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The Lifeboat Foundation Guardian Award is annually bestowed upon a respected scientist or public figure who has warned of a future fraught with dangers and encouraged measures to prevent them.
The 2012 Lifeboat Foundation Guardian Award has been given to Jaan Tallinn in recognition of his long commitment to fighting existential risks. He has been a member of the Lifeboat Foundation advisory board since 2007, a top 10 donor of Lifeboat Foundation since 2007, a top 10 donor of the Singularity Institute for Artificial Intelligence since 2010, a speaker at the Singularity Summit since 2010, and is now cofounder of The Cambridge Project for Existential Risk which includes 2004 Guardian Award winner Sir Martin Rees.
Many scientists are concerned that developments in human technology may soon pose new, extinction-level risks to our species as a whole. Such dangers have been suggested from progress in AI, from developments in biotechnology and artificial life, from nanotechnology, and from possible extreme effects of anthropogenic climate change. The seriousness of these risks is difficult to assess, but that in itself seems a cause for concern, given how much is at stake. For a brief introduction to the issues in the case of AI, read Artificial intelligence — can we keep it in the box? by Huw Price and Jaan Tallinn.
The Cambridge Project for Existential Risk — a joint initiative between a philosopher, a scientist, and a software entrepreneur — begins with the conviction that these issues require a great deal more scientific investigation than they presently receive. Their aim is to establish within the University of Cambridge a multidisciplinary research centre dedicated to the study and mitigation of risks of this kind. They are convinced that there is nowhere on the planet better suited to house such a centre. Their goal is to steer a small fraction of Cambridge's great intellectual resources, and of the reputation built on its past and present scientific pre-eminence, to the task of ensuring that our own species has a long-term future. (In the process, they hope to make it a little more certain that we humans will be around to celebrate the University's own millennium, now less than two centuries hence.)
The Cambridge Project for Existential Risk will be developing a prospectus for a Cambridge-based Centre for the Study of Existential Risk in coming months, and welcome enquiries and offers of support.
Jaan Tallinn works on the overall strategy for Ambient Sound Investments (ASI), on top of researching and reviewing potential portfolio companies.
He is considered to be one of the foremost experts on P2P technologies, and together with Ahti and Priit worked out the core elements for Kazaa and Skype. He continues to be involved with Skype, where he's one of the lead system architects.
Jaan has been known to sketch potential solutions for teleportation on napkins. Voracious reading and home life make up the rest of his pastimes.
Jaan holds a degree in theoretical physics from the University of Tartu. Watch Jaan Tallinn on the Intelligence Stairway, TEDxProacademy — Jaan Tallinn, and Jaan Tallinn: Artificial Intelligence, Opportunities, Risks, and Approaches.
About Lifeboat Foundation
The Lifeboat Foundation is a nonprofit nongovernmental organization dedicated to encouraging scientific advancements while helping humanity survive existential risks and possible misuse of increasingly powerful technologies, including genetic engineering, nanotechnology, and robotics/AI, as we move towards the Singularity.
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