[ExI] Computational resources needed for AGI...

Richard Loosemore rpwl at lightlink.com
Sat Feb 5 16:50:21 UTC 2011

Kelly Anderson wrote:
> On Wed, Feb 2, 2011 at 9:56 AM, Richard Loosemore <rpwl at lightlink.com> wrote:
>> Kelly Anderson wrote:
>> I guess one of the reasons I am personally so frustrated by these projects
>> is that I am trying to get enough funding to make what I consider to be real
>> progress in the field, but doing that is almost impossible.  Meanwhile, if I
>> had had the resources of the Watson project a decade ago, we might be
>> talking with real (and safe) AGI systems right now.
> I doubt it, only in the sense that we don't have anything with near
> the raw computational power necessary yet. Unless you have really
> compelling evidence that you can get human-like results without
> human-like processing power, this seems like a somewhat empty claim.

Over the last five years or so, I have occasionally replied to this 
question with some back of the envelope calculations to back up the 
claim.  At some point I will sit down and do the job more fully, and 
publish it, but in the mean time here is your homework assignment for 
the week.... ;-)

There are approximately one million cortical columns in the brain.  If 
each of these is designed to host one "concept" at a time, but with at 
most half of them hosting at any given moment, this gives (roughly) half 
a million active concepts.

If each of these is engaging in simple adaptive interactions with the 
ten or twenty nearest neighbors, exchanging very small amounts of data 
(each cortical column sending out and receiving, say, between 1 and 10 
KBytes, every 2 milliseconds), how much processing power and bandwidth 
would this require, and how big of a machine would you need to implement 
that, using today's technology?

This architecture may well be all that the brain is doing.  The rest is 
just overhead, forced on it by the particular constraints of its 
physical substrate.

Now, if this conjecture is accurate, you tell me how long ago we had the 
hardware necessary to build an AGI.... ;-)

The last time I did this calculation I reckoned (very approximately) 
that the mid-1980s was when we crossed the threshold, with the largest 
supercomputers then available.

Richard Loosemore

P.S. I don't have the time to do the calculations right now, but I am 
sure someone else would like to pick this up, given the parameters I 
suggested above ... ?

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