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$295 bounty for new Singularity Institute logo design (crowd-sourced competition)

10 Post author: Louie 28 January 2011 06:01AM

If you have graphic design experience, check out the on-going logo design competition at 99designs for the Singularity Institute. There are still 6 days left to enter and be eligible to win the $295 prize if your design is selected. Tell your friends with graphic design experience too. There are very few submissions currently.

Note: This is a blind contest. Designers can only see their own entries. All designs will be revealed when the contest ends.

If you're interested at getting a peek at the designs, they will be online after the competition is over.  This is standard practice in 99designs contests to prevent designers from contaminating each other and having all the designs drift in a certain direction.

Comments (91)

Comment author: ata 28 January 2011 08:31:22AM *  7 points [-]

Is the "for Artificial Intelligence" still going to be part of the name (as of this logo redesign)? I recall Will said they might be dropping that.

Comment author: Kevin 28 January 2011 11:57:17AM *  4 points [-]

As far as I know it's being dropped in practice, but I don't think it is going as far as a legal name change and it might take a while for the change to propagate.

Comment author: false_vacuum 31 January 2011 01:29:31PM 0 points [-]

The contest announcement only refers to SI(AI) as 'the Singularity Institute', so clearly the prepositional phrase is foredoomed to wither on the vine. This seems a reasonable decision, all things considered; the shorter name seems higher-status to me.

Comment author: Vladimir_Golovin 28 January 2011 11:43:44PM *  9 points [-]

Why $295? The 95 trick is supposed to reduce the perceived amount, but this is a bounty, not a price, so it doesn't make any sense. $300 would be a better idea.

Comment author: HonoreDB 29 January 2011 08:25:19PM 1 point [-]

The page now says $200, although I wouldn't have thought one could decrease the bounty mid-competition.

Comment author: jimrandomh 29 January 2011 10:08:24PM *  3 points [-]

The 99designs page says it's a "bronze logo design package purchased for $295 (including 99designs fees)". However, searching that page and 99designs' site, I can't find the actual prize amount or 99designs' fee structure listed anywhere, so I assume that the $95 discrepancy is their cut. This seems rather dishonest on 99designs' part - it's quite reasonable for someone seeing that page to think that $295 was the actual amount of the prize.

Comment author: Vladimir_Nesov 29 January 2011 09:57:20AM *  0 points [-]

It's also the cost to the contest holder, so there's a tradeoff ("Bronze Logo Design package purchased for $295").

Comment author: endoself 29 January 2011 03:39:46PM 0 points [-]

The SIAI is not trying to make it seem cheaper to themselves.

Comment author: Vladimir_Nesov 29 January 2011 03:43:51PM *  0 points [-]

Standard selection is between $295, $495 and $695, but they indeed could set an arbitrary custom price, which it looks like they should have.

Comment author: Jack 28 January 2011 06:32:15AM 4 points [-]

What happened to the rumored discussion of a name change?

Comment author: XiXiDu 28 January 2011 01:06:56PM *  5 points [-]

Any suggestions?

  • Institute for Artificial Intelligence
  • Institute for Artificial Ethics
  • Institute of Formal Ethics
  • Institute for AI Ethics
  • Institute for the Conservation of Friendliness
  • The Friendliness Institute

Any of those names would increase its esteem dramatically. Right now you have to take the Singularity hurdle before you can start talking about risks from AI seriously.

Comment author: [deleted] 28 January 2011 01:45:44PM 3 points [-]

Right now you have to take the Singularity hurdle before you can start talking about risks from AI seriously.

That's definitely true, but it would be dishonest if SIAI wasn't up front about its views on the Singularity.

Comment author: ata 28 January 2011 08:19:30PM *  4 points [-]

That's definitely true, but it would be dishonest if SIAI wasn't up front about its views on the Singularity.

There's enough alternative terminology (intelligence explosion, hard takeoff, etc.) that they could (and often do (e.g. the AI Risk paper)) manage to talk about the Singularity just fine without talking about the "Singularity". I don't think anyone's suggesting that they not be upfront about their actual positions on those issues; some people would just prefer to avoid the "Singularity" terminology now that it's turned into a bloated mutant futurist meme complex. (So really, the name change suggestions are about being less accidentally misleading; they wouldn't have to spend as much time explaining that they aren't Ray Kurzweil. And hey, if they abandon the "artificial intelligence" terminology, maybe they won't have to spend so much time explaining that they aren't building Skynet or Terminators or HAL or the Matrix, either! ..but probably not.)

Comment author: Perplexed 28 January 2011 02:48:38PM *  2 points [-]

I have the impression that the Singularity Summit and other association with "big-tent" singularitarianism provide some PR and fund-raising advantages. Even if SIAI research focuses on AI and Friendliness, Thiel probably prefers that they remain on speaking terms with futurism and transhumanism more generally.

Comment author: XiXiDu 28 January 2011 04:42:24PM *  4 points [-]

Big money is probably the the best argument. But you also have to ask who you need to convince to mitigate risks from AI, e.g. who you want to implement your formal definition of friendliness. The answer to this question is likely not Thiel but some AGI researcher working on an academic project, some big corporation like IBM or a government. In most cases having Singularity in your name or talking about transhumanism will make them delete your e-Mails. This has nothing to do with being dishonest but social engineering, being aware of public perception and using an euphemism if possible.

Comment author: Perplexed 28 January 2011 05:25:17PM 8 points [-]

If the SI were known for two things - both organizing the annual Singularity Summit and also sponsoring a peer-reviewed Electronic Journal of Friendly AI Research (EJFAIR), then I suspect it would have the best of both worlds. Neither activity is so disreputable as to tarnish the good reputation derived from the other (within relevant subcultures).

To my mind, the real threat to SI (or SIAI) credibility is the perception that it is an isolated intellectual subculture, speaking only to itself, and not engaged in an open and critical dialog with other AI researchers. Choosing the right euphemism for use in the name of the organization is not the most important task in this PR battle.

Comment author: XiXiDu 28 January 2011 08:18:35PM *  1 point [-]

Choosing the right euphemism for use in the name of the organization is not the most important task in this PR battle.

Absolutely, I was just bringing it up because Jack asked about a possible name change. It may also be the case that the term Singularity (technological) will gain general acceptance in future, as current progress towards an academic analysis suggests.

Comment author: timtyler 29 January 2011 02:04:20AM *  -1 points [-]

It may also be the case that the term Singularity (technological) will gain general acceptance in future, as current progress towards an academic analysis suggests.

It would be unprecedented terminology.

Evolutionary changes have been called "revolutions" (industrial), "explosions" (cambrian), "takeovers" (genetic), "catastrophe" (oxygen), or "genesis" (abiogenesis).

There aren't any "singularities" on record, though.

I prefer "Technology Explosion". I think it is more descriptive and more accurate. There are also the terms "Digital Revolution" and "Memesis" - which I approve of.

Comment author: TheOtherDave 29 January 2011 02:24:52AM 3 points [-]

Well, presumably if there was more than one of it, it wouldn't be a singularity.

Comment author: timtyler 29 January 2011 11:35:52AM *  3 points [-]

Well, presumably if there was more than one of it, it wouldn't be a singularity.

Note that that isn't what the people who use the "singularity" term to describe the hypothetical discontinity in the middle of black holes seem to think.

Comment author: Jack 28 January 2011 06:00:24PM 1 point [-]

I mean, yeah, you call the organization whatever the hell Thiel wants you to call it. But I don't see in particular why those connections couldn't be maintained alongside a name change that made the organization more palatable to non-futurists.

Comment author: Jack 28 January 2011 05:57:21PM *  4 points [-]

Center for Machine Ethics (or Institute for...)

Institute for Reducing Existential Risk

Center for the Reduction of Existential Risk

"Machine ethics" is, as far as I can tell, the actual name in the literature (insofar as there is any). I also really like how it sounds. The general "Reducing existential risk" angle probably requires the organization to get broader in it's focus and focus on other risks (or else be seen as deceptive). But that might not be a bad thing and it may be the way to getting a lot more money and being seen as a mainstream charity.

Also I'm not sure how sold I am on "Institute" it's got a 'we're pretending we're associated with academia' feel to it. I think "Center for..." sounds a lot better.

Comment author: Normal_Anomaly 28 January 2011 08:22:53PM 3 points [-]

I like "Center for Machine Ethics".

Also I'm not sure how sold I am on "Institute" it's got a 'we're pretending we're associated with academia' feel to it. I think "Center for..." sounds a lot better.

That's a good point. "Center for ..." sounds more like a non-profit and less like an ivory tower.

Comment author: ata 28 January 2011 08:35:35PM 2 points [-]

I'm not sure about including "Machine Ethics"; given that there already is such a field, and given that (AFAICT) it does not generally involve precision-grade philosophy suitable for (let alone intended for) the construction of a Benevolent Really Powerful Optimization Process, it may be misleading to appropriate that name.

I do like the suggestion to use "Center for...", though "Institute" doesn't necessarily sound like a connection to academia is being implied (at least to me — do you think this is incorrect?).

Comment author: Jack 28 January 2011 08:56:20PM 1 point [-]

I'm not sure about including "Machine Ethics"; given that there already is such a field, and given that (AFAICT) it does not generally involve precision-grade philosophy suitable for (let alone intended for) the construction of a Benevolent Really Powerful Optimization Process, it may be misleading to appropriate that name.

Hard to say. I feel like the Friendliness question is a natural fit for the field- in fact it seems plausible to me that it is the machine ethics equivalent of unified field theory. You're right, though that the field mostly deals with minor, less rigorous issues. I don't know- my criterion for the name issue is basically "Could I tell family and friends I was working at a place with this name without being laughed at or getting strange looks."

I do like the suggestion to use "Center for...", though "Institute" doesn't necessarily sound like a connection to academia is being implied (at least to me — do you think this is incorrect?).

Not strictly speaking, no. Center is less pretentious, though.

Center for Technology and Existential Risk?

Comment author: timtyler 29 January 2011 01:55:26AM 0 points [-]

"Machine ethics" is, as far as I can tell, the actual name in the literature

"Machine morality" has better alliteration.

Comment author: NancyLebovitz 28 January 2011 05:50:18PM 4 points [-]

Institute for AI Ethics strikes me as the clearest of the bunch.

Would The Institute for AI Friendliness come off as too weird?

Comment author: Normal_Anomaly 28 January 2011 08:21:33PM 4 points [-]

Would The Institute for AI Friendliness come off as too weird?

I think it would, yes.

Comment author: nazgulnarsil 28 January 2011 01:37:55PM 1 point [-]

I like institute of formal ethics.

Comment author: ata 28 January 2011 08:28:08PM *  0 points [-]

I like "Formal Ethics" or "AI Ethics". Including "Friendliness" in the name would probably be a mistake.

I was thinking something like "the Optimization Institute", or something else with the word "optimization" — since it's relevant to their research (and distinguishes their focus on precisely-understood optimization algorithms from other AGI projects that focus on often-nebulous and often-anthropomorphic views of intelligence), and doesn't have significant preexisting connotations, while still hopefully sounding a bit intriguing to people who haven't heard of it before.

Comment author: Louie 28 January 2011 04:22:49PM 2 points [-]

Am I the only one who finds it surreal how poorly rumors about the Singularity Institute correspond to reality?

Comment author: Jack 28 January 2011 10:03:44PM 3 points [-]

Are the relevant powers not at all interested in a name change?

Comment author: Vaniver 31 January 2011 03:01:50PM 1 point [-]

Am I the only one who finds it surreal how poorly rumors about the Singularity Institute correspond to reality?

I find it entirely predictable. The SI does not seem to be comprised of PR wizards, and communication is hard.

Comment author: Normal_Anomaly 28 January 2011 08:25:41PM *  1 point [-]

What rumors are you talking about? The name change, or "Skynet or Terminators or HAL or the Matrix" or some other thing? (Edited to remove erroneous quote)

Comment author: false_vacuum 31 January 2011 01:46:05PM 1 point [-]

Has SI really got such a poor image that they'd want to consider abandoning their identity? I am certainly unaware of any such problem (but then, I don't pay attention to a lot of things...).

Comment author: Raemon 28 January 2011 04:34:41PM 4 points [-]

As an artist, I have some issues with crowdsourcing labor. Those issues are diminished a bit when we're doing it for charity, where money isn't our primary motivator. But "contest" type jobs are becoming more and more common as a general practice and they devalue our labor. For it to actually be in our best interest, the contest prize needs to be proportional to the risk of not getting anything, but it almost always is, in fact, lower than the going rate. $295 is in the ballpark of a standard fee, but still on the lower end of the spectrum

I don't have a lot of logo design experience so I'm not personally invested in this particular job, but I'd rather the SIAI ask for samples of people's work, pick a candidate with a proven track record and just hire them to do the job. Grocery stores don't have contests to see who's the best cashier and only pay the best one, nor do law firms or corporations hiring a CEO.

Comment author: Alicorn 28 January 2011 04:45:41PM *  11 points [-]

Insider info: This was tried. There have been e-mails going around with many many logos by a hired artist attached to them. There is approximately zero consensus and most people aren't happy with any of the logos.

Comment author: false_vacuum 31 January 2011 01:34:09PM 0 points [-]

I for one would get some utility from any further information about what sorts of designs were rejected and why. I've been working on SI logos for much of the last two days, but have no way to guess if I'm on the right track (other than that I like them, of course).

Comment author: timtyler 28 January 2011 09:44:23PM *  4 points [-]

That crowd-sourced prizes attract reasonable quality entrants at low cost is part of their attraction to those funding them.

Complaining that they are low cost seems fruitless. Perhaps argue that the results are bad for the money invested - if you think there is evidence for that. I don't think there is much evidence for that, though - prizes produce competitive results. In this case there have been 20 designs submitted already. Update: make that 50 designs!

Comment author: Raemon 30 January 2011 02:17:14AM *  2 points [-]

I'm working on a lengthy essay discussing this. It may not be relevant anymore by the time it's done, and might not really be appropriate for less wrong outside of replying to this specific post. But the basic summary is:

  • Yes, for the immediate future, a contest with a $300 prize is probably going to be more useful to you than trying to hire an artist for $300.

  • What you have to realize is that when you have a $300 contest with 20 participants, the actual financial payoff to the participants is essentially $15. The amount of time it takes to make a good logo is variable, depending on whether you get a flash of insight and do the whole thing in 15 minutes or take several hours trying various ideas. But essentially, on average, you are paying less than minimum wage for highly skilled labor. Doing a good job requires not only years of work, but studying design and branding principles that usually require a college education to understand and put into practice.

I don't actually know whether it's in your (or any other client's) long term interest to do this. We're dealing with a complex system here with a lot of potential long term side effects. People respond to contests irrationally, and it's entirely possible that they will continue to do so indefinitely and the payoff will always be worthwhile. But at least keep in the back of your head that what you're actually paying is a few dollars an hour, and the success you get is dependent (at best) on young hobbyists who are happy to do the work anyway, and (at worst) widespread irrationality and poor math skills among the general population.

(Note: I'm specifically talking about contest-labor. There are other forms of crowd-sourcing that I'm less concerned about.)

  • Assigning $300 to your logo budget might be insufficient, period. I don't know enough about SIAI's marketing history to really judge one way or the other. The website design looks pretty solid. But I've seen several clients approach marketing in a piecemeal way that a) isn't efficient, b) misunderstands marketing as a whole. And whenever I see an advertisement for contest labor I'm reminded of a few related ways that clients approach art badly. This issue is the part that's most relevant for SIAI's consideration, but also the most complicated and I need to do more research before I'm confident enough of my assertions.

In the meantime, I'm also reminded of this discussion item about branding biodiversity. The philosophy behind that is definitely relevant here.

Comment author: timtyler 30 January 2011 08:57:44AM *  0 points [-]

I think there must be a lot of people who would like to work in their own time over the internet. I don't know if they are schoolkids, housewifes, or workers from the third world, but - whoever they are - there seem to be a lot of them. What there aren't enough of are enough opportunities to satisfy them all. If you look at some of the "hire an expert" sites, the prices seem pretty awful there as well - e.g.: http://www.scriptlance.com/

It does appear that prizes are good motivators - in comparison with a process involving screening applicants and awarding one of them the contract. Perhaps it is irrationality. Perhaps people would rather be doing their preferred kind of work - rather than attending interviews and putting together pitches. Maybe they are learning. Maybe they are padding their portfolio.

Whatever it is, prizes seem to me to be in demand - and so we can expect more prizes, until the demand for them is saturated.

There are three primary benefits of well constructed prizes and media savvy global competitions: they are a high-leverage and efficient investment, a powerful innovation strategy, and an effective change strategy.

Comment author: Raemon 30 January 2011 10:28:57PM *  1 point [-]

I don't have a problem with the idea of scriptlance (assuming I'm understanding the site correctly). The internet drastically increases competition and that'll certainly drive prices down, but that's not inherently bad. I don't think there's anything magical about the traditional going rate for artwork, and having a market that caters to those with lower budgets is fine. The bids I'm seeing are pretty low, but they look like they're translating into something that you could actually live on. (Rough guesstimate is that they turn out to be around $10-15/hour for the lower end projects, as opposed to the $2-3/hour that contest labor gives you)

From the client perspective, there may be some quality dropoff to consider, but it looks like the site at least gives you some tools to analyze that. I notice a few of the jobs have a bunch of reasonable bids around the client's budget, and then a lowball bid. If those lowball bids tend towards lower quality, you still have a range of choices and might deliberately choose something more expensive if you think it's worth it.

I suspect the actual problem is a lack of a good "middle tier" option. There are definite benefits to having a long term relationship with an artist who understands your vision and can competently execute it. Websites that divide up labor into little outsource chunks will have a harder time accomplishing that. I know that from the client perspective, finding an artist who is worth having that relationship can be frustrating. The artists who are likely to be worthwhile also tend to command expensive rates, so if you miss you'll be wasting a lot of time and money. I don't know what the solution there is but I do think it's a problem.

As for the X-Prize: I see a categorical difference between contest-labor and actual contests. The X-Prize gives you actual prestige and publicity. In a real contest, even being runner-up can result in publicity that can benefit you and lead to new employment. They also usually provide rewards that are greater than normal payment would be. (I don't know how valuable the labor required for winning the X-Prize is, but $10 million sounds like a lot of money to me).

Low budget contest-labor, on the other hand, doesn't give you any special publicity, and can actually harm your prestige depending on the circumstances, since it has a stigma among professional artists and sends a message to other potential employers that you're willing to work for scraps. An important skill for young artists to develop is to communicate the value of their work so that employers don't take advantage of them (often unintentionally), leading to a cycle of frustration and a day job at WalMart. Contest labor sends the opposite message.

Comment author: TheOtherDave 28 January 2011 04:51:03PM 4 points [-]

OTOH, I don't know very many people who ring up grocery purchases or manage corporations or law firms as a hobby, whereas I know many people who produce art that way.

No doubt professional artists with specific talents/training/experience in logo design produce a much higher-quality product than hobbyists do, of course, and do best not to participate in these sorts of contests at all. Even if it's for charity, presumably a professional artist who can command higher fees does better to spend their time on better-paying contracts and donating the money instead of donating their time.

But if a client decides to go with a lower-quality cheaper product (and save themselves the effort of trying to evaluate ahead of time which artists would do the best job on their particular project), what's wrong with that? There are lots of areas where I forego premium products/services because I don't feel the need for the benefits they offer.

Admittedly, perhaps clients who crowdsource are insufficiently aware of the additional value they'd receive from a contracted professional, in which case it sounds like a marketing effort is in order.

Comment author: Raemon 28 January 2011 06:54:51PM *  2 points [-]

I think your points are good ones. I would note though, that:

Even if it's for charity, presumably a professional artist who can command higher fees does better to spend their time on better-paying contracts and donating the money instead of donating their time.

isn't necessarily true when the thing they are donating is their professional work. The reason it's better to hire a good professional is that the professional is going to understand things about design and communication better than the person trying to get the logo designed, including things like how to craft an overarching brand that sends a unified message rather than a single cool looking logo.

I realize it's hard to tell how good a professional is though, and I don't have any advice on that.

Comment author: Costanza 28 January 2011 05:38:25PM 0 points [-]

I don't know very many people who ring up grocery purchases or manage corporations or law firms as a hobby,

Not a "law firm" exactly, but the prosecutor's office in Long Beach, California is looking for volunteers to prosecute criminals for free. This economy is rough.

Comment author: TheOtherDave 28 January 2011 05:43:40PM 1 point [-]

Pro bono legal work (not in any way affiliated with U2) predates the current economic downturn.

Comment author: Louie 29 January 2011 06:25:12AM 2 points [-]

Don't most people work pro bono as defense attorneys or for non-profits trying to fight for some cause? I've never heard for a lawyer volunteering as a prosecutor.

Comment author: Costanza 29 January 2011 04:14:17PM 1 point [-]

You're right. Traditional pro bono work generally is undertaken on behalf of parties who are unable to pay steep legal fees, or else in order to advance civil rights or some similar purpose.

Prosecuting low-level crimes is considered one of the ordinary functions of government, or at least it has been until now.

Comment author: TheOtherDave 29 January 2011 04:41:51PM 1 point [-]

There are two implications here I'm not entirely certain of.

The first is that enforcing laws is not a "similar purpose" as above.

The second is that the government soliciting volunteers to perform a task constitutes no longer considering that task a function of government.

Comment author: Costanza 29 January 2011 05:20:10PM 0 points [-]

In the modern context, I don't think there's necessarily a principled distinction. The Long Beach city government is probably being pretty smart. Still, in a historical context, this is a big change. In the English-speaking world, standing national armies are relatively new, and government-paid firefighters and police forces are even newer. But employees of the state (or the king) have been prosecuting crimes since (checking Wikipedia)...at least 1243 .

Comment author: TheOtherDave 29 January 2011 03:14:09PM 0 points [-]

Yeah, that's my impression as well. Then again, most of what I "know" about the actual practice of law I learned from television shows, so I don't take it too seriously.

Comment author: Vaniver 31 January 2011 03:33:42PM 3 points [-]

Your enemy is not the client; your enemy is other artists. They're the ones glutting the market and driving the prices down.

The typical strategy for labor is to unionize to exclude competition, but I don't see that ever working out for artists. It's too difficult to fight scabs, and very few people go into art because they always wanted to own their own small business (and yet, they often find that's what art is), so the level of business sense seems to be lower than most fields.

Of my favorite artists, most of them work for $10 an hour or less most of the time. I don't know the exact numbers for the pair that is at the top of their field, but I put p=.99 that together they're pulling in less than $100k and put p=.8 that, combined, they're working at least 80 hours a week. That is to say, I'm fairly certain that they're working for less than $25 an hour, despite being a fantastic combination of talent and experience. With art/fiction, you are a success if you manage to pay the bills with just your creative work. The reasons for that are pretty deep, and so unfortunately are hard to change.

Comment author: Raemon 31 January 2011 04:36:48PM *  1 point [-]

It does suck that the internet means I have to compete with thousands (millions?) of people across the globe. And you're right, that's not the client's fault. New, cheaper technology makes it easier and easier to become an artist who can at least put together something decent. But I recognize that that's just the economic reality.

The reason I'm so vocally opposed to contest-labor, and why I think artists should show solidarity whenever possible against it, is that it's dishonest. Yes, technically all the rules are there in writing. But people see a payment tag of $300 on 99artists and think it means a payment of $300, when what it really means is about $10 (if you know you're genuinely in the top bracket of talent, maybe it's closer to $25. Dunno). Even if you know that it technically means $10, you have to constantly remind yourself of it. And that's a wage that you seriously cannot live off. We may not be able to unionize to keep wages at $25/hour, but we should at least be able to unionize to prevent wages from becoming $.50/hour. Sites like Scriptlance, on the other hand, might drive rates down to $100 for a logo. But at least $100 actually means $100. I'm fine with that.

It's been a while since I emphasized this point, so it's worth repeating: I'm not actually opposed to SIAI doing this. When you're donating time to charity, you're not trying to make a living, you're just donating time. That's fine. But because it also reinforces the image of contest-labor = reasonable, and because this is a blog that is specifically dedicated to helping people make more rational decisions about economic utility, I think it's important to emphasize that this is not a legitimate way for artists to earn money.

Comment author: Vaniver 01 February 2011 03:28:15AM 0 points [-]

But because it also reinforces the image of contest-labor = reasonable, and because this is a blog that is specifically dedicated to helping people make more rational decisions about economic utility, I think it's important to emphasize that this is not a legitimate way for artists to earn money.

I agree that contest labor is a bad idea for artists, which is why I voted you up. But I'm not sure it's a bad thing for SIAI to be using contest labor. If you're hiring, it's oftentimes the rational thing to do. Prizes for creative work are also seen favorably by economists (particularly Hanson), and so promoting them may be worth it even if a subset of creative professionals responds irrationally.

Comment author: Raemon 01 February 2011 03:45:58AM *  0 points [-]

But I'm not sure it's a bad thing for SIAI to be using contest labor.

My point wasn't that it's a bad thing for SIAI to do, but that I felt that if SIAI is going to do it, it's important to discuss the issue from an artist's perspective as well. Without that discussion, the contest encourages both businesses and artists to participate in contest-labor. And while it may be rational to try and get as much free stuff as possible, it's not rational to give away free stuff. Less Wrong shouldn't be encouraging people to do irrational things.

Edit: in case it's still unclear, I'm talking about Less Wrong encouraging (by omission of a more involved discussion) artists to participate in contests that are NOT charity oriented.

Comment author: Raemon 01 February 2011 06:39:24PM 0 points [-]

I also think it's somewhat shaky to encourage people (clients) to do things that are only rational because they make it easy to take advantage of people's irrationality. I wouldn't say it's wrong per se, but it's something that's cause me to pause and evaluate the surrounding issues.

Comment author: false_vacuum 31 January 2011 01:58:41PM 2 points [-]

For my part, I'm delighted to have the opportunity to try and create some distinctive imagery for SI. I've been fortunate enough to have what I think are some good ideas. And now I can be confident that SI will have a logo at least as good as the one I designed! Also, I'm using this as the perfect excuse to finally learn how to use Inkscape; that will be sufficient remuneration for my efforts. (I vaguely agree with the general point about contests tending to devalue labour, though.)

Comment author: false_vacuum 03 February 2011 10:03:50PM 1 point [-]

Who's the guy standing behind the podium in singinst.org's banner image? He's missing his torso. I never looked at that picture very closely until now (I wanted to see how it would look with one of my logos on it).

Comment author: false_vacuum 02 February 2011 02:22:54AM *  1 point [-]

Unfortunately, it's not easy to come up with simple images that convey such concepts as the Vastness of mind design space (or, for that matter, Vastness), the potentiality of intelligence explosion, the dangers of Really Powerful Optimising Processes, and [the plausibility of] the Hard Takeoff scenario. So, all the imagery I've devised so far has been text-based. ...I wonder if anyone else submitting designs even reads LW. I wonder if anyone who doesn't read LW could possibly produce anything suitable. I wonder why the contest announcement doesn't link to or even mention the address of any of singinst's websites. If EY, Vassar, or anyone would care to make any comment at all on these matters, or better yet on what they're looking for (or even what they're not looking for), I'd really appreciate it, and it might help. Even if not, well, maybe inspiration will strike in the next 24 hours...

Comment author: HonoreDB 02 February 2011 02:41:06AM *  0 points [-]

I looked through the submissions yesterday, after submitting my own idea (a locked door is an invitation!) and almost none of them seem to evoke more than just "technology-oriented." They also almost all leave off the "the," which seemed odd to me, but that is what the brief seems to ask for.

There is exactly one simple image that represents intelligence explosion to me, and I submitted a logo with it. I'm very much not a pro, though, so I hope somebody else comes up with the same idea and executes it better.

I don't think the logo really needs to be "suitable" in that sense, really. A simple text logo plus a cool-looking abstract image, which almost all of the designs are, should do fine.

Comment author: false_vacuum 03 February 2011 07:57:07AM 0 points [-]

I still haven't figured out which one it is. Updating my assessment of my ability to see the obvious.

Comment author: saturn 03 February 2011 08:07:13AM 2 points [-]

I think it's the one with the exponential curve.

Comment author: HonoreDB 03 February 2011 04:01:19PM 1 point [-]

Yup.

Comment author: false_vacuum 03 February 2011 08:49:09AM 0 points [-]

Hmm. Well, that isn't any more singular than my sigmoid.

Comment author: false_vacuum 02 February 2011 03:18:10AM 0 points [-]

Hmm. I hope SI isn't somehow obligated to use one of the designs submitted, if none of them are good enough, or if, as you suggest, there is a best design which could be improved. Presumably the winning designer could be asked to do further work; but what about e.g. SI hiring an artist to improve the winning design?

Also, good point about the 'the'. I'd better make a 'The Singularity Institute' logo too, just in case. (The closest thing to a logo they have on their website now has a 'the'.)

Maybe just knowing there is such an image will help me think of it. Or maybe it will inspire me to attempt to duplicate your exploit.

Comment author: false_vacuum 03 February 2011 03:58:50AM 0 points [-]
Comment author: Liron 29 January 2011 05:27:58PM *  1 point [-]

I highly recommend sending private messages to 200 designers on 99designs saying you like their work (best if you link to something they've done that you like) and would love for them to participate in your logo contest.

I think painstakingly sending invites and paying a lot are the two biggest factors of 99designs success.

Comment author: false_vacuum 08 February 2011 11:32:23PM 0 points [-]

What do people think of the designs? My favorites are the SI-as-galaxy icons by Marah (especially #125) and the gravitational-singularity-as-wings ones by strelac (especially #124) --and my lettering and SI-sigil, of course. I'm not sure the semiotics of using a gravitational singularity in the logo are entirely advisable, though. I also like #109, but only because it's kind of pretty.

Comment author: HonoreDB 12 February 2011 08:02:21AM 0 points [-]

the gravitational-singularity-as-wings ones by strelac

Those are my favorites.

Comment author: false_vacuum 03 February 2011 07:48:08AM 0 points [-]

Here are links to a few more of my logos, in case anyone wants to see a more representative sample.

This is a 3D-reverse-video version of the 'insignia' or 'sigil': http://img511.imageshack.us/img511/8684/sireversebrightmetal.png

This is my original lettering, which I was advised no one else would like: http://img209.imageshack.us/img209/1094/singularityinstitutemet.png

And here's a 'retro' one featuring the SI's 'old' name, with a rather subtle visual gag (is it subtler than the one in my last comment?): http://img200.imageshack.us/img200/1769/singularityinstitutefor.png

Needless to say, I can do any of the layouts with any of the letter forms and any of the surface treatments (and so could anyone else with three of my svg files and a rudimentary grasp of Inkscape).

Comment author: false_vacuum 03 February 2011 03:18:35AM *  0 points [-]

Now that they're all visible, I guess it's okay to post this: http://img25.imageshack.us/img25/6645/singularitiesareinthema.png

[edited to replace link since I noticed the left edge of the picture was cut off]

Comment author: JoshuaZ 03 February 2011 03:20:50AM 0 points [-]
Comment author: false_vacuum 03 February 2011 05:22:43AM *  0 points [-]

Hmm. It had been a long time since I read that. I forgot that EY specifically compares the Vinge singularity to an event horizon. It's an apt comparison, although the event horizon is not a singularity (well, it's a co-ordinate singularity in some co-ordinate systems, but that doesn't count*). I took a quick look on the internet to see if I could find Vinge actually making that connection, but I didn't see it. The 1993 document, for example, doesn't refer to space-time or black holes at all (but it did remind me that, contra Wikipedia [and me above (ETA: actually I didn't make the erroneous claim, but I think I believed it)], Von Neumann deserves at least part of the credit for being first to say 'singularity', since Ulam was paraphrasing him).

There is possibly a tension here between those who instinctively perceive the word 'singularity' as a mathematical term and those who perceive it as a (speculative) historical one. Many of us, presumably, can go either way depending on the context, treating the two things basically as [the referents of] homonyms. But with my bromide immortalized in that image, I was attempting to point out what they all have in common: they are by their very nature holes in a structure, not elements of a structure. When the structure in question is a map, they are points where the map fails. When the structure in question is the object of investigation, as it is in mathematics, they are merely discontinuities; but they are not things, they do not exist. For me, the very word 'singularity' connotes the tenuousness of our maps.

Of course, it is also important to make a literal/figurative distinction here. Singularities in math and physical theories are literal singularities; historical ones are figurative. And some are more figurative than others; as I'm sure has been pointed out, Kurzweil's singularity is pretty hard to see in any kind of superexponential growth curve, but perhaps running into a vertical asymptote can be charitably interpreted as hyperbolic.

* That's actually a good example of what I mean, though. Co-ordinate singularities are in some maps but not others (that we know how to make); 'real' singularities (the word is here quoted for bogosity) are in every map we know how to make.

Comment author: JoshuaZ 03 February 2011 05:27:26AM 0 points [-]

Yes, I was actually thinking of the intelligent explosion type singularity as being the one that resided the most in the map. And the point about the difference between a mathematical singularity and a non-mathematical singularity is a very good one (and the analogy about an event horizon is also interesting. Although even then, there's a strong territory aspect there because once one is inside the event horizon one cannot send a signal out by any means.)

And some are more figurative than others; as I'm sure has been pointed out, Kurzweil's singularity is pretty hard to see in any kind of superexponential growth curve, but perhaps a vertical asymptote can be charitably interpreted as hyperbolic.

Actually, if one starts with a differential equation that has a large rate of growth with respect to the function itself it isn't very hard to force a singularity. But this is a nitpick, such functions don't exist in real life generally, and on the rare occasions when a model has one it is generally an indication that there's a problem with the model, not that there's anything like that in reality.

Comment author: false_vacuum 03 February 2011 08:27:15AM *  0 points [-]

There's nothing special going on locally at the event horizon. And on the other hand, seed AI FOOM is just about the most singular kind of historical Singularity I can think of. The entire Hubble volume could undergo some kind of phase transition at the speed of light. (Maybe even faster.)

Not actually literally singular, mind you. Because it's 'real', not 'abstract'. But not even literally a 'co-ordinate singularity', figuratively speaking. (Unless Penrose is right about noncomputable physical action being involved in mental activity. [That is a joke. Perhaps I should label them. The 'hyperbolic' thing was a rather clever pun, by the way.])

So I'm not sure what you're getting at in your first sentence, which is possibly due to lack of sleep. Also:

if one starts with a differential equation that has a large rate of growth with respect to the function itself it isn't very hard to force a singularity.

I somehow have no idea what this means. But I would like to. Maybe it'll be clearer in the morning.

Comment author: false_vacuum 03 February 2011 03:04:47AM 0 points [-]

The 99designs site has stopped accepting uploads. I discovered at the last minute that I had to resize most of my images (even though they're tiny files, way under the mentioned file size limit), so I wasn't able to upload most of them. I used my other internet name, Archelon.