RE: How hard a Singularity?

From: Ben Goertzel (
Date: Tue Jun 25 2002 - 20:41:29 MDT

James Higgins:
> quite certain that there are people who display that much raw ego who are
> 100% correct, I just haven't personally met one yet. On the
> other hand the
> few truly brilliant people I have met constantly question themselves and
> rarely, if ever, display much ego.

This seems to vary according to social subgroup, actually....

In academia, a certain sort of modesty is the norm. Though there is plenty
of egoism, it's generally muted in expression. This conservatism of
expression goes along with a more fundamental conservatism in research
method. Ambitious projects like Novamente are considered "borderline"
because of their excessively broad goals. Works like CFAI or "Staring into
the Singularity" (which combine ungrounded speculation with an obvious
attitude of self-importance on the part of the author) are perceived as
frivolous at best or crackpottish at worst.

In the software business, on the other hand, academic-style modesty often
seems to make people think you're just not very competent...

One can see this cultural difference in the academic community's reaction to
Wolfram's recent book "A New Kind of Science." Wolfram has been in the
software industry for the last N years, where self-promotion is the norm.
But the self-promotional style of his book had the opposite effect on
academic readers; according to the norm of academia, it made him seem hokey
and unprofessional. He is definitely an example of a very brilliant man who
displays more than his share of ego.

On the other hand, among Wall Street traders, nearly everyone you meet has
an incredibly obnoxious and out-there form of egoism. In "Bonfire of the
Vanities", Tom Wolfe referred to traders as Masters of the Universe, but the
lingo in the business is more evocative: "Big Swingin' Dicks" ;-)

I think that, in any domain, if you have good communication skills as well
as brilliance, you can communicate how good you are implicitly, without
coming across egoistically. Wolfram should be able to do this, since he is
a great communicator -- and I think that, if he had put a little effort into
muting the expression of his egoism in his book, he would have achieved his
goal of spreading his ideas throughout the world significantly more

-- Ben G

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