Em Econ @ Yale Thursday

The Yale Technology & Ethics study group hosts about one talk a month on various futurist topics. Amazingly, I was their very first speaker when the group started in 2002. And this Thursday I’ll return to talk on the same subject:

The Age of Em: Social Implications of Brain Emulations

4:15-6:15pm, May 22, Yale ISPS, 77 Prospect St (corner of Prospect & Trumbull), Rm A002.

The three most disruptive transitions in history were the introduction of humans, farming, and industry. If another transition lies ahead, a good guess for its source is artificial intelligence in the form of whole brain emulations, or “ems,” sometime in the next century. I attempt a broad synthesis of standard academic consensus, including in business and social science, in order to outline a baseline scenario set modestly far into a post-em-transition world. I consider computer architecture, energy use, cooling infrastructure, mind speeds, body sizes, security strategies, virtual reality conventions, labor market organization, management focus, job training, career paths, wage competition, identity, retirement, life cycles, reproduction, mating, conversation habits, wealth inequality, city sizes, growth rates, coalition politics, governance, law, and war.

My ’02 talk was controversial; Thursday’s talk will likely be well. All are welcome.

Added 28May: Audio, slides.

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  • Greg Perkins

    Will this talk be recorded?

    • As usual, I’ll try to make an audio recording.


    Robin, the dog-eat-dog (or EM-eat-EM) premise features quite heavily in your predictions about the social consequences of EM technology. I once proposed measures (most notably population control) that humans or EMs could implement to prevent an EM-dominated society from devolving to such a state and you acknowledged that such measures were possible. Do you believe it is unlikely that there will be enough coordination to implement such measures, either preventitavely or in a revolution and/or do you believe that such measures cannot be enforced for long and the EM-eat-EM scenario will always eventually resurface and dominate most of the time? What are your primary reasons for believing those things?

    • Since it is easier to forecast low regulation scenarios, those are the first scenarios one should work out. Also, since the typical levels of global coordination that we’ve seen to date are not sufficient to enforce strong global em wage or population rules, and since coordination abilities improve only slowly, it seems less likely that much higher levels would be achieved by this time. But of course many things are possible.

      • IMASBA

        What do you think would be the necessary conditions for such global coordination? A world government, a global AI-agency, global awareness of the stakes?

  • wassname

    Robin, I have noticed you include optimisation in some of your em-econ slides (e.g. EmEcon109 slide 42). Once a working brain emulation is achieved we can start throwing away parts/resolutions/etc and gain an order or two of efficiency.

    But doesn’t the same logic apply to the first mouse model? The mouse model will arrive before the humans one and will let us optimise for mammals (and also give a minimum level of emulation details for humans, since we are more complex than mice). Therefore, it would reduce the computing power needed for humans and bring the ETA forward by 10-20 years. What do you think?

    If this is true it would bring the most likely ETA from ~2050 to ~2040, and would reduce the risk of Moore’s law faltering.