Who is Ben Goertzel?

Ben Goertzel is an American AI researcher, entrepreneur, and cognitive scientist who is involved with various AI-related foundations and societies. Goertzel is also notable for his role in popularizing the term “artificial general intelligence” (AGI).

Early career

Goertzel completed his Ph.D. in Mathematics from Temple University in 1988 and then worked as a researcher and professor at various institutions across New Zealand, Australia, and the United States. 

His first professional post was as CTO of the AI software company WebMind. Goertzel, who also led the company’s R&D division, developed the eponymous WebMind AI Engine which he claimed could provide “extremely high-precision search of document archives, providing dramatically superior performance to popular search engines.

The tool was scheduled for completion in mid-2002, but after an overseas investor pulled out of a multi-million dollar commitment, WebMind was forced to file for bankruptcy.


Goertzel started another AI software company called Novamente in May 2001. Like WebMind, Novamente’s core product centered around an endeavor of the same name known as the Novamente AI Engine project

In a May 2007 academic paper, Goertzel and co-author Cassio Pennachin described the Novamente AI Engine as a novel software system and “integrative artificial intelligence design, which integrates aspects of many prior AI projects and paradigms, including symbolic, probabilistic, evolutionary programming and reinforcement learning approaches.

Goertzel also founded the bioinformatics firm Biomind in May 2002. The company created AI software (based on the Novamente AI Engine) for the analysis of gene expression data.

Aidyia Holdings

After spending nine years at Biomind, Goertzel moved to Hong Kong and became Aidyia Limited’s Chief Science Officer. 

While the company is now defunct, Goertzel was part of a small team of computer scientists and finance veterans that developed AI systems to identify patterns and better predict price movements on the stock market.

Hanson Robotics 

Goertzel joined Hanson Robotics in May 2015 as Chief Scientist and was responsible for leading research and development efforts in the areas of cognitive architectures, natural language processing, and machine learning.

Goertzel is perhaps best known for his work on the development of the company’s humanoid robot Sophia along with company founder David Hanson. The robot made its first public appearance in March 2016, with Hanson noting that Sophia was a “social robot” whose code was about 70% open source.


More recently, in June 2017, Goertzel co-founded SingularityNET with the mission of “creating a decentralized, democratic, inclusive and beneficial Artificial General Intelligence.” Other founders include Simone Giacomelli and David Hanson.

Goertzel was inspired to start the company whilst still at Hanson Robotics. He was paid a visit by Giacomelli in March who visited the company to help Goertzel and Hanson realize their vision of a so-called “robotic mind-cloud”. 

In essence, this vision entailed a secure, decentralized intelligence to a population of benevolent humanoid robots serving various purposes around the world. Sophia was a key part of the company’s initial publicity push, with both the humanoid and the company advancing significantly since their inception in 2017.


Hanson and Goertzel announced in October 2020 the launch of Grace, the world’s first human-like robotic assistant for biodata management and elderly care. 

The assistant was ostensibly released to provide care during the pandemic – though Goertzel acknowledged COVID-19 would not be the last medical crisis to impact the healthcare system.

Grace, which built on previous successes enjoyed by Hanson in robotic healthcare, incorporated an animated personality to engage patients on a natural and emotional level. It was also the first such product to combine biomedical knowledge with AI and robotics.

Grace is the product of Awakening.Health, a JV between Hanson Robotics and Singularity Studio (SSI) – a spinoff of the pair’s SingularityNET. 

Key takeaways:

  • Ben Goertzel is an American AI researcher, entrepreneur, and cognitive scientist who is involved with various AI-related foundations and societies. Goertzel is also notable for his role in popularizing the term “artificial general intelligence” (AGI).
  • Goertzel’s first professional post was as CTO of the AI software company WebMind. Goertzel developed the eponymous WebMind AI Engine, but this venture failed after failing to secure funding. Later, he started Novamente and developed an early form of AGI that served as a predecessor to healthcare applications.
  • Goertzel joined Hansen Robotics in May 2015 as Chief Scientist and was responsible for R&D efforts in cognitive architectures, natural language processing, and machine learning. Building on the success of the humanoid robot Sophia, Goertzel co-founded SingularityNET to develop a decentralized benevolent AGI and then released the elderly care robot Grace with Hanson Robotics founder David Hanson.

Key Highlights

  • Ben Goertzel: Ben Goertzel is a prominent figure in the field of artificial intelligence (AI). He is known as an AI researcher, entrepreneur, and cognitive scientist who has been involved with various AI-related projects and organizations.
  • Early Career and Academic Pursuits: Goertzel completed his Ph.D. in Mathematics from Temple University in 1988. He embarked on a career in academia and research, holding positions at institutions across New Zealand, Australia, and the United States. During this time, he made valuable contributions to AI-related domains.
  • WebMind and Novamente: Goertzel’s journey included ventures into AI software companies. He served as CTO of WebMind, where he developed the WebMind AI Engine, an advanced search tool with high-precision capabilities. However, the venture faced financial challenges and filed for bankruptcy. Undeterred, Goertzel started Novamente, focusing on the Novamente AI Engine project, which aimed to integrate various AI paradigms for a holistic approach.
  • Biomind and Aidyia Holdings: Goertzel founded Biomind, a bioinformatics firm that used AI software for gene expression data analysis. He then transitioned to Aidyia Limited in Hong Kong, where he led the development of AI systems to predict stock market patterns.
  • Hanson Robotics and Sophia: Goertzel joined Hanson Robotics as Chief Scientist. He played a significant role in the development of the humanoid robot Sophia, which garnered attention for its AI capabilities and human-like interactions. The robot was a social robot with open-source components.
  • SingularityNET: In collaboration with Simone Giacomelli and David Hanson, Goertzel co-founded SingularityNET in 2017. The mission was to create a decentralized and beneficial Artificial General Intelligence (AGI) through a democratic framework. SingularityNET aimed to empower humanoid robots with secure and decentralized intelligence.
  • Awakening.Health and Grace: Goertzel and Hanson announced the launch of Grace, a human-like robotic assistant for biodata management and elderly care. Grace combined biomedical knowledge with AI and robotics, offering natural and emotional interactions to engage patients. Awakening.Health, a joint venture between Hanson Robotics and Singularity Studio, spearheaded this initiative.

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