JOIN: Christian Rovner

From: Christian Rovner (
Date: Fri Sep 06 2002 - 15:55:05 MDT

Hello everybody,

Last Wednesday, in #SL4's monthly chat, I've been introduced by Eliezer as the
new SIAI's Volunteer Coordinator. So I guess it's about time to make this JOIN
post - I have lurked around for two months already, but I'm still a bit
impressed by the extremely high quality of some people's posts. Well, I'll do
my best.

You may call me Chris. I'm 30 years old, from Buenos Aires, Argentina. I'm
supposed to be an Electronic Engineer - a career where you learn a bit of
everything related to science & technology, but you end up knowing nothing.
And I never worked for any tech corporation. Instead, I kept on studying:
mostly Philosophy - where you better learn nothing, because you should end up
*knowing* you know nothing. I always embraced the ascetic ideal: try to keep
my life free of unessencial stuff. I don't care about social status or
self-image. I do care about doing the right thing - not that I know what *is*
the right thing, but I definitely want to find out.

Since I was in college I've been aware that my life was ruled by this vague
compulsion of *maximizing something*. Of course I had not the slightest idea
of what that "something" could be, but still. This attitude made me a very
eclectic man, a sort of living Montecarlo algorithm. Roughly, I've become an
amateur philosopher (a somewhat redundant expression), an amateur computer
programmer, and an amateur musician. I also did some graphic design - for
money. And I recently had a negative experience as an entrepreneur - dishonest

Artificial Intelligence, among Philosophy and science-fiction, has been one of
my main sources of intellectual pleasure. I was not a serious researcher at
all, I just tried to stay in touch with it, occasionally reading books and
papers, and playing with Prolog or neural networks. Fortunately, I learned
enough as to understand Eliezer's theoretical works, and to notice how
radically innovative and promising they are. (I'm curious about the other Real
AI approaches; I just couldn't read them yet.)

I believe the Singularity is near and that I can make a substantial positive
contribution to the Singularitarian cause, so I decided to work full-time as a
volunteer - for the rest of my human life. My family is willing to support me,
since my spending is almost negligible and my work - who knows - might
literally make everybody's dreams come true.


The following is a fairly skippable self-mini-interview that I just did for
the SL4 list. If you're short of time, just abort reading. (You have been

"So, how/when did you know about the Singularity?"

I'd say it was a combination of curiosity and luck. Four months ago I was very
excited about the Semantic Web - IMO, it might allow some kind of world-wide
radical social change (but that's another story). Nosing around SW-related
stuff, I incidentally bumped into the SIAI's home page... Woah... The world
has been upside-up since then.

"And then what?"

Well, after a week of wild enthusiasm, I began to notice that something went
wrong: no matter how much effort and care I put into explaining the
Singularity to the people I knew, nobody would really give a damn about it.
They would just refuse to look at it!

"I guess we'll have to wait until they see it on TV."

Yes. It's very sad, actually. There are probably thousands of people who could
be *very* useful to the Singularity, if they only had the chance to know what
it is. I got to do something about it.

"Would you briefly describe your main influences?"

When I was a kid I was a Jules Verne addict. In my teens, Carl Sagan and Isaac
Asimov replaced my Catholic faith with a scientific world-view. I also read a
lot of Asimov's science-fiction. Later, Herman Hesse and Jiddu Krishnamurti
gave me a kind of spiritualist view of life, centered in self-knowledge and
harmony with cosmos. A few years ago, a friend of mine got me into Richard
Stallman's Free Software Movement. His pragmatic altruism and hacker ethic
made him a role model for me. Michel Houellebecq wrote The Elementary
Particles, which beautifully shows how "intelligence is the essence of
revolution". Last year I discovered Evolutionary Psychology and Memetics. And
then the Principia Cybernetica web-site and the Global Brain theory. Eliezer
Yudkowsky did the rest.

(To the reader) "Thank you for your time and attention."


-- Christian Rovner

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