RE: AI timeframes

From: Dani Eder (
Date: Fri Apr 09 2004 - 09:19:59 MDT

--- Ben Goertzel <> wrote:
> > Tomaz Kristan wrote:
> > > I have seen enough history to conclude, that the
> US
> > government has no
> > > other choice, than to start a Manhattan size SAI
> project
> > [...] And I
> > > have no problems with this scenario.
> IMO, the AGI problem does not NEED a unified project
> of the size of the
> Manhattan project. Research software is not a
> large-team enterprise. I
> learned that the hard way!

First of all, the proper name of the atomic bomb
program was the "Manhattan District". It was so
named by the general put in charge of the program.
He had previously been in charge of building the
Pentagon, and the Army Corps of Engineers names
their project districts after the location of the
headquarters office.

The early work on the atomic bomb was centered at
Pupin Hall, the physics building at Columbia
University, which is in Manhattan. I studied
physics there as an undergraduate. According
to the older professors, the basement of the
building was slightly radioactive from the
prototype reactors they built there, but it
was okay to go down there because they painted
everything over with lead-based paint :-).
Later the majority of the work moved to other
places, but the name stuck.

The number of physicists involved in the program
was rather small. What made it a massive project
was the huge facilities required to separate
Uranium isotopes (Oak Ridge and Hanford).

In the computer field, the huge facilities
required to produce chips already exist, funded
by private companies. And when the economics of
AI make sense, there are lots of well funded
companies that can work the problem. The
US government is slow to react to these types
of challenges absent a major goad. Witness the
2-3 years it takes to repair the Shuttle each
time it crashes. In that time computers
quadruple in performance.

It would take something like discovering China
has a major AI & robotics program aimed at
developing weapons of mass instruction and
construction respectively, for the US government
to react on a time scale that would have much
of an impact. In the case of nanotechnology,
it has taken 15-20 years from when Drexler
published "Engines of Creation" to the point
where significant government programs exist, and
nanotech is similar to AI in having world-
changing potential.


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