One open question in AI risk strategy is: Can we trust the world's elite decision-makers (hereafter "elites") to navigate the creation of human-level AI (and beyond) just fine, without the kinds of special efforts that e.g. Bostrom and Yudkowsky think are needed?
Some reasons for concern include:
- Otherwise smart people say unreasonable things about AI safety.
- Many people who believed AI was around the corner didn't take safety very seriously.
- Elites have failed to navigate many important issues wisely (2008 financial crisis, climate change, Iraq War, etc.), for a variety of reasons.
- AI may arrive rather suddenly, leaving little time for preparation.
But if you were trying to argue for hope, you might argue along these lines (presented for the sake of argument; I don't actually endorse this argument):
- If AI is preceded by visible signals, elites are likely to take safety measures. Effective measures were taken to address asteroid risk. Large resources are devoted to mitigating climate change risks. Personal and tribal selfishness align with AI risk-reduction in a way they may not align on climate change. Availability of information is increasing over time.
- AI is likely to be preceded by visible signals. Conceptual insights often take years of incremental tweaking. In vision, speech, games, compression, robotics, and other fields, performance curves are mostly smooth. "Human-level performance at X" benchmarks influence perceptions and should be more exhaustive and come more rapidly as AI approaches. Recursive self-improvement capabilities could be charted, and are likely to be AI-complete. If AI succeeds, it will likely succeed for reasons comprehensible by the AI researchers of the time.
- Therefore, safety measures will likely be taken.
- If safety measures are taken, then elites will navigate the creation of AI just fine. Corporate and government leaders can use simple heuristics (e.g. Nobel prizes) to access the upper end of expert opinion. AI designs with easily tailored tendency to act may be the easiest to build. The use of early AIs to solve AI safety problems creates an attractor for "safe, powerful AI." Arms races not insurmountable.
The basic structure of this 'argument for hope' is due to Carl Shulman, though he doesn't necessarily endorse the details. (Also, it's just a rough argument, and as stated is not deductively valid.)
Personally, I am not very comforted by this argument because:
- Elites often fail to take effective action despite plenty of warning.
- I think there's a >10% chance AI will not be preceded by visible signals.
- I think the elites' safety measures will likely be insufficient.
Obviously, there's a lot more for me to spell out here, and some of it may be unclear. The reason I'm posting these thoughts in such a rough state is so that MIRI can get some help on our research into this question.
In particular, I'd like to know:
- Which historical events are analogous to AI risk in some important ways? Possibilities include: nuclear weapons, climate change, recombinant DNA, nanotechnology, chloroflourocarbons, asteroids, cyberterrorism, Spanish flu, the 2008 financial crisis, and large wars.
- What are some good resources (e.g. books) for investigating the relevance of these analogies to AI risk (for the purposes of illuminating elites' likely response to AI risk)?
- What are some good studies on elites' decision-making abilities in general?
- Has the increasing availability of information in the past century noticeably improved elite decision-making?
What does RSI stand for?
"recursive self improvement".
Okay, I've now spelled this out in the OP.
Lately I've been listening to audiobooks (at 2x speed) in my down time, especially ones that seem likely to have passages relevant to the question of how well policy-makers will deal with AGI, basically continuing this project but only doing the "collection" stage, not the "analysis" stage.
I'll post quotes from the audiobooks I listen to as replies to this comment.
More (#3) from Better Angels of Our Nature:... (read more)
Okay. In this comment I'll keep an updated list of audiobooks I've heard since Sept. 2013, for those who are interested. All audiobooks are available via iTunes/Audible unless otherwise noted.
Worthwhile if you care about the subject matter:
A process for turning ebooks into audiobooks for personal use, at least on Mac:
This seems obviously false. Local expenditures - of money, pride, possibility of not being the first to publish, etc. - are still local, global penalties are still global. Incentives are misaligned in exactly the same way as for climate change.
This is to be taken as an arguendo, not as the author's opinion, right? See IEM on the minimal conditions for takeoff. Albeit if &q... (read more)
(I don't have answers to your specific questions, but here are some thoughts about the general problem.)
I agree with most of you said. I also assign significant probability mass to most parts of the argument for hope (but haven't thought about this enough to put numbers on this), though I too am not comforted on these parts because I also assign non-small chance to them going wrong. E.g., I have hope for "if AI is visible [and, I add, AI risk is understood] then authorities/elites will be taking safety measures".
That said, there are some steps in... (read more)
I personally am optimistic about the world's elites navigating AI risk as well as possible subject to inherent human limitations that I would expect everybody to have, and the inherent risk. Some points:
I've been surprised by people's ability to avert bad outcomes. Only two nuclear weapons have been used since nuclear weapons were developed, despite the fact that there are 10,000+ nuclear weapons around the world. Political leaders are assassinated very infrequently relative to how often one might expect a priori.
AI risk is a Global Catastrophic Risk i
The argument from hope or towards hope or anything but despair and grit is misplaced when dealing with risks of this magnitude.
Don't trust God (or semi-competent world leaders) to make everything magically turn out all right. The temptation to do so is either a rationalization of wanting to do nothing, or based on a profoundly miscalibrated optimism for how the world works.
Aren't we seeing "visible signals" already? Machines are better than humans at lots of intelligence-related tasks today.
Cryptography and cryptanalysis are obvious precursors of supposedly-dangerous tech within IT.
Looking at their story, we can plausibly expect governments to attempt to delay the development of "weaponizable" technology by others.
These days, cryptography facilitates international trade. It seems like a mostly-positive force overall.
One question is whether AI is like CFCs, or like CO2, or like hacking.
With CFCs, the solution was simple: ban CFCs. The cost was relatively low, and the benefit relatively high.
With CO2, the solution is equally simple: cap and trade. It's just not politically palatable, because the problem is slower-moving, and the cost would be much, much greater (perhaps great enough to really mess up the world economy). So, we're left with the second-best solution: do nothing. People will die, but the economy will keep growing, which might balance that out, because ... (read more)
Here are my reasons for pessimism:
There are likely to be effective methods of controlling AIs that are of subhuman or even roughly human-level intelligence which do not scale up to superhuman intelligence. These include for example reinforcement by reward/punishment, mutually beneficial trading, legal institutions. Controlling superhuman intelligence will likely require qualitatively different methods, such as having the superintelligence share our values. Unfortunately the existence of effective but unscalable methods of AI control will probably lull el
Congress' non-responsiveness to risks to critical infrastructure from geomagnetic storms, despite scientific consensus on the issue, is also worrying.
Even if one organization navigates the creation of friendly AI successfully, won't we still have to worry about preventing anyone from ever creating an unsafe AI?
Unlike nuclear weapons, a single AI might have world ending consequences, and an AI requires no special resources. Theoretically a seed AI could be uploaded to Pirate Bay, from where anyone could download and compile it.
What kind of "AI safety problems" are we talking about here? If they are like the "FAI Open Problems" that Eliezer has been posting, they would require philosophers of the highest (perhaps even super-human) caliber to solve. How could "early AIs" be of much help?
If "AI safety problems" here do not refer to FAI problems, then how do those problems get solved, according to this argument?
@Lukeprog, can you
(1) update us on your working answers the posed questions in brief? (2) your current confidence (and if you would like to, by proxy, MIRI's as an organisation's confidence in each of the 3:
Thank you for your diligence.
There's another reason for hope in this above global warming: The idea of a dangerous AI is already common in the public eye as "things we need to be careful about." A big problem the global warming movement had, and is still having, is convincing the public that it's a threat in the first place.
Who do you mean by "elites". Keep in mind that major disruptive technical progress of the type likely to precede the creation of a full AGI tends to cause the type of social change that shakes up the social hierarchy.
Combining the beginning and the end of your questions reveals an answer.
Answer how just fine any of these are any you have analogous answers.
You might also clarify whether you are interested in what is just fine for everyone, or just fine for the elites, or just fine for the AI in question. The answer will change accordingly.