When he’s not working on hastening humanity’s rush toward the Singularity by creating an artificial general intelligence (AGI), Ben Goertzel plays in a jazz-rock band called Jam Galaxy fronted by a robot named Desdemona.
It’s one of his many side projects, which naturally led him to try and tokenize the music business by reaching out to members of Pearl Jam and Heart. Goertzel is also working on longevity research by crowdsourcing human health data with token rewards via an app called Rejuve.ai. That information is then pooled with animal and insect study data and analyzed with an AI to determine which parts of the genomes can make us live longer and then stimulated using gene therapies. “We’ve had some quite striking breakthrough-level discoveries,” he says. Oh, and just before our hour-long interview winds up, he casually mentions as an aside that he’s also creating a stablecoin for his decentralized AI marketplace, Singularity.net, that’s pegged to a synthetic index of environmental progress — because pegging it to U.S. dollars would be “lame.”
“Progress on the environment is very stable. It never goes anywhere,” he points out.
“And to manipulate this, you have to actually solve global warming.”
It’s the exact sort of political comment meets high-tech know-how you might expect from Goertzel, who looks and sounds like a hippie scientist who stumbled into a time machine in 1971 and emerged fully formed in 2023. But don’t be fooled by the animal print hat, long hair and Electric Kool-Aid acid trip drawl: He’s a brilliant scientist with a grasp of the future light years ahead of most and who’s grappling with some of the biggest concepts humanity has ever considered. What is consciousness? How do we create artificial life, and what happens if it doesn’t like us, goes rogue, and guns everybody down like in Terminator 2?
What is artificial general intelligence?
Goertzel popularized the term “artificial general intelligence” as a way to differentiate a genuine thinking machine that could learn pretty much anything, to AIs that are optimized for one particular task, like the Deep Blue computer that famously beat world chess champion Garry Kasparov. He freely concedes there are risks in building a machine that’s capable of learning anything and everything, including how to reprogram itself to…