Thursday, April 10, 2008

A WebMind® is a Terrible Thing to Waste

Goertzel, circa "World Wide Brain":

"The design and implementation details of WebMind are obviously complex, and I will avoid most of them here. A prototype WebMind will be available for public viewing on my Website in mid-1997."

Goertzel, circa 2001:

"My former AI project, Webmind, ended with the dissolution of Webmind Inc. in early April 2, 2001. The legal process of bankruptcy is not done yet."
The company, vanished. The only existing online demonstration of their technology is now a spam-site for investing information. Like so many AI companies, WebMind's fabulous promises never came close to being realized.

What is there to learn from Goertzel's hubris? Should we view him as a modern proto-Prometheus, trying to bring the fire of strong AI to humankind, years ahead of the computational power that will be needed to make it happen? Or should we see him as a cautionary tale, a message that demonstrates the kind of misguided thinking that we should never base our ideas on.

As much as I'd like to give techno-utopians the benefit of the doubt, so much time and energy, so many billions of dollars and hopes and dreams, have already been wasted on them. I guess that people who need to be on the cutting edge will always push, whether there's anything solid in front of them, or not.

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