When will we create an AGI? Ask the crowd!

In his great book about the future of AI, “The Fourth Age” (highly recommended!), GigaOM CEO Byron Reese (Twitter) hypothetically asks WHEN will we create that mysterious Artificial General Intelligence (AGI), if at all. He says that he gets different answers from different people.

And therein lies the answer.

In “Wisdom of Crowds” by James Surowiecki (2004, Little Brown publishing) shows that, oddly enough, if you ask a large enough number of people to guess the number of something, add up the answer, then divide by the number of people asked, the resulting number – the average – is eerily close to the correct answer.

Think of guessing how many jelly beans are in a jar, or how many tennis balls fit into a car, and so on. James Sorwiecki (Twitter) goes much more into detail in his book, and I’m seeing it quoted in more and more social sciences books lately.

But the point is, this approach tends to work surprisingly well. While the average person gets the jelly beans answer wrong, if you ask enough people, add up their answers, divide by the number of people you asked, and more often than not you’ll get a spot-on result.

Hive Mind

So let’s ask 1000 or 10 000 people from all walks of life and see what they say when we ask them if and when they believe we’ll be creating our first Artificial General Intelligence (y’know, the big scary sentient monster (heh!) that probably destroys us all like ants). Then we’ll add up all their answers, and divide by the number of people we asked. I wouldn’t be surprised if the number ends up pretty close to being right. I guess we’ll find out in… N-years. My personal guess? less than 100 years. Probably closer to 50. Might require Quantum Computing. And it won’t be in the US unless we stop debating and legislating everything to death here, and unless we stop letting every progress-hating religious nut have his or her say about how the rest of us should create our future.

I will be bringing up “The Fourth Age” a lot, it’s really a great philosophical and general overview book (also available as audiobook on Audible) about AI, automation, robots, and all the cool stuff we love.

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