November 15, 2008

Convergence08: Opening panel on AI

Opening AI panel:
Peter Novrig, when asked how he would advise Obama if he were the CTO, responded, "Believe in reality." This got a great reaction from the audience.

Ben Goertzel notes that, instead of bailing out "corrupt banks" and "incompetent auto makers," that the billions of dollars should be funneled to fund private enterprise in such fields as AI, nanotechnology, and so on. Feels that the U.S. is misallocating its national resources by funding dying industries instead of AI and health care.

Panel is asked what kind of AI applications we can expect by 2015. Pell said we can expect to be able to talk to our game agents, and Omohundro talked about robotic cars and robots in the home (care for the elderly). Goertzel predicts AI for semi-automated scientific discovery and experiment design.

Questioner from the audience says that transhumanism suffers from a "public relations defecit," and wonders how transhumanists can better go about outreach and advocating for a technnological future. Omohundro feels that the popular media is contributing to some of the scare mongering and negative characterizations. Goertzel thinks it's important that we roll-out these technologies via positive applications; they need to be practical and helpful -- eventually our lives will be interwoven with these technologies and accepted.

Goertzel argues that the problem with AGI is not so much technical as it is financial. He says we could be moving 5 times faster with the requisite funding. Novrig says there isn't going to be one single breakthrough -- there's going to be thousands of applications and each along it's own path; disagrees with the singular focus that's characteristic of Goertzel's and Yudkowsky's research and thinking.

What can we do to accelerate things along? Pell says we should focus on what we're really best at and pursue paths that yield the best fruit the quickest; we should apply our talents to the problems.

What are the misconceptions surrounding AI? Pell feels that the biggest myth surrounding AI is that it's impossible and that humans are somehow special Goertzel says that long predictive time scales are typically off the mark. Omohundro feels that most people can't grok rapid/radical change, while others think far too much of the future -- instead we need to walk a middle path. Novrig noted that there have been some very healthy changes to AI theory, including the shift from logical to probabalistic approaches in AI.

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