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

From: Ben Goertzel (
Date: Wed Jun 26 2002 - 11:22:13 MDT


1) Your statement that "it is impossible to write a story about a character
smarter than you are" is clearly false, and rather odd.
Many authors have written good stories about characters smarter than they
are, and evoked this superior intelligence well. As a single example,
consider the sci-fi classic "Flowers for Algernon."

The statement "you can't write a character with a greater emotional maturity
than you possess" is even weirder, and also false. How about The Brothers
Karamazov for one among 100000 possible examples? Dostoevsky was, by all
accounts, a radically emotionally immature individual, yet he created
Alyosha Karamazov, a very believable and very emotionally mature young

These comments of yours indicate to me that you have a VERY peculiar
perspective on human nature, and the nature of literature ;.>

2) No, my assessment of von Neumann as "more intelligent overall" than
Einstein was not based on shallow things like lightning calculation and
eidetic memory. It is based on a lot of reading about the lives and
intellectual interactions of both men, which however, I don't have time or
inclination to summarize right now.

-- Ben G

> "Smartness is that quality which makes it impossible to write a
> story about
> a character smarter than you are. You can write about super-fast
> thinkers,
> eidetic memories, lightning calculators; a character who learns a dozen
> languages in a week, who can read a textbook in an hour, or who
> can invent
> all kinds of wonderful stuff - as long as you don't have to produce the
> actual invention. But you can't write a character with a higher level of
> emotional maturity, a character who can spot the obvious solution you
> missed, a character who knows (and can tell the reader) the
> Meaning Of Life,
> a character with superhuman self-awareness. Not unless you can do these
> things yourself."
> -- Eliezer Yudkowsky, "Staring into the Singularity"
> If your reason for designating von Neumann as a "greater genius" than
> Einstein was just the showoff lightning-calculator stuff, then I
> think we're
> talking past each other. I don't consider that genius, or even
> relevant to
> a discussion of intelligence, unless it contributes to actual smartness.
> --
> Eliezer S. Yudkowsky
> Research Fellow, Singularity Institute for Artificial Intelligence

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