RE: AGI funding (was Re: Some bad news)

From: Ben Goertzel (
Date: Sat Nov 09 2002 - 08:51:41 MST

> > It sure is an inconvenient constraint that theories actually be true,
> > isn't it? Science is very useful and it needs more funding. We need to
> > sell Science. Well, Science would have so much easier a time competing
> > with astrology if we could just get rid of all that
> experimental evidence
> > and focus on finding theories that are more dramatic and easily
> > understandable to the audience. Let's get rid of that Newtonian
> > gravitation thing and replace it with angels. People like angels. And
> > yet... it was a popular theory, we got to be really famous and
> > everything,
> > and yet somehow, even though Science has more funding than before, it
> > isn't really accomplishing as much as it was earlier.
> I think the progress of science is actually exponentially
> accelerating, just
> like the progress of technology.
> Modern science on the whole is working rather well, in spite of the
> bureaucratic inefficiencies of the funding process, and in spite of
> temporary closed-mindedness in variosu particular areas.


I see, I didn't read that part of your message carefully before replying.

You were posing a hypothetical scenario in which gravity was replaced with
angels, and saying that in that hypothetical world, science would progress
more slowly. I agree.

But you're making an extreme analogy...

A better analogy may be the Human Genome Project. This was very well
publicized, and very well funded.

Now, many of the scientists involved probably realized that, as the HGP was
being publicized, not enough emphasis was being placed on the limited
scientific value of the sequenced human genome, *in itself*. Popular
articles on the HGP seemed to imply that once the genome was sequenced, a
lot would be understood. This overemphasis on sequencing served to draw a
lot of funding to sequencing.

Now that the sequencing is done, the research community has moved on to
collection & analysis of gene expression data, proteomics, and so forth.
These things build on the completed human genome sequence, and eventually
they really will lead to an understanding of how the genome codes for an

My point is that, if the HGP publicists had focused on the post-sequencing
work in proteomics and gene expression, they never would have gotten so much
funding for HGP. It was by selectively focusing on more palatable truths
("We can sequence the whole genome! In just a few years! The complete
genetic code!"), that they managed to raise the funding to get the HGP done.

Excellent PR, there, in the service of a very worthwhile goal....

-- Ben G

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