Ive been in New York for the last two months, teaching at New York University (as I'll do in September-December for the next three years). There's been too much going on to report on in full, but two conferences are worth mentioning.
In early October I attended the Singularity Summit. The term "singularity" here means different things to different people, but the core idea is I.J. Good's idea of an "intelligence explosion": if we can create machines more intelligent than us, then they'll be able to create machines more intelligent than them, and there will be a rapid spiral to superintelligence. There were lots of interesting talks shedding light on this topic from many different directions.
The topic is often dismissed as science fiction, and is not much discussed within the academic mainstream. Still, I think there's good reason to take seriously the possibility that a singularity will occur one of these days. So it's worth giving serious attention to the associated practical and philosophical questions. In fact, it's a place where philosophical issues (concerning consciousness, personal identity, and ethics, for example) take on great practical concern.
In my talk I gave a brief philosophical analysis of the argument for an intelligence explosion, and explored various practical and philosophical questions about the consequences: How can we maximize the chances of a benign outcome? How we might upload into a post-singularity environment? Will the results of uploading be conscious? Will we survive the process? I see that a video of the talk is now available, and there are discussions of the talk on various blogs (see also more videos, more summit discussion, and my photos from the summit). Of course there is much more to say about the topic, and I plan to write up the talk as a more in-depth paper one of these days. The materials on the websites of the Singularity Institute and of Eliezer Yudkowsky are also worth checking out.
More recently, there was a terrific workshop on Action, Perception, and Consciousness at NYU this past weekend. My session involved a talk by Hakwan Lau on neurobiological and philosophical models of consciousness, with comments by Ned Block, David Rosenthal, and me. The session was filmed and will eventually be online as part of the second Online Consciousness Conference, early next year. In the meantime I've put a few photos from the workshop online.