RE: [agi] Artificial General Intelligence Research - Help Wanted

From: Ben Goertzel (
Date: Wed Dec 22 2004 - 16:38:28 MST

Sorry, I just realized my previous email used HTML formatting in an annoying
way. Here is a better-formatted version:


Hi all,

Recently David Hart -- who's been working with me on AGIRI (the nonprofit

side of the Novamente project, which hasn't been very active, but we'd like

to make it more so, because funding Novamente AGI development via the

minimal revenue from our narrow-AI consulting projects is proving

*massively* too sluggish for our tastes...) -- recently posted an email on

the list pertaining an AGIRI fundraising drive.

By way of commentary on this, I'll post here an excerpt from the informal

"Concluding Remarks" to the latest, still-not-yet-finished draft of the

ever-evolving and improving "Novamente book" (now three books). I have 6

chapters to revise out of the 29 in the book and then this version will be

ready to send off to the publisher ;-))

-- Ben G

The excerpt:


Reactions of people who have read early drafts of this book have varied

widely. Most readers are surprised and at least mildly impressed that

anyone has taken the trouble to work out a serious AGI design in so much

detail. However, not surprisingly, there is a lot of skepticism regarding

our conjecture that, when fully implemented and tuned and taught, the

Novamente design will actually lead to general intelligence at or beyond the

human level. The only complaints that really interest us are the ones made

by people who believe that some AGI design is possible. Among these

readers, the primary complaints made seem to be things like:

Complaint: The design is too complicated, there are too many parts to

coordinate, too many things that could go wrong

Answer: Yes it IS complicated, and we wish it were simpler, but we havenít

found a simpler design that doesnít seem patently unworkable. Note that the

human brain is also mighty complicated Ė this may just be the nature of

making general intelligence work with limited resources.

Complaint: BOA and PTL are not enough, you need some kind of more

fundamentally innovative, efficient, or (whatever) learning algorithm. This

complaint never comes along with any suggestion regarding what this "mystery

algorithm" might be, though Ė most often it is hypothesized that detailed

understanding of the human brain will reveal it.

Answer: This is possible, but it seems to us that a hybrid of BOA and PTL

will be enough. The question is whether deeper integration of BOA and PTL

than weíve done now will allow BOA learning of reasonably large (500-1000

node) combinator trees. If so, then we almost surely donít need any other

learning algorithm, though other algorithms may be helpful.

Complaint: Youíre programming in too much stuff: you should be making more

of a pure self-organizing learning system without so many in-built rules and


Answer: Well, the human brain seems to have a lot of stuff programmed in, as

well as a robust capability for self-organizing learning. Conceptually, we

love the idea of a pure self-organizing learning system as much as anyone,

but it doesnít seem to be feasible given realistic time and processing power

and memory constraints.

Complaint: Programming explicit logical rules is just wrong; logic should

occur as an emergent phenomenon from more fundamental subsymbolic dynamics

Answer: Probabilistic logic is not necessarily symbolic; in the Novamente

design we use PTL for both subsymbolic and symbolic learning, which we

believe is a highly elegant approach. The differences between subsymbolic

probabilistic logic and e.g. Hebbian learning are not really very great when

you look at them mathematically rather than in terms of verbiage. The

Novamente design is not tied to programming-in logical knowledge a la Cyc.

Itís true that the PTL rules are programmed in (though in Novamente 2.0 they

will be made adaptable), but this isnít so different from the brain having

particular kinds of long-term potentiation wired in, is it?

Of course, we donít expect our answers to fully please the complainants Ė

but they generally seem to convince the complainants that weíve thought

through the issues carefully. Almost no one who has seriously studied

Novamente has accused us of being naÔve or foolish in our approach, though

obviously many have considered our confidence excessive, and have proposed

other directions as seeming more promising.

At time of writing, our biggest frustrations with the Novamente project are

twofold. The first is a technical frustration: existing software tools are

a pain to work with. Both Windows and Unix carry with them their own forms

of irritation, similarly with all existing programming languages: C++, Java,

LISP, functional and logical languages. All existing operating systems and

programming languages place unnecessary hassles in the way of creating a

powerful general AI. As a Novamente software developer, one spends too much

of oneís time wrestling with purely software-level issues that have no

direct connection to AI. And needless to say, the software industry does

not put much effort into creating software development environments that are

specifically conducive to AGI R&D!

The second frustration is financial: because of the radical nature of the

project, we have not been able to secure a significant amount of R&D

funding. We have sustained the project, so far, based on a combination of a

small amount of R&D funding with revenues derived from small businesses that

weíve built by deploying portions of the Novamente system within narrow-AI

software products. This is not the right way to build a thinking machine.

What the Novamente project needs is a small group of programmers and

scientists dedicated full-time to creation of AGI. We view the current

phase of Novamente development as preliminary Ė our goal is to get the

system to the stage where it does things that are exciting enough that

marshalling significant R&D funding becomes easy. At that point weíll be

able to pay a top-notch full-time team (including the authors and the other

Novamente originators) to complete the job, and progress will start going an

awful lot faster.

We mention these frustrations not out of the desire to personally vent, but

mainly because of the general point that they illustrate: neither

contemporary human society, nor the computer science community, nor even the

AI community is at all supportive of the quest to create powerful AGI

software. We believe that in hindsight, after AGI has been created, this

lack of support and enthusiasm will be viewed with incredulity. AGI is a

hard problem but itís far from an impossible problem Ė it seems clear that

there are many possible solutions, and we believe that Novamente is one of

them. Almost surely itís not the best one, but so far as we know itís the

only likely-looking solution thatís been proposed in detail so far.


-----Original Message-----

From: []On Behalf Of

David Hart

Sent: Tuesday, December 21, 2004 11:20 AM


Subject: [agi] Artificial General Intelligence Research - Help Wanted

Hi All,

AGIRI (the Artificial General Intelligence Research Institute) is pleased to

launch a new drive to raise $80,000 dedicated to pure AGI research with a

specific goal: to complete the next major milestone of Novamente development

by the end of 2005.

Milestone M10, shown in the Novamente Development Roadmap, is the deployment

of a Novamente system specialized to control an embodied agent, interacting

linguistically and "physically" with other agents and objects in a simulated

world. For more information on the project, see the AGI-SIM Development

Plan. AGIRI is also seeking capable programmers, for both volunteer and paid


We believe that upon completion of the AGI-SIM project, AGIRI will be

well-poised to raise the larger-dollar research funding needed to move

Novamente quickly toward its longer-term AGI goals. The AGI-SIM application

of Novamente may also open up new commercial possibilities, for instance in

the area of partnerships with firms developing mobile robotics technology.

For more information about Novamente, see the new concise but deep

single-page description located at the AGIRI home page, and the eight-page

technical paper at Novamente: An Integrative Architecture for General

Intelligence. A new series of books that will describe Novamente's

conceptual and technical under-pinnings in great detail is due for

publication in 2005.

Read more about fundraising at AGIRI on the contributions page.

Best Regards,

from all of us at AGIRI


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