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What would be the signs of AI manhattan projects starting? Should a website be made watching for these signs?

by Ozyrus3rd Jul 201910 comments


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Probably sudden reduction in profile or outright disappearance from the public view of the prominent experts in the area, as they are recruited to work on the more clandestine research.

Tracking employment/location and publishing/conference attendance records of researchers will probably be good source data for this.

If there will be a AI Manhattan project, there will be effective cover up of it, so no obvious signs of it will be visible for layman.

My answer to part of this question is "it's not at all obvious that it's useful to pay attention too overtly to this sort of thing, especially to the degree of a tracking-website, because the government would just notice and that take some sort of different action instead."

(I'm not sure it's *not* useful either, just that this may be a somewhat anti-inductive domain)

Why the government? Perhaps a government?

2Dagon2yWhy singular? Governments are both afraid of and envious of each other, and actively monitor each other's activities. If any government is doing this, then many governments are - either cooperatively or competitively. An actively secret project on the scale of the Manhattan Project (in terms of people who know it's going on, not just money/resources) is likely impossible. It can be kept from the public for quite awhile, but almost certainly not from other interested states for very long.
3Pattern2yThe Manhattan Project took four years and a lot of people and resources. What if instead of making a project big and fast, someone made a small and slow project? It would take a lot longer to complete, and perhaps be less effective, but it would be easier to keep secret.

Would having this information actually be beneficial. Perhaps it'd be good for us to know what is going on, but it might be negative for certain governments to know about this as it might increase the chance of an AI arms race.

It would be easy to hide it within another public project that plausibly would need those researchers and experts. Announce a mission to build a moon base, or put humans on Mars. Part of that will need advanced robotics and AI, so now you have a Black Budget project hidden within a public project, and a perfect cover story. Plant 42 has been cranking out Black Budget surprises for decades, though they don't need a cover story, everyone knows it is a "secret" aerospace R&D and manufacturing facility.

1 Related Questions

Well, it was wartime, and it wasn't really a secret that physicists would be helping with the war effort (since basically everyone was expected to contribute). Many top scientists took a break from their work at this time to work on things like codebreaking and radar; many of these projects were also top secret at the time. And Feynman mentions (in Surely You're Joking, Mr. Feynman!) that they used obfuscation techniques like having him take a roundabout series of train trips to end up at Los Alamos, so probably it was very non-obvious that many ... (read more)

I think it was easier in that era; AFAIK they used conventional secrecy methods (project names, locations, misdirection, need to know, obfuscation) to pull it off. Feynman's "Surely you're joking" and Rhodes "making the atomic bomb" are good sources for some examples (and otherwise recommended)

3moses2yI read Feynman, but I don't think he said anything about how the US government explained the withdrawal of top physicists from public space. Maybe it was the case that "the US military is using top physicists to do something" was not a secret; it only was a secret what exactly they're working on. In that case this would not be repeatable either, because "the US military is using top AI researchers to do something" is not quite the same level of vague :)

If ever there was a question with your name on it... ;-)

5Raemon2yHmm. Perhaps a related question is "prior to the Manhattan Project, had there ever been anything like a Manhattan project before?". It seems like quite plausibly the answer was "no, not really", which makes security through obscurity much easier.
2Raemon2yJust wanted to note for now that I'm quite interested in this question.