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Interview with Ben Goertzel
by Jonathan Despres. Go to the Interviews.
Tell us about yourself. What is your background, and what current projects are you involved in?
A bio of me is at http://www.goertzel.org/
My main current projects are Biomind, a startup software company aimed at applying AI technology to analyze bioinformatics data, including life extension related data; and, Novamente, another startup company aimed at the creation of "true artificial intelligence", meaning AI that equals and then exceeds human general intelligence, and at the commercialization of software components created on the way to the creation of true AI.
What are your goals for the next decade?
Creating a human-level AI; and using bioinformatics and language processing software to understand the biological processes underlying human aging.
When do you think we will achieve real life extension?
By 2050 at the latest, maybe as soon as 2015.
Do you believe in Cryonics and when will it suceed ?
I think that the folks being frozen now by Alcor will be successfully defrosted and revived IF political stupidity or holocaust doesn't prevent it. The main obstacles to cryonics are not technical ones.
Which path should we take for immortalism, nanomedicine or biogerontology or something else?
We should create true AI's and use them to help us solve the science and engineering problems associated with these other approaches.
In the meantime, we should pursue all the approaches you mention in parallel. Before we get to the final solution to the problem of mortality, there may be a series of very useful preliminary and partial solutions, and it's very hard to predict what disciplines they will come from. Biogerontology has a lot of near-term potential, but nanomedicine (which needs biogerontology to show it which specific problems to attack) has a huge potential too even though it's a little further out in the future.
What a company can do to become sucessful in the life extension field?
I suppose the answer here is the same as in any other area of science-based business: Start with a lot of investment money, hire smart scientists and manage them well. There is a lot to be done in this field -- a lot of science to be discovered and a lot of money to be made. But it can take many years to turn correct insights into solid scientific results, and many more years to turn solid scientific results into profits. Without investors willing to take a chance on early-stage businesses in this area, progress will be much slower than it could be otherwise. Exciting ideas like those of Aubrey de Grey remain largely unfunded, and my own research program in the life extension area remains basically dormant due to lack of funding as well (though I'm doing basic bioinformatics research that will benefit life extension eventually).
Government funding in this area is being extremely helpful, but, tends to go to research that follows a small number of established lines of thinking. More adventurous ideas like Aubrey's and my own are hard to get *substantial* government funding for. Unfortunately though, Bush is more interested in spending money conquering foreign nations than conquering death.
How handy an indefinite lifespan would be?
Well, for one thing, it would enable me to live until the Singularity. Which might mean my destruction, or might mean infinite and eternal bliss, and more likely means something I can't even understand at present with my measly human mind.