Michael Vassar

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Michael Vassar
Michael Vassar
Michael Vassar at the 2007 Singularity Summit
Born (1979-02-04)February 4, 1979[1]
Philadelphia, PA
Residence San Francisco, California[2]
Citizenship American
Nationality American
Fields Personalized Medicine, Molecular Nanotechnology
Institutions MetaMed, Machine Intelligence Research Institute, Aon
Alma mater Penn State (B.S.), Drexel University (M.B.A)[3]
Influences K. Eric Drexler, Eliezer Yudkowsky, Richard Feynman, Robin Hanson, Elon Musk, Peter Thiel[1]

Michael Vassar (born February 4, 1979) is an American futurist, activist, and entrepreneur. His career has focused on the prevention of global catastrophic risk from emerging technology.[2]

Early career[edit]

Vassar entered college at age seventeen,[1] and has a bachelor's degree from Penn State in biochemistry, as well as an M.B.A. from Drexel University.[2][3] He co-founded Sir Groovy, an online music licensing business that provided cheap music from independent labels to TV and film producers.[2] Concerned about risks from molecular nanotechnology,[2] he co-authored papers on the risks of advanced molecular manufacturing with Robert Freitas,[4] and wrote the special report "Corporate Cornucopia: Examining the Special Implications of Commercial MNT Development"[5] for the Center for Responsible Nanotechnology Task Force.[6] He has also worked as a teacher, as an actuary for the insurance company Aon, and has served in the Peace Corps.[1][3]

Machine Intelligence Research Institute[edit]

In 2003, Michael Vassar met Eliezer Yudkowsky, founder of the Machine Intelligence Research Institute,[2] at that time called the Singularity Institute.[7] After several meetings, Yudkowsky convinced Vassar that existential risk from advanced artificial intelligence was a more serious threat than nanotechnology.[2] Vassar eventually became president of the Machine Intelligence Research Institute[8] from January 2009[9] until January 2012,[10] when he resigned his position to found MetaMed.[2] As president of MIRI, Vassar advocated the importance of Friendly AI,[11][12] published research papers, developed software,[13] and ran the annual Singularity Summit,[14] at which he also gave talks.[15] He also contributed to a 2009 report on artificial intelligence by Forbes Magazine.[16] After resigning, Vassar remained on the MIRI board of directors.[17]


Vassar was the co-founder and Chief Science Officer of MetaMed Research from 2012 to 2015,[18][19] where he tried to use rationality and evidence-based medicine to directly help individual patients with serious diseases.[1] According to Vassar, his plan for MetaMed was to start with a focus on wealthy patients, with an initial product costing up to $250,000, before developing a more affordable, mass-market product by using artificial intelligence in place of manual research.[20] The team Vassar hired for MetaMed included several researchers from MIRI, and its associated website Less Wrong.[1] After MetaMed went out of business,[21] he became an advisor to Nanotronics Imaging, a startup by scientist Matthew Putman.[22]


  1. ^ a b c d e f Frank, Sam (January 2015). "Come With Us If You Want to Live". Harper's Magazine. Retrieved 30 January 2016. 
  2. ^ a b c d e f g h Barrat, James (October 1, 2013). Our Final Invention: Artificial Intelligence and the End of the Human Era. Thomas Dunne Books. ISBN 0312622376. 
  3. ^ a b c "Michael Vassar". KurzweilAI.net. Retrieved 30 January 2016. 
  4. ^ Krishnan, Armin (July 28, 2009). Killer Robots. Ashgate. ISBN 0754677265. 
  5. ^ Corporate Cornucopia: Examining the Special Implications of Commercial MNT Development The Lifeboat Foundation. Retrieved 27 January 2012.
  6. ^ "Michael Vassar". Advisory Board. Lifeboat Foundation. Retrieved 30 January 2016. 
  7. ^ Chen, Angela (September 11, 2014). "Is Artificial Intelligence a Threat?". The Chronicle of Higher Education. Retrieved 30 January 2016. 
  8. ^ Team | Singularity Institute Retrieved 27 January 2012.
  9. ^ Yudkowsky, Eliezer. "OB Status Update". Less Wrong. Retrieved 30 January 2016. 
  10. ^ http://intelligence.org/2012/02/05/singularity-institute-progress-report-january-2012/
  11. ^ Brigis, Alvis (June 10, 2009). "10 Questions with SIAI President Michael Vassar". Future Blogger. Retrieved 30 January 2016. 
  12. ^ Anissimov, Michael (April 15, 2009). "Interview with Singularity Institute President Michael Vassar". Accelerating Future. Retrieved 30 January 2016. 
  13. ^ Myers, Courtney Boyd (October 2, 2009). "Calling All Transhumanists". Forbes Magazine. Retrieved 30 January 2016. 
  14. ^ Hodgkinson, Mike (September 11, 2010). "Revenge of the nerds: Should we listen to futurists or are they leading us towards "nerdocalypse"?". The Independent. Retrieved 30 January 2016. 
  15. ^ Vassar, Michael. "The Darwinian Method". Vimeo. Machine Intelligence Research Institute. Retrieved 30 January 2016. 
  16. ^ Vassar, Michael (June 22, 2009). "Machine Minds". Forbes Magazine. Retrieved 30 January 2016. 
  17. ^ "January 2013 Newsletter". Machine Intelligence Research Institute. Retrieved 30 January 2016. 
  18. ^ About Us | MetaMed MetaMed. Retrieved 4 January 2013.
  19. ^ Supporting Medical Research Detectives, with Michael Vassar
  20. ^ Mitchell, Luke (June 16, 2013). "The $250,000 Physical". New York Magazine. Retrieved 30 January 2016. 
  21. ^ Clarke, Liat (24 April 2015). "The solution to saving healthcare systems? New feedback loops". Wired.co.uk. Retrieved 24 May 2015. Tallinn learned the importance of feedback loops himself the hard way, after seeing the demise of one of his startups, medical consulting firm Metamed. 
  22. ^ "About Us". nanotronics. Retrieved 30 January 2016.