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Want to Learn about AGI? Read These Chapters from “The Beginning of Infinity”

There is no bad chapter in David Deutsch's The Beginning of Infinity. But if you’re looking specifically for AGI-related content, here are the chapters you should read, in that order:

  1. Chapter 1: The Reach of Explanations

    You’ll hit the ground running learning about how the growth of knowledge was traditionally understood and why that’s wrong, and how we learn instead: through conjectures and refutations. When taken seriously, this chapter alone will allow you to refute much of present-day “AGI research.”

    Empiricism said that we derive it from sensory experience. This is false. The real source of our theories is conjecture, and the real source of our knowledge is conjecture alternating with criticism.

  2. Chapter 4: Creation

    The growth of knowledge is an evolutionary process. There is literally evolution happening in our minds. That means an AGI is an evolutionary algorithm. In this chapter, Deutsch explains the traditional misconceptions surrounding evolution, including creationism and Lamarckism, and lays out our current best explanation of evolution: neo-Darwinism.

    [Both] human knowledge and biological adaptations are abstract replicators: forms of information which, once they are embodied in a suitable physical system, tend to remain so while most variants of them do not.

  3. Chapter 6: The Jump to Universality

    As Deutsch explains in this chapter, sometimes systems undergo a sudden change from being able to solve a narrow range of problems in a given domain to all of them. That’s the jump to universality. Deutsch argues that AGI will be achieved in a similar jump. Current research programs aimed at gradual emulation of human abilities must fail for several reasons, and this is one of them.

    All knowledge growth is by incremental improvement, but in many fields there comes a point when one of the incremental improvements in a system of knowledge or technology causes a sudden increase in reach, making it a universal system in the relevant domain.

  4. Chapter 7: Artificial Creativity

    This chapter is perhaps the most important of the AGI-related ones. Deutsch refutes the applicability of the Turing test and explains what the focus of research efforts should be: understanding how the mind works. The absence of this focus is also why there has been no progress in the field, Deutsch argues. Think artificial evolution has already been achieved? According to Deutsch, this is not the case, despite appearances.

    The field of artificial (general) intelligence has made no progress because there is an unsolved philosophical problem at its heart: we do not understand how creativity works. Once that has been solved, programming it will not be difficult.

  5. Chapter 10: A Dream of Socrates

    In a beautiful, fictional dialog between Socrates and the Greek god Hermes, Deutsch masterfully explores the inner workings of the mind and explains that our experience is a “waking dream of reality”:

    Our experience of the world is indeed a form of virtual-reality rendering which happens wholly inside the brain.

  6. Chapter 16: The Evolution of Creativity

    Brains have no way of downloading ideas from other brains directly. Nor can minds acquire ideas through imitation, Deutsch argues citing Popper. But they can replicate memes through creativity. And, according to Deutsch, that is why our species exists.

    Complex memes do not mandate specific bodily actions, but rules. We can see the actions, but not the rules, so how do we replicate them? We replicate them by creativity.

Read The Beginning of Infinity to learn more about AGI (and so much more). If you take the ideas seriously, I am confident you will know more than 90% of researchers in the field.

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