Re: Singularity graphics

From: Eliezer S. Yudkowsky (
Date: Tue Oct 09 2001 - 14:52:07 MDT

Okay, here's what the Board has come up with so far.

1) A classic "handshake" graphic, with one of the hands human, and the
other hand consisting of ones and zeros. (It took us a lot longer than
Justin Corwin to come up with this idea - we were thinking in terms of
robotic hands at first, until Brian said that robotics were insufficiently
advanced and insufficiently abstract.) This graphic would symbolize
Friendly AI and is a candidate for the logo.

2) A sapling, acorn, or flower; composed of ones and zeroes, or
circuitry. This graphic would symbolize seed AI. It is not a candidate
for the logo, because if you see it without knowing what seed AI is, it
looks like we're a biotech company. It might also be harder to do in
black and white.

3) A star composed of ones and zeroes. We'd want to avoid a five-pointed
star or a six-pointed star, as those both have other connotations. So it
would be a four-pointed star of ones and zeroes, maybe with a lightburst
behind it. This would symbolize the Singularity and is a candidate for a
logo. I currently favor this, with my second choice being the Friendly AI
handshake. (I like to think that this provides three good images; star
for Singularity, handshake for Friendly AI, sapling for seed AI. I can
imagine putting all three on the back of a T-Shirt.)

4) The "helping hand" logo; a hand of ones and zeroes reaching down
toward a human hand, or pulling the human hand upward. (The Friendly AI
handshake puts the human hand and the AI hand on the same level.) This is
a candidate for the logo and is favored by Brian, since it combines both
the Friendly AI concept and the core idea of a positive Singularity. I
agree, but I don't think this can be the first thing people see - the logo
that goes on the front page, future letterhead and envelopes, and so on -
because it's a conclusion that needs more support. In other words, to put
the AI hand on a higher level than a human hand, the person needs to have
previously read a good argument for the conclusion that an AI can reach
transhuman ability. Otherwise you appear to be postulating a transhuman
agency without visible support for that conclusion, which has very
negative memetic connotations.

5) The current logo - just keep it. Sabine favors this.

Other considerations:
A)  We would very strongly prefer to avoid any graphics with religious or
cultish connotations.  My idea of a robot with a halo to symbolize
Friendly AI was instantly and correctly shot down by Brian and Sabine. 
(In apology for even suggesting the idea, I'd like to say that since I
didn't have a Christian upbringing, I tend to think of Christian imagery
as humorous - I have to think to remember how much some people dislike
B)  (The following observation is not original.)  There's a problem with
the human visual cortex - it thinks that exponential curves are ugly. 
Parabolas and so on are fine, but exponential curves aren't found in
nature, and they look disharmonious to the human eye.  This is something
to be borne in mind.
C)  An exponential curve also looks unbalanced on a canvas - it occupies
the lower left and top right, but leaves other parts blank.  Besides
which, despite the usual symbolism, it's just biological evolution and
human culture that are exponential - not the Singularity.
D)  As already mentioned, we would like to be able to do a black-and-white
version for use on letterhead, possibly even envelopes, and so on.  A
T-Shirt is not out of the question.  Again, this means that the logo
should communicate as much as possible, and look interesting, and be
memorable, even in the absence of any prior knowledge about the
Singularity Institute.
E)  Our thanks to the people who have already sketched out sample images! 
We should have passed this issue on to SL4 long ago.
--              --              --              --              -- 
Eliezer S. Yudkowsky                 
Research Fellow, Singularity Institute for Artificial Intelligence

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