DRMacIver's Notebook

How to build a superintelligence

How to build a superintelligence

I tweeted the following:

It’s a source of some frustration to me that we’ve had the capability to build useful functioning superintelligences for about 100,000 years and yet never seem to have taken this capability seriously.

I was asked to elaborate, so this is an elaboration.

Short version: Groups of people are superintelligences. They are reasoning entities that are capable of tasks significantly beyond those of individual humans.

We build groups as superintelligences all the time (albeit often very ad hoc and dumb ones), but what we don’t seem to spend much time doing is explicitly designing them. This is a shame, because there is a lot of interesting low-hanging fruit in this space.

A particularly interesting/frustrating example is from Nigel Cross’s “Can a Machine Design?”. In this they experiment with building a “computer aided design” system in which humans take on the role of the computer. Either the “computer” half of the equation generates ideas and is critiqued by the humans, or vice versa.

This paper is interesting for two reasons:

  1. They come up with some interesting conclusions about human/machine collaboration. In particular they suggested that having humans critique computer generated work rather than vice versa was a significantly superior option. The entire industry then went and did the opposite.
  2. They built a system in a day that was in some ways significantly superior to anything we’ve used since, and then went “huh, that’s interesting” and threw it away.

Humans are incredibly flexible components in system design, and we’re very good at taking on specialised roles. We mostly don’t use these capabilities, and I’m reasonably sure that if we did then we could very easily design reasoning systems that vastly outperform the ad hoc ones we build instead.

An interesting design point in this space is Liberating Structures. They don’t explicitly frame their work this way, but it has many interesting characteristics for this problem.