Machine Intelligence Research Institute Progress Report, December 2011

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“I think the Machine Intelligence Research Institute has some very smart people working on the most important mission on Earth, but… what exactly are they doing these days? I’m in the dark.”

There’s a good reason I hear this comment so often. We haven’t done a good job of communicating our progress to our supporters.

Since being appointed Executive Director of the Machine Intelligence Research Institute (SI) in November, I’ve been working to change that. I gave two Q&As about SI and explained our research program with a list of open problems in AI risk research. Now, I’d like to introduce our latest effort in transparency: monthly progress reports. Read more »

Q&A #2 with Luke Muehlhauser, Machine Intelligence Research Institute Executive Director

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Machine Intelligence Research Institute Activities

Bugmaster asks:

…what does the SIAI actually do? You don’t submit your work to rigorous scrutiny by your peers in the field… you either aren’t doing any AGI research, or are keeping it so secret that no one knows about it… and you aren’t developing any practical applications of AI, either… So, what is it that you are actually working on, other than growing the SIAI itself ?

It’s a good question, and my own biggest concern right now. Donors would like to know: Where is the visible return on investment? How can I see that I’m buying existential risk reduction when I donate to the Machine Intelligence Research Institute? Read more »

Interview with New MIRI Research Fellow Luke Muehlhauser

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Section One: Background and Core Ideas

Q1. What is your personal background?
Q2. Why should we care about artificial intelligence?
Q3. Why do you think smarter-than-human artificial intelligence is possible?
Q4. The mission of the Machine Intelligence Research Institute is to “to ensure that the creation of smarter-than- human intelligence benefits society.” How is your research contributing to that mission?
Q5. How does MIRI’s approach to making friendly AI differ from the concept of Asimov laws?
Q6. Why is it necessary to make an AI that “€œwants the same things we want”?
Q7. If dangerous AI were to develop, why couldn’€™t we just “€œpull the plug”€?
Q8. Why are you and the Machine Intelligence Research Institute focused on artificial intelligence instead of human intelligence enhancement or whole brain emulation?


Read more »

2011 Summer Matching Challenge Success!

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Thanks to the effort of our donors, the 2011 Summer Singularity Challenge has been met! All $125,000 contributed will be matched dollar for dollar by our matching backers, raising a total of $250,000 to fund the Machine Intelligence Research Institute’€™s operations. We reached our goal two days early, near midnight of August 29th.

On behalf of our staff, volunteers, and entire community, I want to personally thank everyone who donated. Your dollars make the difference.

Here’€™s to a better future for the human species.

Machine Intelligence Research Institute Strategic Plan 2011

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The Machine Intelligence Research Institute has prepared a Strategic Plan (PDF) to concisely describe our near-term goals, vision, and concrete actions in pursuit of those goals and vision. We welcome commentary from our supporter community on the plan. The release of this Strategic Plan is part of an overall effort to increase transparency at the Institute.

Update: This strategic plan is now obsolete. See our 2013 strategic priorities instead.

Announcing the $125,000 Summer Singularity Challenge

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Thanks to the generosity of several major donors, every donation to the Machine Intelligence Research Institute made now until August 31, 2011 will be matched dollar-for-dollar, up to a total of $125,000.

Donate now!
Now is your chance to double your impact while supporting the Machine Intelligence Research Institute and helping us raise up to $250,000 to help fund our research program and stage the upcoming Singularity Summit… for which you can register now!

$125,000 in backing for this challenge is being generously provided by Rob Zahra, Quixey, Clippy, Luke Nosek, Edwin Evans, Rick Schwall, Brian Cartmell, Mike Blume, Jeff Bone, Johan Edsträm, Zvi Mowshowitz, John Salvatier, Louie Helm, Kevin Fischer, Emil Gilliam, Rob and Oksana Brazell, Guy Srinivasan, John Chisholm, and John Ku.

The year 2011 has been huge for Artificial Intelligence. With the IBM computer Watson defeating two top Jeopardy! champions in February, it’s clear that the field is making steady progress. Journalists like Torie Bosch of Slate have argued that “We need to move from robot-apocalypse jokes to serious discussions about the emerging technology.” We couldn’t agree more — in fact, the Machine Intelligence Research Institute has been thinking about how to create safe and ethical artificial intelligence since long before the Singularity landed on the front cover of TIME magazine.

The last 1.5 years were our biggest ever. Since the beginning of 2010, we have:

  • Held our annual Singularity Summit, in San Francisco. Speakers included Ray Kurzweil, James Randi, Irene Pepperberg, and many others.
  • Held the first Singularity Summit Australia and Singularity Summit Salt Lake City.
  • Held a wildly successful Rationality Minicamp.
  • Published seven research papers, including Yudkowsky’s much-awaited ‘Timeless Decision Theory‘.
  • Helped philosopher David Chalmers write his seminal paper ‘The Singularity: A Philosophical Analysis’, which has sparked broad discussion in academia, including an entire issue of Journal of Consciousness Studies and a book from Springer devoted to responses to Chalmers’ paper.
  • Launched the Research Associates program.
  • Brought MIT cosmologist Max Tegmark onto our advisory board, published our Singularity FAQ, and much more.

In the coming year, we plan to do the following:

  • Hold our annual Singularity Summit, in New York City this year.
  • Publish three chapters in the upcoming academic volume The Singularity Hypothesis, along with several other papers.
  • Improve organizational transparency by creating a simpler, easier-to-use website that includes Machine Intelligence Research Institute planning and policy documents.
  • Publish a document of open research problems related to Friendly AI, to clarify the research space and encourage other researchers to contribute to our mission.
  • Add additional skilled researchers to our Research Associates program.
  • Publish well-researched documents making the case for existential risk reduction as optimal philanthropy.
  • Diversify our funding sources by applying for targeted grants and advertising our affinity credit card program.

We appreciate your support for our high-impact work. As PayPal co-founder and Machine Intelligence Research Institute donor Peter Thiel said:

“I’m interested in facilitating a forum in which there can be… substantive research on how to bring about a world in which AI will be friendly to humans rather than hostile… [The Machine Intelligence Research Institute represents] a combination of very talented people with the right problem space [they’re] going after… [They’ve] done a phenomenal job… on a shoestring budget. From my perspective, the key question is always: What’s the amount of leverage you get as an investor? Where can a small amount make a big difference? This is a very leveraged kind of philanthropy.”

Donate now, and seize a better than usual chance to move our work forward. Credit card transactions are securely processed through, Google Checkout, or PayPal. If you have questions about donating, please call Amy Willey at (586) 381-1801.