RE: How hard a Singularity?

From: Stephen Reed (
Date: Thu Jun 27 2002 - 00:14:48 MDT

On Wed, 26 Jun 2002, Ben Goertzel wrote:

> I don't doubt that there are many trustworthy, moral individuals within the
> US military. However, I do not trust the US military as an organization,
> no way Jose'. This is the crew that invaded Grenada... the organization
> that nuked Japan (probably both bombs were needless, but it's pretty damn
> clear the second one was), that systematically tortured Vietnamese women and
> children in the name of democracy and justice.... I'll spare you a full
> list of examples. Ever read the first-person account of how US soldiers
> chopped off the arms and legs of a Vietnamese woman, inserted dynamite in
> her vagina and blew her up? Not an outlier occurence. Excuse me if the
> impeccable morality of the US military seems a little questionable to me...

You strengthen my point. The US military has evolved ethics because of the
terrible power that they are entrusted to use. Why else have the strict
honor system at military schools? Furthermore, knowledge that individual
soldiers are capable of war crimes only encourages future military
planners to substitute an AGI for a soldier (or augment/monitor a
soldier) in that situation. According to my understanding of CFAI, the
AGI should be resistant to criminal behavior due to a deep knowledge of
ethics. From which follows my conclusion that an AGI would not follow an
illegal military order.

More ethics info regarding my recent notion that military ethics may serve
to educate an AGI can be found at a military web site and its links list:

> The Singularity is directly opposed to the national interests of any
> particular national government, because it will almost inevitably lead to a
> "revolution" that will make national boundaries meaningless.

Well for me the Singularity is something that I cannot see beyond, so I
will respond to your statement as though I agree with the premise and
offer this counterexample of the second statement in your argument:

Recent history shows that national governments will surrender sovereignty
for a greater good. Witness the EU and NAFTA.

> Thus, no government should be trusted to play a leading role in the
> Singularity.

Not only do I have the opposite opinion, I believe that as the evidence
mounts that an AGI is possible, the government - and in particular the US
government will take the leading role. I believe this from my
understanding of the dynamics of how our government institutions have
responded to the great technical challenges over my lifetime - The Space
Race, the War On Cancer, Safe Cars, Solar Energy, The AIDS Epidemic ...
I do not see any non-governmental organization as the front-runner. The
actual work of developing and educating the Seed AI would in my opinion be
performed by private contracting companies - somewhat in competition with
each other.

> I might accept gov't funding for AGI research, but I would never willingly
> place control of an AGI in the hands of any military organization. That
> really scares me. Those people are not Singularity-savvy, and I don't trust
> they will become so in the future, not in any healthy way. Plus, their
> interests are not those of the human race as a whole, let alone of sentience
> as a whole.

My belief that the funding will be from the defense budget stems from my
conclusion that an AGI would be priceless for our nation's defense, and
knowing this the military will fund before other government institutions.

My comfort with military research organization (e.g. Darpa) leading and
coordinating this effort is from my own experience and I am not going to
persuade anyone else (lacking to skills to do so).

Overall I believe that our constitutional, representative government has
the best chance of marshaling citizen support and addressing the reasoned
dissent sure to come in the face of mounting evidence that an AGI is
possible. Regardless of popular opinion towards the government, I
speculate that all other alternative coordinating organizations would be
judged inferior by the public.


Stephen L. Reed                  phone:  512.342.4036
Cycorp, Suite 100                  fax:  512.342.4040
3721 Executive Center Drive      email:
Austin, TX 78731                   web:
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