People in the A.I. community

I’ve seen quite a few fora, groups and public user comments to have noticed stereotypes that one will encounter in the online AI community. Some of these were quite shocking to me as a newcomer, so now that I’m older and wiser I’ve made a list of these stereotypes with pointers for newcomers on how to deal with them.

The pundit
“Soon, robots will…”

An open mind with much AI knowledge, but unable to assess it realistically in favour of eternal hope and optimism. Loves to dabble in predictions, features the words “soon” or “will” in every other sentence. Generally cheerful, takes no responsibility. Believes strong AI is just around the corner.

Best action: Be nice, take news reports with a grain of salt.

The outsider
“I figured out the secret to intelligence! It’s so simple!”

A layman with a passing interest in psychology. Has no AI knowledge but recently came to a generic revelation. Their theory, or rather idea, typically consists of one word, e.g. “associations”. Instead of explaining methods, this person will only continue to essay common knowledge examples to prove how right they are. This person is oblivious to the fact that their idea is so obvious and general to everyone else that it is of no practical application.

Best action: Encourage programming. Person will either disengage immediately or change interests after two weeks into the attempt.

The mental deviant
“I have made AGI, but I can’t show you.”

No-one who is thinking straight would claim this in public. This person is fascinated with digital minds because they have a deviant mind themselves. Has spent years programming a rough basis for AI, but is confusing its potential with achievement. Refuses to prove their claim but has conviction to the point of delusion. Nothing you say has any effect because they do not think like you. Generally harmless and highly intelligent, but has some or other serious form of autism, bipolar disorder, or religious fanaticism.

Best action: Ignore. Unless you are a psychiatrist you are not qualified to deal with this person.

The believer
“That’s not true AI. True AI can…”

Has AI knowledge and has at least made an attempt at creating AI on paper. Will accept nothing anyone creates as “AI”, for shifting reasons. See also the logical fallacy “No true Scotsman”. Generally discourages progress in any area, lacks patience and has a firmly closed mind. Occasionally offers intriguing insights but little in terms of constructive methods. Usually believes in “the singularity” like an AI messiah.

Best action: Avoid.

The troubled researcher
“No. You are wrong, only my way will work.”

This person is creating an AI and/or hasn’t been able to get it to work, but wants so hard to believe that he’s not wasted several years that he is convinced his is the only one theory that can succeed. Will therefore adamantly oppose anyone whose approach differs from his until they say he’s right. Secretly feels insecure about his own work due lack of results or success, tries to convince others to gain assurance and possibly get people to work on his idea for him.

Best action: Drop confrontation when it starts, and suggest that all ways forward are progress.

The professional
“That’s right, but you have a lot to learn.”

Stuck in the mindset of their particular professional application, this person will advise you to do exactly as they did to end up exactly where they are. Prone to suggest expensive academic literature in Russian that may or may not be of use to you. Means well and is capable of opening their mind, but fails to see reasons to do things differently.

Best action: Ask for references on specific areas of your own focus.

The eccentric billionaire
“I don’t care, I just want to talk to an AI in my lifetime.”

Has little AI knowledge and no interest in technical details. Retains the childhood wish of having robot friends to talk to and will pay anyone who promises to make it happen if their plan sounds believeworthy enough.

Best action: Convince to invest in your approach.

The wise

Has much AI knowledge and is willing to share bits of it with modest newcomers on occasion. Is willing to listen and consider new insights, and shows interest in promising new endeavours. Otherwise works on various AI problems on their own and has learned to stay out of fruitless confrontations altogether.

Best action: Befriend.