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Reporting on the 2012 Singularity Summit

Posted: October 28, 2012 at 7:47 am

Videos of the presentations given at this year's Singularity Summit have yet to emerge online, but while we're waiting here is a report on the event:

Kurzweil took the stage on Saturday afternoon to deliver the summit's keynote address. "The singularity is near," he began quietly, a grin slowly spreading across his face. "No, it isn't here yet, but it's getting nearer," he said to laughs and applause. He spoke extemporaneously for over an hour, his presentation a mix of statistics, time series graphs, personal anecdotes, and predictions.

Computing ability and technological innovation have been increasing exponentially over the past few decades, he argued, alongside similar increases in life expectancy and income. "All progress stems from the law of accelerating returns," he proclaimed. He discussed his latest project - an attempt to reverse-engineer the human brain. "Intelligence is at the root of our greatest innovations: genetics, nanotechnology, and robotics. Once we master artificial intelligence, unimaginable new frontiers will open up."

After his talk, a man stood up and looked Kurzweil in the eye. "I'm in my 60s like you," he said, his voice faltering. "Do you think we'll make it?" It took me a few seconds to realize they were talking about immortality and I felt chills in that moment. "Life expectancy tables are based on what happened in the past," responded Kurzweil without skipping a beat. "In 25 years, we'll be able to add one year of life for every year that passes. We have a very good chance of making it through."

I should note that I believe Kurzweil's timelines for rejuvenation biotechnology are only possible if $300 million or more in dedicated research funding turns up at the SENS Foundation's front door tomorrow, thereby ensuring a good shot at demonstrating rejuvenation in old laboratory mice by the mid-2020s. As things stand progress towards the necessary technologies is far slower - not because it cannot be done, but because there is comparatively little interest in doing it, and therefore little funding.

One of the deep puzzles of our age is how a multi-billion-dollar "anti-aging" industry, full of enthusiasm but providing nothing that significantly impacts aging, can exist alongside the near absence of interest in funding research that will produce therapies capable of reversing the progression of aging. There are strange tides at work in the psychology surrounding aging and longevity.

Link: http://www.policymic.com/articles/16546/human-immortality-singularity-summit-looks-forward-to-the-day-that-humans-can-live-forever


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