The model popular here is that of 'expected utility maximizer', and the 'utility function' is defined on the real world.

I think this is a bit of a misperception stemming from the use of the "paperclip maximizer" example to illustrate things about instrumental reasoning. Certainly folk like Eliezer or Wei Dai or Stuart Armstrong or Paul Christiano have often talked about how a paperclip maximizer is much of the way to FAI (in having a world-model robust enough to use consequentialism). Note that people also like to use the AIXI framework as a model, and use it to talk about how AIXI is set up not as a paperclip maximizer but a wireheader (pornography and birth control rather than sex and offspring), with its utility function defined over sensory inputs rather than a model of the external world.

For another example, when talking about the idea of creating an AI with some external reward that can be administered by humans but not as easily hacked/wireheaded by the AI itself people use the example of an AI designed to seek factors of certain specified numbers, or a proof or disproof of the Riemann hypothesis according to some internal proof-checking mechanism, etc, recognizing the role of wireheading and the difficulty of specifying goals externally rather than using simple percepts and the like.

Tool for maximizing paperclips vs a paperclip maximizer

by private_messaging 1 min read12th May 201223 comments


To clarify some point that is being discussed in several threads here, tool vs intentional agent distinction:

A tool for maximizing paperclips would - for efficiency purposes - have a world-model which it has god's eye view of (not accessing it through embedded sensors like eyes), implementing/defining a counter of paperclips within this model. Output of this counter is what is being maximized by a problem solving portion of the tool. Not the real world paperclips

No real world intentionality exist in this tool for maximizing paperclips; the paperclip-making-problem-solver would maximize the output of the counter, not real world paperclips. Such tool can be hooked up to actuators, and to sensors, and made to affect the world without human intermediary; but it won't implement real world intentionality.

An intentional agent for maximizing paperclips is the familiar 'paperclip maximizer', that truly loves the real world paperclips and wants to maximize them, and would try to improve it's understanding of the world to know if it's paperclip making efforts are successful.

The real world intentionality is ontologically basic in human language and consequently there is very strong bias to describe the former as the latter.

The distinction: the wireheading (either direct or through manipulation of inputs) is a valid solution to the problem that is being solved by the former, but not by the latter. Of course one could rationalize and postulate tool that is not general purpose enough as to wirehead, forgetting that the issue being feared is a tool that's general purpose to design better tool or self improve. That is an incredibly frustrating feature of rationalization. The aspects of problem are forgotten when thinking backwards.

The issues with the latter: We do not know if humans actually implement real world intentionality in such a way that it is not destroyed under full ability to self modify (and we can observe that we very much like to manipulate our own inputs; see art, porn, fiction, etc). We do not have single certain example of such stable real world intentionality, and we do not know how to implement it (that may well be impossible). We also are prone to assuming that two unsolved problems in AI - general problem solving and this real world intentionality - are a single problem, or are solved necessarily together. A map compression issue.