Spinoffs and Benefits

Spinoffs & Benefits of Moonshot Project

Susiddha AI is a “moonshot” project. The term “moonshot” originates with the NASA Apollo space-flight program, which landed the first human on the moon in 1969.[1] Currently, Google uses this term to describe some of its most innovative projects, such as the driverless car.

The term “moonshot” implies that the project is difficult and challenging, and will require big resources (money, people, and will-power) to do the research and development. And, a moonshot project has huge potential benefits for the entire human race.

When the United States started the Apollo project, the potential benefits were not explicitly stated or even predicted. The project, of course, yielded huge benefits, both in terms of technological spinoffs[2], and in terms of national pride.

Looking back on the benefits of the Apollo moonshot project, it’s relatively easy to predict what the benefits of the Susiddha AI project could be for the people of India, and the entire world.

India would benefit immensely from having a national project, one which will involve the development of human-level artificial intelligence, coupled with the Vedic technologies which develop consciousness and promote progress in society. This would give India a big boost of national pride.

Certainly, India can take pride in the glorious past of Ram Raj, but that’s of limited value, unless the principles which created that glorious past can be revived and infused into the present. And so, India should assume it can create a new Ram Raj using technologies such as artificial general intelligence (AGI) and quantum computing, plus the principles found in the Vedic literature.

Besides national pride, India can expect a boost of inspiration and creativity. The Apollo space program inspired many young people to study science and engineering. A national project to build an AI Avatar (requiring many software and hardware advances) will also provide such inspiration. And, it will also inspire people to start studying Sanskrit and the Vedic literature again, so that the AI Avatar will embody the principles that created Ram Raj.

Given the national character of the Susiddha AI project, and the need for big resources of money and people, it’s likely that the government of India needs to support this project. Certainly there’s plenty that private corporations can do. For instance, private space industry is taking off now in the USA; but, that would never have happened if the government had not sponsored the NASA project to reach the moon.[3]

No doubt the information technology (IT) industry of India can contribute much to AGI development. But, given that this industry was caught off guard[4] by the surge of mobile, big data, and cloud computing, and is now scrambling to catch up, it probably cannot provide the leadership for such a forward-looking project to create AGI and then a Vedic Avatar.

Also, a strictly commercial focus (such as Google, Microsoft, etc. are pursuing) will not lead to an AGI system that can govern for the good of all. The world needs governance that is intent on the welfare of all beings (“sarva bhūta hite ratāH”[5]).

Thus, Susiddha AI thinks the government of India must declare as a national project the creation of AGI and a Vedic Avatar. And it needs to provide the initial planning, guidance, and funding for the project.

Although this project has such a lofty goal as the creation of an AI Avatar, India can expect many spinoffs and benefits. To cite one example of how the quest for AGI can provide spinoffs, the same algorithms that DeepMind invented to master video games and “Go” playing are now being applied to Google’s data centers and are producing significant savings by reducing energy usage.[6]

Such spinoffs now frequently occur because almost all fields of research and technology are becoming information-based. So, the algorithms developed in the quest for an AI Avatar will be applicable in many unrelated fields, thus stimulating scientific and technological development throughout India.

At this point, we assume the reader is convinced that India has much to gain by building AGI. Now a question might arise as to whether it’s too late for India to start on AGI, given the feverish pace at which AGI is already being developed by companies like Google and Microsoft.

We believe it is still early enough in the AGI game that India could not only make a big contribution, but even be first to develop an AGI system. Some even claim that AI is overhyped. We agree there is a lot of hype, and most of that comes from journalists and marketers; the AI researchers themselves are more modest in their claims.

However, a single example illustrates how foolish it is to dismiss AI as hype. Neural networks were “overhyped” twenty years ago, and work on them was almost abandoned. But now they are one of the biggest success stories of AI (in the guise of deep learning), and are used everywhere (e.g. in our smart phones).

As Bill Gates warns us, we humans tend to overestimate in the short run and underestimate in the long run.[7] The point here is that no one can afford to dismiss AGI as hype, and many researchers (such as Google’s director of engineering[8]) believe AGI will be here within twenty years.[9][10]

In order to accomplish such a project to build AGI, India needs a lot of talent. This means talent of all sorts, but here we are focusing on engineering. Unfortunately, many of India’s best engineers are working outside of India[11] for companies like Google, Microsoft, Facebook, IBM, etc. India must think about how to bring those engineers home (or at least get them to contribute to this national project to build AGI), so that they can directly contribute to the welfare and strength of India.[12]

Another thing that would greatly help India would be for government to support meditation practice. Ideally, all schools and businesses need to make a meditation program available, so that students and employees can spend a few minutes every day in quiet meditation practice. Meditation is central to Vedic civilization, especially for “householders” (including great warriors like Arjuna).[13]

Such a meditation practice on a large scale would greatly reduce the stress of life in India, and enhance the creativity, productivity, courage, and health of the people. And thus would be a great boon in accomplishing the national project of building AGI and applying it to society. The subject of meditation will come up again in a future chapter which discusses life in “post-employment” society, i.e. when the vast majority of jobs have been automated by robots and AI.

In conclusion, the people of India have everything to gain if the government declares a national project to build AGI, with the intention of creating a dharmic Vedic Avatar. The spinoffs and benefits would be enormous. But, time is of the essence, and India must start now.

Contents     —     Next chapter

Notes and References

  1. Moonshot definition, TechTarget, http://whatis.techtarget.com/definition/moonshot
  2. NASA spinoff technologies, Wikipedia, has a comprehensive list of spinoffs and benefits, with references., https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/NASA_spinoff_technologies
  3. That said, AGI is obviously already being developed both privately and in open projects. So, a dedicated group of Hindus with the necessary resources could take it on themselves to pursue a project to build an Avatar.
  4. Indian software dies at 17 from failure to grasp future, Oct 14, 2016, http://www.livemint.com/Opinion/737W8zcjPA6lGWIajRCd6K/Indian-software-dies-at-17-from-failure-to-grasp-future.html
  5. Bhagavad Gita, 5.25
  6. Google Cuts Its Giant Electricity Bill With DeepMind-Powered AI, Jack Clark, Bloomberg Technology, July 19, 2016, https://www.bloomberg.com/news/articles/2016-07-19/google-cuts-its-giant-electricity-bill-with-deepmind-powered-ai
  7. “We always overestimate the change that will occur in the next two years and underestimate the change that will occur in the next ten. Don’t let yourself be lulled into inaction.”, in “The Road Ahead”, by Bill Gates, 1996.
  8. Ray Kurzweil joins Google as director of engineering, CNET News, Dec 14, 2012, https://www.cnet.com/news/ray-kurzweil-joins-google-as-director-of-engineering/
  9. Ray Kurzweil predicts that a computer will reach human-level intelligence and be able to pass the Turing test by 2029.
  10. Ray Kurzweil predicts computers will be as smart as humans in 12 years, Fox News Tech, March 16, 2017, http://www.foxnews.com/tech/2017/03/16/ray-kurzweil-predicts-computers-will-be-as-smart-as-humans-in-12-years.html
  11. Indian engineers, scientists in U.S. nearing one million, Jacob Koshy, The Hindu, September 23, 2016, http://www.thehindu.com/news/national/Indian-engineers-scientists-in-U.S.-nearing-one-million/article14000053.ece
  12. A future chapter will discuss why so much scientific and engineering talent has left India. This is unfortunate, because India has many problems (such as severe air pollution, water shortages, menacing neighbor countries, etc.) that need the attention of these bright scientists and engineers.
  13. Bhagavad Gita, chapter 6