Re: SIAI: Donate Today and Tomorrow

From: David S. Hansen (
Date: Fri Oct 22 2004 - 11:20:58 MDT

Aikin, Robert wrote:
> If AI were a horserace, the smart money would seem to be on Ray
> Kurzweil (but there is something odd about EY that makes him
> interesting to watch).

I would have to disagree. Kurzweil has published a number of books,
articles, and runs a website. He's been a very effective public face
for the transhumanist movement, but that doesn't at all qualify him to
be the "winner" of the race any more than the PR firm of Microsoft is
qualified to write software.

He's invented a few useful products, but mostly in the realm of
"classical" AI. If there's anything SL4 seems to be able to agree on,
it's the realization that something much more than classical AI will be
required to (a) create AGI, and (b) create FAI.

I used to believe that De Garis would "win" ( and probably initiate a
planet kill in the process ), but he has about as much access to capital
as Eliezer does, so I don't think we'll see connectionist success
stories from him anytime soon.

Instead, I see the recent interest of the USDOD in autonomous everything
to be a curious development. That is an organization that has not only
the motivation, but also the means to brute force AGI - a very scary
proposition, indeed.

Novamente looks promising, but it is also perpetually plagued by funding
issues, and has strong potential to become unfriendly.

To Eliezer's credit, he seems to be the only one who is pursuing AGI
with an eye to minimizing existential risks as a *requirement* rather
than an afterthought, or not at all.


Collective Volition is scarier than any of the above. As has been
pointed out on this list, CV is tantamount to slavery in the minds of
those on the receiving end of the dispensation of the collectively
volitional SI. EVEN THOUGH there is a critical distinction between
imposing volition and extrapolating volition, MOST people will NOT grok
that distinction, and they will be even less likely to donate to a cause
that, in their minds, plans to "enslave" them.

> To rely on public donations is not much different than a monk holding
> out a bowl (you never know where the next meal is going to come
> from). Unless idealistic individuals in the upper classes can be
> enlisted to support the cause, it might be more productive to create
> capital through some sort of technological innovation. There are
> more than a few clever minds on the SL4 list that could do this.

I wholeheartedly agree with this, and it is one of the many reasons I
believe SIAI is a dead-end. The singular focus on altruism appears to
have blinded them to acknowledging the dominant means of motivation in
human beings. By eschewing the profit motive, they have effectively
relegated themselves to barely scraping by on a few paltry donations.
While saving the world is, indeed, an infinite return on investment, a
wiki posting is generally considered a poor return on an investment of 6
months of donations. For the foreseeable future, I see SIAI producing
more of the latter than the former.

o David S. Hansen

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