Re: An essay I just wrote on the Singularity.

From: Robin Lee Powell (
Date: Wed Dec 31 2003 - 15:57:52 MST

On Wed, Dec 31, 2003 at 04:42:09PM -0500, Ben Goertzel wrote:
> 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.

I think I'll use that in future. Thanks.

> 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...

Right, and that was my point, except you said it much better. 8)

> > > 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

I apologize unreservedly; I don't know why I haven't spent time
absorbing the stuff. I recall there being a reason, but I
don't know what it was; it was most likely distraction. I'll go
back and give it a better shot.

> 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. doesn't count?

> > 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 example.
> 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.

See, that worries me a bit, because if I read you correctly you just
said you're working an AGI but not really on Friendliness. That is
really, really frightening to me.

I'd actually very much like to see a joint paper between you and
Eliezer, or even a good e-mail thread, describing the differences
between your approaches and why you aren't working together.


Me:  ***   I'm a *male* Robin.
"Constant neocortex override is the only thing that stops us all
from running out and eating all the cookies."  -- Eliezer Yudkowsky             ***              .i cimo'o prali .ui

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