[ExI] Future of Humanity Institute at Oxford University £1 million grant for AI

Adrian Tymes atymes at gmail.com
Sun Jul 5 17:41:46 UTC 2015

On Fri, Jul 3, 2015 at 12:23 PM, J. Andrew Rogers <andrew at jarbox.org> wrote:

> Some of the funded projects seem quite reasonable but the list reflects
> either an overly limited selection to choose from — fishing in the wrong
> pond — or a naivete on the part of the selectors as to the state of some of
> these areas. The absence of people doing relevant advanced computer science
> R&D in the list is going to produce some giant blind spots in the aggregate
> output.

This is a basic problem with advanced science funding: lack of awareness of
all of the truly game-changing possibilities.  That can be viewed as a
marketing problem: those pursuing these most extreme but potentially
effective technologies haven't gotten the word out much, so when funding is
available, the funding sources never hear of them.

This is the theory behind SBIRs' open solicitations: by advertising that
there is funding looking to solve a specific problem and waiting a few
months, it is hoped that such edge cases may have a good chance of applying
to the programs, and thereby coming to the funders' attention.  (In
practice there are problems with this, not the least of which being when
these SBIRs are smokescreens for predetermined awards, wasting everyone
else's time, usually to the collective tune of man-years down the drain.
But the theory, at least, is sound.)

It might behoove private money like this to adopt this practice, to avoid
this problem, rather than conducting the entire search through private
I-know-someone-who networks.  (Cranks, fraudsters, and the deluded are more
of a problem, but most of these are easily screened out - and feedback to
the screened out, which the incorrectly screened out can respond to, can
reduce the number of incorrect screenings, as well as shift some of the
screened out onto valid research paths.)
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