Sketch of an AGI Curriculum

I often get asked questions like: “If I want to work on AGI, what should I study first to get up to speed?”

This new page gives a rough stab at an answer.

Radical Futurism for Newbies

Check out Radical Futurism for Newbies — a list of links I created, gathering together some fairly short and readable essays and articles by various authors, that all together give a fair overview of the radical-futurist / transhumanist / Cosmist / Singularitarian perspective

My next step is to get this page and everything it links to translated into Chinese and put it on some Chinese website…

Wacky intuitions about psi and Singularity

Someone asked me this question:

I was wondering, how do you square your belief in psi with the idea that we’re going to create a transhumanly powerful agent? I ask because psi seems to have some kind of agency/intelligence behind it, and I’m not sure what that/those agent/agents thinks/think about the idea of a human-caused AI expanding outwards at light speed or whatever. Certain psi phenomena seem to themselves imply a transhuman (godlike) agency behind them. Thus far I’ve focused entirely on figuring out how to cause a positive singularity, but the existence of psi phenomena makes me think that perhaps this isn’t such a good idea.

My wacky but sincere reply:

Personally, I tend to think psi is a sort of minimal, shifting, blurry glimpse into a deeper realm of reality, such as shamen have contacted for a long time (and some contemporaries have contacted under the influence of psychedelics like DMT and ayahuasca)…. The Singularity will likely bring us into contact with this realm in different, more powerful ways. The intelligence immanent in this realm is different from the goal-oriented, survival-oriented intelligence that we deal with in everyday life, and that we often implicitly assume is the only possible or sensible kind of intelligence…. As Singularity melts the individual self and makes our regions of both mind and world more pliable, we will move closer to this deeper realm and its different kind of intelligence in some ways…

That’s a non-scientific, personal view, but anyway that’s my intuitive feeling..


List of my podcasts (not complete) added to the site…

FAQ on AGI & Singularity added to site

I created a page giving brief answers to some nontechnical questions about AGI/Singularity I get asked a lot….   I’ll expand the page over time…

Hasta la vista 2011

2011 is about to end, but I’ve done waaaaay too much this year, and am waaaay too busy, to feel like writing a blog post summing it all up !!!  But anyway, here’s a very partial and crude approximation…

The kids are growing up !! …

  • Zade is in high school now …
  • Zeb is 18 and in January starts his junior year of college, majoring in film and history, at Marlboro College in Vermont
  • Zar just turned 22, graduated UMD College Park in May with a BS in Mathematics and a BA in Japanese, and will be spending a year (at least) teaching English in Japan, starting in April….
  • Egads!!  Can I possibly be old enough to have sired such large and aged offspring??  Most of the time it doesn’t quite feel like it; it somehow feels like I should still be in my late 20s….  But my memory banks tell me otherwise….  (And now and then, especially if I haven’t been getting enough sleep, I actually do feel 45 ;-p )

And on the other hand, my dad is retiring in June after his next semester at Rutgers ends; and my  mom plans to retire as Executive Director of PathwaysPA in 2013.   Hard to believe they’re both nearing 70 — their  minds are still in great shape and they’re so active!!  Hope I’m equally well off when I reach that age (though not as much as I hope aging and the legacy human condition will be obsoleted well before that time!!).

The big news for me this year happened in late fall — I got an apartment (actually the top floor + roof of a village house)  in Hong Kong, in a charming little village near Tai Po, 30  minutes drive north of Kowloon.   It’s semi-rural and peaceful, right next to the  mountains and the sea, and a lovely respite from the crowds and chaos of urban HK.  Adam Ford did some recent video interviews of me in the village — some from the rooftop courtyard of the house, some from a little path nearby.

I’ve also kept my house in Rockville Maryland (near DC) and am spending time both places now (Zade is going to high school in Rockville; she’s too attached to her school chums to feel like shifting to a Hong Kong high school…!)

What’s going on in Hong Kong?  I’ve co-founded a project aimed at applying AI to the Hong Kong stock  market, a new firm called Aidyia Holdings.  If this goes well, then after some time has passed it will generate enough $$ that I can make a significant contribution to funding AGI R&D myself.  Wish me luck!

Also, OpenCog is rolling along reasonably well, with a project involving OpenCog and intelligent game characters going on in the M-Lab in Kowloon Tong (Hong Kong), co-funded by the HK government and Novamente LLC.  Being in HK a lot lets me keep more involved with this project as well.   My massive tome on OpenCog and AGI, Building Better Minds, has been “almost done” for a long time — and it really IS almost done!!   It needs some attention to the figures and references, and some updating and proofreading, but even though I only have spare time for it lately, it’s bound to get done fairly soon….

And Novamente LLC and Biomind LLC, the AI and bioinformatics startups I founded and now Chair, are still rolling right along, with active projects in areas including computational neuroscience, life extension biology, nontraditional combinations of traditional Chinese medicines, music recommendation and psychological data analysis.

The AGI conference series that I founded a few years back is going strong — AGI-11 was at Google and AGI-12 will be at Oxford, and AGI-13 in Beijing.  The Humanity+ futurist conferences I’ve been involved with are cruising along too, H+@HK in Hong Kong took place just a few weeks ago and was great fun 😉 …

Is everything going as I’d wish it?  Well, not exactly.  On an everyday level things are good — I’m having fun, doing lots of interesting stuff, traveling cool places (the family trip to Mongolia this summer was AWESOME!); and my personal life is filled with people I love.  On the other hand, my progress toward seeing my AGI designs realized — or completing my theoretical framework for explaining general intelligence — is still frustratingly slow, and it’s an ongoing struggle not to let this fact peeve me too much.  I’m trying to work toward getting AGI built and understood in the  most effective and rational way I can, consistent with my own emotional makeup and needs, and  my responsibility to my family — but this requires an ongoing series of tough choices and compromises.  So overall things are exciting, emotionally and intellectually rich, often a bit frustrating but rarely boring….

One thing I note is, I don’t seem to have much time for avocations like writing wacky fiction or recording  music these days.   Practical and research work plus family stuff keeps me too busy.  But I do improvise on the piano at least 30 minutes every day, and am sure to walk outside a bit each day to keep the stress down and the meat infrastructure in OK shape….   Overall I’m a bit busier than I’m comfortable with, but I reckon I can keep going at this pace for a few more years without getting toooooo stressed.

And so it goes…

List of links to my research papers added to site…

As part of my sloooowwww push to update this site … and with help from a fantastic part-time assistant found via odesk …  I have finally added to this site a page listing my research papers and giving hyperlinks for most of them

Now let’s see if I will manage to keep it updated every 6 months or so 😉 …

Video catalog (some of my talks and interviews)

This new page gives links to videos of a lot of the talks and interviews I’ve given over the last few years, mostly on futurist and AGI related topics.

Books I’m Working On

Here is a list of books I’m working on now… at various levels of completion…  Eight books, to potentially come out over the next fixe years (OK maybe some will slip a bit past that!).  Not bad considering book-writing is a spare-time pursuit and not my full-time job — but note that I’m helped on many of these books by awesome co-authors.

Real World Reasoning: Toward Scalable, Uncertain Spatiotemporal, Contextual and Causal Inference (with Nil Geisweiller, Lucio Coelho, Predrag Janicic, Cassio Pennachin).  We’re finalizing the proofs of this one just now, it will appear via Atlantis Press.  This began as a report written for a government agency, but we spun it off as a book.  Part of it gives examples of PLN applied to spatiotemporal and causal reasoning.  Part of it gives probably the only textbook-level review of recent work in spatiotemporal and contextual logic.

Foundations of Artificial General Intelligence (an edited book: the first editor is Pei Wang, I’m the second).  This is a follow-up to the previous edited volume “Artificial General Intelligence” that Cassio Pennachin and I edited, focusing this time more on theoretical issues.  We’re collecting the chapters this month and the book will be out next year, via Atlantis Press.

Building Better Minds (with Nil Geisweiller and Cassio Pennachin)– an 800 page technical book on how to build an advanced thinking machine.  This is basically done, but the figures and diagrams and references need work, and the whole thing needs a bunch of proofreading.

Faster Than You Think: How AGI Will Soon Change Everything
(with Lisa Rein and Stephan Bugaj) — a non-technical, “popular” book on the path to AGI.  Including a lot of H+ Magazine articles and interviews, plus a bunch of new stuff.

Intelligent Genomics (with Lucio Coelho and Cassio Pennachin) — an overview of our novel methods for crunching SNP and microarray data via mining information from classifier ensembles.  The text for this one already exists but it’s in extremely rough form, having been pasted from a bunch of research papers.

? — a philosophical treatise giving a careful explanation of the mind and universe.  Sort of like a detailed analytical analogue of “A Cosmist Manifesto” + “The Hidden Pattern.”   This one will be fairly short, highly dense, and not that easy to read.  No references, no personal comments, no rambling exposition.  Actually this is the book I’m most excited about personally, although I realize there’s little market for this sort of thing!  If I found I had only 3 months to live, I would spend those three months hanging around with my family, playing the piano, hiking, and writing this book.

Mindplex — an avant-garde fiction work, romping through the minds of various individuals as they approach the Singularity and their minds start to blend.  I started writing this already, and have to actively force myself not to spend time on it while trying to finish Building Better Minds and Faster Than You Think.  Probably after I finish “?” I’ll spend my “writing for pure fun” time on this.

A Formal Theory of Real-World General Intelligence (with Matt Ikle’ and Nil Geisweiller) — Building Better Minds contains some material working toward a formal theory of general intelligence, but it’s still preliminary and fragmentary at present.  Algorithmic information theory, hyperset theory, category theory and information geometry are all ingredients.  Eventually, once we’ve filled in enough blanks, we’ll wrap it up as a (technical) book.

>no title yet< — I’m slowly and incrementally accumulating notes toward writing some sort of autobiography one day.  Every time I send an email that includes some anecdote from my life, I paste it into a Google Doc, and there’s a fairly large but extremely haphazard collection by now.  I’ve always wished it were possible to read autobiographies written by interesting people in the thick of their lives, rather than written by old people looking back.  However, nobody has much time to write an autobiography while in the thick of their life, and I don’t either.  So this one may wait till I get old, or until I get famous enough that my autobiography will be a best-seller, or till I can spawn a clone to write it.  But anyway, the notes are accumulating 😉 ..

My (boring) methodology for Getting Work Done

I often get asked how I manage my time and my general work process, since I seem to get a lot of stuff done.  Unfortunately there’s no big secret, and I don’t follow any general principles religiously.  But here is a description of my general working habits, for whatever it’s worth.  (At very least, this list will be amusing for me to look back N years from now when society, technology, and Ben Goertzel have evolved dramatically!)

  • I spend a fair percentage of my work-time working on stuff I’m really excited about.  Maybe 1/3 stuff that I 100% want to be doing; 1/3 stuff that I wouldn’t do if I were rich but that’s still pretty interesting and fun; and 1/3 boring stuff.  I wish the proportions were more favorable but that’s the reality at the moment.
  • I work mainly from home, which is a very comfortable environment for me (not fancy at all, just well customized for my own particular taste).  A comfortable chair I’ve had forever, nice speakers playing music most of the time, and my parrot a few feet behind me keeping me company…
  • I concentrate pretty hard while I’m working, nearly all the time.  I’m not very prone to mental distraction.  And I have a work environment with few other distractions, except my dog asking to go outside every now and then.  If I’m doing something I like, I concentrate because I like it.  If I’m doing something annoying I concentrate so I can get it over with quickly.
  • I work a lot of hours.  I don’t know how to calculate how many, because I don’t know where the dividing line is between work and non-work.  When I drop my daughter off at school, then on the drive home I’m thinking about AGI or biology or some such — is that work?  Is reading a cognitive science book while lying on the couch work?
  • I don’t waste time.  I try to spend pretty much every minute either doing something useful, or fully enjoying  myself, or ideally both.  I don’t watch TV (except occasional cartoons with my daughter), because that is not fully enjoyable to me, just sorta mildly amusing.
  • I try to be mindful of my own emotional and body state while I’m working, and not let myself get stressed out or have bad emotions (of course I fail at this fairly frequently, but at least I  make an honest effort and usually succeed!)
  • If my  mind or body feels like it, and there’s no extremely urgent reason not to, I get up from the desk and improvise at the piano for a while, or go for a walk.  I probably improvise at the piano (or, usually, electronic keyboard) about 45 minutes per day, and walk outdoors about 30 minutes per day … and on the 50% of my days when  my daughter is at my house (instead of my ex’s), we go to the park and play for an hour or so.
  • Like a lot of other folks, I got some useful lessons from the book “Getting Things Done”, though I don’t follow the recommended system in all its aspects
  • I keep a Task List (text file) on my desktop, with three categories: URGENT, NORMAL and LONG-TERM.  As stuff to do arrives, I note it in that list.  When traveling I keep a similar list on my iPhone notepad (no fancy phone/computer synchronization at this time).
  • If something has to be done by a specific deadline, I note the deadline on Google Calendar; and also make a note in Google Calendar N days before the deadline (where N is the amount of days in advance I think I need to start working on the thing).
  • When I get an email, I either answer it or archive it.  If I want to answer it later, before I archive it I note in my task list that I want to answer an email to person X later.  I don’t want to have an inbox full of emails with ambiguous status (do I really need to answer this or not? and is it urgent or not?)
  • I don’t like chat much, except for with my kids and my girlfriend.  I tend to keep chat windows minimized and not answer chats.  It’s hard to get stuff done when constantly being interrupted by chats.  I like emails far better for work-related communications.
  • When I start a new task, I ask myself “Is it reasonably efficient to multitask while doing this task?”  If the answer is no, I minimize my email and chat windows and ignore them while I do the task.  If the answer is yes, I multitask, and check email and chat etc. in the midst of doing the task.  (I think some folks waste a lot of time due to multitasking in the midst of work that isn’t effectively multitasked.  On the other hand, sometimes multitasking just works great.  The key is to be highly aware of when it works and when it doesn’t, and adapt accordingly.)
  • I play instrumental music in the background while I work; jazz or jazz fusion or classical.  Music with lyrics disrupts my thinking.
  • I badly neglect the maintenance and upkeep of my house, because doing that stuff is much less interesting to me than the work I do!
  • I try to set aside about an hour each day for unstructured out-there thinking about whatever I feel like thinking about — and try NOT to think about whatever my  most urgent current projects are.  Sometimes this is solo or sometimes it’s in a long walk or rambling chat with someone else around the house.
  • I’m usually in the middle of one or two (literary or SF) novels, and 4-5 nonfiction books from various disciplines (maybe half related directly to  my work, half not).  I read maybe 45 minutes a day — usually half in the morning before starting work, and half at some random point during the day.  It’s critical to keep the mind active and thinking about all sorts of things; I recognize the need for focus but I’d hate to become narrow-minded.

Older posts «

» Newer posts