Suggest alternate names for the “Singularity Institute”

Once, a smart po­ten­tial sup­porter stum­bled upon the Sin­gu­lar­ity In­sti­tute’s (old) web­site and wanted to know if our mis­sion was some­thing to care about. So he sent our con­cise sum­mary to an AI re­searcher and asked if we were se­ri­ous. The AI re­searcher saw the word ‘Sin­gu­lar­ity’ and, ap­par­ently with­out read­ing our con­cise sum­mary, sent back a cri­tique of Ray Kurzweil’s “ac­cel­er­at­ing change” tech­nol­ogy curves. (Even though SI re­searchers tend to be Moore’s Law ag­nos­tics, and our con­cise sum­mary says noth­ing about ac­cel­er­at­ing change.)

Of course, the ‘sin­gu­lar­ity’ we’re talk­ing about at SI is in­tel­li­gence ex­plo­sion, not ac­cel­er­at­ing change, and in­tel­li­gence ex­plo­sion doesn’t de­pend on ac­cel­er­at­ing change. The term “sin­gu­lar­ity” used to mean in­tel­li­gence ex­plo­sion (or “the ar­rival of ma­chine su­per­in­tel­li­gence” or “an event hori­zon be­yond which we can’t pre­dict the fu­ture be­cause some­thing smarter than hu­mans is run­ning the show”). But with the suc­cess of The Sin­gu­lar­ity is Near in 2005, most peo­ple know “the sin­gu­lar­ity” as “ac­cel­er­at­ing change.”

How of­ten do we miss out on con­nect­ing to smart peo­ple be­cause they think we’re ar­gu­ing for Kurzweil’s curves? One friend in the U.K. told me he never uses the world “sin­gu­lar­ity” to talk about AI risk be­cause the peo­ple he knows thinks the “ac­cel­er­at­ing change” sin­gu­lar­ity is “a bit men­tal.”

LWers are likely to have at­tach­ments to the word ‘sin­gu­lar­ity,’ and the term does of­ten mean in­tel­li­gence ex­plo­sion in the tech­ni­cal liter­a­ture, but nei­ther of these is a strong rea­son to keep the word ‘sin­gu­lar­ity’ in the name of our AI Risk Re­duc­tion or­ga­ni­za­tion. If the ‘sin­gu­lar­ity’ term is keep­ing us away from many of the peo­ple we care most about reach­ing, maybe we should change it.

Here are some pos­si­ble al­ter­na­tives, with­out try­ing too hard:

  • The Cen­ter for AI Safety

  • The I.J. Good Institute

  • Benefi­cial Ar­chi­tec­tures Research

  • A.I. Im­pacts Research

We al­most cer­tainly won’t change our name within the next year, but it doesn’t hurt to start gath­er­ing names now and do some mar­ket test­ing. You were all very helpful in nam­ing “Ra­tion­al­ity Group”. (BTW, the win­ning name, “Cen­ter for Ap­plied Ra­tion­al­ity,” came from LWer beoShaf­fer.)

And, be­fore I am vil­ified by peo­ple who have as much pos­i­tive af­fect to­ward the name “Sin­gu­lar­ity In­sti­tute” as I do, let me note that this was not origi­nally my idea, but I do think it’s an idea worth tak­ing se­ri­ously enough to bother with some mar­ket test­ing.