singularity arrival estimate...

From: Ben Goertzel (
Date: Fri May 17 2002 - 07:36:00 MDT

It is far from impossible that the next big breakthrough in AI will be made
by some obscure team none of us has ever heard of. I think it's unlikely
because I've made it my business to keep up on all published research that
has anything to do with AGI, and all significant industry efforts. But of
course there could be someone at the University of Novosibirsk creating an
awesome AGI and publishing about it only in Russian, etc. etc. there are
plenty of possibilities.

One of the folks I met at IBM this week, Sam Adams (no relation to the
beverage ;) is working on a system very similar to Peter's A2I2 project. He
is trying to create a reinforcement-learning based system (programmed in
smalltalk), that can build its own concepts from its perceptual experience
and direct its actions based on them. He's first aiming to emulate
"rat-like" intelligence, working with a cognitive psychologist who studies
rat intelligence to design his tests.

However, he prefers not to characterize his work as "AI", calling it instead
"building a system that learns human-like semantics from experience." I
think it is perhaps not politic to call your work "AI" at most academic and
industry establishments right now. This leads us to underestimate the
number of AGI projects going on, because there are plenty of people doing
work that is basically AGI oriented, but not inclined for various (often
career-oriented) reasons to explicitly characterize their work that way.

The thing is that Sam's work is not well funded within IBM, it is very
important and interesting work but is pretty much a 1-man project with some
others giving advice. There are loads of small-scale AGI efforts like this
in the world, and even I cannot keep track of them all in the limited time I
allocate to "surveying the scene." But it would be a lot harder for a
large-scale AGI effort to go by unnoticed. My feeling is, at the point when
someone's small-scale AGI project (such as mine perhaps, altho mine is
larger scale than most!) achieves a big demonstrated success -- say, gets
halfway along the pathway to human-level AGI -- then everyone will know
about it.... So I don't think Singularity-launching-capable AGI is gonna
spring upon the world from an unknown source, because I think getting
halfway there is likely to attract a lot of attention.... Let's say Sam
Adams' project succeeded at getting to rat-level AGI. Is IBM going to hush
this up? Not at all likely, they would get WAY too much marketing pizzazz
from it, as they did from Deep Blue...

As to why the Singularity is not better appreciated in mass society, that's
a whole other issue that I don't have time to chat about right now.
Obviously this is not the only example of "mass blindness to the almost
obvious" that we can find in human history or contemporary human society!!!

-- Ben G

  -----Original Message-----
  From: []On Behalf Of
Mike & Donna Deering
  Sent: Wednesday, May 15, 2002 8:57 AM
  Subject: Re: Singularity Arrival Estimate - and other stories.

  Ben, thanks for all the info. I have no doubt that it is accurate. As
for being half nuts or playing around, I do have a different view of reality
than most but I am quite rational. I see ulterior motivations and
conspiracies everywhere I look. And I am sometimes wrong. I realize this,
so I tone it down some for this list. I worry about ebola, tsunami, run
away green house, nano, intellecto, and of course the ants in my front yard
are plotting against me (got to get some more ant poison). Still, I would
not be surprised to hear that the next big breakthrough in AI was made by
some team none of us had heard much about. It strikes me as curious that if
we are not wackos, why are we so far outside the mainstream? If the
Singularity is the biggest thing since sliced bread then why can't I find a
word about it on The almost total lack of understanding by highly
intelligent societal and business leaders seems suspicious to me. Maybe I s
hould send President Bush an e-mail, "Hey George, how's the wife and kids?
By the way, THE END OF THE WORLD IS COMING! Have you heard about the
Singularity?" Unfortunately, the last time I talked to him (May of 2001) I
hadn't heard about it yet myself.

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