RE: Why SIAI is a nonprofit

From: Ben Goertzel (
Date: Wed Oct 27 2004 - 06:03:20 MDT

> On Oct 22, 2004, at 2:20 PM, Eliezer Yudkowsky wrote:
> > And even if you succeed, you lose years. I don't think the human
> > species has that kind of time. If we win, and we may not win, it's
> > going to be close. We need the difficult cure before the easy
> > disease. Add a delay of six years (and probably more) to start a
> > corporation, assume the unlikely event of success, and by the time we
> > were done it would probably be just too late. Also, *I* don't have
> > time. I have to do my thinking while I'm still young enough to think.
> > I have to use my annus mirabilis years on AI and nothing else. Youth
> > is a non-renewable resource for solving scientific problems. I still
> > live in fear of running out of youth before I run out of fundamental
> > AI problems requiring basic shifts in thinking and deep mental
> > retraining.
> >
> This bit of ageism is probably not that strongly justified. If you
> believe it is then please provide your evidence. I seem to have gone
> through several basic shifts in thinking and deep retraining in my 30s
> and 40s and am on the edge of another at the ancient age of 50.
> Perhaps I am just odd in that way. But I and other older folks I know
> still seem quite able to think mostly as well and as deeply as when we
> were in our 20s.

Well, I'm 37 and as far as I can tell I think *better* than I did 5 or 10 or
20 years ago. Heck, I'm improving all the time ;) My analytical powers
are just as good as they were when I was young, but I know more and have
better intuitive judgment and better cognitive self-control. I'm betting
I'm going to take a path of making my biggest achievements in my early 40's
;-) ...

I have taken a lot of lateral moves in my intellectual career so far, which
have probably prevented me from achieving what I could have in any one
area -- as soon as I've really mastered some domain, I've always moved on to
something else, even before this mastery is really proved to the outside
world.... But AI integrates all the different areas I've explored, and I
don't plan to move on from it till I've actually succeeded...

In some disciplines there is a tradition of the big achievements being made
by people in their 20's. But this is only a statistical phenomenon -- and I
also note that these tend to be disciplines that are highly formal in nature
(math, physics, music), in which a lot of wide and deep information
integration isn't needed for achievement. Cleverness and vision are enough
in these areas. In biology, philosophy, visual art and literature, for
example, there is a lot of disparate, fuzzy and ambiguous knowledge to be
gathered together, which -- to make a broad overgeneralization -- often
requires broad+deep knowledge and wisdom as well as cleverness and vision.

> If SIAI doesn't find a deeper source of funding and get some actual
> building the tech traction the people will continue to die.

Well, it may be that some other people -- maybe even some old people ;) --
will do the actual tech work involved in singularity-ward technology, and
Eliezer will continue to serve the valuable role of coming up with
interesting ideas and guiding peoples' thinking in worthwhile directions...

-- Ben G

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