RE: Singularity Institute - update

From: Ben Goertzel (
Date: Thu May 01 2003 - 07:01:25 MDT

> For any research project to be science, and not pseudo-science you require
> 3 things:
> 1) a credible research group, filled or associated with properly
> credential-ed researchers. (why? because without this, nobody will waste
> the time to review your work without good reason, see below).
> 2) a credible body of work, that has been suitably reviewed (by a group
> like the one described above).
> 3) a credible and logic-ly correct methodology for producing the above
> body of work.

Wow! I definitely do not buy that attitude toward science!

(FYI, I have a PhD in math and spent 8 years as an academic before turning
to software entrepreneurship, in departments of math, psych and computer
science. I have my share of publications in peer-reviewed journals.)

I do not believe that science should be considered as *defined* by the
social structures surrounding it, in the way you're suggesting.

Furthermore, regarding your comment "nobody will waste the time to review
your work", I am a credentialed scientist who has taken the time to review
Eliezer's work, because I think it's interesting. And, for example, one of
Eliezer's papers is going to appear in an edited volume I'm organizing,
alongside papers by PhD's from academic institutions.

> Why bother with all that? Because real science gets real funding and
> recognition (eventual, but required for large scale funding however),
> pseudo-science hangs around the Internet, waiting for someone to foolish
> read it.

I agree that following the typical social forms associated with science can
make your life a lot easier, if you're trying to get money or recognition
for your scientific ideas. But it's just not right to *define* science that

If Eliezer achieves something really significant in his work, then
credentials or no, eventually the scientific establishment will pay
attention. Although the science establishment can be over-conservative and
trend-obsessed, eventually it has enough objectivity to recognize the value
in serious discoveries made by maverick outsiders. The history of science
demonstrates this, though I don't have time to list examples.

> In many cases "researchers" who are self-described geniuses (or perhaps
> just more X than most people), dismiss journals because their "peers" that
> do the reviewing toss their papers (or use them for lining bird
> cages/cleaning up coffee spills). Usually this is followed by the author
> stalking legitimate researchers to get their ideas heard. This step is
> generally followed by a restraining order or meds being administered.
> Sometimes the above is marked with statements like "Academics in this
> field are filled with anti-knowledge!", or "Those reviewers aren't smart
> enough to understand my paper!", or even "There is a conspiracy against
> me, my ideas are just too good, and are being suppressed".


I knew a guy like this once (he stalked *me* when I was a prof at UNLV, in
the early 90's). He really didn't have much in common with Eliezer,
scientifically or psychologically or however...

I have studied Eliezer's work pretty carefully. Eliezer is not a
"crackpot." He is a maverick thinker and a maverick human being, outside
the academic CS/cog-sci establishment both in his thinking and in his
practical life. His exposition of his ideas does not always adhere to the
proper academic form, which may make it harder for the average academic to
digest his ideas.

I certainly don't agree with all Eliezer's ideas, but that's a whole
different issue! Heck, there are plenty of ideas put forth by credentialed
academics that strike me as downright ridiculous, and some of them are
published in peer-reviewed journals....

I am not sure that the way Eliezer is conducting his career (the maverick
approach) is optimal in terms of achieving his long-term goals. But I'm not
sure it *isn't* optimal either. He's made a different choice than me in
that regard -- but, well, if people didn't make a variety of life-choices
the world would be duller and we'd have a narrower sample of examples from
which to learn...

-- Ben Goertzel ... Ph.D. ...

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