RE: Convincing wealthy benefactors to back real AI research

Date: Fri Apr 27 2001 - 09:18:25 MDT

Eliezer wrote:

> If you turn Webmind into a nonprofit - if you turn the Webmind AI
> Engine into a nonprofit - then I don't see where the ton of money comes
> in. I realize you have unlimited faith in the ability of lawyers to
> diddle the System, but you'll still be seriously limiting your total
> ability to profit by giving the core IP to a nonprofit, because the
> system is set up so that once the property enters the nonprofit
> that property is forever after used in a way consonant with the public
> benefit.

I am an international tax consultant/diddler for various high tech
companies. While what Eliezer has stated is partially true, I don't think
the nonprofit regime is as ironclad as he portrays it. On the other hand,
I think it is a mistake to use a nonprofit as an alternative to secure
robust funding for artificial intelligence or Singularity research. Its a
mistake not for arcane tax or legal reasons but rather a practical reason.
 Nonprofits, especially public charities, are successful because of their
ability to tap the limited resources of many people, i.e., the public. For
the public to contribute to a nonprofit entity, they need to understand
the charitable purposes and activities of an entity. You're competing for
charitable funding with religious organizations, the United Way, Jerry's
kids, etc. All of these entities have charitable objectives easily
comprehended by the general public. You'll be engaged in an uphill battle
attempting to attract public funding. I think Eliezer perceives this to
be the lay of the land relative to SIAI.

As for wealthy benefactors, if you look at capital expenditures of wealthy
people their venture capital investments dwarf their charitable giving.
You're in a qualitatively better position attempting to convince
sophisticated VC firms (who are fanatically devoted towards identifying
the next "big thing" so they can be the next Vinod Khosla) to fund your
project rather compete with the colleges, museums, etc. who solicit
wealthy benefactors for funding. Of course, the viability of this
approach depends on your intentions. Are you designing something with
commercial applications or advancing towards the Singularity? VC firms
probably won't have much interest in advancing society towards the
Singularity for obvious reasons. VC firms, however, would jump at AI
technology that had commercial applications such as code debugging or
composition. I made the point some time ago to Eliezer (which was
included in an incarnation of one of his Singularity pieces) that the best
way to fund AI research is to get one of two groups interested in it: the
military complex or "big business".

Doug Bailey

[of course, every thing stated here is my own opinion and should not be
construed to be the opinion or viewpoint of Ernst & Young]

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