« July 2008 | Main | September 2008 »

August 2008

August 29, 2008

The Singularity Summit 2008

The Singularity Summit 2008

The Singularity Institute for Artificial Intelligence has issued a press release with details of The Singularity Summit 2008: Opportunity, Risk, Leadership. The event will be held October 25, 2008 at the Montgomery Theater in San Jose, California. Previous summits have featured Nick Bostrom, Eric Drexler, Douglas Hofstadter, Ray Kurzweil, and Peter Thiel.

Keynote speakers include Ray Kurzweil, author of The Singularity is Near, and Justin Rattner, CTO of Intel. At the Intel Developer Forum on August 21, 2008, Rattner explained why he thinks the gap between humans and machines will close by 2050. "Rather than look back, we're going to look forward 40 years," said Rattner. "It's in that future where many people think that machine intelligence will surpass human intelligence."

Other featured speakers include:

  • Dr. Ben Goertzel, CEO of Novamente, director of research at SIAI
  • Dr. Marvin Minsky
  • Nova Spivack, CEO of Radar Networks, creator of Twine.com
  • Dr. Vernor Vinge
  • Eliezer Yudkowsky

To register for The Singularity Summit 2008, click here. You can find a comprehensive list of other upcoming worldwide Singularity and Artificial Intelligence events here.

Suggested Posts

Win Two VIP Passes to The Singularity Summit 2008!
Singularity Institute for Artificial Intelligence
What is the Singularity?
The Singularity Effect
Upcoming Artificial Intelligence Events
Distributed Computing Projects and the Singularity

Chris K. Haley, NestedUniverse.net. Subscribe Get free RSS or email updates here.


August 28, 2008

The Fermi Paradox. Why Are We Alone In The Universe?

The Fermi Paradox
© iStockphoto.com / geopaul

Where Are They?

Nobel prize-winning Italian physicist Enrico Fermi asked the question "Where are they?" regarding the question of life existing elsewhere in the universe. If one assumes the mediocrity principle - that the development of life on earth is typical in comparison to the rest of the universe - we should see evidence of other life. The Fermi paradox is the contradiction between estimates of the number of extraterrestrial civilizations and a corresponding lack of evidence of these civilizations - both physical and radio (the Great Silence).

It's obvious that civilizations can exist - we are one. Why not others?


  • The universe is extremely old. Its current age is estimated at approximately 13.73 billion years
  • The number of stars in the visible universe is extremely large - approximately 5 x 1022.
  • Some of these stars will have habitable planets which develop intelligent life that can produce radio signals.
  • Interstellar travel is possible, and some civilizations desire to colonize stars.

More intelligent estimates of the Drake Equation have been possible with recent advances in astronomy and astrobiology. One estimate in the July 2000 edition of Scientific American suggests the number of civilizations that have existed in our galaxy in the past is 12 billion, with 1,000 of them still transmitting radio evidence of their existence.

Despite those assumptions, limited radio searches of the skies for nearly 50 years have found no evidence of extraterrestrial life. And, it would take only one civilization that desires so between 5 and 50 million years to colonize the entire galaxy - a blink of an eye compared to the age of the universe. So where are they?

Possible Solutions

Clearly there must be something wrong with assumptions that have been made. Some possible resolutions to the Fermi Paradox are:

  • A Great Filter drastically limits the number of civilizations in the universe. Life faces existential risks which are difficult to overcome. For example, the development of the ability to communicate by radio occurs at roughly the same time as the development of nuclear weapons. Professor Nick Bostrom claims that the lack of evidence of extraterrestrial life is a positive sign for the outcome of our own existence.

  • One or more of our assumptions is wrong. Perhaps we're not searching in the right way. Before the invention of radio, for example, the only way to search for life would have been optically. Perhaps neutrinos or some other communication method is used instead.

  • Transcendence - Life passing through a singularity stage may discover a way to exit the universe, or find more meaningful ways of existing. Maybe we are boring and they have no interest in making contact or communicating with us.

  • Perhaps we are living in a simulation.

  • The Zoo hypothesis - we are being isolated intentionally.

  • Perhaps abiogenesis occurs less frequently than current assumptions and we really are alone.

What do you think?


Are You Living in a Computer Simulation?
Self-Driving Cars: End of the Human Driving Era
The Boltzmann Brain Paradox
Speculations on Gödel's Incompleteness Theorems, the Halting Problem, and The Simulation Argument

Chris K. Haley, NestedUniverse.net. Subscribe Get free RSS or email updates here. 


August 08, 2008

Missions to Mars Through 2020

  Source: NASA and ESA

Mars Science Laboratory

This mission is scheduled to launch in late 2009 with a goal of adding to the knowledge regarding the current and past habitability of Mars, including a  search for organic compounds. After reaching Mars in 2010 and landing by a new Sky Crane method, it is projected to be operational for nearly two years. This mission is an important milestone in the exploration of Mars because it will:

  • Land a large and heavy rover on Mars - a skill necessary to a future Mars Sample Return mission.
  • Have the highest precision landing to-date.
  • Travel a larger distance than any previous mission - up to 20 kilometers.


Scheduled to launch in October 2009, this lander will study one of Mars' two moons, Phobos, and return samples to Earth which should arrive in 2012. It will have the capability of executing a preprogrammed mission to collect and return samples even if communications with mission control is lost. Ten different types of microorganisms will be aboard for the round-trip from Earth to Mars in order to study the effects of long term space travel on them.

The Chinese probe Yinghuo-1 will accompany the lander for most of the trip to Mars. It will separate in August or September 2010 and enter a highly elliptical orbit around Mars. It will study Mars' external environment, including its magnetic field and ionosphere.


The European Space Agency (ESA) is currently working on its own rover, ExoMars, that is scheduled to launch in 2013 and land on Mars in 2014. This rover will have a drill that can dig deep into the Martian surface to look for water and organics.

Mars Sample Return

Support continues to gather for international cooperation, including NASA and ESA, on an unmanned mission to return samples from Mars around the 2020-2022 time frame.


August 06, 2008

NASA Principal Investigator Says Perchlorate Is a Positive Discovery

The discovery on Mars of the perchlorate ion, ClO4, "probably comes down as a positive rather than a negative" says principal investigator Peter Smith. However, other scientists were less optimistic about the potential. Michael Hect of NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory described the finding as "neither good nor bad for life".

Perchlorate ions form salts with elements such as sodium and magnesium, as well as the ammonium ion among others. Some perchlorate salts are in fact, not only compatible with life, but certain bacteria strains can use them as an energy source.

Chris K. Haley, NestedUniverse.net. Subscribe Get free RSS or email updates here. 

August 02, 2008

White House advised of pending NASA announcement regarding "potential for life" on Mars

Update 8/5/2008: NASA has issued a press release which indicates the potential discovery of perchlorate on Mars, a chemical which may make Mars less habitable than previously thought. You can follow the Mars Phoenix team's twitter log here.


Aviation Week is reporting that the Bush Administration's Presidential Science Advisor's office has been advised of information that NASA plans to release sometime between mid-August and September 2008 concerning the habitability of the Phoenix landing site and the potential for life on Mars. While not directly pointing to evidence of life currently or in the past on Mars, the information is apparently "far more provocative" than previous announcements confirming the presence of water.

Although the original mission was scheduled to end in late August, NASA recently announced that the Phoenix Mars Lander mission will be extended through September 30, 2008.

This information will be of concern to Oxford professor Nick Bostrom, because of his recent argument regarding the Fermi paradox and the implications that the discovery of extraterrestrial life would have for the human species.

Chris K. Haley, NestedUniverse.net. Subscribe Get free RSS or email updates here. 

Upcoming Singularity and Artificial Intelligence Events of Interest

Update 6/17/2012: Hundreds of worldwide Artificial Intelligence, Robotics and Singularity conferences and events are now being tracked here: http://events.nesteduniverse.net

Here are some events through the beginning of 2009 that are of interest to the Singularity, Artificial Intelligence, and Robotics communities:

Date Location Event
September 1-3, 2008 Palma de Mallorca, Spain Artificial Intelligence and Soft Computing (ASC-08)
September 1-3, 2008 Tokyo, Japan Eighth International Conference on Intelligent Virtual Agents (IVA 2008)
September 3-4, 2008 Hollywood, California Virtual Worlds Hollywood
September 4-6, 2008 Bulgaria 13th International Conference on Artificial Intelligence: Methodology, Systems, Applications (AIMSA-08)
September 28 - October 1, 2008 Technische Universität, Dresden, Germany 11th European Conference on Logics in Artificial Intelligence (JELIA-2008)
October 2-4, 2008 Syros, Greece 5th Hellenic Conference on Artiifical Intelligence (SETN-08)
October 25, 2008 Montgomery Theater, 271 S. Market St, San Jose, CA 95113, USA Singularity Summit 2008
October 26-30, 2008 Salvador, Bahia, Brazil 19th Brazilian Symposium on Artificial Intelligence (SBIA-08)
10th Brazilian Symposium on Artificial Neural Networks (SBRN-08)
Brazilian Symposium on Intelligent Robotics (JRI-08)
November 3-5, 2008 Dayton, Ohio, USA 20th IEEE International Conference on Tools with Artificial Intelligence (ICTAI-08)
March 6-9, 2009 Arlington, Virginia Second Conference on Artificial General Intelligence (AGI-09)