RE: Steve Harris, "Return of the Krell Machine" (Singularity Article)

From: Ben Goertzel (
Date: Sat Jan 19 2002 - 13:07:43 MST


I think we largely agree conceptually, we just differ on estimates of
various quantitative amounts (*how much* improvement can be achieved through
groupware and non-AI search tools, *how hard* will it be to get to real AI
without substantially improved such tools, etc.)...

> My first little paper on this subject ("Paths to the
> Singularity," 1996) is
> lost, darn it. At the time, I thought that we needed new peripherals,
> but I changed my mind shortly thereafter. A good computer display can
> present information as fast as a human can accept it, and a
> joystick/game controller can accept decisions as fast as a human can
> convey them: If you don't believe this, watch a kid playing a video
> game. We would all like to believe we think faster than this, but we
> don't. In any event I don't think the human/computer interface is an
> important constraint on the human/computer SI. It's a software problem,
> mostly in the data presentation.

If I believe you on this, then I'm going to downgrade my estimate of how far
SI can be pushed via collaborative technologies.

Because I still suspect there's a pretty low upper limit on how deep
collaboration can be made via current tech.

The best we're going to get without very good AI or radical new interfaces,
in my view, is:

1) conferencing tech that lets globally distributed teams work as if they
were local

2) collaborative-filtering-enhanced search tech that does a better job of
returning info you want, not based on understanding of content, but based on
clever use of ratings and user info, together with minimal non-AI
understanding of content...

I hope I'm pleasantly surprised...

I'm thinking quite practically & personally about the tech we're

Personally I would love to see 1) come about, especially if it worked on the
narrow pipe to Brazil, since that's where most of my collaborators are. But
I don't believe 1) would double the efficiency of my globally distributed
team. A factor of 1.5 in productivity would be my guess (of course, we're
very productive already..). As for 2), I'm not sure how useful it would be
for obscure topics; I think the main win would be in presenting popular
topics to new audiences (e.g. I'm a CS guy who wants to learn about genetic
regulatory networks -- where have other CS guys looked before when wanting
to learn about such things?). At this point we don't do that much library
or Net research for our work, so this would speed up our process by an even
smaller factor....

Another point is that 1) would make it easier to recruit new people to the

All in all I'm feeling maybe a 2x increase in productivity due to advances
in groupware and search and related technology, for the specific "real AI"
oriented work I'm involved in. Of course, the increase in productivity
could be far greater for people working in different domains, e.g. domains
focused on looking up the research of others, or contacting others widely.
Our work is based on a team of people with a common idea working closely
together... we already understand each other about as well as can be done
without looking into each others' brains... and we use collaborative tools
(e-mail, phone, CVS, documents with particular naming conventions, etc.)
that we all are comfortable with. Could things be improved? Yeah, of
course.... But a factor of 10?? I dunno...

ben g

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