Re: SIAI's flawed friendliness analysis

From: Ben Goertzel (
Date: Wed May 21 2003 - 15:10:27 MDT

> > I wonder why it is that government funding has been so much more
> > in biomedical areas than in AI. It could be "historical accident", but
> > there may also be some kind of systematic explanation, to do with the
> > different behaviors of the different government agencies involved,
> > intrinsic differences between the sciences. It's a subtle thing though,
> > because DARPA, the major US AI funder for many years, had a lot of
> > in its funding experiments in many other areas...
> Looks pretty obvious to me. Biomedical areas have plenty of obvious,
> useful, fruitful angles of approach. Throw money at AI and the
> researchers just bounce off the problem.
> --
> Eliezer S. Yudkowsky

yeah, you do have a point.

Biomedical research is not nearly as easy as you seem to suggest ... it
involves a huge number of insanely difficult, closely interconnected
problems.... However, I think it is true that there are clearer gradual,
incremental paths for moving toward solutions to these insanely hard
problems, than there are in AI.

In biomedicine, the gov't research establishment has done a pretty good job
of dynamically and aggressively shifting funding to promising new areas, and
not overfunding "ingrained ideas" whose time has come and gone. Not a
perfect job, but a pretty good job.

On the other hand, the habit of gov't funding in AI has been to repeatedly
fund almost the same exact research by the same exact researchers over and
over again, in spite of repeated failures. There has been interesting AI
research, but the correlation between level of gov't funding and
interestingness of research has been surprisingly low.

Anyway, I don't think "biomedicine is easier in some ways than AI " is
anywhere near a full explanation of the historical phenomenon in question,
though I agree that it does have some truth to it.


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