
The human journey is, in my opinion, a set of steps where process is applied to the use of technology to shape or respond to the environment. We are good at it. We adapt technology, we change processes and we shape the environment around us. Then we store what we have learned and then teach it to each other. And so we adapt.
Rather than discuss the potentials held out by singularity or to debate the reality or otherwise of achieving singularity, I would like to take a moment to ponder the human capacity to adapt to these game changing moments. In order to understand how we will deal with the challenges of singularity (and in fact any event which changes the game) I would like to look back a little and see the human journey for the marvel that it is. That we have come so far and adapted so much is a stunning achievement. And there is a definite pattern to how we have undertaken this journey. I will present one viewpoint that sheds some light on this human journey.
From our look backward we will see, in looking forward, how we will adapt to the game changing events like singularity. The systems based viewpoint provides one lens through which we can look forward to these events and understand the human response both collectively and individually.

Summit Schedule

The Summit will be on September the 7th (tuesday), the 11th (saturday) and the 12th (sunday).

There may also be a tour of the O’Brien Institute microsurgery on Friday, and a dinner/pub night in the evening.

Register Now >>

A Not-So-New Eugenics: The Harsh Logic Of Human Enhancement