RE: Seed AI (was: How hard a Singularity?)

From: Ben Goertzel (
Date: Tue Jun 25 2002 - 13:47:40 MDT


> If Einstein had been an
> ordinary genius,
> he would have invented Special Relativity on the basis of
> Michaelson-Morley,
> but not gone on to invent General Relativity on the basis of essentially
> *no* evidence.

GR was a great invention, but very similar to observations Hilbert made at
about the same time, and closely related to prior conjectures by Riemann.
It's not as though Einstein's genius pulled it out of thin air...

> Almost as astonishing as Einstein's invention of General
> Relativity is his (absolutely correct) advance confidence in it: on being
> asked what he would have done if the eclipse observations conflicted with
> General Relativity, Einstein is said to have replied: "Then I would have
> pitied the Good Lord. The theory is correct."
> Now of course it could be that Einstein was just overconfident
> and happened
> to be right (though this also happened with Special Relativity and
> Kauffman's apparent disconfirmation), but it's even more unnerving to
> contemplate whether Einstein's confidence might have been *actually
> justified*.

I very strongly suspect Einstein was just overconfident. He was equally
confident in the wrongness of quantum theory, and so far has not been at all
validated in that regard. (He spent the last decades of his life chasing
wild geese related to his wrong intuitions on quantum theory.)

> What if Einstein's assigned confidence level was as correct as
> his theory?
> It implies that Einstein didn't have *just enough* intelligence
> to invent
> General Relativity; it implies that Einstein had enough intelligence to
> invent General Relativity and *know* it was correct. How did he possibly
> know? For that matter, how did he invent the theory in the first
> place? It
> seems to me that in some way, Einstein learned to think like the universe
> well enough to anticipate, in advance of knowing, what kind of
> physical laws
> the universe would invent.

Einstein had a great physical intuition, to be sure.

But the idea that physical laws could act by curving space was previously
articulated by Riemann.

Once Minkowski introduced the idea of "spacetime" as an entity, the natural
extension of Riemann's ideas is to think about curved spacetime

This is why Hilbert as well as Einstein was led to formulating physical laws
in terms of curved spacetime. Einstein pushed it a little further than
Hilbert, of course... probably because he was pushed by physical intuition
more than purely mathematical intuition as in Hilbert's case

I don't think there's any kind of mysterious "knowledge" going on here....
Einstein may have had the *feeling* that he had some kind of mystical
intuition into God's ways, but this was just a human feeling...

> That's the power of intelligence. It's quite fashionable to
> deemphasize the
> power of individual intelligence in favor of social intelligence
> these days.
> Fashionable, but wrong. Nature is not that fair or democratic.

I am not denying that some people are vastly smarter than others. Of course
they are.

> intelligence is still far more
> powerful when
> concentrated in a single individual.

I'm having trouble attaching a meaning to this statement. How does one
define a disembodied lump of intelligence and then considering distributing
it either to one individual or among several?

Of course, human individual intelligence and human collective intelligence
have very different characteristics.

> > Computer science in general seems to have benefited from collective
> > intelligence at least as much as from "lone genius" style intelligence.
> > Progress in CS has been as substantial as that in physics, yet
> we don't have
> > CS heros on the order of Einstein or Newton to look up to.
> I wouldn't describe AI as a CS problem.

No, of course AI isn't strictly speaking a CS problem, it's an integrative
multidisciplinary problem.

-- Ben G

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