It is intentionality as required for following an English statement 'maximize paperclips' to the spirit of it, instead of doing what the tools we can make for maximizing paperclips would do (which is very distinct from maximizing paperclips).

edit: Basically, the 'paperclip maximizer' as defined here would follow lines of reasoning like 'if I modify my sensory processing module in such a way that increases number of paperclips it outputs, that will decrease the expected number of paperclips in the real world, and so I will refrain from doing so', same for any self modification that breaks the correspondence between real world paperclips and the number with which agent represents them. The tool would not follow such line of reasoning. It is easy to see, from external perspective, if an action breaks this correspondence. Internally you don't have extra definition of real world paperclip spring out of nothingness and tell you, no this breaks the correspondence.


Understanding this definition would require me to understand your distinction between tools and agents, which already depends upon the definition of "real world intentionality".

Can you tell me what it means in simpler terms?

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.