(Continuing the posting of select posts from Slate Star Codex for comment here, for the reasons discussed in this thread, and as Scott Alexander gave me - and anyone else - permission to do with some exceptions.)
Scott recently wrote a post called No Time Like The Present For AI Safety Work. It makes the argument for the importance of organisations like MIRI thus, and explores the last two premises:
1. If humanity doesn’t blow itself up, eventually we will create human-level AI.
2. If humanity creates human-level AI, technological progress will continue and eventually reach far-above-human-level AI
3. If far-above-human-level AI comes into existence, eventually it will so overpower humanity that our existence will depend on its goals being aligned with ours
4. It is possible to do useful research now which will improve our chances of getting the AI goal alignment problem right
5. Given that we can start research now we probably should, since leaving it until there is a clear and present need for it is unwise
I placed very high confidence (>95%) on each of the first three statements – they’re just saying that if trends continue moving towards a certain direction without stopping, eventually they’ll get there. I had lower confidence (around 50%) on the last two statements.
Commenters tended to agree with this assessment; nobody wanted to seriously challenge any of 1-3, but a lot of people said they just didn’t think there was any point in worrying about AI now. We ended up in an extended analogy about illegal computer hacking. It’s a big problem that we’ve never been able to fully address – but if Alan Turing had gotten it into his head to try to solve it in 1945, his ideas might have been along the lines of “Place your punch cards in a locked box where German spies can’t read them.” Wouldn’t trying to solve AI risk in 2015 end in something equally cringeworthy?
As always, it's worth reading the whole thing, but I'd be interested in the thoughts of the LessWrong community specifically.