Re: Hawking on AI dominance

From: Charles Hixson (
Date: Thu Sep 06 2001 - 11:12:30 MDT

Eugene Leitl wrote:

> On Thu, 6 Sep 2001, Harvey Newstrom wrote: ... Windows?
> Linux? PC? WTF has this to do with AI?
> A naturally intelligent system will use lots of massively
> parallel hardware, because a primate brain is not a
> particularly idle place. An AI platform will be thinkably
> (tee-hee) far removed from a PC, and it most assuredly
> won't run any OS, if it would at all make a difference
> between data and code.
I tend to believe that eventually an AI would need to swallow
the OS of the system on which it was implemented. That's why
Linux is a better choice. Or *BSD. Or something else, nearly
anything else, that had source code available AND mutable AND
redistributable. It would require a much higher level AI to
swallow a binary OS, and the development would be much more
difficult in the absence of any OS. I really doubt that any
general purpose AI will be developed on special purpose
hardware. After it has been developed, it may decide that for
some functions specialized hardware is superior, despite the
higher cost. Or it might not (outside of sensory modules, etc).
  Since at the most recent Linux World conf. I saw a plug-in
board with a plug in 25GB disk card (combined price ~ $700), and
the cpu was a 2 GHz chip and the boards could be connected with
a ethernet, and run as a Beowulf complex. You could, in
principle, fit as many into your computer as you had slots for
(and your power supply would support). That's NOW. That's on
the market today. I feel relatively certain that when the
software is ready, hardware won't be the problem.

Of course, it would be a bit expensive... at today's prices. To
take a wild fling: Say you have one tower box with four free
slots, that you fill this way. That's $2000 + 4 * $700 ~
$5,000. Now this isn't really enough, so say you connect five
of these together. $25,000. That's a good starter system. And
the OS for this would be Linux. I couldn't put a good price
estimate on what it would cost to do this with Windows, but
since that's 25 separate cpu's I think it would probably about
double the cost. Or more. And for a better system one would
want to cluster five of these groups together... etc.

Well, today's too early to start buying the hardware. Moore's
law says do as much as is feasible before buying the hardware.
If I had gotten far enough, I'd spring for the basic Tower
($5,000). That would let me start working on the main thread
dependency issues, etc. By the time I was ready to proceed,
hareware will probably have changed enough that it would be
better to start over on new hardware. But Linux ports easily,
so that's no problem. On the 5X5 the software would probably
become sophisticated enough to swallow the OS, so one would need
to be sufficiently convincing to cause it to hold off until one
could add at least a second 5X5 module. Then it should
understand that 5X5's could be added or removed, and design
itself accordingly.

If I project this year's trends forwards (cpu speeds doubled,
prices fell a tiny bit) then in a couple of years one should be
able to get a 5X5 that was 4 times as powerful for around
$15,000. (Actually, it would do better than that. Multiple
CPUs don't scale nicely in capacity. It depends on the problem
mix, but generally you're doing quite well if you get a 50%
bonus by adding the second one. So you gain quite a lot more by
using faster CPUs than by using more of them.)

And do remember that an AI won't need to be as busy at the
autonomic tasks as we are. I've seen an estimate that 80% of
our brain is devoted to tasks like maintaining muscle tension,
processing food, monitoring sugar levels, etc. I don't know how
reliable the estimate was, but current hardware doesn't need
much of that kind of effort. So a much less computational
intensive AI would be needed to achieve the same results. And
there's also the question of how efficient our thought processes
are. I don't know of any way to answer this, but there may be a
lot of room for improvement. In fact, we may have already
designed a bunch of improvements that just don't happen to work
very easily with a neural net. (Symbolic logic, e.g.) We can
"understand" them, but they sure aren't native to us, so we "run
them under emulation". That's always slow!

So I don't see hardware as being the problem (though if it takes
the 125 node cluster to do the job, affording it might be). But
notice that this scenario assumes that one is starting for here
and now. And it requires an OS be present that can BE swallowed
by the AI, without it being dismembered by lawyers. And it
requires that the OS be copyable, without the AI being
dismembered by lawyers. Etc. If you expect that the eventual
software will be sold, then one of the BSD variations should
probably be your starting platform, but that feels to me like
slavery. It's one thing to ask it to earn its keep, but it's
another to sell it. This is likely an irrevelent objection, as
I don't really see it being constrained very long once full
sapience is achieved. But it's a felt objection. So I would
prefer a Linux base. (Besides, I'm more familiar with it.)

Charles Hixson

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