RE: Augmenting humans is a better way

From: Ben Goertzel (
Date: Sat Jul 28 2001 - 06:31:44 MDT

> I'd much prefer us to get
> the first real self-enhancing AI up and running rather than someone like
> a Hugo de Garis who just scares me (from a scientific point of view too).

Just a side comment here...

I just spent a couple days with Hugo last month (in the emptied-out Starlab
building -- a beautiful building by the way, see ), and I can assure you that while
he's got some really interesting technical work going, he's *nowhere near* a
workable path to a real AI.

He think it'll be 50 years or so before we get a real AI. What he has now
is a superpowerful hardware system for evolving neural nets by genetic
programming. Some very cool aspects, such as a genotype/phenotype
distinction (the genotype gives initial positions of neurons, and there's an
epigenesis phase in which synapses grow, providing the phenotype, the actual
neural net). A weakness is that fitness of an NN must be assessed by a list
of given fitness cases, and can't be done by some function not easily
encapsulated in a small table of cases (e.g. it can't be done by inference
relative to a database of experience, as is the case for most procedure
evolution/learning in the mind).

As for his philosophical views, he believes that Friendly AI is possible,
but that even if AI's are friendly, people are not, and they won't accept
AI's, so there will be some kind of violent struggle between pro-AI people
and anti-AI people. He believes that self-modifying AI can be a path to
superhuman intelligence, but he believes this path will take several hundred
years, and that during this time there is a decent change that the AI's and
all humans are wiped out by stupid paranoid human violence.

On a personal level, while Hugo is definitely a very eccentric individual in
some ways, he was very friendly and took a lot of time out to talk to me in
spite of being in the midst of a huge crisis situation (Starlab just went
broke, he was out of a job and had no idea what he was doing next -- hmm, a
very familiar situation to me actually ;p ). He offered his spare room to
me during my visit to Brussels (for the Global Brain Workshop
(, a gathering at which many
Singularity-ish topics were discussed, although the "Singularity" phrase got
little respect) even though we'd never met each other before in person, only
discussed things thru e-mail.

Frankly, although I think it's unlikely, I would *much* rather see the first
real AI created by Hugo, who is basically a sweet guy who has thought deeply
about the philosophical ramifications of AI, than by oh, say, a US military
AI lab.... I don't think that mild-mannered eccentric scientists are our
greatest worry by any means. Fortunately, at this point, the military and
other powerful entities whose ethics I question, apparently have no interest
in building real AI, because the academic establishment has convinced them
it's a very very long way off still.

-- Ben G

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