On Tackling Really Hard Problems

It’s been almost two weeks since I attended a bunch of sessions and some social events around the annual Singularity Summit, held by Singularity Institute, this time in New York.

And for the ultrabrief context of what they are about:

The Singularity represents an “event horizon” in the predictability of human technological development past which present models of the future may cease to give reliable answers, following the creation of strong AI or the enhancement of human intelligence.

Since the flight back and on following business travel in Europe I’ve been taking 30 minutes here and an hour there with an intent to capture the thoughts the event sparked for me. Each time I’ve run into a writers block and failed to post.

 

When you walk into a room of 600 people passionately discussing some of the hairiest big problems and opportunities facing the humankind this century, from friendly artificial intelligence to mesh robotics or regenerative medicine (aka growing someone a new leg if they loose one), it can, frankly, feel like walking into the proceedings of a religious sect. Until you quickly realize that it is as atheist (and rationalist) as anything sect-like could potentially be, seeking to overcome biases, trusting scientific research and provable facts over emotions and beliefs.

And again, that single weekend left me with too many new open ends to think about and a sense that I should read a few hundred pages of existing thoughts before a single paragraph I could write in a blog post here could add anything new to the discussion. Instead, I know that I truly enjoyed the chats with all the really smart people I got to meet, from doctors to physicists, from computer scientists researching AIs to professional sports betters, hedge fund managers and venture capitalists, entrepreneurs and academics.

I’m quite sure I’ll be back at another summit for more stimulating conversations some next year. And I recommend you sneak some of the speech videos in your viewing list besides the TED ones you’ve made an occasional habit of.

For starters, here are two speeches from this year, each having their own approach to arguing how a person can go about picking which hard problems to solve in their life. These are agnostic to your field of activity – worth the time for entrepreneurs, academics of social/NGO folks alike. And even being a geek is not required for the most part.

Peter Thiel:

Jaan Tallinn:

And if you’re still after more, recommend clicking through:

PS: thanks for the invitation, Jaan.