Vernor Vinge talked about how he got started writing science fiction, about numerical parametrization of group minds, about some characters in "Deepness in the Sky", and, of course, his brainchild -- the concept of Singularity, the ways it could happen, and what current research might lead to it.
10 people were at the discussion. Some have heard more about the concept of the Singularity, others less. Moderator Mike Ignatowski described two common Singularity scenarios. They are:
-- "hard takeoff": a computer develops human-level AI, and then within a few hours doubles, quadruples it, etc., and very soon becomes intelligent beyond our comprehension and takes over the world;
-- "soft takeoff" -- technological advance is gradual enough so any given human does not lose comprehension of what's happening; however, in a few hundreds of years the society and technology nonetheless changes so much that it's incomprehensible to a modern-day human.
We examined some of those scenarios and objections to them.
Topic, according to the convention program: Our panel looks for the coming breakthrough in technology that changes everything.
For another debate on Singularity, see my blog post from the SXSW 2011 Singularity panel with Doug Lenat, Michael Vassar, and Natasha Vita-More.