Re: Why bother (was Re: Introducing myself)

From: James Higgins (
Date: Sat Jun 22 2002 - 15:54:17 MDT

At 11:26 AM 4/7/2003 -0700, you wrote:

>----- Original Message -----
>From: "Ben Goertzel" <>
>To: <>
>Sent: Sunday, April 07, 2002 9:22 AM
>Subject: RE: Why bother (was Re: Introducing myself)
> > > >From everything I have read here and elsewhere, the Singularity
> > > seems to be
> > > coming along rather nicely without your efforts. So why do you think
> > > special project is required?
> >
> > I think your statement is partly a variant on a common paradox.
> >
> > Another variant of this paradox is: "Why vote? If I don't vote, who
> > I'm just one among very many voters." But yet if everyone thought that
> > way, the election wouldn't happen.
>I disagree. The vast vast majority of people enabling the singularity have
>never heard of it. Voting takes a conscious effort, the singularity is
>being brought about almost exclusively by people advancing technology for
>other purposes. If you and Eliezer and the few others quit tomorrow, there
>would still be huge numbers of people working on distributed systems,
>quantum computing, building better communications systems, nanotech,
>microtech, and on and on and on... I don't think it would make a bit of
>I would not say, and I did not say, that people shouldn't invest their
>energies in advancing the singularity consciously. You are right that there
>certainly a lot of worse ways to find meaning in life. I simply wanted to
>know why Eliezer thought - or seemed to think if I understand him aright -
>that it somehow would not happen without his project, or that humanity was
>somehow headed for disaster if his project didn't succeed.

Awhile back when I was active (year+ ago) I had many rounds with Eliezer
about his vision of the Singularity. At least back then he very strongly
believed that if *his* version of the Singularity was not implemented that
we were doomed. Personally, I don't quite agree (we actually had several
major issues of disagreement about what the Singularity should
be/produce). Although our chances of survival as a species improve
drastically with the creation of a "good" Singularity. If we don't develop
a breakthrough technology, though, I do think we will eventually (within a
few centuries at most) cease to exist.

I also tend to believe that the Singularity is inevitable (barring
catastrophe) in some form or another. Once you create an intelligent
process that can do the job of the engineers who currently advance
processing speed your mostly there. And that will most likely happen, if
nothing else, by a major corporation due to ROI once obviously feasible. I
mean, why use human engineers who you have to pay, who sleep, only work
60hrs/week, etc. when you could replace them with intelligent
software? No-brainier decision there. And as soon as you have the
entities responsible for creating the advances directly tied to the
advances (so that advances in the technology directly reduce the
development time) you, more or less, get singularity rather quickly (few
years at most). The nature of that singularity is greatly uncertain, however.

Having thought about the issue, I don't think that anything less than
MASSIVE additional effort will have much effect at this stage, however. We
are too far off and most of what needs to be done right now is basic
research. And people much more qualified than myself (such as Ben
Goertzel) are working on that. In 5-10 years the technology will be much
closer to what will be required and our basic understanding of Artificial
Intelligence and other required technologies will be (hopefully much)
better. At that point additional effort will have much, much more effect
than it would now. So, personally, I'm not working on anything directly
related to the Singularity (although some of the technologies I'm
developing may some day help). I think a better approach is to be
successful and attempt to make a whole bunch of money (gotta love
capitalism). Then, when things get closer hopefully I'll be in a great
position to assist. Here is the way I look at it.

Let's assume I'm a god of Software Development. As such I'm highly
creative, intelligent, knowledgeable, efficient and produce excellent code
in incredibly short periods of time. Thus I'm incredibly valuable! (I
only wish all that was true...)

         A. I devote all my time to developing the Singularity right
away. I spend the next 10 years doing mostly basic research to enable the
Singularity. Ten years from now, once everything is ready to begin
development of the Singularity in earnest, I work on that.

         B. I devote the next 10 years to other projects, with the primary
goal of becoming independent and expanding my knowledgeable. A sub-goal
(with fairly high priority) is to make lots of money (millions+). I'm a
god (remember?) so let's assume I succeed and 10 years from now I'm worth
$50 million. The basic research required for the Singularity has been
completed (by others such as Ben) and development is ready to begin. So I
buy a small office building (which has good security), hire a team of the
best & brightest engineers available and devote all that collected efforts
to developing the Singularity (hopefully in direct cooperation with some of
the experts).

Which route do you think would have the most long-term effect? I'm betting
on #2, even though I'm not a god and only have a moderate shot of making
millions. Even if I don't get rich the added effort right now wouldn't
have much effect anyway (IMHO)...

James Higgins

This archive was generated by hypermail 2.1.5 : Wed Jul 17 2013 - 04:00:39 MDT