RE: rambling question on AI

From: Reason (
Date: Fri Jan 04 2002 - 18:36:31 MST

> Reason wrote:
> >
> > From my readings online, there's
> > very little that discusses what happens in between
> >
> > a) useful primer steps like Cyg [Cyc?], Flare, etc
> > b) boom! functioning, if very crude general intelligence or seed AI
> >
> > Which I would assume is because no-one really knows for sure
> (or else we'd
> > be hip deep in AIs by now).
> I would say that a "functioning, but very crude GI" *is* an intermediate
> step, if by "functioning but very crude" you mean "the modules are talking
> to each other but the overall system doesn't do anything interesting".

Well, it's up for debate as to what either of us means by "crude". Let's say
whatever can be achieved in 2 years by a standard sized tech team for a new

> To get an "intermediate application" before this point requires that you
> try and implement something less than a GI. And to do this, you are going
> to have to do different work in different ways than you would if you were
> taking a direct path to general intelligence. You are going to have to
> expend a lot of effort on building a functioning system only some of which
> will be useful as a way station to GI. I would be afraid of getting
> bogged down in something that wasn't directly on the road to GI - but
> then, SIAI is a nonprofit and thus has different strategic requirements;
> we can try for seed AI and accept intermediate applications whenever they
> show up, rather than having to convince VCs about the shortsightedness of
> destructive shortcuts. Peter Voss or Ben Goertzel may have different
> goals and consequently different plans.

I was wondering if there were any waypoints in the process that produce
viable products without the "destructive shortcuts". Of course if a sideline
leads to the revenue needed to stay afloat, then it wasn't all that
destructive. But yes, different organizations, different goals.

> I have to say, though, that one of the largest reasons - maybe even *the*
> largest reasons - why SIAI is a nonprofit is that general intelligence and
> seed AI is pretty much one of the most complicated things in the world,
> and if there's a VC with voting control sitting there and saying "Make
> this simpler so it can go out the door in six months", then AI is just not
> going to happen there.

It's not so much a matter of getting the final product out of the door in
six months -- it's having *a* product out of the door in six months. And
that can cover a wide variety of sins.

> > Now if you're walking into a VC's office to pitch an AI company
> -- one of
> > the few places you're guaranteed not to be the strangest project they've
> > seen -- they're going to want to hear how you're going to be generating
> > revenue within six months from an initial investment. [Since you're a
> > software company, that is, and producing those easy-to-make
> software things,
> > as opposed to an infrastructure company making those
> hard-to-make lumps of
> > iron, but I digress -- lambasting VCs is far too easy].
> Six months? A dream.

Why? It takes four months, five developers and a quarter of a million
dollars to produce software that retails for half a million, including
support. In most cases, this is the compromise version -- the full (and much
more complex) vision isn't realized until a few years of new versions down
the line. So the argument would be, if someone can dedicate resources to do
that for another field, what is it about AI development that means you can't
produce something that can be sold in the same timeframe?

> > So you're starting out with something along the lines of a
> concept, perhaps
> > some useful protocode for classifying information and information
> > processing, possibly even a grasp of the One True Path To AI.
> What can you
> > produce in six months that you can sell? What is the improvement on that
> > that would be coming out in a year?
> In six months, you can produce a toy program that is totally off the
> development path to general AI. I think that's pretty much it.

With a broader view of the term "product," alternatively, you could produce,

a) knowledgable consultants to farm out to other AI ventures
b) a single useful component that can be licensed to other AI ventures
c) a book on AI development
d) the material and contacts for a subscription-based newsletter for
development companies

And so forth. Not that I'm convince there's a vast market of AI ventures out
there, but I don't think that there's anything wrong with taking those


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