Re: SITE: Coding a Transhuman AI 2.0a

Date: Sat May 20 2000 - 09:11:45 MDT

One of Eliezer's more speculative ideas is that there could be a "cortex"
in the AI which specializes in code (that is, in computer programs), in
the same sense that we have brain structures that specialize in hearing
and vision.

I have never understood this.

It reminds me a little of the "watchmakers" in Niven and Pournelle's
Motie novels. These were beasties which had evolved so that their
natural environment was industrial civilization. They had instincts
to manipulate the artificial world similar to how most animals can
live in the natural world. The story makes it clear that they are not
intelligent, just animals working by instinct.

Loose on the human ships, the watchmakers are able to improve a coffee
maker to produce the best tasting coffee imaginable. They've never had
coffee, the Moties don't drink coffee, but somehow these animals are
instinctively able to change the coffee maker to make it work "better".

The watchmakers also improve the human's force-field technology (similar
to Star Trek shields), which no Motie has ever seen. Where the regular
shields eventually overload and expload, the watchmakers improve the
device so that as the shields get too much energy, they expand and radiate
it away. The improved fields are vastly more effective in a conflict.

The watchmakers seem utterly implausible to me. Industrial equipment
works on the basis of complex logic that can't reasonably be understood
by animals. As a first step to improving a device, it is necessary
to understand what it does. There is no way an animal could do that,
for a coffee maker or an energy shield. How would they know what would
make coffee taste better? How would they know that expanding shields
would protect ships longer? It's impossible.

Eliezer's coding cortext doesn't seem much more likely. I don't see
how it could do more than strictly localized parsing and improvement,
technologies we already have. Beyond that requires a deep understanding
of the purpose of code. An unintelligent brain fragment won't be able
to achieve this.

Is the coding cortext supposed to be more than an optimizing compiler?
If so, I'd like to hear what it is going to be able to do, and how it
will do it.


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