Re: Singularity Objections: SIAI, General Objections

From: Thomas McCabe (
Date: Wed Jan 30 2008 - 20:01:40 MST

On Jan 30, 2008 3:21 PM, Joshua Fox <> wrote:
> Tom and Kaj,
> Thanks for this effort, and I look forward to seeing this online. Be sure to
> do copy-editing first, though, for style and brevity.
> Some comments:
> > * SIAI will just putz around and never actually finish the project, like
> all the other wild-eyed dreamers.
> > o This, I think, is a real, serious risk. - Tom
> The SIAI needs hard-headed business-like management alongside the wild-eyed
> dreaming. Tyler with the team has made good progress -- more is needed.

SIAI received more than $500,000 last year. The main concern now is
what we're going to spend it on.

> > * There's no idea in treating seriously an institution whose leader and
> only full-time researcher is a middle-school drop-out without a single
> peer-reviewed publication.
> >
> > o Incidentally, this might be one of the rare objections that it's better
> to just quietly ignore than try to answer...
> >
> Of course, you can't just ignore an objection, if it means the SIAI will get
> suffer in various ways like not getting donations.

The idea is that if we don't mention it, people simply won't bring it
up. Eli's history isn't commonly known, after all.

> > I don't know if any answer will satisfy those who only look for formal
> credentials before
> > respecting someone, and there's no point in highlighting the issue. - Kaj
> I very much respect Eliezer (and donate to SIAI), but that's because I read
> hundreds of pages of his and other's writings. You can't expect all
> potential supporters to do that.
> If I heard of an innovative but off-beat cancer research institute whose
> lead researcher is a middle-school drop-out with no peer-reviewed
> publications, I wouldn't have the time or ability to compare his approach
> against with more mainstream and credentialed scientists. I'd prefer to
> direct my donations to the latter, and I'd be right to do so.

SIAI usually gets a few big donations from dedicated Singularitarians,
rather than lots of small donations from people who don't really
understand the Singularity or FAI.

> > those two chapters for Global Catastrophic Risks, which were technically
> peer-reviewed,
> In academia, book chapters are considered to be at a lower level of prestige
> in terms of peer review.
> SIAI has addressed the issue of credentials by adding Ben Goertzel and other
> PhD's to its team. A further step might be to publish SIAI-funded work in
> peer-reviewed journals.
> The scientific community demands that researchers pump out articles for a
> reason -- it is a metric of performance; not a good one, but one of the few
> we have. I am not suggesting that Eliezer pumps out low-quality work, but I
> am suggesting that we treat the mainstream "establishment" scientific
> process with respect and see if SIAI can (partially) fit into it.

SIAI is currently funding the OpenCog project ( It should
come online later this spring.

> Joshua

 - Tom

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