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Machines Like Us

Machines Like Us interviews: Ben Goertzel

Saturday, 20 October 2007

MLU: Finally, Ben: Let's pretend that you have cloned yourself and are now both interviewer and the one being interviewed. Is there any question you've never been asked before, but have always wished to hear? If so, please ask, then answer, that question.

BG: Ummm ... "How does it feel to have a clone?"

No question comes to mind, but I'll make a closing statement, which is that I've always believed, since I was a child, that human beings are incredibly held-back and tied-down by the cultural preconceptions that are pounded into their heads from childhood. Yes, culture is what makes us what we are -- without culture, each of us would be little more than a monkey -- but it also holds us back from manifesting the potential it has given us. Something like creating a thinking machine is outrageous from the perspective of mainstream culture -- and yet, using the technological, analytical and conceptual tools provided by human culture, it could have been done a decade or two ago if anyone had managed to marshall the resources together in pursuit of the right AGI design.

Kurzweil says the Singularity will come in 2045 --- some say sooner, some say later, some say never. But the point I want to make is that the date is really determined by cultural psychology, not by technology per se. We could have a Singularity in 5-10 years if we wanted one badly enough. Or we could delay it forever if we collectively get lazy and don't really try.

I firmly believe that the technology and the ideas to create AGI at the human level and beyond are at our disposal right now. The Novamente design can work, and I'm sure it's not the only workable path. The obstacle is our culture and our psychology which makes it very difficult to marshall the needed level of resources toward the goal in a coherent way. This is the obstacle I'm trying to overcome with Novamente LLC -- and it's a difficult effort, but also a very rewarding one, in terms of the process as well as, obviously, the end goal.

Read more exclusive Machines Like Us interviews here.

For more information about Novamente and AI implementation in Second Life, see Ben's article in KurzweilAI.net called AI Meets the Metaverse: Teachable AI Agents Living in Virtual Worlds.