One thing I didn't see you mention is neuroscience. My understanding is that some AGI researchers are currently taking this route; e.g. Shane Legg, mentioned in another comment, is an AGI researcher who is currently studying theoretical neuroscience with Peter Dayan. Demis Hassabis is another person interested in AGI who's taking the neuroscience route (see his talk on this subject from the most recent Singularity Summit). I'm personally interested in FAI, and I suspect that we need to study the brain to understand in more detail the nature of human preference. In terms of a career path, it's possible I'll go to graduate school at some point in the future, but my current plans are to just get a programming job and study neuroscience in my free time.

Have you given a thought to just taking the day job route? There are some problems, as I've found more than a few journal articles locked behind a paywall, but there are some ways for dealing with this. Furthermore, I've found a surprising number of recent neuro articles are available through open access journals like PNAS, Frontiers and through other routes (Google, Google Scholar, CiteseerX, author websites). If you're interested more in CS research, then I suspect you'll have even less trouble; for some reason recent (CS papers) seem to almost always be available over the internet.

As far as neuroscience goes, yes I have strongly considered it. I think that I would like to do a program in computational neuroscience. The joint program at U Pitt and Carnegie Mellon looks interesting for this sort of thing, of course MIT and Caltech both have solid programs but I am not confident that my record is strong enough to get into either of those schools.

The day job route makes me somewhat nervous because: (a) I'm not sure how difficult it is to get published without the right background/support (b) I'm worried that I'll be isolated from other researchers who might have insight I could benefit from

Discussion: Pathways for the Aspiring AGI Researcher?

by Zetetic 1 min read3rd May 201140 comments


Follow up to: Best career models for doing research?

First, I must apologize for the somewhat self-serving post, but as it is in the discussion section I hope that this can be forgiven. Also, I would not be surprised if there are at least a few college age people lurking around with very similar problems/issues, so I expect that this might prove very useful to at least a couple of people here. If this works out, I do hope to eventually put it into the form of a more general top-level post on career advice for those interested in a career in AGI.

Now, on to the issue:

It has come to my attention that research opportunities in AGI appear to both be somewhat limited, and somewhat unstructured compared to more well-developed fields that I have looked into. It seems to me that it would be useful to have a discussion here, given the unusual population density of AGI enthusiasts/professionals, about the possible pathways that one might take after the completion of an undergraduate degree. In my case, I have a strong background in mathematics, computer science and philosophy as well as a growing knowledge base in psychology. I've been studying Pearl's work, Timeless Decision Theory, cognitive science, evolutionary and cognitive psychology, Bishop's book on Pattern Recognition and Machine Learning, the link between category theory and cognitive science/AI (which appears to have some promise for building ontologies that can combine concepts and generalize), game theory, probability/statistics, computational complexity and I have been trying to get a few more programming languages under my belt.

My initial impulse was to go ahead and study for, and then take, all of the relevant GRE subject tests (Mathematics, Psychology and Computer science anyway) and apply to cognitive science and computer science programs with strong AGI groups. I've found that the latter option is more difficult that I had realized, which is somewhat disheartening, as my future planning model does not seem to work in such an underdeveloped field, and there is no easy to find established standard source for finding out which schools/programs to look at. I also realized that the former option does not necessarily conform to my research interestes as much as I would like it to, this being a fairly long term commitment.

Perhaps I lack the knowledge to successfully evaluate AGI programs; perhaps in the case of this particular area getting a PhD is not the best option; perhaps if I were more knowledgeable or wiser I might be better able to navigate where to go next, but I seem to be at a loss here. So; I come to you, fellow Less Wrongians, in search of guidance. Can any of you help to point me (and hopefully plenty of others) in the right (or at least less wrong) direction?