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'The goal of alignment research should be to get us into "alignment escape velocity", which is where the rate of alignment progress (which will largely come from AI as we progress) is fast enough to prevent doom for enough time to buy even more time.'


^ the above argument only works if you think that there will be a relatively slow takeoff. If there is a fast takeoff, the only way to buy more time is to delay that takeoff, because alignment won't scale as quickly as capabilities under a period of significant and rapid recursive self-improvement. 

that's not less true under fast takeoff - you still need the alignment curve to grow faster at every step

Hmm yeah that’s fair, but I think what I said stands as a critique of a certain perspective on alignment, insofar as I think having the alignment curve grow faster at every step is equivalent to solving the core hard problem. I agree that we need to solve the core hard problem, but we need to delay fast takeoff until we are very confident that the problems are solved.

ah, yeah, arguing for the incrementalization of alignment - strongly agreed there!

Under fast takeoff maintaining the alignment curve could happen by ex. using AI to align more advanced AI. 

But I agree this way of thinking is less useful under fast takeoff. 

Epistemic status: I’m somewhat confident this is a useful axis to describe/consider alignment strategies/perspectives, but I’m pretty uncertain which is better. I could be missing important considerations, or weighing the considerations listed inaccurately.

When thinking about technical alignment strategy, I’m unsure whether it’s better to focus on trying to align systems that already exist (and are misaligned), or to focus on procedures that train aligned models from the start.

The first case is harder, which means focusing on it is closer to minimax optimization (minimize the badness of the worst-case outcome), which is often a good metric to optimize. Plus, it could be argued that it’s more realistic, because the current AI paradigm of “learn a bunch of stuff about the world with a SSL prediction loss, then fine-tune it to point at actually useful tasks” is very similar to this, and might require us to align pre-trained unaligned systems.

However, I don’t think only focusing on this paradigm is necessarily correct. I think it’s important we have methods that can train (more-or-less) from scratch (and still be roughly competitive with other methods). I’m uncertain how hard fine-tuning SSL prediction models is, and I think the frame of “we’re training models to be a certain way” admits different solutions and strategies than “we need to align a potential superintelligence”.

One way to cache this out more concretely is the extent to which you view amplification or debate as fine-tuning for alignment, versus a method of learning new capabilities (while maintaining alignment properties).

SSL models trained on real observations can be thought of as maps, so that tuning them without keeping this point of view in mind risks changing the map in a way that is motivated by something other than aligning it with the territory.

In particular, fine-tuning might distort the map, and amplification might generate sloppy fiction to be accepted as territory. A proper use of fine-tuning in this frame is as search for high fidelity depictions of aligned agents, zooming in the map by conditioning it to be about particular situations we are looking for. This is different from realigning the whole map with reinforcement learning, which might get it to lose touch with the ground truth of original training data. And a proper use of amplification is as reflection on blank spaces on the map, or low fidelity regions, extrapolating past/future details and other hidden variables of the territory from what the map does show, and learning how it looks when added to the map.

Alignment is a stabilizing force against fast takeoff, because the models will not want to train models that don't do what *they* want. So, the goals/values of the superintelligence we get after a takeoff might actually end up being the values of models that are just past the point of capability where they are able to align their successors. I'd expect these values to be different from the values of the initial model that started the recursive self-improvement process, because I don't expect that initial model to be capable of solving (or caring about) alignment enough, and because there may competitive dynamics that cause ~human-level AI to train successors that are misaligned to it. 

I like this idea and think it is worth exploring. It is not even just with training new models; AGI have to worry about misalignment with every self-modification and every interaction with the environment that changes itself.

Perhaps there are even ways to deter an AGI from self-improvement, by making misalignment more likely.

Some caveats are:

  • AGI may not take alignment seriously. We already have plenty of examples of general intelligences who don't.
  • AGI can still increase its capabilities without training new models, e.g. by getting more compute
  • If an AGI decides to solve alignment before significant self-improvement, it will very likely be overtaken by other humans or AGI who don't care as much about alignment.
[+][comment deleted]2y10

It’s so easy to get caught up in meta-thinking - I want to try to remember to not spend more than maybe 10% of my time generally doing meta-reflection, process optimization, etc., and spend at least 90% of my time working directly on the concrete goal in front of me (LM alignment research, right now)

Has anyone thought about the best ways of intentionally inducing the most likely/worst kinds of misalignment in models, so we can test out alignment strategies on them? I think red teaming kinda fits this, but that’s more focused on eliciting bad behavior, instead of causing a more general misalignment. I’m thinking about something along the lines of “train with RLHF so the model reliably/robustly does bad things, and then we can try to fix that and make the model good/non-harmful”, especially in the sandwiching context where the model is more capable than the overseer.


This is especially relevant for Debate, where we currently do self-play with a helpful assistant-style RLHF'd model, where one of the models is prompted to argue for an incorrect answer. But prompting the model to argue for an incorrect answer is a very simple/rough way of inducing misalignment, which is (at least partially) what we're trying to design Debate to be robust against.

Make it as dangerous as possible, to see if we can control it? cough Wuhan. cough

Is there any other reason to think that scalable oversight is possible at all in principle, other the standard complexity theory analogy? I feel like this is forming the basis of a lot of our (and other’s) work in safety, but I haven’t seen work that tries to understand/conceptualize this analogy concretely.

Is anyone thinking about how to scale up human feedback collection by several orders of magnitudes? A lot of alignment proposals aren’t focused on the social choice theory questions, which I’m okay with, but I’m worried that there may be large constant factors in the scalability of human feedback strategies like amplification/debate, such that there could be big differences between collecting 50k trajectories versus say 50-500M. Obviously cost/logistics are a giant bottleneck here, but I’m wondering about what other big challenges might be (especially if we could make intellectual progress on this before we may need to)

How does shard theory differ from the Olah-style interpretability agenda? Why is there any reason to believe we can learn about "shards" without interpretability? 

When doing sandwiching experiments, a key property of your "amplification strategy" (i.e. the method you use to help the human complete the task) should only help the person complete the task correctly. 

For example, lets say you have a language model give arguments for why a certain answer to a question is correct. This is fine, but we don't want it to be the case that the system is also capable of convincing the person of an incorrect answer. In this example, you can easily evaluate this, by prompting or finetuning the model to argue for incorrect answers, and seeing if people also believe the incorrect arguments. This description of the problem/task naturally leads to debate, where the key property we want is for models arguing for correct answers to win more often than models arguing for incorrect answers. But even if you aren't using debate, to evaluate a sandwiching attempt, you need to compare it to the case where you're using the strategy to try and convince the person of an incorrect answer.

If people read at 250 words/minute, and a page of text has 500 words, and we could get 10M people to read AI outputs full-time, we could have human-evaluation of about 100B pages of text per year, which actually feels surprisingly high

This is about 100T tokens, assuming ~2 tokens per word. That's quite a lot of supervision.

Has anyone tried debate experiments where the judge can interject/ask questions throughout the debate?