Those of you following me on Twitter probably noticed that I’ve spent the past 3+ weeks in and around NYC, Boston, and now the big cities of California. Several people suggested that I note down some of my experiences in a travel blog, so here is the first installment. This blog will cover
– the DARPA Robotics Challenge
– my meeting with the Future of Life Institute (FLI)
– my meeting with the Machine Intelligence Research Institute (MIRI)
– the Exponential Finance Conference (don’t worry – I’m not transitioning into finance)
– my visit to Tony Soprano’s house, plus other American adventures
DARPA is the research arm of the U.S. Department of Defense which invests in robotics research and development, and which holds a robotics competition every few years. The robots have to complete a variety of tasks in the shortest amount of time in order to win. The DoD aims to send robots to disaster zones which are too dangerous for humans – they will basically act as first responders and save lives where human capabilities are limited.
For the 2015 challenge, the robots faced 8 difficult tasks. After being placed in a car by their human team, the robots had to drive a car through a course. They were then required to exit the car, open and pass through a door, open a valve by rotating its circular handle 360°, use a drill to cut a large hole in drywall, cross over a great deal of rubble (this is where many bipedal robots crashed), and finally walk up a set of stairs. During this time, the robots had to carry their own source of energy with them. Human teams could only communicate wirelessly with the robots, but were allowed to help the robots get back on their feet after a fall – at the cost of having a penalty minute added to their final times.
Here’s a great clip of the winning robot’s moment of victory:
The DARPA Robotics Challenge was 10x better than I had imagined, and I was really positively surprised by the results. While many of the robots moved by rolling on wheels of some sort, most of this year’s contenders could walk on two “feet.” Even though these walking robots had some problems completing tasks, I was so impressed with the progress companies have made in the past couple of years. I also really enjoyed the expo section that was full of robots and other inventions – and I even got a few close-ups.
I have to say that it’s great that DARPA puts together this competition and supports robotics. I can’t wait for a future challenge where I would like to send an AI brain developed by our team, implemented in a third-party robot. I’d like to see our AI brain in a robot that isn’t just preprogrammed for specific tasks and the body it uses – I want to compete with an AI brain that can be put into any robot body, learn how to control it, and do any task we put in front of it.
A second highlight of my trip (so far) was meeting with people from the Future of Life Institute. FLI recognizes that technology might present risks to humanity in the future, and is committed to protecting human life and being optimistic about what’s to come. I think that FLI representatives were glad to learn that our AI company is serious about pursuing general AI technology safely. I’m happy to say that we share the same values, and I’m looking forward to future cooperation with this organization.
I was also able to connect with the Machine Intelligence Research Institute and make a small donation to the organization while in the Bay Area. Their team is incredibly smart, and it’s obvious that they’ve thought for a long time about creating a positive future for humanity alongside AI. I like that their thinking is so carefully reasoned and highly structured, and I’m happy to say that we’re planning to cooperate with them in the future. MIRI believes, like me, that cooperation will always win out over competition when it comes to humans and artificial intelligence.
If you’re interested in AI safety, keep an eye out for my upcoming blog post on the topic!
The Exponential Finance Conference in NYC, a fourth exciting moment on this trip, was all about how technology is impacting businesses today. It was amazing to see the way that the speakers look into the future and try to discover trends and patterns. I’d like to see more business leaders thinking this way in the Czech Republic and Slovakia.
Peter Diamandis, founder of Singularity University, on stage at Exponential Finance
And here’s a glimpse into some of the fun I’ve been having between conferences, meetings, and interviews:
My view of the Statue of Liberty from a helicopter
A quick stop at the Museum of Natural History in NYC