Re: AI Goals [WAS Re: The Singularity vs. the Wall]

From: Jeff Medina (
Date: Tue Apr 25 2006 - 10:41:06 MDT

On 4/25/06, Ricardo Barreira <> wrote:
> But I bet that there are already tons of
> detailed studies about this.

Ricardo is spot on. There has been extensive work done analyzing what
a goal is, what types of goals humans and nonhumans and
systems-in-general have or might have or should have, intentionality,
motivation, and self-deception about goals. The usual suspects --
psychology, computer science, economics, et al. -- are all involved.

For one to attempt to discuss goals seriously without having read up
on this background material is an instance of a general sort of error
most commonly made by those who have never studied any particular
field in depth, and hence don't grok that for almost every interesting
topic, and actually many uninteresting topics, much has already been
written that they *must* become familiar with before anyone who *is*
knowledgable in the area will listen to anything they have to say
(and, perhaps more importantly, they must become familiar with it to
avoid reinventing wheels, re-committing known mistakes, and otherwise
churning away without contributing to any real progress in the field).

It's good that some people are recognizing that people have a tendency
toward armchair theorizing without getting specific, technical, or
otherwise utile via a more formal, precise approach. But to suggest
the way out of this is to reinvent definitions and ontologies related
to 'goals', void of prior work, is ... no better? ... no, it's better,
it's progress... but it's not better enough to have shrugged off the
"complete waste of time" crown.

If methodologies, in addition to subject matter, were to have 'shock
levels', this one would be decidedly 0.

That said, let me reiterate that I am entirely supportive of your
intention ("1" in your list); it's the "2" in play that needs an

Jeff Medina
Community Director
Singularity Institute for Artificial Intelligence
Relationships & Community Fellow
Institute for Ethics & Emerging Technologies
School of Philosophy, Birkbeck, University of London

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