Michael Vassar at the 2007 Singularity Summit
February 4, 1979|
|Residence||San Francisco, California|
|Fields||Personalized Medicine, Molecular Nanotechnology|
|Institutions||MetaMed, Machine Intelligence Research Institute, Aon|
|Alma mater||Penn State (B.S.), Drexel University (M.B.A)|
|Influences||K. Eric Drexler, Eliezer Yudkowsky, Richard Feynman, Robin Hanson, Elon Musk, Peter Thiel|
Vassar entered college at age seventeen, and has a bachelor's degree from Penn State in biochemistry, as well as an M.B.A. from Drexel University. He co-founded Sir Groovy, an online music licensing business that provided cheap music from independent labels to TV and film producers. Concerned about risks from molecular nanotechnology, he co-authored papers on the risks of advanced molecular manufacturing with Robert Freitas, and wrote the special report "Corporate Cornucopia: Examining the Special Implications of Commercial MNT Development" for the Center for Responsible Nanotechnology Task Force. He has also worked as a teacher, as an actuary for the insurance company Aon, and has served in the Peace Corps.
Machine Intelligence Research Institute
In 2003, Michael Vassar met Eliezer Yudkowsky, founder of the Machine Intelligence Research Institute, at that time called the Singularity Institute. After several meetings, Yudkowsky convinced Vassar that existential risk from advanced artificial intelligence was a more serious threat than nanotechnology. Vassar eventually became president of the Machine Intelligence Research Institute from January 2009 until January 2012, when he resigned his position to found MetaMed. As president of MIRI, Vassar advocated the importance of Friendly AI, published research papers, developed software, and ran the annual Singularity Summit, at which he also gave talks. He also contributed to a 2009 report on artificial intelligence by Forbes Magazine. After resigning, Vassar remained on the MIRI board of directors.
Vassar was the co-founder and Chief Science Officer of MetaMed Research from 2012 to 2015, where he tried to use rationality and evidence-based medicine to directly help individual patients with serious diseases. 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. The team Vassar hired for MetaMed included several researchers from MIRI, and its associated website Less Wrong. After MetaMed went out of business, he became an advisor to Nanotronics Imaging, a startup by scientist Matthew Putman.
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Tallinn learned the importance of feedback loops himself the hard way, after seeing the demise of one of his startups, medical consulting firm Metamed.
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