New Janko-keyboard synth is awesome !!

I’ve been intrigued by the Janko keyboard for years now, but never got to play one before.

Well, I just received my shiny new Chromatone 312 in the mail from Tokyo, and — Wow, it really kicks ass!!!

My first impression, after playing for a few hours, is: It’s just fundamentally, massively superior to the ordinary piano keyboard layout!

The Chromatone 312 itself is a good but not fantastic piece of equipment — the built-in sounds aren’t great (though it can be used as a MIDI controller for another sound generator), and the keys don’t have an awesome feel to them….  But hey, it works! … and the Janko layout is just plain better

It will take probably hundreds of hours for me to acclimate to it, to the extent I have to the ordinary piano layout.  Probably dozens of hours for me to become even OK at it.  Although, picking out songs by ear on it is easier than on the ordinary piano keyboard….

But it just makes composing and improvising fundamentally easier, removing a bunch of unnecessary awkwardness and opening new possibilities via making the geometric structure of melodies correspond more closely to the geometric structures on the keyboard…

As another plus, it lets the hand span many more notes than on an ordinary keyboard .. so that those of us with small hands can play wider chords…

What I really want now is a Janko acoustic piano — but I guess that will need to wait till the hypothetical day when I get a lot richer… I guess the existing ones are all collector’s items….

Too bad I’m soooo busy with work these days that I don’t have much time to learn Janko, and will proceed bit by bit, maybe 15-20 minutes a day….  But hey, those will be a fun 15-20 minutes 😉

Sketch of an AGI Curriculum

I often get asked questions like: “If I want to work on AGI, what should I study first to get up to speed?”

This new page gives a rough stab at an answer.

Radical Futurism for Newbies

Check out Radical Futurism for Newbies — a list of links I created, gathering together some fairly short and readable essays and articles by various authors, that all together give a fair overview of the radical-futurist / transhumanist / Cosmist / Singularitarian perspective

My next step is to get this page and everything it links to translated into Chinese and put it on some Chinese website…

Wacky intuitions about psi and Singularity

Someone asked me this question:

I was wondering, how do you square your belief in psi with the idea that we’re going to create a transhumanly powerful agent? I ask because psi seems to have some kind of agency/intelligence behind it, and I’m not sure what that/those agent/agents thinks/think about the idea of a human-caused AI expanding outwards at light speed or whatever. Certain psi phenomena seem to themselves imply a transhuman (godlike) agency behind them. Thus far I’ve focused entirely on figuring out how to cause a positive singularity, but the existence of psi phenomena makes me think that perhaps this isn’t such a good idea.

My wacky but sincere reply:

Personally, I tend to think psi is a sort of minimal, shifting, blurry glimpse into a deeper realm of reality, such as shamen have contacted for a long time (and some contemporaries have contacted under the influence of psychedelics like DMT and ayahuasca)…. The Singularity will likely bring us into contact with this realm in different, more powerful ways. The intelligence immanent in this realm is different from the goal-oriented, survival-oriented intelligence that we deal with in everyday life, and that we often implicitly assume is the only possible or sensible kind of intelligence…. As Singularity melts the individual self and makes our regions of both mind and world more pliable, we will move closer to this deeper realm and its different kind of intelligence in some ways…

That’s a non-scientific, personal view, but anyway that’s my intuitive feeling..


List of my podcasts (not complete) added to the site…

FAQ on AGI & Singularity added to site

I created a page giving brief answers to some nontechnical questions about AGI/Singularity I get asked a lot….   I’ll expand the page over time…

Hasta la vista 2011

2011 is about to end, but I’ve done waaaaay too much this year, and am waaaay too busy, to feel like writing a blog post summing it all up !!!  But anyway, here’s a very partial and crude approximation…

The kids are growing up !! …

  • Zade is in high school now …
  • Zeb is 18 and in January starts his junior year of college, majoring in film and history, at Marlboro College in Vermont
  • Zar just turned 22, graduated UMD College Park in May with a BS in Mathematics and a BA in Japanese, and will be spending a year (at least) teaching English in Japan, starting in April….
  • Egads!!  Can I possibly be old enough to have sired such large and aged offspring??  Most of the time it doesn’t quite feel like it; it somehow feels like I should still be in my late 20s….  But my memory banks tell me otherwise….  (And now and then, especially if I haven’t been getting enough sleep, I actually do feel 45 ;-p )

And on the other hand, my dad is retiring in June after his next semester at Rutgers ends; and my  mom plans to retire as Executive Director of PathwaysPA in 2013.   Hard to believe they’re both nearing 70 — their  minds are still in great shape and they’re so active!!  Hope I’m equally well off when I reach that age (though not as much as I hope aging and the legacy human condition will be obsoleted well before that time!!).

The big news for me this year happened in late fall — I got an apartment (actually the top floor + roof of a village house)  in Hong Kong, in a charming little village near Tai Po, 30  minutes drive north of Kowloon.   It’s semi-rural and peaceful, right next to the  mountains and the sea, and a lovely respite from the crowds and chaos of urban HK.  Adam Ford did some recent video interviews of me in the village — some from the rooftop courtyard of the house, some from a little path nearby.

I’ve also kept my house in Rockville Maryland (near DC) and am spending time both places now (Zade is going to high school in Rockville; she’s too attached to her school chums to feel like shifting to a Hong Kong high school…!)

What’s going on in Hong Kong?  I’ve co-founded a project aimed at applying AI to the Hong Kong stock  market, a new firm called Aidyia Holdings.  If this goes well, then after some time has passed it will generate enough $$ that I can make a significant contribution to funding AGI R&D myself.  Wish me luck!

Also, OpenCog is rolling along reasonably well, with a project involving OpenCog and intelligent game characters going on in the M-Lab in Kowloon Tong (Hong Kong), co-funded by the HK government and Novamente LLC.  Being in HK a lot lets me keep more involved with this project as well.   My massive tome on OpenCog and AGI, Building Better Minds, has been “almost done” for a long time — and it really IS almost done!!   It needs some attention to the figures and references, and some updating and proofreading, but even though I only have spare time for it lately, it’s bound to get done fairly soon….

And Novamente LLC and Biomind LLC, the AI and bioinformatics startups I founded and now Chair, are still rolling right along, with active projects in areas including computational neuroscience, life extension biology, nontraditional combinations of traditional Chinese medicines, music recommendation and psychological data analysis.

The AGI conference series that I founded a few years back is going strong — AGI-11 was at Google and AGI-12 will be at Oxford, and AGI-13 in Beijing.  The Humanity+ futurist conferences I’ve been involved with are cruising along too, H+@HK in Hong Kong took place just a few weeks ago and was great fun 😉 …

Is everything going as I’d wish it?  Well, not exactly.  On an everyday level things are good — I’m having fun, doing lots of interesting stuff, traveling cool places (the family trip to Mongolia this summer was AWESOME!); and my personal life is filled with people I love.  On the other hand, my progress toward seeing my AGI designs realized — or completing my theoretical framework for explaining general intelligence — is still frustratingly slow, and it’s an ongoing struggle not to let this fact peeve me too much.  I’m trying to work toward getting AGI built and understood in the  most effective and rational way I can, consistent with my own emotional makeup and needs, and  my responsibility to my family — but this requires an ongoing series of tough choices and compromises.  So overall things are exciting, emotionally and intellectually rich, often a bit frustrating but rarely boring….

One thing I note is, I don’t seem to have much time for avocations like writing wacky fiction or recording  music these days.   Practical and research work plus family stuff keeps me too busy.  But I do improvise on the piano at least 30 minutes every day, and am sure to walk outside a bit each day to keep the stress down and the meat infrastructure in OK shape….   Overall I’m a bit busier than I’m comfortable with, but I reckon I can keep going at this pace for a few more years without getting toooooo stressed.

And so it goes…

List of links to my research papers added to site…

As part of my sloooowwww push to update this site … and with help from a fantastic part-time assistant found via odesk …  I have finally added to this site a page listing my research papers and giving hyperlinks for most of them

Now let’s see if I will manage to keep it updated every 6 months or so 😉 …

Video catalog (some of my talks and interviews)

This new page gives links to videos of a lot of the talks and interviews I’ve given over the last few years, mostly on futurist and AGI related topics.

Books I’m Working On

Here is a list of books I’m working on now… at various levels of completion…  Eight books, to potentially come out over the next fixe years (OK maybe some will slip a bit past that!).  Not bad considering book-writing is a spare-time pursuit and not my full-time job — but note that I’m helped on many of these books by awesome co-authors.

Real World Reasoning: Toward Scalable, Uncertain Spatiotemporal, Contextual and Causal Inference (with Nil Geisweiller, Lucio Coelho, Predrag Janicic, Cassio Pennachin).  We’re finalizing the proofs of this one just now, it will appear via Atlantis Press.  This began as a report written for a government agency, but we spun it off as a book.  Part of it gives examples of PLN applied to spatiotemporal and causal reasoning.  Part of it gives probably the only textbook-level review of recent work in spatiotemporal and contextual logic.

Foundations of Artificial General Intelligence (an edited book: the first editor is Pei Wang, I’m the second).  This is a follow-up to the previous edited volume “Artificial General Intelligence” that Cassio Pennachin and I edited, focusing this time more on theoretical issues.  We’re collecting the chapters this month and the book will be out next year, via Atlantis Press.

Building Better Minds (with Nil Geisweiller and Cassio Pennachin)– an 800 page technical book on how to build an advanced thinking machine.  This is basically done, but the figures and diagrams and references need work, and the whole thing needs a bunch of proofreading.

Faster Than You Think: How AGI Will Soon Change Everything
(with Lisa Rein and Stephan Bugaj) — a non-technical, “popular” book on the path to AGI.  Including a lot of H+ Magazine articles and interviews, plus a bunch of new stuff.

Intelligent Genomics (with Lucio Coelho and Cassio Pennachin) — an overview of our novel methods for crunching SNP and microarray data via mining information from classifier ensembles.  The text for this one already exists but it’s in extremely rough form, having been pasted from a bunch of research papers.

? — a philosophical treatise giving a careful explanation of the mind and universe.  Sort of like a detailed analytical analogue of “A Cosmist Manifesto” + “The Hidden Pattern.”   This one will be fairly short, highly dense, and not that easy to read.  No references, no personal comments, no rambling exposition.  Actually this is the book I’m most excited about personally, although I realize there’s little market for this sort of thing!  If I found I had only 3 months to live, I would spend those three months hanging around with my family, playing the piano, hiking, and writing this book.

Mindplex — an avant-garde fiction work, romping through the minds of various individuals as they approach the Singularity and their minds start to blend.  I started writing this already, and have to actively force myself not to spend time on it while trying to finish Building Better Minds and Faster Than You Think.  Probably after I finish “?” I’ll spend my “writing for pure fun” time on this.

A Formal Theory of Real-World General Intelligence (with Matt Ikle’ and Nil Geisweiller) — Building Better Minds contains some material working toward a formal theory of general intelligence, but it’s still preliminary and fragmentary at present.  Algorithmic information theory, hyperset theory, category theory and information geometry are all ingredients.  Eventually, once we’ve filled in enough blanks, we’ll wrap it up as a (technical) book.

>no title yet< — I’m slowly and incrementally accumulating notes toward writing some sort of autobiography one day.  Every time I send an email that includes some anecdote from my life, I paste it into a Google Doc, and there’s a fairly large but extremely haphazard collection by now.  I’ve always wished it were possible to read autobiographies written by interesting people in the thick of their lives, rather than written by old people looking back.  However, nobody has much time to write an autobiography while in the thick of their life, and I don’t either.  So this one may wait till I get old, or until I get famous enough that my autobiography will be a best-seller, or till I can spawn a clone to write it.  But anyway, the notes are accumulating 😉 ..

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