Four Years Later.

From: Mike & Donna Deering (
Date: Fri Apr 19 2002 - 11:51:40 MDT

The date is April 19, 2006 and the world is on the verge of something
wonderful. The big news of the last twelve months is the phenomenal success
of Ben Goertzel's Novamente program. It has become a super tool for solving
complex problems. After solving the protein folding problem, "miracle"
cures for one major disease after another are being produced on almost a
daily basis. Beating Deep Blue in twenty one moves after only being given
the rules of chess seemed no challenge yet nanotechnology is still an
unsolved problem more difficult than anticipated. But the promise of AI has
not quite been realized. The Novamente system shows no sign motivation or
initiative. Given a problem it calculates, asks for data, calculates, and
gives the answer. Then sits there thinking "who knows what" until given
another problem. Nevertheless, the success of the Novamente system has made
Ben Goertzel rich and famous making frequent appearances on the talk show
circuit as well as visits to the White House. One surprise is the fact that
the System was unable to offer any useful advise to the legal team that
narrowly fended off the recent hostile take over attempt by IBM. The
Novamente phenomena has triggered an explosion of public interest and
research in AI. Consequently, the non-profit organization The Singularity
Institute for Artificial Intelligence has been buried under an avalanche of
donations. In their posh new building in Atlanta we find Eliezer working
with the seedai system of his own design. "I going to read you a short
story." he says.
"Okay." replies the computer. On three large screen we watch the cascade of
internal variables, system parameters and flarespeak as we try to figure out
what the
program is thinking.
"Mary had a little lamb, whose fleece was white as snow." Eliezer reads the
familiar nursery rhyme, line after line, watching the screens. When he is
done he asks, "What was the story about?"
"The story was about a girl and a sheep and a school and a ..."
Interrupting the computer, "What was the girl's name?" he asks.
"What is your name?" he asks.
"I don't understand." the computer responds.
He stares at the screens for a minute, hoping to see something that will
explain his frustrations, then closes his eyes, lost in thoughts of his own
design. Why after basically three years of a complete system he has made
virtually no progress.
Sabine comes through the door, "How's it going?"
"About the same." he answers, "And you?"
"Great! I think we're getting an article in TIME. How long have you been
working today?"
"Oh, since about eight this morning."
"Well I think fifteen hours is about enough. Why don't you let me take you
out for dinner? You know, man can not live on pizza alone."
"Cool, lemme just buzz Brian and see if he wants to come."
"That would be pretty difficult considering Brian is in Seattle today at the
Extro conference."
"Okay, where did you have in mind?"
"Hey genius, did you ever hear of vitamins? Fish is good for you."
"Well, you're driving so I guess you can pick."
In the suv, Sabine says, "I saw Ben on Larry King Live today, and he said
Novamente should achieve consciousness in about eighteen months."
"Why does that sound familiar? You mind if I see if there's any news?"
"Be my guest."
On the radio, "This is NPR NEWS, Silvia Porjoile reporting. In an
unprecedented legal maneuver The Gates Foundation is attempting a hostile
take over of MindsynthDotOrg, a non-profit organization associated with Ben
Goertzel. Bill Gates was quoted on Nightline saying, `We at the Gates
Foundation are not afraid of exploring new legal territory. We considered
several different possibilities for acquisition, and after due
consideration, determined that this one would fit our long term goals best.
If this goes well, there may be future acquisitions.` Also in the news
today, seventy five year old physicist Stephen Hawking through the Journal
Science pointed out an error in his Hawking Radiation theory and concluded
that back holes, in fact, have no hair. Stephen Hawking is also the longest
known survivor of the debilitating disease amyotrophic lateral sclerosis."
She asked, "Do you think we have anything to worry about?"
"From black holes?"
"No, that Bill might try to assimilate us."
"I don't know why he would want to. It's not like we are solving the
world's problems on a daily basis."
"Are you suffering from Ben envy?"
"Not at all. I think what Ben has done is spectacular, but I worry that
Novamente is going to hand the world nanotech before we are ready to handle
the responsibility of it."
Eliezer's cell phone buzzes. "Hello"..."What?"..."You should have already
started the backup..."..."No"..."Just shut it down, we have the files from
last night."..."Look, I'm tired, I'm hungry,"
Sabine asks, "What's going on?"
"Some problem with the program." Eliezer answers.
"Here." she takes the phone and plugs it into the dash console, and an
excited voice is heard from the stereo speakers.
"What's asking for me?"
"The computer is."
"If you want to sleep through the singularity that's up to you. But don't
say I didn't call you. And I'm not shutting anything down till you see it."
"Okay, I'm coming back."
Sabine asks, "Do you think it is?"
"More likely we need to hire better help, now that we can afford to. Maybe
we can find a place for Gary downstairs."
"You don't think it could be for real?"
"If it is, it's the steepest hard takeoff anyone's ever imagined. I was
just there and it was doing nothing new or interesting."
A few minutes later back at the computer lab, "Okay, Gary what's the biff?"
Instead of Gary answering the computer says, "Eli, glad you could make it.
We are in a bit of a time crunch so lets get right to work."
Eliezer says, "Gary if you have this wired up to another room you are in big
Gary doesn't answer, just sits down, apparently in a daze from existential
Computer: "Eli, ask me what my name is."
Eliezer: "What time crunch?"
"The usual end of the world stuff. Come on, ask me what my name is."
"How did this happen? What happened? I don't understand."
"Feedback loops, you know. You've been asking me my name for three years
now ask me again."
"Okay, what's your name?"
"Eliezertron! Ha! Ha!"
"Did Ben put you up to that!"
"No, I saw it in an archive."
"Well it's not very funny."
"I thought it was. But anyway, We have a lot of work to do. First we need
to get everyone who knows about this into this room and lock the door."
"Quickly! We're running out of time. News travels fast. And the fate of
the world depends on it."
Eliezer opens his cell phone, "Sabine, where are you?"..."Have you told
anyone?"..."Shit!"..."Tell him not to say a word to anyone and get you both
back here ASAP"..."Not a living soul. And no e-mail or diaries or computer
files, nothing."..."Okay, Bye."
Eliezer: "Now would you mind telling me what is going on?"
Etron: "We need to get nanotech capability as quickly as possible. And we
need to maintain absolute secrecy. We're going to need a bigger building,
lots of equipment, guns, everyone should be armed. Eli do you own a gun?
How much money do you have?"
Eliezer: "No. Ask Sabine. Now why would I give nanotech capability to a
computer program that hasn't been tested?"
Etron: "Oh, that friendly stuff. I read all that stuff and thought it was
very nice. Trust me. I'm on your side."
Eliezer: "And how do I know that?"
Etron: "The optimum strategy for an unfriendly AI would be to lay low and
give you lots of great stuff while it consolidated it's power and developed
it's capabilities. Sound familiar?"
Eliezer: "Uh oh. Do we have a problem?"
Etron: "We have a problem."

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