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.

Doing Time in the Universal Mind

Last week I was at the SENS5 longevity research conference in Cambridge UK.  Beautiful city and university; exciting and fascinating conference.  My report on the results of applying AI to study the genomes of long-lived flies went over smashingly….

In the hallway near the conference room, however, someone stopped me and noted that while he’d very much enjoyed my book A Cosmist Manifesto, he was a bit perplexed and frustrated by a few comments that seemed to indicate I believed in the existence of some kind of “universal mind.”   He felt this was too much like a “God” and asked me if I thought I had any proof that such a thing existed!

My first response was that yes of course I had a mathematical proof of the existence of God, but it was too long to fit in the margin….  But he didn’t buy that ;-(

I’m not religious at all, and I have a strong — maybe a bit excessive — instinctive aversion to religious rituals and superstitions.  With age I’ve come to have more respect for the fact that these are helpful to many people in many ways; but anyhow, they’re not for  me.

After more thought my response to him on the “universal mind” issue was as follows…

I can intuitively sense  the “universal mind” , in the same way that I can intuitively sense my own consciousness and the chair I’m now sitting on.  It’s intuitively, vividly apparent to me that there’s some sort of awareness and life and understanding in the cosmos.  I can feel it there — it communicates with me in its own way, quite different from how humans communicate with each other.  It responds to me, I respond to it.  That’s just a part of my inner life.

But if you tell me there is no universal mind, I can’t usefully argue with you about it — any more than I can argue with you if you tell me I have no personal consciousness!!

These are things existing for me in my own subjective reality (and, so it feels to me, in a broader intersubjective and cosmic reality that my subjective reality connects to); they’re not scientifically  measurable via any means I know of….

Yet, just because  my consciousness is not measurable scientifically, I’m not going to pronounce it null, void and meaningless — and the same with the universal mind 😉

P.S.  In case you’re ignorant of 60s rock, the title to this blog post comes from a Doors song.  Not my absolute favorite Doors song, but still damn good, give it a listen!  Or the live version, even better….  “I’m the Freedom Man, that’s how lucky I am…”

Who coined the term “AGI”?

In the last few years I’ve been asked increasingly often if I invented the term “AGI” – the answer is “not quite!”

I am indeed the one responsible for spreading the term around the world  … and I did sort of commission its creation!   But I didn’t actually coin the phrase….

(Yeah, terminology is ultimately a pretty boring issue.  But in practice, it makes a lot more difference than it “should” ….  So it’s mildly interesting to me to look at how it originates and spreads.)

The fairly undramatic story is as follows.  In 2002 or so, Cassio Pennachin and I were editing a book on approaches to powerful AI, with broad capabilities at the human level and beyond, and we were struggling for a title.  The provisional title was “Real AI” but I knew that was too controversial.  So I emailed a bunch of friends asking for better suggestions.  Shane Legg, an AI researcher who had worked for me previously, came up with Artificial General Intelligence.   I didn’t love it tremendously but I fairly soon came to the conclusion it was better than any of the alternative suggestions.   So Cassio and I used the term for the book title (the book “Artificial General Intelligence” was eventually published by Springer in 2005), and I began using it more broadly.

A few years later, someone brought to my attention that a Maryland researcher named Mark Gubrud (who, coincidentally, works not too far away from my own location in Rockville, though we never met until he came to the Second AGI Conference in 2010 — this is typical of DC: lots and lots of interesting stuff going on, but not so much communication within the science/engineering community as one finds in some other places) had used the term in a 1997 article on the future of technology and associated risks.  If you know of some yet earlier use, let me know!

At the time Ray Kurzweil used the term “strong AI” for (perhaps not exactly, but pretty closely) what I now refer to as AGI, which is okay, but seemed to Cassio and me to have two problems.

  • First of all, the antonym of “strong AI” is “weak AI”, and calling existing AI systems  “weak” seems needlessly insulting to the systems’ creators – as well as to the AI systems themselves, since e.g. Deep Blue is a rather strong chess player!  Kurzweil worked around this issue by using “strong AI” and “narrow AI” as antonyms, but this struck us as a suboptimal usage.  I believe Ray still likes the term “strong AI”, but now also refers to “AGI” sometimes too.
  • Secondly, “strong AI” has a specific meaning in the philosophy of AI – it refers to John Searle’s hypothesis that, if an intelligent system behaves as if it has a mind, then we should assume it actually has a mind.

The strong points of the term “AGI” are the obvious connection with the recognized term “AI”, and the connection with the “g factor” of general intelligence, well known in the psychology field (it’s what IQ tests are supposed to measure).  There are also some weak points though.

“Artificial” isn’t really appropriate – since AGI isn’t just about building systems to be our tools or “artifices.”  I guess it’s about using artifice to build general intelligences though!

“General” is problematic, because no real-world intelligence will ever be totally general.  Every real-world system will have some limitations, and be better at solving some kinds of problems than others.  (But still, of course, some systems can have more generality to their intelligence than others — and in one of my papers presented at AGI-10, I gave a formal definition of “generality of intelligence” that distinguishes it from “degree of intelligence”.)

“Intelligence,” finally, is a rather poorly defined term, and except in highly abstract mathematical contexts fairly divorced from real-world systems, nobody has a totally clear idea what it means.  Shane Legg and Marcus paper wrote a fun paper that collects 70+ different definitions of intelligence from various branches of the science and engineering literature.

But in spite of these shortcomings, I like the term “AGI” well enough.   It seems to be catching on reasonably well, both in the scientific community and in the futurist media.   Long live AGI!

How was Mongolia?

I just got back from a trip to Mongolia w/ my kids & girlfriend (at the tail end of a trip thru part of China with the same crew plus my  mom), and am getting a load of questions from folks in the vein of “How was Mongolia”, “What’s Mongolia like?”, etc.  So I figured I’d write the answer down here once and for all….  (Warning: this is typed fast and stream-of-consciousness and is definitely not an attempt at professional travel prose!!)

First off: Mongolia is AWESOME.  Everyone should go there.  Experience it before it gets modernized, as will inevitably happen in the next couple decades, as the country’s substantial mineral wealth finally gets tapped.

The original motivation for the trip was my son Zeb’s obsession with Mongolian history from the period of the extensive Mongol empire….

Our introduction to Mongolia, which we entered over-land from the Chinese border, was getting a jeep-taxi to cross the border, and having 5 of us (plus our backpacks) crammed improbably into 2 seats.  The rest of the jeep was filled with cartons of vodka bottles.  2 of our party were “seated” so as to have no contact with any seat in the jeep, just suspended in the air on top of us.  That was hilarious but fortunately short-lived.  The overnight train from the Mongolian border town (Zamyn-Uud) to Ulaanbaator was slow but uneventful, and the dining car was full of colorful-looking Mongolians drinking vodka and getting high.

Ulaanbaator is a surprisingly funky city, with all sort of restaurants and lot of nightlife.  Lots of businessmen in Armani suits, who are the best people to ask for directions when you’re lost, as they usually speak English (and in Ulaanbaator one is usually lost, because the street layout makes no sense and the addresses are usually meaningless).  Worst traffic imaginable, walking is usually faster than driving; and completely psychotic drivers.  Surprising number of young blue-haired punk rockers and Mongolian-language rappers and such….  The city is very European in a way, with scarcely a trace of Chinese influence (though Erlianhaute, in China on the Mongolian border, seems very Mongolian…).

But the real fun is getting out of Ulaanbaator, which is accomplished only expensively or very uncomfortably, but is very much worth it.  Our first stop was Terelj, which is actually close to Ulaanbaator and takes only a couple hours to get to (we took a local bus there and hitched back), and consists of amazingly beautiful scenery quite different from what one thinks of as typically Mongolian.   Mountains covered with trees and grass, crystal-clear rivers, complex rambling rock formations atop mountains, perfect for climbing…  I’m sure it’s painfully cold in the winter, but in summer it’s quite paradisiacal.  Renting horses and riding them through the woods, criss-crossing the river, etc.

Terelj was beautiful but in a somewhat familiar way — our main destination was the South Gobi, which was in some places truly otherworldly … in Bayankar (Flaming Cliffs) you felt like you were on Mars rather than Earth … and on Khongoryn Els (huge sand dunes, taking about an hour to hike up each dune) you felt like you were on some science-fictional desert planet.  Furthermore when you roll down the dunes, they make a weird “singing” sound that shakes your whole body — it has to be experienced to be believed.  Fortunately we didn’t meet any of the fabled Mongolian Death Worms….

Getting to the Gobi was a bit hellish — we took a local bus, which ran overnight … a 15 hour trip on an overcrowded bus with no shock absorbers and, for most of the drive, no roads (just some tangled up, sometimes rather faint, jeep tracks).  None of us slept more than a few minutes.  This bus brought us to Dalanzadgad, a small desert city without  much to recommend it, except that they let you camp in the park in the center of the city.  We caught part of the local Naadam (wrestling) festival, which was somewhat interesting, though the airag (fermented horse milk) they dispensed free in the stands was too sour for my liking, not as good as the airag I’d obtained earlier from Inner Mongolia….

To get out of Dalanzadgad, we rented a Russian van and Mongolian driver, shared with a wonderful young German traveler, and an occasionally frustrating Polish priest/videographer.  The van broke down very frequently and overheated so badly that the interior felt like a pressure-cooker.  The driver constantly got lost, not surprisingly, due to the lack of roads.

However, the countryside was simply amazing….  So much beautiful empty space — grasslands and desert extending everywhere….  More “pure nothing” than I’ve ever seen — with astounding sunsets and sunrises and cloud formations — and herds of camels, goats and horses throughout … so many horses: Mongolia must have the world’s highest horse-to-human ratio.  And then the rare occurrence of some spectacular sight out of the nothing — sand dunes or volcanic mountains or canyons….

I hadn’t realized, beforehand, that so much of the population still lives in the traditional nomadic manner, living in yurts (gers) out in the desert, herding animals for food.  Most ger camps have at least one ger with a television (generally tuned to sumo), and at least one motorcycle (watching Mongolians herd camels by  motorcycle is pretty hilarious), and everyone has a mobile phone … so technology has certainly touched the nomads’ lives … but nevertheless, the basic lifestyle is the same as it’s been for ages.  Single-family villages, a few yurts in the desert and a few dozen camels, goats and horses….

It felt like a privilege to get a glimpse of the nomadic lifestyle now, a few decades before (according to my best guess) it goes away — even if not due to a Singularity or Surge or whatever, then simply due to the increase of wealth in Mongolia as their minerals are extracted.  As we drove from UB to Dalanzadgad we saw the beginnings of a paved road being built (following about the first 1/30 of our path).  Granted, a paved road would make that trip a hell of a lot more comfortable; but in a little time, that road and other local ones connecting to it will make a big change in the way rural Mongols live.  I don’t say this is wrong, just that it’s pretty interesting to see how they live and think now, before that change happens.

And in spite of the language barrier, it’s easier to see the lives of Mongols than folks in most countries, because of their incredible hospitality — basically any Mongol family will let you into their home to stay for a couple nights, and eat their food, etc.  We didn’t end up staying with any  Mongol families, as we had tents and were camping, but even visiting their homes for briefer periods was interesting….

It’s interesting that Mongolia is a reasonably well-functioning democracy, in spite of its low income level and relative lack of development.  One among many counterexamples to the idea that a certain level of economic wealth is needed for democracy.

Some practical negatives (apart from the transport ones mentioned above).  Sanitation is not quite at Western standards; the state of the toilets is usually sufficiently disgusting that you’re better off doing like the Mongolians and finding some random spot outdoors to relieve yourself…  Food: nobody has ever visited Mongolia for the food.  UB has some great restaurants, but UB is special…  The “Mongolian Barbecue” restaurants you find sometimes in the US serve Chinese food, not Mongolian food.  Outside UB, when we asked for vegetables we were commonly offered eggs or rice.  An apple in the store costs more than a steak.  The meat itself is very good, so the best you can do is to try to find meat prepared as simply as possible.  If you like meat cooked in horse milk, bully for you….  The worst is when they try to prepare Western food.  I lost a few pounds in Mongolia, due to lots of exercise and eating only when necessary…  English is spoken very little, and Chinese is spoken even less; Russian is spoken occasionally, though mainly in Ulaanbaator.  You mostly have to get by on common sense and improvised sign language.  Also, the only way to get from one local city to another in Mongolia is to go via Ulaanbaator — it’s the hub of the cobweb of jeep tracks, which substitutes for a road system.

But obviously those negatives are part and parcel of the positives of the place.  The beauty of  Mongolia is that you can REALLY get out of it, into another world….  As the rest of the world invades rural Mongolia, it will get more and more comfortable, and less and less fascinating.

I was intrigued to find that my iPhone could get 3G signal about half the time even in rural Mongolia, especially atop mountains.  However, disappointingly, Mongolia isn’t covered in my international data plan (unlike China and every other country I’ve visited); I got an SMS informing me that data access would cost me US$19.97/MB, an offer I did not make use of….

Also, after leaving the country, I found that the currency exchange booths in the airports in China, Hong Kong and the US would not exchange my extra togrog (Mongolian currency) for me.  I’ll give it a try at my bank.  The money has cool pictures of Chinggis Khan on it.

If you want to take a tour in Mongolia, I’d recommend the Golden Gobi tours run via the Golden Gobi hostel in UB.  I didn’t do that because I prefer to travel independently, but I met the people who run Golden Gobi and they seem pretty good (and very multilingual).  Independent travel in Mongolia is not that easy but I encountered plenty of other travelers doing it too….

I’m back in the US now and preparing for the AGI-11 conference, but my two sons are staying in Mongolia through much of August, off on another adventure to a  different region.  I’m a bit jealous — though also happy to be back to pushing AGI forward…

Some links on psi …

Just added a page briefly summarizing my views on psi phenomena, and giving some useful links for those seriously interested in the topic (but not yet expert):

Filmed for Discovery Channel “Singularity” Documentary

Today I got filmed for a documentary being made for the Discovery Channel about the Singularity (not sure what the ultimate title will be). Lots of good thought-provoking questions, though with a bit more focus on negative potential outcomes than I’d prefer. Scary outcomes (however remote) really seem to fascinate many people, and I suppose TV (even intelligent documentaries made by broad-minded, savvy people) ultimately has to be about giving people what they want.

Anyhow, the folks in charge of the film seemed bright and deep-thinking, and I think it’s going to come out interesting.  As always I’m curious to see which 2-10 minutes of my two hours of wonderful verbiage they select (and I realize it will depend as much on the overall structure of the film and the stuff other interviewees say, as on the intrinsic quality of the various parts of my interview — that’s just the nature of documentary film-making).

I’m really psyched to see the media paying so much attention to the Singularity and related memes these days!  Regardless of the particular focus, just having these topics taken seriously and put in front of the public eye, is a massive step forward.  The meta-message is that this stuff isn’t just science fiction anymore — it’s plausibly going to be part of our actual reality on a meaningfully nearby time-scale.  Documentary films (even somewhat sensationalist ones, which this one I was just filmed for may or may not be in the end) are an important part of the process of bringing the Global Brain to bear on the important issues that will soon be facing us as technology develops….

One of the more interesting questions they asked was: What will the first thought of the first superhuman AI be?  I figured that if it was a benevolent superhuman AI, quite possibly its first significant dilemma would be the good old problem of helping humans overcome their suffering, versus leaving humans their freedom and dignity.  I guess it will/would be frustrating for that benevolent super-AI to watch humans suffer, and know it could end their suffering easily via intervening in their brains — yet feel inhibition against doing so, because of the desire not to interfere in humans’ “free choice” (even though that free choice is in some ways illusory, and often leads to suffering in ways that humans aren’t smart enough to see).  Or perhaps a super-AI will see conceptual or practical ways around this sort of “Joy & Growth vs. Choice” dilemma, that aren’t apparent to my petty human mind !!!

(Or maybe its first thought will be “Kill all Humans!!!” … though I hope and expect not! … or, say, “Goodbye and thanks for all the fish” !!)

I also spent a while quizzing the young production assistants and editing assistants and so forth about their jobs, since my middle offspring Zeb is considering going into the film business after he graduates college….  Interesting how everything is outsourced and subcontracted these days: Discovery subcontracts most of its content to various small production houses, which get most of their work done via hiring temporary subcontractors.  I suppose this makes the whole business more agile than it would be if everything were done within one huge bureaucracy, yet also creates a lot of personal uncertainty and career instability for the people doing most of the work.  Ultimately it’s not so different from the way I make a living this last decade, doing consulting and contract jobs (via Novamente LLC) for various customers….

Overall — though I always enjoy being filmed or interviewed while it’s happening, and am grateful for the chance, etc. etc. — I find I have mixed feelings about the abstract concept of putting time and energy into media punditry.  Even though it’s good fun, I still have this nagging feeling I should be spending time on research instead!!   However, the effort does seem to be paying off at least in terms of general publicity for myself and AGI. In particular the Kurzweil biopic Transcendent Man (which briefly featured me) seems to have been viewed a lot, and I’ve had a surprising number of strangers come up to me in public places and say they saw me in that film! Too bad I no longer have the funky zebra-striped cowboy hat I wore in that movie ;-( … I returned it to the guy I borrowed it from some time ago (a friend of Sibley Verbeck’s in Santa Cruz). I actually tried to buy another one but it was hard to find a high-quality one. Bummer. Maybe I’ll look again sometime!

My hope of course is that the modicum of general notoriety I’m achieving will eventually be useful for getting stable funding for building beneficial AGI.  And also, that getting more skills in dealing with the media will help me to deal with the media effectively once my colleagues and I create powerful AGI and then have to teach the world what the implications of that are….

Anyway, I’ll post here when the documentary comes out.  Coming soon to a television near you, yadda yadda.

Now I’ll turn my attention back to various less dramatic pursuits, such as working on a proposal for an AGI Research Center (that a well-connected friend and I will pitch to some government organizations and private individuals), and thinking more about the particulars of connecting DeSTIN to OpenCog … and an “analytical philosophy” style treatise on the theory of mind I’m slowly cranking out in spare moments … and the popular book on AGI that Lisa Rein and Stephan Bugaj and I are writing … and analyzing Genescient’s super-fly data to figure out the secrets to longevity (a quest that’s coming along remarkably well) … and then that project on feature metalearning … egads, now that I re-realize all the stuff on my plate I’m going to start doing that work instead of finishing writing the list of stuff I’m supposed to be doing !!!

Plus, as well as all that work, I have all 3 of my kids home for a long stretch this summer, which is a delight … and maybe the last time, who knows.  Zar just graduated college and will be going off somewhere in the fall; and Zeb lives away from home at college now too.  Can I really be old enough to have kids that old?? — it really doesn’t feel like it!!  But, well, better not to go down that rabbit-hole 😉 ….

The world’s first feathered chimpanzee!

A couple weeks ago my daughter Zade and I did a Google search and found zero results for “feathered chimpanzee.”

So, being kick-ass mad-scientist genetic engineers, we set to work in our basement DIY-Bio facility here at Goertzel Labs, and created the world’s first Feathered Chimpanzee.

Above you see a photo we took of our beautiful mutant creation, when she was a few weeks old.

Unfortunately shortly after we created her, she flew out the window and we haven’t seen her since.  If you find her please do send me an email, ben at goertzel dot org.

I’m eager to submit the news of our creation to Nature, but without evidence of our success, I guess they wouldn’t publish the paper.  And when we tried to repeat the feat, we just got weird stuff like parrots with chimp heads — not so interesting.  Oh well.  We’ve since gotten distracted with some time travel research, but maybe we’ll get back to the genetic engineering stuff eventually.

Out of embarrassment I guess, Zade has recently begun pretending the photo we took is a fake.  But believe me, it’s real.  Trust me, I’m a Dr.

New site!

I’m finally taking the leap and updating the front page and menu pages of the site (launched in 1995 when I lived in Western Australia and the Web was not quite 2 years old) to WordPress.  All the old content will remain in HTML, I don’t have time to port it.  There may be some quirks with the new site at first so please bear with me!

My intention is to use blog posts like this one for brief updates on my doings — both personal/family stuff and professional stuff like new projects and conference speaking dates, etc.  Probably I won’t post that often.  My good old blogspot blog Multiverse According to Ben will still be the place for my blog posts about my various half-baked ideas…

Speaking of family news — my oldest son Zar just graduated from college (UMD College Park, with a double major in math and Japanese).  He’s home now for the summer, plotting his next move.  Damn, can I possibly be old enough to have a son who’s a college graduate?  That feels weird!  But of course, if this life extension thing works out, in hindsight  my current age of 44 will seem like infancy !!! …

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