The Quantum Pontiff

Singularity University GSP

The Singularity University is crazy. I like crazy. If I were a grad student with copious time on my hands (trust me, in comparison, you have copious time, dear GradStudent) I’d apply to attend the Singularity University summer school:

SU’s Graduate Studies Program (GSP) is a 10-week summer program (June 19 through August 28) located at NASA Ames Research Park in Silicon Valley. The program is for top graduate and postgraduate students worldwide to learn about the various exponentially growing cross-disciplinary technologies (biotechnology, nanotechnology, information technology, artificial intelligence, robotics, medicine, etc.). The inaugural 2009 class was limited to 40 students. The 2010 class will have a program size of approximately 80 students.

Note that unless next year’s class is 160 students, SU will be considered a failure (of the polynomial kind?)


  1. #1 Ian Durham
    February 22, 2010

    It would be pretty cool to teach for that program. No recognizable quantum information people that I could gather from a quick list of the faculty though it did make me wonder if Vint Cerf of Google is any relation to Nicolas Cerf of Cerf-Adami inequality fame.

  2. #2 wolfgang
    February 23, 2010

    >> the various exponentially growing cross-disciplinary technologies

    But this is very disappointing. I thought we need faster-than-exponential growth for the singularity …

  3. #3 laserboy
    February 23, 2010

    Yum Yum, I love word salad in the morning.

  4. #4 Stephan Hoyer
    February 23, 2010

    I was tempted, until I saw the real crazy part — the putative $25000 price tag. Even if they offer a number of full and partial scholarships as they claim I can’t see that attracting cash starved “top graduate students.”

  5. #5 Jonathan Vos Post
    February 23, 2010

    How much of the work is valid, and how much just a revenue stream for the tax-fraud Cult of Singularity, also used to sexually use interns? I have expert witnesses to all the implied claims here. I’d be so relieved if they had someone trustworthy such as Vernor Vinge as Dean of Faculty.

  6. #6 Geordie
    February 23, 2010

    Stephan: Seen the price of a Harvard MBA recently?

  7. #7 Pedro Moura Pinheiro
    February 24, 2010

    We do the same, but over beers. And you only pay the beers, even the wi-fi is free. :-P

  8. #8 Jonathan Vos Post
    February 24, 2010

    Someone (a full professor) defamed online by the Cult of Singularity, through the self-publishing autodidact Eliezer Yudkowsky who literally denied that he existed when he asked that they remove defamatory statements from a blog, and refused to verify his existence by checking with his university, or with his Physics and Quantum Computing and Finance papers on arXiv, emailed me to suggest: “I think they should do a joint venture with Maharishi International University, which is in Ames, Iowa.” Have you seen the loony stuff spewed by Eliezer Yudkowsky on the video “debate” with Scott Aaronson on Shtetl-Optimized?

  9. #9 Mike
    February 24, 2010

    Jonathan: SU is based at NASA Ames (under founding sponsorship of Google), and has no relation to the Singularity Institute, or to Yudkowsky.

  10. #10 Jonathan Vos Post
    February 27, 2010

    Thanks, Mike. I stand corrected.

    Excerpt from a novel manuscript on which I’ve written 55,000 words in the past 2 weeks:

    Los Alamos, 1958

    I went back to Ulam’s office. I couldn’t get out of my head what he’d said about Clarke’s Third Law, “if alien artifacts were discovered, even here on our home planet, may they not be recognizable as such?”

    “Stan,” I said, “what happens to civilizations when they get magical? I mean when they have sufficiently advanced technology?”

    “Funny you should bring that up,” he said. “I just had a conversation with John von Neumann about that. The talk centered on the ever accelerating progress of technology and changes in the mode of human life, which gives the appearance of approaching some essential singularity in the history of the race beyond which human affairs, as we know them, could not continue.”

    “Singularity, in the sense of a point at which an equation, or surface,” I asked, “blows up or becomes degenerate?”

    “Of course,” he said. “Isolated singularities may be classified as poles, essential singularities, logarithmic singularities, or removable singularities. Nonisolated singularities may arise as natural boundaries or branch cuts.”

    “You should know,” I joked, “because you’re a Pole.”

    “And you’re a degenerate,” he said. “At least my job here is secure — you know the lemma — Removable singularities are not poles.”

    The idea caught on, as we discussed it with others. Ulam told it to fellow Pole Jack Good. In 1965, I. J. Good first wrote of an “intelligence explosion.”

    [below data from

    Irving John (“I.J.”; “Jack) Good was a British statistician who worked as a cryptologist at Bletchley Park, with Alan Turing. Born Isadore Jacob Gudak to a Polish-Jewish family in London, he later anglicized his name to Irving John Good and signed his publications “I. J. Good.”

    What did he mean by “intelligence explosion?” He was suggesting that if machines even slightly surpassed human intellect, they could improve their own designs in ways unforeseen by their designers, and thus recursively augment themselves into far greater intelligences. The first such improvements might be tiny, but as the machine became more intelligent, it would become better at becoming more intelligent, which could lead to a cascade of self-improvements and a sudden breakthrough to superintelligence (or a singularity).

    This made him, after Ulam and von Neumann, an originator of the concept now known as “technological singularity,” and so Good served as consultant on supercomputers to Stanley Kubrick, director of the 1968 film 2001: A Space Odyssey. So the notion, in a sense, started with Sir Arthur C. Clarke, and looped around two Poles, and came back to him.

    Good’s Polish-Jewish father was a watchmaker, later managing and owning a successful upscale jewelry shop in London, and was, surprisingly, a notable Yiddish writer under the pen-name of Moshe Oved. He ensured that his son, Isadore Jacob Gudak, was educated at the Haberdashers’ Aske’s boys’ school in Hampstead, north London, where, Dan van der Vat writes, “Good effortlessly outpaced the mathematics curriculum.” That’s what my friends could do, effortlessly outpace mere mortals.

    Good studied mathematics at Jesus College, Cambridge, graduating in 1938 and then winning the coveted Smith’s Prize in 1940. He did research under G.H. Hardy, known as the best Mathematician in England, and the Russian Jew Abram Samoilovitch Besicovitch before moving to Bletchley Park in 1941 on completing his doctorate.

    On 27 May 1941, having just obtained his doctorate at Cambridge, Good walked into Hut 8, Bletchley’s facility for breaking German naval ciphers, for his first shift. This was the day that Britain’s Royal Navy destroyed the German battleship Bismarck after it had sunk the Royal Navy’s HMS Hood.