RE: An essay I just wrote on the Singularity.

From: Ben Goertzel (
Date: Wed Dec 31 2003 - 14:42:09 MST

Robin wrote:
> The only substantial difference between the
> singularity and the rapture is that no-one involved in the
> singularity claims to have had a vision from god.

Actually, I've had a few visions from various entities claiming to be gods,
in my day ;-) [I fondly recall once in the fairly distant past, while
tripping on mushrooms, when God addressed me in the form of a McDonald's
french fry. Yep, I ate him!]

However, I just take such experiences as exciting inspirations, not as
absolute truths to be followed.

Singularitarianism takes scientific and rational values as foundational --
that is what distinguishes it from nearly all religions.

Scientists can get their inspiration from divine visions or from the garbage
heap. What's critical to science is not the source of inspirations, but
rather the methodology for validating/falsifying hypotheses. Kekule
hypothesized the benzene ring partially by hallucinating snakes eating their
own tails, but this didn't make him believe his hypothesis -- it was just a
source of inspiration which led him to testable hypotheses.
Singularitarianism is not a scientific theory in itself, but it holds to the
scientific method and the accompanying discipline of rational inference.

There are some quasi-religious traditions ---- Shambhala is an example ---
which take rational values as foundational, and these are perhaps closer to
Singularitarianism than to the more dogmatic traditions lumped into the
fairly heterogeneous category of "religion".

Your statement that there is no evidence for the Singularity is a bit
misleading. There is indirect evidence. There is no direct evidence that
the stars in the sky are flaming balls of gas either; we believe this
because of inference based on indirect evidence ... just as we believe in
the Singularity because of inference based on indirect evidence. Use of
indirect evidence does not distinguish science from religion. Religious
folks I know believe in reincarnation based on inference from indirect
evidence --- I have a lot of quibble with their inferences, but...

> > I know it's fun to write down stuff exactly as it sounds in our
> > heads, but with Singularity issues, the wrong presentation can
> > really damage your credibility... I also think it's important
> > that we present the FAI meme in a way that doesn't focus on
> > Eliezer so much - even though he originated the idea, FAI-esque
> > thinking has been going on for the past decade or two, and its
> > present day supporters include people like Nick Bostrom, Brian
> > Atkins, etc, not just Eliezer. Placing too much emphasis on
> > Eliezer will also make you look like a cult victim.
> Show me someone else that's actually got a coherent general AI
> design, then.

Hmmm... I believe I have a coherent general AI design (the Novamente AI
system). It has not been published but some general verbiage about it can
be found at

In fact, I believe my AI design is a lot more fully worked out than
Eliezer's is. So far as I know (my last data point being when I had a long
chat with him over dinner a couple months ago), Eliezer really hasn't
attempted to formulate a design for a general AI in detail, although he has
done a bunch of interesting cog. sci. work in this direction.

Peter Voss,, is another guy with Singularitarian leanings
and a coherent general AI design (his design is also not published,

I could give a long list of folks with general AI designs, but I don't
really have time... a partial list is given on the AGIRI website.

> I have no attachment to Eliezer himself, but I honestly don't know
> anyone else that's doing what he's doing.

Eliezer is one of a few individuals who are devoting a lot of their time to
exploring the implications of the Singularity and the issue of AI
friendliness. He's not the only one -- Bill Hibbard is another, for

As for me, I'm spending only a little of my time on such issues, and more of
my time on nitty-gritty stuff related to general AI design, as well as on
related issues such as using AI to understand the human organism and how to
repair its flaws.

-- Ben

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