Re: Communities, project management, Luke Skywalker

From: Eliezer S. Yudkowsky (
Date: Fri Aug 19 2005 - 10:37:44 MDT

Phil Goetz wrote:
> Re. Eliezer & Richard's comments about needing people
> who are members of all 6, 7, 8, or 9 communities -
> That isn't how things are done. When NASA wanted to
> put a man on the moon, they didn't say, "Hey, let's
> find some people who understand propulsion, materials
> science, rocketry, bioscience, astronomy, radio
> communications, and computer science." They found
> a bunch of people, each with expertise in some things,
> and some people with the ability to manage those people
> and get them to work together.

NASA was trying to solve, as a matter of engineering, a problem whose
fundamental physics were well-understood.

> AI has too many lone wolves who are determined to do
> things their way or no way. Everybody wants to be
> Luke Skywalker - the Chosen One who succeeds where
> entire empires have failed. I don't mean just those
> on this list; I mean even the most highly-respected
> and often-quoted AI researchers, whom I will not name
> here because I might want to get a job from one of them
> someday. Maybe AI will actually progress if we can
> cure Skywalker Syndrome.

Bringing order out of scientific chaos is oft-done by teams, but also oft-done
by Luke Skywalkers; such is the lesson of history. Why? One overlooked
reason, I suspect, is that once someone latches on to a piece of the problem
they have an advantage in figuring out the rest also, a first-mover effect.
But also because quite often you *do* need to fit all the knowledge into one
person's head. Some knowledges can only be properly collated using
intercortical bandwitdth, not interpersonal bandwidth. In AI it's not so much
a matter of collation as knowing, for each of the necessary fields, how not to
make the mistakes which that field knows about.

Eliezer S. Yudkowsky                
Research Fellow, Singularity Institute for Artificial Intelligence

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