-------- Original Message --------
From: Declan McCullagh <firstname.lastname@example.org>
Subject: FC: More on Singularity and group releases Friendly AI guidelines
[This is a response to my article today about the Singularity Institute and
Friendly AI, which is at http://www.politechbot.com/p-01934.html -- it's an
excerpt from an email exchange, snipped and forwarded with permission. --Declan
Date: Thu, 19 Apr 2001 13:19:43 -0400
From: "Eliezer S. Yudkowsky" <email@example.com>
To: Declan McCullagh <firstname.lastname@example.org>
Subject: Re: My reaction...
Page title: "Making HAL your Pal". Good title.
Page summary: "What happens when artificial intelligence becomes far
smarter than humans? What will keep it friendly? The Singularity Institute
says it as the answers for what happens during the next stage of
humanity's evolution. By Declan McCullagh." Great summary.
First sentence: "Eliezer Yudkowsky has devoted his young life to an
undeniably unusual pursuit..."
I guess I felt that there was too much about me, and who produced
"Friendly AI" and why and whether he was a nice person, rather than the
actual topic of Friendly AI and the Singularity.
I'm young, Declan. I didn't go to college or even high school. What I
rely on, for my credentials, is not the fact that I once got an absurdly
high SAT score at age eleven; what I rely on is people looking at my
present-day work and seeing that it is good. I have no objection to your
including that quote from whichever AI researcher it was, but I also wish
you'd gone into at least a little detail on something - said something
about probabilistic supergoals, for example - so that anyone with a
knowledge of cognitive science who reads the article can say: "Hm, that
sounds like an interesting idea for Friendly AI, I'd like to know a bit
more about it." I didn't see anything in the article that would enable
people to do that. There are things about my history, and about what
we're trying to do, and what other people think of it, and what people
think of the Singularity, and who invented the Singularity, but not
anything about what the Singularity *is*, or what, *specifically*,
"Friendly AI" suggests. Even the words "Friendliness is not imposed, it's
what the AI *wants* to do", would have been enough to intrigue people -
show them a little of the future shock, the strangeness of the
That's why I was enthused by the title and summary, but worried when I
read the first sentence. I'd as soon turn grey and faceless and be just
another author's name on the page then permit my admittedly interesting
life story to get in the way of SIAI.
Part of all this was simply my inexperience, of course. In the future,
for example, I'll be careful to say: "Any damn fool can design a system
that will work right if nothing goes wrong. That's why Friendly AI is
And no, the Singularity Institute doesn't have any code. We *say* we
don't have any code. We plaster that fact all over the place. We *beg*
people for the funding we need to start writing code, and in the meantime,
we do what we can to make the Singularity safer. And yet people, dammit,
don't just advise us to start writing code, which is one thing, but
actually get all *angry* at us for not having code? How the devil do they
think code gets written? By hiding out in the basement until you've
written a complete working AI? How would people know we were worth
funding if we didn't do what we could in the meanwhile?
Of course I expect a lot of hostile reactions. The most I can hope for is
that I can accumulate a bunch of equal and opposite good reactions to use
to oppose it. Any crackpot can say things like "Einstein was mocked!
Drexler was mocked!", and the frequent use by crackpots of that line is
exactly why I try never to use it. Still, a hostile reaction by a
distinguished scientist neither proves nor disproves a theory that would
be expected to be controversial. You have to judge by looking at the
I forecast a good chance that the goverment will interfere and mess up the
Singularity. Remember, Declan, I'm not necessarily doing this because I
forecast a large probability of success, but because these are the actions
that lead to the greatest available probability of success.
-- -- -- -- --
Eliezer S. Yudkowsky http://singinst.org/
Research Fellow, Singularity Institute for Artificial Intelligence
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