Re: Yudkowsky's AI (again)

Eddie Sullivan (
Mon, 05 Apr 1999 19:08:18 -0400

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Lyle Burkhead wrote:

> On your web site, you say
> > The ultimate object, remember, is for runaway positive feedback
> > to take over and give birth to something transhuman
> In general I agree with that, except
> (1) It doesn't have to be "runaway" -- it will proceed at its own pace,
> whatever that is.
> (2) I think in terms of IA instead of AI. The seed is within us. I am
> creating an environment around myself that fosters a positive feedback
> mechanism in my own mind (and body), which will lead to something --
> "transhuman," maybe, although I'm increasingly uncomfortable with such
> words. I just think of it as clear thought and perfect health.
> I also have other aims, such as wiping hip-hop off the face of the earth,
> but I don't imagine Extropians could relate to that.

Not this Extropian. I take great exception to this obviously racist attack on a real urban futurist art form. Hip hop was the first comercially sucessful electronic music. The philosophy of hip hop is clearly individualist in nature. Plus i don't think that you have the brain power to wipe hip hop off the face of the earth. Unless you are some artistic genius and could invent a new musical form to take it's place. Even then the hip hop community would respond creatively as they have always done in the face of racist and bigoted attacks.

> You and I have such different vocabularies that it would take a very long
> time to establish communication. I don't get my philosophical vocabulary
> from Hofstadter and Vinge. I thought you would understand my reference to
> the ur-meme immediately. Do you understand how Judaism works as a meme?
> Have you read Everett Fox's translation of the Torah? or Aryeh Kaplan's
> translation of Sefer Yetzirah? or Isaiah, in any translation? or "The Art
> of Biblical Poetry" by Robert Alter? I guess you don't think that sort of
> thing is worth bothering with. Not to mention Frege, Wittgenstein, Austin,
> Goedel (his own papers, not filtered through GEB), Rene Thom, and all the
> other stuff I read. I read a lot of math -- not Hofstadter's
> self-reflective stuff, but plain old math. And plain old science -- I
> subscribe to Nature and read it every week; it would never occur to me to
> subscribe to a science fiction magazine, or to make science fiction the
> center of my thought. And plain old history, and plain old fiction and
> poetry (Homer, Virgil, Shakespeare, Keats, Goethe, Rilke, etc). We have
> both read Dawkins, but the "meme" meme by itself is not enough to establish
> a common ground for discussion of ultimate goals and how to get there.
> Nevertheless there is a deep resonance here. As I read your web site, I get
> an eerie sense of deja vu. I feel like I am reading my own notebooks from a
> decade ago. At that time I still believed in AI. I wanted to create a new
> kind of entity, not exactly a religion, not exactly a business, not exactly
> a school, but a combination of all three -- a network of schools and
> businesses that would make money not for its own sake but with the aim of
> creating the Singularity. (I actually used that word for a while, after
> going to a Terence McKenna seminar at Esalen in 1988). The whole thing was
> going to be organized as a corporation called Recursive Systems. For
> various reasons nothing ever came of this. I guess the main obstacle was
> that I was uncomfortable with the messianic pretensions involved.
> There are three ways to get people to write checks:
> 1. Define your project as research in computer science, with potential
> military applications. Explain it in terms that make sense to agencies such
> as NSF and DOD (or their equivalents in some other country).
> 2. Define your project as a business. Break it down into steps, in such a
> way that each step is profitable in its own right. Do the same thing with
> your AI system that Stephen Wolfram did with Mathematica, or John Walker
> did with AutoCad, or Bill Gates did with MS-DOS. It is still possible to
> start from scratch and make billions of dollars in the software industry.
> Someone will have the same dominant position in robotic software that Bill
> Gates has in PC software. (This is what I meant the other day when I said
> you wouldn't have to worry about money if you spent your time writing
> software instead of reading the list.)
> 3. Define your project in religious terms, in such a way that people care
> about it and want to see it happen. Call it Singularitarianism, or some
> such ism. Or just say you are going to create the Messiah, or be the
> Messiah. A lot of people will believe this and write checks, if you have
> the stomach for it. It is still possible to make money with cults. I see
> living proof of this every day -- I live across the street (diagonally)
> from the Scientology Celebrity Center. The money pours in. There are also a
> lot of preachers making a ton of money off the coming Apocalypse. But I
> don't think anybody has pursued this from a specifically Jewish angle. A
> lot of Jews here in Los Angeles (and elsewhere) expect the Messiah to
> appear any day. The opportunity is there, for whoever wants it. I don't. If
> the first one didn't come back to life after they crucified him, I don't
> imagine my prospects would be any better.
> I think path #2 is the wisest choice.
> I'm not going to be writing checks for the Elisson Project, because, as I
> explained in geniebusters, I think the whole thing is based on a fallacy.
> To say that computing power is doubling every n years is at most a
> half-truth. The number of transistors on a chip is doubling, and the clock
> speed is doubling, but that doesn't imply that intelligence is doubling. It
> doesn't imply that there is going to be a Singularity. It wouldn't surprise
> me if, a decade from now, you write something like geniebusters, in which
> you describe how it gradually (or perhaps suddenly) dawned on you that you
> plus the software you create will always understand philosophy better than
> the software by itself. It should be an interesting paper -- maybe better
> than geniebusters, which is certainly not the last word on the subject.
> Lyle

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