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Interview with Ben Goertzel, CEO at SingularityNET

Ben Goertzel

My hope is that by 2022 a significant percentage of the world’s AI will be disseminated and consumed via decentralized networks rather than via big tech companies’ centralized infrastructures. 

Know My Company

Tell us about your journey into building technologies. What galvanized you to start/join SingularityNET?

I have been working on AI and AGI for 30 years now – 10 years in academia and 20 years in the industry.

SingularityNET is the latest chapter in my AI story, which came about when I realized that blockchain and associated technologies provided an ideal means for realizing one of my many AI visions – a decentralized platform in which AIs could freely interact with other AIs, self-organizing into an overall society and economy of minds constituting an emergent level of artificial intelligence. It seemed plain to me, when I thought about it deeply, that this would constitute both the best way to deliver high-quality AI services to a huge variety of markets and also the best way to create a robust platform for the creation and emergence of powerful AGI.

Could you elaborate further on your role in “AI-meets-Blockchain” technology?

My background is more in AI than in blockchain.

But, I also have a strong background in complex systems theory, in the study and analysis of complex self-organizing systems in biology, psychology, sociology, economics and so forth. So, I believe I have been able to see deeper than most in terms of the profound potential that is realizable by putting AI technology together with blockchain and other decentralized technologies.

You have to look beyond the current preoccupation in the decentralized world with currencies and trading, and also look beyond the current preoccupation in the AI world with supervised learning and deep neural nets. When you look at both AIs and decentralized software applications as self-organizing, self-creating systems, you see the very natural match between them – and many of the particulars regarding how to design a scalable, diversely functional AI-meets-blockchain infrastructure just fall right out…

How do you prepare yourself for an AI-driven world? 

Become a cyborg, maybe?

Seriously – it’s all about learning, learning how to learn, learning how to learn how to learn, and so forth. The more robust and adaptive your learning is, the better you’ll do. Take nothing for granted, be prepared to constantly revise your assumptions and re-model everything from scratch. Rebuild yourself anew as frequently as is practicable.

Tell us the “Good, the Bad and the Ugly” of AI – How do you ensure AI works as you want for social goodwill?

The ugly is that AI in the world today is mainly used for spying, brainwashing (AKA advertising) and killing.

Another ugly bit is how ridiculously herd-animal-ish the AI research world is – did we really need so many papers on GANs last year, and so few on evolutionary programming systems or logic systems?

The good is that AI knowledge and passion are spreading everywhere, to every country on the globe, so that the seeds are being laid for more creative and beneficial and diverse AI work during the next decade.

To what extent is the fear around “Weaponization of AI” real? Do you think the world needs better coaching and education on AI and Blockchain technologies?

Weaponization of AI is a real risk. The problem is not so much the AI as it is the humans who want to weaponize things. Our political and economic systems are in desperate need of radical reform. If we play our cards right, AI and blockchain can be part of the answer here.

What are the biggest challenges and opportunities in fully-monetizing AI-as-a-Service?

The biggest challenge is in packaging up AI services in a way that ordinary software developers and product designers, without a background in AI, can understand – what they do and what options to choose – but, without too badly sacrificing the power and flexibility of these services.

What are your favored predictions and must-watch technologies for 2018-2022? How much of these technologies would be influenced by the adoption of AI/machine learning?

I hope that by 2022 a significant percentage of the world’s AI will be disseminated and consumed via decentralized networks rather than via big tech companies’ centralized infrastructures. I would also like to see the first really commercially viable specialized quantum computing hardware rolled out – for AI and for other applications.

Interview with Ryan Hollenbeck, SVP of Global Marketing, Verint

Seeing CRISPR or related technologies for genetic engineering really hit the mainstream would be nice too – and AI will help here in terms of figuring out what combinations of targets you want to hit with CRISPR to have a given phenotypic effect.

We may also see a big nanotech breakthrough in this timeframe, perhaps coming from Chris Schafmeister‘s work with spiroligomers – which could lead to a whole new flourishing field of AI for nano-design.

How is AI/ML transforming the way businesses and government look at Blockchain technologies?

AI and blockchain together provide a powerful toolset for transforming how businesses operate. Blockchain simplifies and rigorizes various aspects of data management and workflow management, and AI helps analyze data and automatically optimize workflows. The two can and should be used together to automate corporations and multi-corporation business processes.

What attributes to the ambiguity of the benefits of Blockchain for businesses and finances?

I don’t think there’s any ambiguity at all about the benefits of blockchain for almost any business – I think the question for any business is just how early they want to adopt an awesome new technology, versus waiting until it’s more mature. Blockchain and related tech is still fairly early stage, though it’s advancing fast.

Who are best suited to adopt and measure the business outcomes of deploying AI with blockchain?

The business outcomes of AI and blockchain are to be measured the same way as any other business outcomes. No magic here. Profit, revenue, customers, eyeballs, benefit delivered to the world.

Would we see the creation of a specific AI-related Executive/Office – like Chief AI Officer? Or for blockchain!!!

There are plenty of Chief AI Officers in the world already. But, in the end, radical advancement isn’t mainly due to Chiefs or Officers; it’s due to the power of self-organizing networks. The hierarchy has a value here, but heterarchy is commonly undervalued in large corporations.

What is needed is for deep awareness of AI and blockchain to infuse throughout the whole enterprise.

How potent is the Human-Machine intelligence for businesses and society? Who owns machine learning results?

If learning is obtained from a company’s proprietary data, then in our current legal system, that company owns the results. The nasty situation we have now is that end users are supplying their data to big companies without thinking about it much, and these companies are then using this data to brainwash end users.

What we need is to put control over the use of the individual’s data, and conclusions derived from the individual’s data, more in the hands of the individual. This is something profound – it means a shift toward more democratic and participatory control of the emerging, ever-evolving cybernetic Global Brain.

The Crystal Gaze

What AI/ blockchain start-ups and labs are you keenly following?

Ocean Protocol has some great ideas about blockchain for Big Data and associated machine learning. Shivom is working to democratize ownership and control of genomic data.

On the AI side, Deep Mind and Vicarious are doing cool stuff, but they’re more on the neural side, and I am a little more interested in neural-symbolic approaches.

Josef Urban‘s group in Prague is doing amazing stuff on automated AI-driven mathematical theorem-proving. There’s a lot going on in the world; the list could go on forever.

What technologies within AI and blockchain are you interested in?

We are interested in AI go-to-market applications including social media analytics, network analytics, biomedical analytics, agricultural analytics, social robotics and semantic image captioning.

We are interested in AGI and cognitive science, including semantic perception, language learning, unified probabilistic meta-learning and dynamics of attention and consciousness. We are interested in AI algorithms and structures including deep and shallow neural networks, evolutionary algorithms, constraint satisfaction algorithms, and logic systems. Regarding blockchain and AI, we are interested in offer networks, logical models of smart contracts, reputation systems, and complex systems simulation.

What’s your smartest work related shortcut or productivity hack?

I don’t have any hacks. I just focus fully on whatever I’m doing at the moment. I don’t get distracted, and I don’t multitask as much as many of my colleagues.

I do a lot of different things each day, but while I’m doing each thing I focus on it totally.  Also, I exercise pretty vigorously for thirty minutes each morning; and then I hike around in the village where I live and the woods nearby for 30-45 minutes each morning; that helps to keep my mind clear and my body in OK shape for a 51-year-old.

Simple, obvious stuff.

One advice on Team Management

Hire people who are driven and self-motivated and brilliant, and the amount of management needed is minimized.

Tag the one person in the industry whose answers to these questions you would love to read:

Trent McConaghy from Ocean Protocol…

Thank you, Ben! That was fun and hope to see you back on AiThority soon.

Dr. Ben Goertzel is one of the world’s foremost experts in Artificial General Intelligence (AGI), a subfield of AI oriented toward creating thinking machines with general cognitive capability at the human level and beyond. He is CEO of SingularityNET, as well as Chief Scientist at Hanson Robotics and Chairman of the OpenCog Foundation and Humanity+.


SingularityNET is a full-stack AI solution powered by a decentralized protocol. SingularityNET aims to distribute the power of artificial intelligence with a decentralized AI marketplace.

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