RE: Convincing wealthy benefactors to back real AI research

From: Ben Goertzel (
Date: Fri Apr 27 2001 - 09:42:15 MDT

  Doug, I understand your general points. However, at the present time, it
seems that no one is interesting in investing VC money in anything
technologically adventurous, whereas I am talking to several people who say
they're interested in donating substantial amounts to make real AI happen in
the form of a nonprofit institute similar to (but smaller scale than) SFI.
The VC money I may be able to find, it seems, will probably be for much less
technologically ambitious firms aimed at creating products offering
incremental improvements to current products in niche markets. I'm not
talking theory, I'm talking current reality, dozens of conversations with
individual and institutional investors of various sorts. In reality, it is
ABSOLUTELY FALSE that "VC firms would jump at AI technology that had
commercial applications." VC firms in the current market will run like hell
from AI technology no matter what the applications are. If you know some
VC's who are exceptions to this rule, at the present moment, please contact
me off list.


  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 incl! uded 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

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