G’DAY WORLD #238 – Eliezer Yudkowsky

Forgive me Father – it’s been at least two weeks since my last podcast.

I figured you guys needed some time to digest my last run of shows. Ready for more yet?

Another show on the coming of the technological singularity today. My guest is Eliezer Yudkowsky, co-founder and research fellow at the Singularity Institute for Artificial Intelligence in California.

Eliezer Yudkowsky

I have been aware of Eli for ten years or more. He was featured fairly prominently in Damien Broderick’s book The Spike and was a contributor to Natasha Vita-More’s Extropian mailing list in the mid to late Nineties.

An autodidact prodigy, Eliezer wrote the first version of his Singularity “call to arms”, Staring Into The Singularity, at the age of 15 and has been re-working it continually since then.

On this episode I’ve tried to capture Eliezer’s vision for the different forms that the Singularity might take, the timelines for it, and his motivations for trying to make it happen as soon as possible.

I hope you enjoy it.

If you want to hear more interviews about The Singularity or AI, try these previous episodes of G’Day World:

Dr Aubrey de Grey

Ray Kurzweil
Roger Williams
Dr Ben Goertzel

Don’t forget to make use of my new comments line – +613 9016 9699.

If you enjoyed this podcast, make sure you don’t miss future episodes by subscribing to our feed and leave us a voice comment!

The G’Day World Theme Song is “Save Me” by The Napoleon Blown Aparts.
The “War Of The Worlds’ stuff at the beginning of the show comes from Chris Anderson’s POP!tech 2007 speech.

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17 thoughts on “G’DAY WORLD #238 – Eliezer Yudkowsky

  1. I make baked cheesecakes 🙂 Well I did anyway. Haven’t had many cheesecake making opportunities recently.

    On a slightly more relevant note, I can relate to any frustration with people thinking that robotics is the be all and end all of AI and vice versa.

    Robotics is a kinda strange area in general. Robots are mostly either cool but useless or really handy and extraordinarily dull. I keep on trying to remind people in my course that the ‘Robotics’ bit in ‘robotics and mechatronics’ is only there because no one knows what mechatronics is. That and it sounds cool.

    I’m aiming to specialize more in automotive mechatronics. AI fascinates me but I don’t really think my brain is geared for it.

  2. Looking forward to this one (about a week behind in my podcasts at the moment). Your recent interview with Dr. Goertzel prompted me to finally come round and read ‘The Metamorphosis of Prime Intellect’, and that jazzed me up enough to slap some cash down in the bookstore and walk out with ‘The Singularity is Coming’.

  3. Hi there Cam,
    An interesting podcast and well worth the wait. I did have the usual issues however with a certain amount of god (aka flying spagetti monster) bashing.

    Whilst I will admit that in your world of logic the case for the existance of god is not good and appears to be getting less and less with time but the beauty of the scientific model (the sharp stick you like to poke christian fundamentalists with for fun) is that it is open ended.

    It is always up for revision with additional evidence.

    For this reason until mankind knows everything there is to know about how the universe works, there is some room for god in there and that is why I will choose to keep believing.

    The big problem with science is that as we concentrate on increasingly smaller fields of study, peoples points of view become more and more focused one one thing and less open to alternative perspectives.

    For this reason I liked Peter E’s idea of ‘reading about everything except your field of expertise’.

    My 2c


  4. John you are right, that is the why science is so marvelous – it keeps learning new things. Unlike religion which is stuck in a single mindset and refuses to accept new evidence which is contrary to that mindset. Of course you might be right – science might discover a God out there some day – but the evidence we have at the moment makes that seem highly unlikely. And the real reason is why anyone believes a theory which has no evidence to support it?

  5. Cam,
    There are lots of theories at the fuzzy edge of the scientific that are yet to have proof. String theory (highly contentious), the speed of light (no one has actually taken a definative measure of it yet) and no one yet has come up with a definative reason why dropped toast always hits the floor butter side down.

    Still its your soul fella 🙂


  6. The toast thing has been solved. The average height above ground of a table (or plate held in a hand) combined with the average angular velocity of a peice of toast (arising from the foces enacted during the act of the toast moving from the plate – under gravity) is sufficient for rotation of the toast greater than 90 but less than 270 degrees. ie in the range where upon hitting the floor it will end up condiment side down. If humans were taller or shorter we would not have this problem.

    John, by your own admissions of thought, how can you believe only in the abrahamic god? You do not fully believe in the theory of belief untill proven impossible . Or if you do , you have additional filters in place to preclude a belief in every deity/higher power. So what do you truly believe??

  7. Ahhh Hugo , thanks for enlightening me as to the toast thingy.

    As to what I believe, let me enlighten you.

    I personally believe in one deity, and that wether you call that deity god (as I do), buddah, allah, vishnou (spell) or whatever, its all the one thing.

    I reckon that that all the worlds major religions have many things in common, and because of this find the the fundamentalist belief that ‘Im right and the rest of you are totally wrong’ arrogant. This alone has been responsible for more conflict than any thing else in history.

    Why do we have to be so right on this ?? Why cant people learn to respect other opinions/beliefs even though they do not personally agree with them ??


  8. Well John the reason the believers think they have to be right is that their god says he’ll kill ya and send ya to eternal damnation if you’re wrong and if you don’t follow his specific set of arbitrary rules.

    And for me, the reason why I want people to accept science and rational thinking over mythology is that one of these options is intelligent and worthwhile and the other is dangerous to the future of life on the planet and demeaning to our intelligence.

  9. Well Cam,
    In the immortal words of sponge bob square pants

    “………..best of luck with that………….”

    (I hope you saw the sponge bob movie, the joke kinda falls flat if you havent)


  10. John, doesn’t the fact that all (most) of the world’s religions have a lot in common suggest that, like evolution in biology, they too have been spurned from the same original ideas. You can see it today with thousands of factions of all religions. Those hitting the most chords for our time and place “surviving”.

    The fact that many come from similar ideals does not necessarily mean that they all come from one “true” message from the one “true” god either. Can’t it possibly mean that the environment man has found himself in for the last few thousand years (since the ability for communication) has been one in which goodwill to other humans and care (ie “love”) for a certain few (ie blood relatives and other close humans) is benficial to your/their survival.

    And “love” is not proof of a god either. It is perfectly reasonable to assume that if you could patch into your pet dog’s brain with your own that it would have all the noticable signs of love that you have for another. Those being an inate sense of your absense when you’re not there, constant thoughts about you, happiness at hearing your car pull into the driveway, a racing heart rate.

  11. To quote Michel Onfray (author of Atheist Manifesto – Cam, you gotta get him on the show);

    “The great monotheistic religions of the world – Judaism, Christianity and Islam – emerged out of one desert place, for one reason. God exists only to make daily life bearable despite the path that every one of us treads toward extinction. As long as men are obliged to die, some of them, unable to endure the prospect, will concoct fond illusions.”

    He speaks of the obsessive focus of life after death in these religions because of the harsh environment they were born out of. Read last week’s Good Weekend in the SMH if you can. I’ll scan and send it to anyone if they want it (you can’t get it on their site).

    Another great quote;

    “Religions tell us we have to give up this life for another…. Die while you are alive so you can be alive when you are dead.”

  12. Hugo,
    While we are quoting People I like one from Shakespeare

    “There are more things in heaven and earth Horatio, than are dreamt of in your philosophy”

    I repeat what I said earlier. So long as there are still things in the universe that are unknown to us, there is still a place where god could exist.


  13. Well I dont know Cam, the second coming of Jesus or the technological singularity which will come first ??

    My money is on the late great JC.

    On the other hand If they can work out a way to extract power from smart arse comments cam I reckon you could power a small town…… say Albury Wodonga ?? 🙂


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