Dr. Ben Goertzel after giving a talk at the 2009 Humanity+ Summit in Irvine California
December 8, 1966 |
Rio de Janeiro, Brazil
Ben Goertzel (born December 8, 1966) is the founder and CEO of SingularityNET, a blockchain-based AI marketplace. Goertzel is also the Chief Scientist of financial prediction firm Aidyia Holdings and robotics firm Hanson Robotics; Chairman of AI software company Novamente LLC, which is a privately held software company; Chairman of the Artificial General Intelligence Society and the OpenCog Foundation; Vice Chairman of futurist nonprofit Humanity+; Scientific Advisor of biopharma firm Genescient Corp.; Advisor to the Singularity University; Research Professor in the Fujian Key Lab for Brain-Like Intelligent Systems at Xiamen University, China; and general Chair of the Artificial General Intelligence conference series, an American author and researcher in the field of artificial intelligence. He was the Director of Research of the Machine Intelligence Research Institute (formerly the Singularity Institute).
Goertzel is the son of Ted Goertzel, a former professor of sociology at Rutgers University. He left high school after the tenth grade to attend Bard College at Simon's Rock, where he graduated with a bachelor's degree in Quantitative Studies. Goertzel went on to obtain a Ph.D. in mathematics from Temple University in 1989.
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Ben Goertzel has three children, many pets, and in his spare time enjoys avant-garde fiction, music, philosophy, mathematics, exploring the outdoors, and lots of other stuff. He is panpsychist and agnostic.
In 1966, he was born to Carol and Ted Goertzel, in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. His parents are both American, and his heritage is mainly Eastern European Jewish. Because he was born in Brazil, Goertzel has a dual US/Brazilian citizenship. In 1968, he moved to Eugene, Oregon and considered it to be an "excellent, hippy-ful place, at that time". In 1973, he moved to suburban South Jersey. In 1982, he left high-school after the 10th grade to start university at age 15 at Simon's Rock College, which he considered "an outstanding institution that I highly recommend to all bright high-school age people". In 1984, at Simon's Rock College, he met his future wife Gwen Yorgey (later Gwen Goertzel, now Gwendalin Qi Aranya).
In 1985, he graduated from Simon's Rock College with a degree in Quantitative Studies. He then moved to New York City and attended graduate school in applied mathematics at NYU's Courant Institute. During his spare time, he began to do serious research in cognitive science and AI. In 1987, he moved to Philadelphia, attended graduate school in mathematics at Temple University, and got married. In 1989, he received his PhD in math from Temple University, moved to Las Vegas to take his first real job, as a math professor at UNLV.
Late in 1989, Gwen's and his first son, Zarathustra Amadeus, was born. In 1993, his second son, Zebulon Ulysses, was born, he toured around extensively, and moved to New Zealand, where he lectured in the Computer Science department at Waikato University. In 1995, he moved to Perth, Western Australia, where he had a research fellowship in Cognitive Science at the University of Western Australia. He stated that Perth was a "Wonderful place! Of all the places I've lived, I'd rate Perth by far the best. Would be great to move back there one day." In 1996 Goertzel together with Francis Heylighen founded the Global Brain Group to study the global brain emerging from an increasingly intelligent Internet, and in 2011 he joined the scientific board of the newly founded Global Brain Institute at the Vrije Universiteit Brussel. In 1997, he left academia, which he said made his life much more interesting, but a lot more stressful. In 1997, he started a software company, and relocated to New York City to launch Intelligenesis Corp. (later known as Webmind Inc.), a company with the mission of creating a truly intelligent AI system and making money along the way by productizing its components. In early 1997, Gwen and Goertzel had their first girl, Scheherazade Okilani Nastasya. He taught at the College of Staten Island, part of the CUNY system, during 1997-98, while Intelligenesis was getting off the ground. From 1997 until 2001 he headed Webmind Inc. (also known as Intelligenesis Corp.). This work was reviewed by the Wall Street Journal and The New York Times, explaining the approach as machine learning combined with natural language processing applied to textual information gathered from the internet, in order to predict business risk or to aid in making buying decisions.
In 2001, he moved to New Mexico where he had a research professorship in the Computer Science department of UNM. During this time, he lived in Zuzax, in the mountains east of Albuquerque, which he considered to be the second best place he ever lived, after Perth. In 2001, he also founded Novamente LLC, Webmind's successor; and also Biomind LLC, a company specifically intended to apply Novamente technology to bioinformatics. In 2002, he relocated to the Washington DC metro area because he found a small amount of funding for Biomind from an investor near there, and he wanted the company based near him. Shortly after moving to the DC area, Gwen and Goertzel split up.
In 2004, Goertzel married Izabela Lyon Freire. In 2005-2007, while operating Novamente and Biomind as companies and developing his AI (and other) research projects, he started putting time into developing AGI as a research community: organizing the AGI conference series, a few edited volumes, etc. In May 2007, he spoke at a Google Tech talk about his approach to creating Artificial General Intelligence. He defines intelligence as the ability to detect patterns in the world and in the agent itself, measurable in terms of emergent behavior of "achieving complex goals in complex environments." He tries to create a "baby-like" artificial intelligence first, and then raise and train this agent in a simulated or virtual world such as Second Life to produce a more powerful intelligence. Knowledge is represented in a network whose nodes and links carry probabilistic truth values as well as "attention values", with the attention values resembling the weights in a neural network. Several algorithms operate on this network, the central one being a combination of a probabilistic inference engine and a custom version of evolutionary programming. He claimed that this combination is able to avoid the combinatorial explosions that both these algorithms suffer from when exposed to large problems. In 2008, he founded OpenCog, which was an open-source AGI software project. In an August 2008 audio interview, Goertzel stated that he is a founding member of the transhumanist Order of Cosmic Engineers and that he has signed up with Alcor to have his body frozen after his death, and that he expects to live essentially indefinitely barring some catastrophic accident.
In 2009, he became a Visiting Faculty member in the Artificial Brain Lab in Xiamen University in China, and began a project there using OpenCog to control a humanoid robot. In 2009, Izabela and Goertzel (amicably) split up. In 2010, he began a collaborative project with Hong Kong Poly University aimed at applying OpenCog to control intelligent game characters. In 2011, he got an apartment in Hong Kong, together with Ruiting Lian, and started spending a lot of time in HK working on various AI & AGI projects. In 2011, he also co-founded Aidyia Holdings, a startup focused on HK stock prediction. In 2012, he got married to Ruiting Lian, and split his time between Hong Kong and Maryland. As of 2013, he is living full-time in Hong Kong, in a village north of Tai Po in the New Territories.
He also worked for Genescient, a company that applied bioinformatics and other tools to exploit the genomes of long-lived flies to create therapeutics to combat age-associated disease. He also worked for Igenesis, a consulting/R&D firm based in Belo Horizonte, Brazil that is involved in AI and other advanced software development.
In 2009, Goertzel and Hugo DeGaris starred in a 45-minute documentary called Singularity or Bust. In 2014, Goertzel appeared on the American science documentary television series, Through the Wormhole, in episode 1 of season 5.
The feature-length documentary film The Singularity by independent filmmaker Doug Wolens (released at the end of 2012), showcasing Goertzel's deep vision and understanding of making general AI general thinking, has been acclaimed as "a large-scale achievement in its documentation of futurist and counter-futurist ideas" and "the best documentary on the Singularity to date."
In 2017, Goertzel joined forces with Dr. David Hanson and Cassio Pennachin to launch SingularityNET, the world's first AI marketplace powered by blockchain technologies. "It's a decentralized, open market for AIs in the cloud so anyone who develops an AI can put it into the SingularityNET, wrap it in our cryptocurrency-based smart contract, and then the AI they put there can help to serve the intelligence of robots...or any software programs that need AI," Goertzel told CNBC. In an interview with Wired, Goertzel said that with SingularityNET, AI agents and humanoid robots could reach human levels of intelligence within eight years.