Less Wrong Q&A with Eliezer Yudkowsky: Ask Your Questions

by MichaelGR1 min read11th Nov 2009701 comments


Q&A (format)
Personal Blog

As promised, here is the "Q" part of the Less Wrong Video Q&A with Eliezer Yudkowsky.

The Rules

1) One question per comment (to allow voting to carry more information about people's preferences).

2) Try to be as clear and concise as possible. If your question can't be condensed to a few paragraphs, you should probably ask in a separate post. Make sure you have an actual question somewhere in there (you can bold it to make it easier to scan).

3) Eliezer hasn't been subpoenaed. He will simply ignore the questions he doesn't want to answer, even if they somehow received 3^^^3 votes.

4) If you reference certain things that are online in your question, provide a link.

5) This thread will be open to questions and votes for at least 7 days. After that, it is up to Eliezer to decide when the best time to film his answers will be. [Update: Today, November 18, marks the 7th day since this thread was posted. If you haven't already done so, now would be a good time to review the questions and vote for your favorites.]


Don't limit yourself to things that have been mentioned on OB/LW. I expect that this will be the majority of questions, but you shouldn't feel limited to these topics. I've always found that a wide variety of topics makes a Q&A more interesting. If you're uncertain, ask anyway and let the voting sort out the wheat from the chaff.

It's okay to attempt humor (but good luck, it's a tough crowd).

If a discussion breaks out about a question (f.ex. to ask for clarifications) and the original poster decides to modify the question, the top level comment should be updated with the modified question (make it easy to find your question, don't have the latest version buried in a long thread).

Update: Eliezer's video answers to 30 questions from this thread can be found here.


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What is your information diet like? Do you control it deliberately (do you have a method; is it, er, intelligently designed), or do you just let it happen naturally.

By that I mean things like: Do you have a reading schedule (x number of hours daily, etc)? Do you follow the news, or try to avoid information with a short shelf-life? Do you frequently stop yourself from doing things that you enjoy (f.ex reading certain magazines, books, watching films, etc) to focus on what is more important? etc.

During a panel discussion at the most recent Singularity Summit, Eliezer speculated that he might have ended up as a science fiction author, but then quickly added:

I have to remind myself that it's not what's the most fun to do, it's not even what you have talent to do, it's what you need to do that you ought to be doing.

Shortly thereafter, Peter Thiel expressed a wish that all the people currently working on string theory would shift their attention to AI or aging; no disagreement was heard from anyone present.

I would therefore like to ask Eliezer whether he in fact believes that the only two legitimate occupations for an intelligent person in our current world are (1) working directly on Singularity-related issues, and (2) making as much money as possible on Wall Street in order to donate all but minimal living expenses to SIAI/Methuselah/whatever.

How much of existing art and science would he have been willing to sacrifice so that those who created it could instead have been working on Friendly AI? If it be replied that the work of, say, Newton or Darwin was essential in getting us to our current perspective wherein we have a hope of intelligently tackling this problem, might the same not hold true in yet unknown ways for string theorists? And what of Michelangelo, Beethoven, and indeed science fiction? Aren't we allowed to have similar fun today? For a living, even?

[-][anonymous]12y 15

Somewhat related, AGI is such an enormously difficult topic, requiring intimate familiarity with so many different fields, that the vast majority of people (and I count myself among them) simply aren't able to contribute effectively to it.

I'd be interested to know if he thinks there are any singularity-related issues that are important to be worked on, but somewhat more accessible, that are more in need of contributions of man-hours rather than genius-level intellect. Is the only way a person of more modest talents can contribute through donations?

7MichaelVassar12yDepends on what you mean by 'modest'. Probably 60% of Americans could contribute donations without serious lifestyle consequences and 20% of Americans could contribute over a quarter of their incomes without serious consequences. By contrast, only 10% have the reasoning abilities to identify the best large category of causes and only 1% have the reasoning abilities to identify the very best cause without a large luck element being involved. By working hard, most of that 1% could also become part of the affluent 20% of Americans who could make large donations. A similar fraction might be able to help via fund-raising efforts and by aggressively networking and sharing the contacts that they are able to build with us. A smaller but only modestly smaller fraction might be able to meaningfully contribute to SIAI's effort via seriously committed offers of volunteer effort, but definitely not via volunteer efforts uncoupled to serious commitment. Almost no-one can do FAI, or even recognize talent at a level capable of doing FAI, but if more people were doing the easier things it wouldn't be nearly so hard to find people who could do the core work.

Almost no-one can do FAI, or even recognize talent at a level capable of doing FAI, but if more people were doing the easier things it wouldn't be nearly so hard to find people who could do the core work.

SIAI keeps supporting this attitude, yet I don't believe it, at least in the way it's presented. A good mathematician who gets to understand the problem statement and succeeds in weeding out the standard misunderstanding can contribute as well as anyone, at this stage where we have no field. Creating a programme that would allow people to reliably get to work on the problem requires material to build upon, and there is still nothing, no matter of what quality. Systematizing the connections with existing science, trying to locate the place of FAI project in it, is something that only requires expertise in that science and understanding of FAI problem statement. At the very least, a dozen steps in, we'll have a useful curriculum, to get folks up to speed in the right direction.

5MichaelVassar12yWe have some experience with this, but if you want to discuss the details more with myself or some other SIAI people we will be happy to do so, and probably to have you come visit some time and get some experience with what we do. You may have ways of contributing substantially, theoretically or managerially. We'll have to see.
0Curiouskid10ySorry for the bump, but... Perhaps what we should do is take all our funds and create a school for AI researchers. This would be an investment for the long hall. You and I may not be super geniuses, but I sure think I could raise some super geniuses. Also, I feel like this topic deserves more than one comment thread.
9John_Maxwell12yI don't know about Eliezer, but I would be able to sacrifice quite a lot; perhaps all of art. If humanity spreads through the galaxy there will be way more than enough time for all that. It might. But their expected contribution would be much greater if they looked at the problem to see how they could contribute most effectively. No one's saying that you're not allowed to do something. Just that it's suboptimal under their utility function, and perhaps yours. My guess is that you overestimate how much of an altruist you are. Consider that lives can be saved using traditional methods for well under $1000 [http://www.givewell.net/international/top-charities/villagereach#Whatdoyougetforyourdollar] . That means every time you spend $1000 on other things, your revealed preference is that having that stuff is more important to you than saving the life of another human being. If you're upset upon hearing this fact, then you're suffering from cognitive dissonance. If you're a true altruist, you'll be happy after hearing this fact, because you'll realize that you can be scoring much better on your utility function than you are currently. (Assuming for the moment that happiness corresponds with opportunities to better satisfy your utility function, which seems to be fairy common in humans.) Regardless of whether you're a true altruist, it makes sense to spend a chunk of your time on entertainment and relaxation to spend the rest more effectively. By the way, I would be interested to hear Eliezer address this topic in his video.
7MichaelVassar12yIt's a free country. You are allowed to do a lot, but it can only be optimal to do one thing.
4komponisto12yNot necessarily; the maximum value of a function may be attained at more than one point of its domain. (Also, my use of the word "allowed" is clearly rhetorical/figurative. Obviously it's not illegal to work on things other than AI, and I don't interpret you folks as saying it should be.)
3MichaelVassar12yPoint taken. Also, of course, given a variety of human personalities and situations, the optimal activity for a given person can vary quite a bit. I never advocate asceticism.
1gwern10yString theorists are at least somewhat plausible, but Michelangelo and Beethoven? Do you have any evidence that they actually helped the sciences progress? I've asked the same question [http://www.gwern.net/Culture%20is%20not%20about%20esthetics#two-sides-of-the-same-organ] in the past, and have not been able to adduce any evidence worth a damn. (Science fiction, at least, can try to justify itself as good propaganda [http://www.gwern.net/Culture%20is%20not%20about%20esthetics#they-snatched-societys-brain] .)
0komponisto10yNo, and I didn't claim they did. It was intended to be a separate question ("...string theorists? And [then, on another note], what of Michelangelo, Beethoven,....?").

Your "Bookshelf" page is 10 years old (and contains a warning sign saying it is obsolete):


Could you tell us about some of the books and papers that you've been reading lately? I'm particularly interested in books that you've read since 1999 that you would consider to be of the highest quality and/or importance (fiction or not).

3alyssavance12ySee the Singularity Institute Reading List [http://intelligence.org/reading/corereading] for some ideas.
[-][anonymous]12y 32

What is a typical EY workday like? How many hours/day on average are devoted to FAI research, and how many to other things, and what are the other major activities that you devote your time to?

Could you please tell us a little about your brain? For example, what is your IQ, at what age did you learn calculus, do you use cognitive enhancing drugs or brain fitness programs, are you Neurotypical and why didn't you attend school?

Why exactly do majorities of academic experts in the fields that overlap your FAI topic, who have considered your main arguments, not agree with your main claims?

I also disagree with the premise of Robin's claim. I think that when our claims are worked out precisely and clearly, a majority agree with them, and a supermajority of those who agree with Robin's part (new future growth mode, get frozen...) agree.

Still, among those who take roughly Robin's position, I would say that an ideological attraction to libertarianism is BY FAR the main reason for disagreement. Advocacy of a single control system just sounds too evil for them to bite that bullet however strong the arguments for it.

5timtyler12yWhich claims? The SIAI collectively seems to think some pretty strange things to me. Many are to do with the scale of the risk facing the world. Since this is part of its funding pitch, one obvious explanation seems to be that the organisation is attempting to create an atmosphere of fear - in the hope of generating funding. We see a similar phenomenon surrounding global warming alarmism - those promoting the idea of there being a large risk have a big overlap with those who benefit from related funding.
7MichaelVassar12yYou would expect serious people who believed in a large risk to seek involvement, which would lead the leadership of any such group to benefit from funding. Just how many people do you imagine are getting rich off of AGI concerns? Or have any expectation of doing so? Or are even "getting middle class" off of them?
1Zack_M_Davis12yAny practical advice on how to overcome this failure mode, if and only if it is in fact a failure mode?
8Eliezer Yudkowsky12yWho are we talking about besides you?
4RobinHanson12yI'd consider important overlapping academic fields to be AI and long term economic growth; I base my claim about academic expert opinion on my informal sampling of such folks. I would of course welcome a more formal sampling.
9Eliezer Yudkowsky12yWho's considered my main arguments besides you?
2RobinHanson12yI'm not comfortable publicly naming names based on informal conversations. These folks vary of course in how much of the details of your arguments they understand, and of course you could always set your bar high enough to get any particular number of folks who have understood "enough."
5Eliezer Yudkowsky12yOkay. I don't know any academic besides you who's even tried to consider the arguments. And Nick Bostrom et. al., of course, but AFAIK Bostrom doesn't particularly disagree with me. I cannot refute what I have not encountered, I do set my bar high, and I have no particular reason to believe that any other academics are in the game. I could try to explain why you disagree with me and Bostrom doesn't.
5RobinHanson12ySurely some on the recent AAAI Presidential Panel on Long-Term AI Futures [http://research.microsoft.com/en-us/um/people/horvitz/AAAI_Presidential_Panel_2008-2009.htm] considered your arguments to at least some degree. You could discuss why these folks disagree with you.
4Eliezer Yudkowsky12yHaven't particularly looked at that - I think some other SIAI people have. I expect they'd have told me if there was any analysis that counts as serious by our standards, or anything new by our standards. If someone hasn't read my arguments specifically, then I feel very little need to explain why they might disagree with me. I find myself hardly inclined to suspect that they have reinvented the same arguments. I could talk about that, I suppose - "Why don't other people in your field invent the same arguments you do?"

You have written a lot of words. Just how many of your words would someone have had to read to make you feel a substantial need to explain the fact they are world class AI experts and disagree with your conclusions?

6Eliezer Yudkowsky12yI'm sorry, but I don't really have a proper lesson plan laid out - although the ongoing work of organizing LW into sequences may certainly help with that. It would depend on the specific issue and what I thought needed to be understood about that issue. If they drew my feedback cycle of an intelligence explosion and then drew a different feedback cycle and explained why it fit the historical evidence equally well, then I would certainly sit up and take notice. It wouldn't matter if they'd done it on their own or by reading my stuff. E.g. Chalmers at the Singularity Summit is an example of an outsider who wandered in and started doing a modular analysis of the issues, who would certainly have earned the right of serious consideration and serious reply if, counterfactually, he had reached different conclusions about takeoff... with respect to only the parts that he gave a modular analysis of, though, not necessarily e.g. the statement that de novo AI is unlikely because no one will understand intelligence. If Chalmers did a modular analysis of that part, it wasn't clear from the presentation. Roughly, what I expect to happen by default is no modular analysis at all - just snap consideration and snap judgment. I feel little need to explain such.

Roughly, what I expect to happen by default is no modular analysis at all - just snap consideration and snap judgment. I feel little need to explain such.

You, or somebody anyway, could still offer a modular causal model of that snap consideration and snap judgment. For example:

  • What cached models of the planning abilities of future machine intelligences did the academics have available when they made the snap judgment?

    • What fraction of the academics are aware of any current published AI architectures which could reliably reason over plans at the level of abstraction of "implement a proxy intelligence"?

      • What fraction of them have thought carefully about when there might be future practical AI architectures that could do this?
      • What fraction use a process for answering questions about the category distinctions that will be known in the future, which uses as an unconscious default the category distinctions known in the present?
  • What false claims have been made about AI in the past? What decision rules might academics have learned to use, to protect themselves from losing prestige for being associated with false claims like those?

    • How much do those decision rule

... (read more)
3RobinHanson12yFrom that AAAI panel's interim report [http://research.microsoft.com/en-us/um/people/horvitz/note_from_aaai_panel_chairs.pdf] : Given this description it is hard to imagine they haven't imagined the prospect of the rate of intelligence growth depending on the level of system intelligence.
9Eliezer Yudkowsky12yI don't see any arguments listed, though. I know there's at least some smart people on that panel (e.g. Horvitz) so I could be wrong, but experience has taught me to be pessimistic, and pessimism says I have no particular evidence that anyone started breaking the problem down into modular pieces, as opposed to, say, stating a few snap perceptual judgments at each other and then moving on. Why are you so optimistic about this sort of thing, Robin? You're usually more cynical about what would happen when academics have no status incentive to get it right and every status incentive to dismiss the silly. We both have experience with novices encountering these problems and running straight into the brick wall of policy proposals without even trying a modular analysis. Why on this one occasion do you turn around and suppose that the case we don't know will be so unlike the cases we do know?
3RobinHanson12yThe point is that this is a subtle and central issue to engage, so I was suggesting that you to consider describing your analysis more explicitly. Is there is never any point in listening to academics on "silly" topics? Is there never any point in listening to academics who haven't explicitly told you how they've broken a problem down into modular parts, no matter now distinguished the are on related topics? Are people who have a modular parts analysis always a more reliable source than people who don't, no matter what else their other features? And so on.

I confess, it doesn't seem to me on a gut level like this is either healthy to obsess about, or productive to obsess about. It seems more like worrying that my status isn't high enough to do work, than actually working. If someone shows up with amazing analyses I haven't considered, I can just listen to the analyses then. Why spend time trying to guess who might have a hidden deep analysis I haven't seen, when the prior is so much in favor of them having made a snap judgment, and it's not clear why if they've got a deep analysis they wouldn't just present it?

I think that on a purely pragmatic level there's a lot to be said for the Traditional Rationalist concept of demanding that Authority show its work, even if it doesn't seem like what ideal Bayesians would do.

3RobinHanson12yYou have in the past thought my research on the rationality of disagreement to be interesting and spent a fair bit of time discussing it. It seemed healthy to me for you to compare your far view of disagreement in the abstract to the near view of your own particular disagreement. If it makes sense in general for rational agents to take very seriously the fact that others disagree, why does it make little sense for you in particular to do so?
5Eliezer Yudkowsky12y...and I've held and stated this same position pretty much from the beginning, no? E.g. http://lesswrong.com/lw/gr/the_modesty_argument/ [http://lesswrong.com/lw/gr/the_modesty_argument/] I was under the impression that my verbal analysis matched and cleverly excused my concrete behavior. Well (and I'm pretty sure this matches what I've been saying to you over the last few years) just because two ideal Bayesians would do something naturally, doesn't mean you can singlehandedly come closer to Bayesianism by imitating the surface behavior of agreement. I'm not sure that doing elaborate analyses to excuse your disagreement helps much either. http://wiki.lesswrong.com/wiki/Occam%27s_Imaginary_Razor [http://wiki.lesswrong.com/wiki/Occam%27s_Imaginary_Razor] I'd spend much more time worrying about the implications of Aumann agreement, if I thought the other party actually knew my arguments, took my arguments very seriously, took the Aumann problem seriously with respect to me in particular, and in general had a sense of immense gravitas about the possible consequences of abusing their power to make me update. This begins to approach the conditions for actually doing what ideal Bayesians do. Michael Vassar and I have practiced Aumann agreement a bit; I've never literally done the probability exchange-and-update thing with anyone else. (Edit: Actually on recollection I played this game a couple of times at a Less Wrong meetup.) No such condition is remotely approached by disagreeing with the AAAI panel, so I don't think I could, in real life, improve my epistemic position by pretending that they were ideal Bayesians who were fully informed about my reasons and yet disagreed with me anyway (in which case I ought to just update to match their estimates, rather than coming up with elaborate excuses to disagree with them!)
2RobinHanson12yWell I disagree with you strongly that there is no point in considering the views of others if you are not sure they know the details of your arguments, or of the disagreement literature, or that those others are "rational." Guess I should elaborate my view in a separate post.

There's certainly always a point in considering specific arguments. But to be nervous merely that someone else has a different view, one ought, generally speaking, to suspect (a) that they know something you do not or at least (b) that you know no more than them (or far more rarely (c) that you are in a situation of mutual Aumann awareness and equal mutual respect for one another's meta-rationality). As far as I'm concerned, these are eminent scientists from outside the field that I work in, and I have no evidence that they did anything more than snap judgment of my own subject material. It's not that I have specific reason to distrust these people - the main name I recognize is Horvitz and a fine name it is. But the prior probabilities are not good here.

I don't actually spend time obsessing about that sort of thing except when you're asking me those sorts of questions - putting so much energy into self-justification and excuses would just slow me down if Horvitz showed up tomorrow with an argument I hadn't considered.

I'll say again: I think there's much to be said for the Traditional Rationalist ideal of - once you're at least inside a science and have enough expertise to eva... (read more)

You admit you have not done much to make it easy to show them your reasons. You have not written up your key arguments in a compact form using standard style and terminology and submitted it to standard journals. You also admit you have not contacted any of them to ask them for their reasons; Horvitz would have have to "show up" for you to listen to him. This looks a lot like a status pissing contest; the obvious interpretation: Since you think you are better than them, you won't ask them for their reasons, and you won't make it easy for them to understand your reasons, as that would admit they are higher status. They will instead have to acknowledge your higher status by coming to you and doing things your way. And of course they won't since by ordinary standard they have higher status. So you ensure there will be no conversation, and with no conversation you can invoke your "traditional" (non-Bayesian) rationality standard to declare you have no need to consider their opinions.

7Eliezer Yudkowsky12yYou're being slightly silly. I simply don't expect them to pay any attention to me one way or another. As it stands, if e.g. Horvitz showed up and asked questions, I'd immediately direct him to http://singinst.org/AIRisk.pdf [http://singinst.org/AIRisk.pdf] (the chapter I did for Bostrom), and then take out whatever time was needed to collect the OB/LW posts in our discussion into a sequence with summaries. Since I don't expect senior traditional-AI-folk to pay me any such attention short of spending a HUGE amount of effort to get it and probably not even then, I haven't, well, expended a huge amount of effort to get it. FYI, I've talked with Peter Norvig a bit. He was mostly interested in the CEV / FAI-spec part of the problem - I don't think we discussed hard takeoffs much per se. I certainly wouldn't have brushed him off if he'd started asking!

"and then take out whatever time was needed to collect the OB/LW posts in our discussion into a sequence with summaries."

Why? No one in the academic community would spend that much time reading all that blog material for answers that would be best given in a concise form in a published academic paper. So why not spend the time? Unless you think you are that much of an expert in the field as to not need the academic community. If that be the case where are your publications and where are your credentials, where is the proof of this expertise (expert being a term that is applied based on actual knowledge and accomplishments)?

"Since I don't expect senior traditional-AI-folk to pay me any such attention short of spending a HUGE amount of effort to get it and probably not even then, I haven't, well, expended a huge amount of effort to get it."

Why? If you expect to make FAI you will undoubtedly need people in the academic communities' help; unless you plan to do this whole project by yourself or with purely amateur help. I think you would admit that in its current form SIAI has a 0 probability of creating FAI first. That being said your best hope is to convince others that the cause is worthwhile and if that be the case you are looking at the professional and academic AI community.

I am sorry I prefer to be blunt.. that way there is no mistaking meanings...

2Alicorn12yNo. [http://lesswrong.com/lw/mp/0_and_1_are_not_probabilities/]
2RobinHanson12yAlmost surely world class academic AI experts do "know something you do not" about the future possibilities of AI. To declare that topic to be your field and them to be "outside" it seems hubris of the first order.
4wedrifid12yThis conversation seems to be following what appears to me to be a trend in Robin and Eliezer's (observable by me) disagreements. This is one reason I would fascinated if Eliezer did cover Robin's initial question [http://lesswrong.com/lw/1f4/less_wrong_qa_with_eliezer_yudkowsky_ask_your/190t] , informed somewhat by Eliezer's [http://lesswrong.com/lw/1f4/less_wrong_qa_with_eliezer_yudkowsky_ask_your/1915] interpretation [http://lesswrong.com/lw/1f4/less_wrong_qa_with_eliezer_yudkowsky_ask_your/1924] . I recall Eliezer mentioning in a tangential comment that he disagreed with Robin not just on the particular conclusion but more foundationally on how much weight should be given to certain types of evidence or argument. (Excuse my paraphrase from hazy memory, my googling failed me.) This is a difference that extends far beyond just R & E and Eliezer has hinted at insights that intrigue me.
2Eliezer Yudkowsky12yDoes Daphne Koller know more than I do about the future possibilities of object-oriented Bayes Nets? Almost certainly. And, um... there are various complicated ways I could put this... but, well, so what? (No disrespect intended to Koller, and OOBN/probabilistic relational models/lifted Bayes/etcetera is on my short-list of things to study next.)
3RobinHanson12yHow can you be so confident that you know so much about this topic that no world class AI expert could possibly know something relevant that you do not? Surely they considered the fact that people like you think you know a lot about this topic, and they nevertheless thought it reasonable to form a disagreeing opinion based on the attention they had given it. You want to dismiss their judgment as "snap" because they did not spend many hours considering your arguments, but they clearly disagree with that assessment of how much consideration your arguments deserve. Academic authorities are not always or even usually wrong when they disagree with less authoritative contrarians, even when such authorities do not review contrarian arguments in as much detail as contrarians think best. You want to dismiss the rationality of disagreement literature as irrelevant because you don't think those you disagree with are rational, but they probably don't think you are rational either, and you are probably both right. But the same essential logic also says that irrational people should take seriously the fact that other irrational people disagree with them.

How can you be so confident that you know so much about this topic that no world class AI expert could possibly know something relevant that you do not?

You changed what I said into a bizarre absolute. I am assuming no such thing. I am just assuming that, by default, world class experts on various topics in narrow AI, produce their beliefs about the Singularity by snap judgment rather than detailed modular analysis. This is a prior and hence an unstable probability - as soon as I see contrary evidence, as soon as I see the actual analysis, it gets revoked.

but they clearly disagree with that assessment of how much consideration your arguments deserve.

They have no such disagreement. They have no idea I exist. On the rare occasion when I encounter such a person who is physically aware of my existence, we often manage to have interesting though brief conversations despite their having read none of my stuff.

Academic authorities are not always or even usually wrong when they disagree with less authoritative contrarians

Science only works when you use it; scientific authority derives from science. If you've got Lord Kelvin running around saying that you can't have flying m... (read more)

8RobinHanson12yThis conversation is probably reaching diminishing returns, so let me sum up. I propose that it would be instructive to you and many others if you would discuss what your dispute looks like from an outside view - what uninformed neutral but intelligent and rational observers should conclude about this topic from the features of this dispute they can observe from the outside. Such features include the various credentials of each party, and the effort he or she has spent on the topic and on engaging the other parties. If you think that a reasonable outsider viewer would have far less confidence in your conclusions than you do, then you must think that you possess hidden info, such as that your arguments are in fact far more persuasive than one could reasonably expect knowing only the outside features of the situation. Then you might ask why the usual sorts of clues that tend to leak out about argument persuasiveness have failed to do so in this case.

Robin, why do most academic experts (e.g. in biology) disagree with you (and Eliezer) about cryonics? Perhaps a few have detailed theories on why it's hopeless, or simply have higher priorities than maximizing their expected survival time; but mostly it seems they've simply never given it much consideration, either because they're entirely unaware of it or assume it's some kind of sci-fi cult practice, and they don't take cult practices seriously as a rule. But clearly people in this situation can be wrong, as you yourself believe in this instance.

Similarly, I think most of the apparent "disagreement" about the Singularity is nothing more than unawareness of Yudkowsky and his arguments. As far as I can tell, academics who come into contact with him tend to take him seriously, and their disagreements are limited to matters of detail, such as how fast AI is approaching (decades vs. centuries) and the exact form it will take (uploads/enhancement vs. de novo). They mainly agree that SIAI's work is worth doing by somebody. Examples include yourself, Scott Aaronson, and David Chalmers.

3RobinHanson12yCryonics is also a good case to analyze what an outsider should think, given what they can see. But of course "they laughed at Galileo too" is hardly a strong argument for contrarian views. Yes sometimes contrarians are right - the key question is how outside observers, or self-doubting insiders, can tell when contrarians are right.
3komponisto12yOutsiders can tell when contrarians are right by assessing their arguments, once they've decided the contrarians are worth listening to. This in turn can be ascertained through the usual means, such as association with credentialed or otherwise high-status folks. So for instance, you are affiliated with a respectable institution, Bostrom with an even more respectable institution, and the fact that EY was co-blogging at Overcoming Bias thus implied that if your and Bostrom's arguments were worth listening to, so were his. (This is more or less my own story; and I started reading Overcoming Bias because it appeared on Scott Aaronson's blogroll.) Hence it seems that Yudkowsky's affiliations are already strong enough to signal competence to those academics interested in the subjects he deals with, in which case we should expect to see detailed, inside-view analyses from insiders who disagree. In the absence of that, we have to conclude that insiders either agree or are simply unaware -- and the latter, if I understand correctly, is a problem whose solution falls more under the responsibility of people like Vassar rather than Yudkowsky.
3RobinHanson12yNo for most people it is infeasible to evaluate who is right by working through the details of the arguments. The fact that Eliezer wrote on a blog affiliated with Oxford is very surely not enough to lead one to expect detailed rebuttal analyses from academics who disagree with him.
5komponisto12yWell, for most people on most topics it is infeasible to evaluate who is right, period. At the end of the day, some effort is usually required to obtain reliable information. Even surveys of expert opinion may be difficult to conduct if the field is narrow and non-"traditional". As for whatever few specialists there may be in Singularity issues, I think you expect too little of them if you don't think Eliezer currently has enough status to expect rebuttals.
2timtyler12yRe: "They have no idea I exist." Are you sure? You may be underestimating your own fame in this instance.
2timtyler12yFrom that AAAI document: "The group suggested outreach and communication to people and organizations about the low likelihood of the radical outcomes". "Radical outcomes" seems like a case of avoiding refutation by being vague. However, IMO, they will need to establish the truth of their assertion before they will get very far there. Good luck to them with that.
1timtyler12yWhy will we witness an intelligence explosion? Because nature has a long history of favouring big creatures with brains - and because the capability to satisfy those selection pressures has finally arrived. The process has already resulted in enormous data-centres, the size of factories. As I have said: http://alife.co.uk/essays/the_intelligence_explosion_is_happening_now/ [http://alife.co.uk/essays/the_intelligence_explosion_is_happening_now/]
1timtyler12yThinking about it, they are probably criticising the (genuinely dud) idea that an intelligence explosion will start suddenly at some future point with the invention of some machine - rather than gradually arising out of the growth of today's already self-improving economies and industries.
1timtyler12yRe: "overall skepticism about the prospect of an intelligence explosion"...? My guess would be that they are unfamiliar with the issues or haven't thought things through very much. Or maybe they don't have a good understanding of what that concept refers to (see link to my explanation - hopefully above). They present no useful analysis of the point - so it is hard to know why they think what they think. The AAAI seem to have publicly come to these issues later than many in the community - and it seems to be playing catch-up.
1JoshuaFox11yIt must be possible to engage at least some of these people in some sort of conversation to understand their positions, whether a public dialog as with Scott Aaronson or in private.
1timtyler12yChalmers reached some odd conclusions. Probably not as odd as his material about zombies and consciousness, though.
2timtyler12yI have a theory about why there is disagreement with the AAAI panel: The DOOM peddlers gather funding from hapless innocents - who hope to SAVE THE WORLD - while the academics see them as bringing their field into disrepute, by unjustifiably linking their field to existential risk, with their irresponsible scaremongering about THE END OF THE WORLD AS WE KNOW IT. Naturally, the academics sense a threat to their funding - and so write papers to reassure the public that spending money on this stuff is Really Not As Bad As All That.
4Eliezer Yudkowsky12yActually, on further recollection, Steve Omohundro and Peter Cheeseman would probably count as academics who know the arguments. Mostly I've talked to them about FAI stuff, so I'm actually having trouble recalling whether they have any particular disagreement with me about hard takeoff. I think that w/r/t Cheeseman, I had to talk to Cheeseman for a while before he started to appreciate the potential speed of a FOOM, as opposed to just the FOOM itself which he considered obvious. I think I tried to describe your position to Cheeseman and Cheeseman thought it was pretty implausible, but of course that could just be the fact that I was describing it from outside - that counts for nothing in my view until you talk to Cheeseman, otherwise he's not familiar enough with your arguments. (See, the part about setting the bar high works both ways - I can be just as fast to write off the fact of someone else's disagreement with you, if they're insufficiently familiar with your arguments.) I'm not sure I can recall what Omohundro thinks - he might be intermediate between yourself and myself...? I'm not sure how much I've talked hard takeoff per se with Omohundro, but he's certainly in the game.
2MichaelVassar12yI think Steve Omohundro disagees about the degree to which takeoff is likely to be centralized, due to what I think is the libertarian impulses I mentioned earlier.
1StefanPernar12yMe - if I qualify as an academic expert is another matter entirely of course.
2ChrisHibbert12yDo you disagree with Eliezer substantively? If so, can you summarize how much of his arguments you've analyzed, and where you reach different conclusions?

Is your pursuit of a theory of FAI similar to, say, Hutter's AIXI, which is intractable in practice but offers an interesting intuition pump for the implementers of AGI systems? Or do you intend on arriving at the actual blueprints for constructing such systems? I'm still not 100% certain of your goals at SIAI.

1timtyler12ySee Eli on video, 50 seconds in: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0A9pGhwQbS0 [http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0A9pGhwQbS0]

What's your advice for Less Wrong readers who want to help save the human race?

I know at one point you believed in staying celibate, and currently your main page mentions you are in a relationship. What is your current take on relationships, romance, and sex, how did your views develop, and how important are those things to you? (I'd love to know as much personal detail as you are comfortable sharing.)

Why do you have a strong interest in anime, and how has it affected your thinking?

Could you (Well, "you" being Eliezer in this case, rather than the OP) elaborate a bit on your "infinite set atheism"? How do you feel about the set of natural numbers? What about its power set? What about that thing's power set, etc?

From the other direction, why aren't you an ultrafinitist?

3[anonymous]12yEarlier today, I pondered whether this infinite set atheism thing is something Eliezer merely claims to believe as some sort of test of basic rationality. It's a belief that, as far as I can tell, makes no prediction. But here's what I predict that I would say if I had Eliezer's opinions and my mathematical knowledge: I'm a fan of thinking of ZFC as being its countably infinite model, in which the class of all sets is enumerable, and every set has a finite representation. Of course, things like the axiom of infinity and Cantor's diagonal argument still apply; it's just that "uncountably infinite set" simply means "set whose bijection with the natural numbers is not contained in the model". (Yes, ZFC has a countable model [http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/L%C3%B6wenheim%E2%80%93Skolem_theorem], assuming it's consistent. I would call this weird, but I hate admitting that any aspect of math is counterintuitive.)

ZFC's countable model isn't that weird.

Imagine a computer programmer, watching a mathematician working at a blackboard. Imagine asking the computer programmer how many bytes it would take to represent the entities that the mathematician is manipulating, in a form that can support those manipulations.

The computer programmer will do a back of the envelope calculation, something like: "The set of all natural numbers" is 30 characters, and essentially all of the special symbols are already in Unicode and/or TeX, so probably hundreds, maybe thousands of bytes per blackboard, depending. That is, the computer programmer will answer "syntactically".

Of course, the mathematician might claim that the "entities" that they're manipulating are more than just the syntax, and are actually much bigger. That is, they might answer "semantically". Mathematicians are trained to see past the syntax to various mental images. They are trained to answer questions like "how big is it?" in terms of those mental images. A math professor asking "How big is it?" might accept answers like "it's a subset of the integers" or "It's a superse... (read more)

6Eliezer Yudkowsky12yI've said this before in many places, but I simply don't do that sort of thing. If I want to say something flawed just to see how my readers react to it, I put it into the mouth of a character in a fictional story; I don't say it in my own voice.

What was the story purpose and/or creative history behind the legalization and apparent general acceptance of non-consensual sex in the human society from Three Worlds Collide?

2dclayh12yExcellent; I was going to ask that myself. Clearly Eliezer wanted an example to support his oft-repeated contention [http://lesswrong.com/lw/xl/eutopia_is_scary/] that the future like the past will be filled with people whose values seem abhorrent to us. But why he chose that particular example I'd like to know. Was it the most horrific(-sounding) thing he could come up with some kind of reasonable(-sounding) justification for?
1Alicorn12yIt's not at all clear to me that coming up with a reasonable-sounding justification was part of the project. One isn't provided in the story, one wasn't presented as part of an answer to an earlier question [http://lesswrong.com/lw/zj/open_thread_june_2009/s9i] of mine, etc. etc.
6AdeleneDawner12yhere [http://lesswrong.com/lw/y8/interlude_with_the_confessor_48/qt7]

Your approach to AI seems to involve solving every issue perfectly (or very close to perfection). Do you see any future for more approximate, rough and ready approaches, or are these dangerous?


Eliezer, first congratulations for having the intelligence and courage to voluntarily drop out of school at age 12! Was it hard to convince your parents to let you do it? AFAIK you are mostly self-taught. How did you accomplish this? Who guided you, did you have any tutor/mentor? Or did you just read/learn what was interesting and kept going for more, one field of knowledge opening pathways to the next one, etc...?

EDIT: Of course I would be interested in the details, like what books did you read when, and what further interests did they spark, etc... Tell us a little story. ;)

How did you win any of the AI-in-the-box challenges?


"Oh, dear. Now I feel obliged to say something, but all the original reasons against discussing the AI-Box experiment are still in force...

All right, this much of a hint:

There's no super-clever special trick to it. I just did it the hard way.

Something of an entrepreneurial lesson there, I guess."

0bogdanb11yI know that part. I was hoping for a bit more...
8Unnamed12yHere's an alternative question if you don't want to answer bogdanb's: When you won AI-Box challenges, did you win them all in the same way (using the same argument/approach/tactic) or in different ways?
4Yorick_Newsome12ySomething tells me he won't answer this one. But I support the question! I'm awfully curious as well.
2CronoDAS12yPerhaps this would be a more appropriate version of the above: What suggestions would you give to someone playing the role of an AI in an AI-Box challenge?
2SilasBarta12yVoted down. Eliezer Yudkowsky has made clear he's not answering that, and it seems like an important issue for him.
3wedrifid12yVoted back up. He will not answer but there's no harm in asking. In fact, asking serves to raise awareness both on the surprising (to me at least) result and also on the importance Eliezer places on the topic.

If you were to disappear (freak meteorite accident), what would the impact on FAI research be?

Do you know other people who could continue your research, or that are showing similar potential and working on the same problems? Or would you estimate that it would be a significant setback for the field (possibly because it is a very small field to begin with)?

How young can children start being trained as rationalists? And what would the core syllabus / training regimen look like?

7taa2112yJust out of curiosity, why are you asking this? And why is Yudkowsky's opinion on this matter relevant?
2spriteless12yThis sort of thing should have it's own thread, it deserves some brainstorming. You can start with choice of fairytales [http://lesswrong.com/lw/3i/little_johny_bayesian/]. You can make the games available to play reward understanding probabilities and logic over luck and quick reflexes. My dad got us puzzle games and reading tutors for the NES and C64 when I was a kid. (Lode Runner, LoLo, Reader Rabbit)

What progress have you made on FAI in the last five years and in the last year?

How do you characterize the success of your attempt to create rationalists?

For people not directly involved with SIAI, is there specific evidence that it isn't run by a group of genuine sociopaths with the goal of taking over the universe to fulfill (a compromise of) their own personal goals, which are fundamentally at odds with those of humanity at large?

Humans have built-in adaptions for lie detection, but betting a decision like this on the chance of my sense motive roll beating the bluff roll of a person with both higher INT and CHA than myself seems quite risky.

Published writings about moral integrity and ethical injunctions count for little in this regard, because they may have been written with the specific intent to deceive people into supporting SIAI financially. The fundamental issue seems rather similar to the AIBox problem: You're dealing with a potential deceiver more intelligent than yourself, so you can't really trust anything they say.

I wouldn't be asking this for positions that call for merely human responsibility, like being elected to the highest political office in a country, having direct control over a bunch of nuclear weapons, or anything along those lines; but FAI implementation calls for much more responsibility than that.

If the a... (read more)

I guess my main answers would be, in order:

1) You'll have to do with the base probability of a highly intelligent human being a sociopath.

2) Elaborately deceptive sociopaths would probably fake something other than our own nerdery...? Even taking into account the whole "But that's what we want you to think" thing.

3) All sorts of nasty things we could be doing and could probably get away with doing if we had exclusively sociopath core personnel, at least some of which would leave visible outside traces while still being the sort of thing we could manage to excuse away by talking fast enough.

4) Why are you asking me that? Shouldn't you be asking, like, anyone else?

2anonymousss9yI looked into the issue from statistical point of view. I would have to go with much higher than baseline probability of them being sociopaths on the basis of Bayesian reasoning starting with baseline probability (about 1%) as a prior and then updating on the criteria of things that sociopaths can not easily fake (such as e.g. previously inventing something that works). Ultimately, the easy way to spot a sociopath is to look for the massive dis-balance of the observable signals towards those that sociopaths can easily fake. You don't need to be smarter than sociopath to identify the sociopath. The spam filter is pretty good at filtering out the advance fee fraud and letting business correspondence through. You just need to act like statistical prediction rule on a set of criteria, without allowing for verbal excuses of any kind, no matter how logical they sound. For instance the leaders of genuine research institutions are not HS dropouts; the leaders of cults are; you can find the ratio and build evidential Bayesian rule, with which you can use 'is HS dropout' evidence to adjust your probabilities. The beauty of this method is that it is too expensive for sociopaths to fake honest signals - such as for example having spent years to make and perfect some invention that has improved lives of people, you can't send this signal without doing immense lot of work - and so even as they are aware of this method there is literally nothing they can do about it, nor do they want to do anything about it as there are enough people who do not pay attention to certainly honest signals to fakeable signals ratio (gullible people), whom sociopaths can target instead, for a better reward to work ratio. Ultimately, it boils down to the fact that genuine world saving leader is rather unlikely to have never before invented anything that did demonstrably benefit the mankind, while a sociopath is pretty likely (close to 1) to have never before invented anything that did demonstrably

What are your current techniques for balancing thinking and meta-thinking?

For example, trying to solve your current problem, versus trying to improve your problem-solving capabilities.

Could you give an uptodate estimate of how soon non-Friendly general AI might be developed? With confidence intervals, and by type of originator (research, military, industry, unplanned evolution from non-general AI...)

2MichaelVassar12yMine would be slightly less than 10% by 2030, slightly greater than 85% by 2080 conditional on a general continuity of our civilization between now and 2080, most likely method of origination depends on how far we look out. More brain inspired methods tend to come later and to be more likely absolutely.
2alyssavance12yWe at SIAI have been working on building a mathematical model of this since summer 2008. See Michael Anissimov's blog post at http://www.acceleratingfuture.com/michael/blog/2009/02/the-uncertain-future-simple-ai-self-improvement-models/ [http://www.acceleratingfuture.com/michael/blog/2009/02/the-uncertain-future-simple-ai-self-improvement-models/] . You (or anyone else reading this) can contact us at uncertainfuture@intelligence.org if you're interested in helping us test the model.

Say I have $1000 to donate. Can you give me your elevator pitch about why I should donate it (in totality or in part) to the SIAI instead of to the SENS Foundation?

Updating top level with expanded question:

I ask because that's my personal dilemma: SENS or SIAI, or maybe both, but in what proportions?

So far I've donated roughly 6x more to SENS than to SIAI because, while I think a friendly AGI is "bigger", it seems like SENS has a higher probability of paying off first, which would stop the massacre of aging and help ensure I'm still around when a friendly AGI is launched if it ends up taking a while (usual caveats; existential risks, etc).

It also seems to me like more dollars for SENS are almost assured to result in a faster rate of progress (more people working in labs, more compounds screened, more and better equipment, etc), while more dollars for the SIAI doesn't seem like it would have quite such a direct effect on the rate of progress (but since I know less about what the SIAI does than about what SENS does, I could be mistaken about the effect that additional money would have).

If you don't want to pitch SIAI over SENS, maybe you could discuss these points so that I, and others, are better able to make informed decisions about how to spend our philanthropic monies.

Hi there MichaelGR,

I’m glad to see you asking not just how to do good with your dollar, but how to do the most good with your dollar. Optimization is lives-saving.

Regarding what SIAI could do with a marginal $1000, the one sentence version is: “more rapidly mobilize talented or powerful people (many of them outside of SIAI) to work seriously to reduce AI risks”. My impression is that we are strongly money-limited at the moment: more donations allows us to more significantly reduce existential risk.

In more detail:

Existential risk can be reduced by (among other pathways):

  1. Getting folks with money, brains, academic influence, money-making influence, and other forms of power to take UFAI risks seriously; and
  2. Creating better strategy, and especially, creating better well-written, credible, readable strategy, for how interested people can reduce AI risks.

SIAI is currently engaged in a number of specific projects toward both #1 and #2, and we have a backlog of similar projects waiting for skilled person-hours with which to do them. Our recent efforts along these lines have gotten good returns on the money and time we invested, and I’d expect similar returns from the (similar) projec... (read more)

Please post a copy of this comment as a top-level post on the SIAI blog.

You can donate to FHI too? Dang, now I'm conflicted.

Wait... their web form only works with UK currency, and the Americas form requires FHI to be a write-in and may not get there appropriately.

Crisis averted by tiny obstacles.

at 8 expected current lives saved per dollar donated

Even though there is a large margin of error this is at least 1500 times more effective than the best death-averting charities according to GiveWell. There's is a side note though that while normal charities are incrementally beneficial SIAI has (roughly speaking) only two possible modes, a total failure mode and a total win mode. Still, expected utility is expected utility. A paltry 150 dollars to save as many lives as Schindler... It's a shame warm fuzzies scale up so badly...

6Wei_Dai12ySomeone should update SIAI's recent publications page [http://intelligence.org/research/publications], which is really out of date. In the mean time, I found two of the papers you referred using Google: * Machine Ethics and Superintelligence [http://bentham.k2.t.u-tokyo.ac.jp/ap-cap09/openconf/data/papers/28-2.pdf] * Which Consequentialism? Machine Ethics and Moral Divergence [http://bentham.k2.t.u-tokyo.ac.jp/ap-cap09/openconf/data/papers/33.pdf]
2Pablo11yThose interested in the cost-effectiveness of donations to the SIAI may also want to check Alan Dawrst's donation recommendation [http://www.utilitarian-essays.com/donation-recommendation.html]. (Dawrst is "Utilitarian", the donor that Anna mentions above.)
1StefanPernar12yThanks for that Anna. I could only find two of the five Academic talks and journal articles you mentioned online. Would you mind posting all of them online and point me to where I will be able to access them?
0MichaelGR12yThank you very much, Anna. This will help me decide, and I'm sure that it will help others too. I second Katja's idea; a version of this should be posted on the SIAI blog.
2Kaj_Sotala12yKaj's. :P
0MichaelGR12yI'm sorry, for some reason I thought you were Katja Grace. My mistake.
6Eliezer Yudkowsky12yI tend to regard the SENS Foundation as major fellow travelers, and think that we both tend to benefit from each other's positive publicity. For this reason I've usually tended to avoid this kind of elevator pitch! Pass to Michael Vassar: Should I answer this?
3MichaelGR12y[I've moved what was here to the top level comment]
2Eliezer Yudkowsky12yI'll flag Vassar or Salamon to describe what sort of efforts SIAI would like to marginally expand into as a function of our present and expected future reliability of funding.

If Omega materialized and told you Robin was correct and you are wrong, what do you do for the next week? The next decade?

1Peter_de_Blanc12yAbout what? Everything?
4gwern12yGiven the context of Eliezer's life-mission and the general agreement of Robin & Eliezer: FAI, AI's timing, and its general character.
1retired_phlebotomist12yRight. Robin doesn't buy the "AI go foom" model or that formulating and instilling a foolproof morality/utility function will be necessary to save humanity. I do miss the interplay between the two at OB.

What is the probability that this is the ultimate base layer of reality?

Are the book(s) based on your series of posts are OB/LW still happening? Any details on their progress (title? release date? e-book or real book? approached publishers yet? only technical books, or popular book too?), or on why they've been put on hold?


8Eliezer Yudkowsky12yYes, that is my current project.

Who was the most interesting would-be FAI solver you encountered?

6alyssavance12yAs far as I can tell (this is not Eliezer's or SIAI's opinion), the people who have contributed the most to FAI theory are Eliezer, Marcello Herreshoff, Michael Vassar, Wei Dai, Nick Tarleton, and Peter de Blanc in that order.

What do you view as your role here at Less Wrong (e.g. leader, preacher, monk, moderator, plain-old contributor, etc.)?

Is there any published work in AI (whether or not directed towards Friendliness) that you consider does not immediately, fundamentally fail due to the various issues and fallacies you've written on over the course of LW? (E.g. meaningfully named Lisp symbols, hiddenly complex wishes, magical categories, anthropomorphism, etc.)

ETA: By AI I meant AGI.

1Eliezer Yudkowsky12yI assume this is to be interpreted as "published work in AGI". Plenty of perfectly good AI work around.
1RichardKennaway12yYes, I meant AGI by AI. I don't consider any of the stuff outside AGI to be worth calling AI. The good stuff there is merely the more or less successful descendants of spinoffs of failed attempts to create AGI, and is good in direct proportion to its distance from that original vision.

In one of the discussions surrounding the AI-box experiments, you said that you would be unwilling to use a hypothetical fully general argument/"mind hack" to cause people to support SIAI. You've also repeatedly said that the friendly AI problem is a "save the world" level issue. Can you explain the first statement in more depth? It seems to me that if anything really falls into "win by any means necessary" mode, saving the world is it.

This comes to mind:

But why not become an expert liar, if that's what maximizes expected utility? Why take the constrained path of truth, when things so much more important are at stake?

Because, when I look over my history, I find that my ethics have, above all, protected me from myself. They weren't inconveniences. They were safety rails on cliffs I didn't see.

I made fundamental mistakes, and my ethics didn't halt that, but they played a critical role in my recovery. When I was stopped by unknown unknowns that I just wasn't expecting, it was my ethical constraints, and not any conscious planning, that had put me in a recoverable position.

You can't duplicate this protective effect by trying to be clever and calculate the course of "highest utility". The expected utility just takes into account the things you know to expect. It really is amazing, looking over my history, the extent to which my ethics put me in a recoverable position from my unanticipated, fundamental mistakes, the things completely outside my plans and beliefs.

Ethics aren't just there to make your life difficult; they can protect you from Black Swans. A startling assertion, I know, but not one entirely irrelevant to current affairs.

Protected From Myself

2Bindbreaker11yUpdate: this question has been answered. [http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=EkX6cik_H30]

I admit to being curious about various biographical matters. So for example I might ask:

What are your relations like with your parents and the rest of your family? Are you the only one to have given up religion?

1[anonymous]12yEliezer Yudkowsky doesn't have a family, just people he allows to share his genes. Yes, inside joke [http://lesswrong.com/lw/4g/eliezer_yudkowsky_facts/].

Do you feel lonely often? How bad (or important) is it?

(Above questions are a corollary of:) Do you feel that — as you improve your understanding of the world more and more —, there are fewer and fewer people who understand you and with whom you can genuinely relate in a personal level?

What practical policies could politicians enact that would increase overall utility? When I say "practical", I'm specifically ruling out policies that would increase utility but which would be unpopular, since no democratic polity would implement them.

(The background to this question is that I stand a reasonable chance of being elected to the Scottish Parliament in 19 months time).

4Morendil12yRuling out unpopular measures is tantamount to giving up on your job as a politician; the equivalent of an individual ruling out any avenues to achieving their goals that require some effort. Much as rationality in an individual consists of "shutting up and multiplying", i.e. computing which course of action including those we have no taste for yields the highest expected utility, politics - the useful part of it - consists of making necessary policies palatable to the public. The rest is demagoguery.
3cabalamat12yOn the contrary, NOT ruling out unpopular measures is tantamount to giving up your job as a politician because, if the measure is unpopular enough (1) you won't get the measure passed in the first place, and (2) you won't get re-elected You're saying it's lazy to require that policies be practical. I say that on the contrary it's lazy not to require them to be practical. It's easy to come up with ideas that're a good thing but which can't be practically realised, but it takes more effort to come up with ideas that're a good thing and which can be practically realised. I co-founded Pirate Party UK [http://www.pirateparty.org.uk/] precisely because I think it's a practical way of getting the state to apply sensible laws to the internet, instead of just going ahead with whatever freedom-destroying nonsense the entertainment industry is coming up this week to prevent "piracy". Courses of action that can't be implemented yield zero or negative utility. There's an element of truth in that, but I'd put it differently: its the difference between leadership and followership. Politicians in democracies frequently engage in the latter.
3Thomas12yFree trade. As a politician, you can't do more than that.
1Matt_Simpson12yAnd open immigration policies
1cabalamat12yUnlimited immigration clearly fails the practicality test, regardless of whether it's a good thing or not.
1CronoDAS12yI'd guess that legalizing gay marriage would be pretty low-hanging fruit, but I don't know how politically possible it is.
4Jess_Riedel12yIt's hard to think of a policy which would have a smaller impact on a smaller fraction of the wealthiest population on earth. And it faces extremely dedicated opposition.
2CronoDAS12yWell, I mean "low-hanging fruit" in that it doesn't really cost any money to implement. Symbolism is cheap; providing material benefits is more expensive, especially in developed countries. I don't know much about the political situation in Scotland; I know about a few miscellaneous stupidities in the U.S. federal government that I'd like to get rid of (abstinence-only sex education, "alternative" medicine research) but I suspect that Scotland and the rest of the U.K. is stupid in different ways than the U.S. is.
2cabalamat12yGay marriage is already legal in Scotland, albeit under the name "civil partnership".

Previously, you endorsed this position:

Never try to deceive yourself, or offer a reason to believe other than probable truth; because even if you come up with an amazing clever reason, it's more likely that you've made a mistake than that you have a reasonable expectation of this being a net benefit in the long run.

One counterexample has been proposed a few times: holding false beliefs about oneself in order to increase the appearance of confidence, given that it's difficult to directly manipulate all the subtle signals that indicate confidence to others.

What do you think about this kind of self-deception?

In 2007, I wrote a blog post titled Stealing Artificial Intelligence: A Warning for the Singularity Institute.

Short summary: After a few more major breakthroughs, when AGI is almost ready, AI will no doubt appear on the radar of many powerful organizations, such as governments. They could spy on AGI researchers and steal the code when it is almost ready (or ready, but not yet Certified Friendly) and launch their copy first, but without all the care and understanding required.

If you think there's a real danger there, could you tell us what the SIAI is doing to minimize it? If it doesn't apply to the SIAI, do you know if other groups working on AGI have taken this into consideration? And if this scenario is not realistic, could you tell us why?

9MichaelVassar12yI strongly disagree with the claim that it is likely that AGI will appear on the radar of powerful organizations just because it is almost ready. That doesn't match the history of scientific (not, largely technological) breakthroughs in the past in my reading of scientific history. Uploading, maybe, as there is likely to be a huge engineering project even after the science is done, though the science might be done in secret. With AGI, the science IS the project.
0roland12yWell that will depend on the people in power grasping its importance.
4Johnicholas12yFear of others stealing your ideas is a crank trope, which suggests it may be a common human failure mode. It's far more likely that SIAI is slower at developing (both Friendly and unFriendly) AI than the rest of the world. It's quite hard for one or a few people to be significantly more successfully innovative than usual, and the rest of the world is much, much bigger than SIAI.
6RobQ12yFear of theft is a crank trope? As someone who makes a living providing cyber security I have to say you have no idea of the daily intrusions US companies experience from foreign governments and just simple criminals.
3MichaelVassar12yTheft of higher level more abstract ideas is much rarer. It happens both in Hollywood films and in the real Hollywood, but not so frequently, as far as I can tell, in most industries. More frequently, people can't get others to follow up on high generality ideas. Apple and Microsoft, for instance, stole ideas from Xerox that Xerox had been sitting on for years, they didn't steal ideas that Xerox was working on and compete with Xerox.
4MichaelGR12yI think it might be correct in the entrepreneur/startup world, but it probably isn't when it comes to technologies that are this powerful. Just think of nuclear espionage and of the kind of security that surrounds the development of military and intelligence hardware and software. If you're building something that could overthrow all the power structures in the world, it would be surprising if nobody tried to spy on you (or worse; kill you, derail the project, steal the almost finished code, etc). I'm not saying it only applies to the SIAI (though my original post was directed only at them, my question here is about the AGI research world in general, which includes the SIAI), or that it isn't just one of many many things that can go wrong. But I still think that when you're playing with stuff this powerful, you should be concerned with security and not just expect to forever fly under the radar.
8alyssavance12y"Just think of nuclear espionage and of the kind of security that surrounds the development of military and intelligence hardware and software." The reason the idea of the nuclear chain reaction was kept secret, was because one man named Leo Szilard [http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Leo_Szilard] realized the damage it could do, and had his patent for the idea classified as a military secret. It wasn't kept secret by default; if it weren't for Szilard, it would probably have been published in physics journals like every other cool new idea about atoms, and the Nazis might well have gotten nukes before we did. "If you're building something that could overthrow all the power structures in the world, it would be surprising if nobody tried to spy on you (or worse; kill you, derail the project, steal the almost finished code, etc)." Only if they believe you, which they almost certainly won't. Even in the (unlikely) case that someone thought that an AI taking over the world was realistic, there's still an additional burden of proof on top of that, because they'd also have to believe that SIAI is competent enough to have a decent shot at pulling it off, in a field where so many others have failed.
7Johnicholas12yLet's be realistic here - the AGI research world is a small fringe element of AI research in general. The AGI research world generally has a high opinion of its own importance - an opinion not generally shared by the AI research world in general, or the world as a whole. We are in a self-selected group of people who share our beliefs. This will bias our thinking, leading us to be too confident of our shared beliefs. We need to strive to counter that effect and keep a sense of perspective, particularly when we're trying to anticipate what other people are likely to do.
1MichaelGR12yI'm not sure I get what you're saying. Either the creation of smarter than human intelligence is the most powerful thing in the world, or it isn't. If it is, it would be surprising if nobody in the powerful organizations I'm talking about realizes it, especially if a few breakthroughs are made public and as we get closer to AGI. If that is the case, this probably means that at some point AGI researchers will be "on the radar" of these people and that they should at least think about preparing for that day. You can't have your cake and eat it too; you can't believe that AGI is the most important thing in the world and simultaneously think that it's so unimportant that nobody's going to bother with it. I'm not saying that right now there is much danger of that . But if we can't predict when AGI is going to happen (which means wide confidence bounds, 5 years to 100 years, as Eliezer once said.), then we don't know how soon we should start thinking about security, which probably means that as soon as possible is best.
9alyssavance12y"If it is, it would be surprising if nobody in the powerful organizations I'm talking about realizes it, especially if a few breakthroughs are made public and as we get closer to AGI." Nobody in powerful organizations realizes important things all the time. To take a case study, in 2001, Warren Buffett and Ted Turner just happened to notice that there were hundreds of nukes in Russia, sitting around in lightly guarded or unguarded facilities, which anyone with a few AK-47s and a truck could have just walked in and stolen. They had to start their own organization, called the Nuclear Threat Initiative [http://www.nti.org/index.php], to take care of the problem, because no one else was doing anything.
3Johnicholas12yThe reason to point out the crackpot aspect (e.g. item 12 in Baez's Crackpot Index [http://math.ucr.edu/home/baez/crackpot.html]) is to adjust how people think about this question, not to argue that the question shouldn't be asked or answered. In particular, I want people to balance (at least) two dangers - the danger of idea-stealing and the danger of insularity slowing down innovation.
3alyssavance12y"It's quite hard for one or a few people to be significantly more successfully innovative than usual, and the rest of the world is much, much bigger than SIAI." I would heavily dispute this. Startups with 1-5 people routinely out-compete the rest of the world in narrow domains. Eg., Reddit was built and run by only four people, and they weren't crushed by Google, which has 20,000 employees. Eliezer is also much smarter than most startup founders, and he cares a lot more too, since it's the fate of the entire planet instead of a few million dollars for personal use.
3Vladimir_Nesov12yThere is a strong fundamental streak in the subproblem of clear conceptual understanding of FAI (how the whole real world looks like for an algorithm, which is important both for the decision-making algorithm, and for communication of values), that I find closely related to a lot of fundamental stuff that both physicists and mathematicians are trying to crack for a long time, but haven't yet. This suggests that the problem is not a low-hanging fruit. My current hope is merely to articulate a connection between FAI and this stuff.
4Nick_Tarleton12yIf they're going to have that exact wrong level of cluefulness, why wouldn't they already have a (much better-funded, much less careful) AGI project of their own? As Vladimir says, it's too early to start solving this problem, and if "things start moving rapidly" anytime soon, then AFAICS we're just screwed, government involvement or no.
1MichaelGR12yMaybe they do, maybe they don't. I won't try to add more details to a scenario because that's not the right way to think about this, IMO. If it happens, it probably won't be a movie plot scenario anyway ("Spies kidnap top AI research team and torture them until they make a few changes to program, granting our Great Leader dominion over all")... What I'm interested in is security of AGI research in general. It would be extremely sad to see FAI theory go very far only to be derailed by (possibly well-intentioned) people who see AGI as a great source of power and want to have it "on their side" or whatever.
3Vladimir_Nesov12yIsn't it too early to start solving this problem? There is a good chance SIAI won't even have a direct hand in programming the FAI.
1MichaelGR12yThat's what I've been told, but I'm not entirely convinced. Since there are so many timelines out there, and since fundamental breakthroughs are hard to predict, I think it still deserves some attention as soon as possible, if only to know what to do if things start moving rapidly (an AGI team might not have many chances to recover from security mistakes). I'll broaden my question a bit so that it applies to all people working on AGI and not just the SIAI.

What criteria do you use to decide upon the class of algorithms / computations / chemicals / physical operations that you consider "conscious" in the sense of "having experiences" that matter morally? I assume it includes many non-human animals (including wild animals)? Might it include insects? Is it weighted by some correlate of brain / hardware size? Might it include digital computers? Lego Turing machines? China brains? Reinforcement-learning algorithms? Simple Python scripts that I could run on my desktop? Molecule movements in the wall behind John Searle's back that can be interpreted as running computations corresponding to conscious suffering? Rocks? How does it distinguish interpretations of numbers as signed vs. unsigned, or ones complement vs. twos complement? What physical details of the computations matter? Does it regard carbon differently from silicon?

6timtyler12yThat's 14 questions! ;-)
2SilasBarta12yJust in case people are taking timtyler's point too seriously: It's really one question, then a list of issues it should touch on to be a complete answer. You wouldn't need to directly answer all of them if the implication for that question is obvious from a previous. ETA: I'm not the one who asked the question, but I did vote it up.

2) How does one affect the process of increasing the rationality of people who are not ostensibly interested in objective reasoning and people who claim to be interested but are in fact attached to their biases?

I find that question interesting because it is plain that the general capacity for rationality in a society can be improved over time. Once almost no one understood the concept of a bell curve or a standard deviation, but now the average person has a basic understanding of how these concepts apply to the real world.

It seems to me that we really are faced with the challenge of explaining the value of empirical analysis and objective reasoning to much of the world. Today the Middle East is hostile towards reason though they presumably don't have to be this way.

So again, my question is how do more rational people affect the reasoning capacity in less rational people, including those hostile towards rationality?

5cabalamat12yI suspect that, on the contrary, >50% of the population have very little idea what either term means.
4MichaelVassar12yI think that the average person has NO IDEA how the concept of the standard deviation is properly used. Neither does the average IQ 140 non-scientist. Less Wrong is an attempt to increase the rationality of very unusual people. Most other SIAI efforts are other such attempts, or are direct attempts at FAI.

You've achieved a high level of success as a self-learner, without the aid of formal education.

Would this extrapolate as a recommendation of a path every fast-learner autodidact should follow — meaning: is it a better choice?

If not, in which scenarios not going after formal education be more advisable to someone? (Feel free to add as many caveats and 'ifs' as necessary.)

4mormon212y"You've achieved a high level of success as a self-learner, without the aid of formal education." How do you define high level of success?
3komponisto12yHe has a job where he is respected, gets to pursue his own interests, and doesn't have anybody looking over his shoulder on a daily basis (or any short-timescale mandatory duties at all that I can detect). That's pretty much the trifecta, IMHO.
2ABranco12yWell, ok, success might be a personal measure, so by all means only Eliezer could properly say if Eliezer is successful. (Or at least, this is what should matter.) Having said that, my saying he's successful was driven (biased?) by my personal standards. A positive (not in the sense of a biased article; in the sense that impact described is positive) Wikipedia article (how many people are in Wikipedia with picture and 10 footnotes? — but nevermind, this is a polemic variable, so let's not split hairs here) and founding something like SIAI and LessWrong deserve my respect, and quite some awe given his 'formal education'.
3mormon212yI am going to take a shortcut and respond to both posts: komponisto: Interesting because I would define success in terms of the goals you set for yourself or others have set for you and how well you have met those goals. In terms of respect I would question the claim not within SIAI or within this community necessarily but within the larger community of experts in the AI field. How many people really know who he is? How many people who need to know, because even if he won't admit it EY will need help from academia and the industry to make FAI, know him and more importantly respect his opinion? ABranco: I would not say success is a personal measure I would say in many ways its defined by the culture. For example in America I think its fair to say that many would associate wealth and possessions with success. This may or may not be right but it cannot be ignored. I think your last point is on the right track with EY starting SIAI and LessWrong with his lack of formal education. Though one could argue the relative level of significance or the level of success those two things dictate.

In the spirit of considering semi abyssal plans, what happens if, say, next week you discover a genuine reduction of consciousness and in turns out that... There's simply no way to construct the type of optimization process you want without it being conscious, even if very different from us?

ie, what if it turned out that The Law turned out to have the consequence of "to create a general mind is to create a conscious mind. No way around that"? Obviously that shifts the ethics a bit, but my question is basically if so, well... "now what?" what would have to be done differently, in what ways, etc?

What five written works would you recommend to an intelligent lay-audience as a rapid introduction to rationality and its orbital disciplines?

2alyssavance12ySee the Singularity Institute Reading List [http://intelligence.org/reading/corereading] for some ideas.

Previously, you said that a lot of work in Artificial Intelligence is "5% intelligence and 95% rigged demo". What would you consider an example of something that has a higher "intelligence ratio", if there is one, and what efforts do you consider most likely to increase this ratio?

4CannibalSmith12yDARPA's Grand Challenge produced several intelligent cars [http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=TDqzyd7fDRc] and was definitely not a rigged demo.

What was the significance of the wirehead problem in the development of your thinking?

What are the hazards associated with making random smart people who haven't heard about existential dangers more intelligent, mathematically inclined, and productive?

Let E(t) be the set of historical information available up until some time t, where t is some date (e.g. 1934). Let p(A|E) be your estimate of the probability an optimally rational Bayesian agent would assign to the event "Self-improving artificial general intelligence is discovered before 2100" given a certain set of historical information.

Consider the function p(t)=p(A|E(t)). Presumably as t approaches 2009, p(t) approaches your own current estimate of p(A).

Describe the function p(t) since about 1900. What events - research discoveries, economic trends, technological developments, sci-fi novel publications, etc, caused the largest changes in p(t)? Is it strictly increasing, or does it fluctuate substantially? Did the publication of any impossibility proofs (e.g. No Free Lunch) cause strong decreases in p(t)? Can you point to any specific research results that increased p(t)? What about the "AI winter" and related setbacks?

3Peter_de_Blanc12yI don't think this question behaves the way you want it to. Why not ask what a smart human would predict?
2MichaelVassar12yI'd guess that WWII and particularly the Holocaust set it back rather a lot. How likely were they in 1934 though, possibly quite.

What single technique do you think is most useful for a smart, motivated person to improve their own rationality in the decisions they encounter in everyday life?

0roland12yI had a similar question, on boiling down rationality: http://lesswrong.com/lw/1f4/less_wrong_qa_with_eliezer_yudkowsky_ask_your/19hc [http://lesswrong.com/lw/1f4/less_wrong_qa_with_eliezer_yudkowsky_ask_your/19hc]

Can you make a living out of this rationality / SI / FAI stuff . . . or do you have to be independently wealthy?

5alyssavance12yI strongly think that's the wrong way to phrase the question. "Don't expect fame or fortune. The Singularity Institute is not your employer, and we are not paying you to accomplish our work. The so-called "Singularity Institute" is a group of humans who got together to accomplish work they deemed important to the human species, and some of them went off to do fundraising so the other ones could get paid enough to live on. Don't even dream of being paid what you're worth, if you're worth enough to solve this class of problem. As for fame, we are trying to do something that is daring far beyond the level of daring that is just exactly daring enough to be seen academically as sexy and transgressive and courageous, so working here may even count against you on your resume. But that's not important, because this is a lifetime commitment. Let me repeat that again: Once you're in, really in, you stay. I can't afford to start over training a new Research Fellow. We can't afford to have you leave in the middle of The Project. It's Singularity or bust. If you look like a good candidate, we'll probably bring you in for a trial month, or something like that, to see if we can work well together. But please do consider that, once you've been in for long enough, I'll be damned hurt – and far more importantly, The Project will be hurt – if you leave. This is a very difficult thing that we of the Singularity Institute are attempting – some of us have been working on it since long before there was enough money to pay us, and some of us still aren't getting paid. The motivation to do this thing, to accomplish this impossible feat, has to come from within you; and be glad that someone is paying you enough to live on while you do it. It can't be the job that you took to make the rent. That's not how the research branch of the Singularity Institute works. It's not who we are." - http://singinst.org/aboutus/opportunities/research-fellow [http://singinst.org/aboutus/opportunities/research
1MichaelVassar12yIf you are good enough at the rationality stuff you can make a living in business with it, but you have to be VERY good.

What was the most useful suggestion you got from a would-be FAI solver? (I'm putting separate questions in separate comments per MichaelGR's request.)

What is the background that you most frequently wish would-be FAI solvers had when they struck up conversations with you? You mentioned the Dreams of Friendliness series; is there anything else? You can answer this question in comment form if you like.

In terms of your intellectual growth, what were your biggest mistakes or most harmful habits, and what, if anything, would you do differently if you had the chance?

Um, what standard of significance are you using here? Yes, humans are extremely similar compared to the vastness of that which is possible, but that doesn't mean the remaining difference isn't ridiculously important.

3Vladimir_Nesov12yThe standard implied by the remark I was commenting on. Literally not caring about other people seems like something you may believe about yourself, but which can't be true.

Objectvist ethics claims to be grounded in rational thought alone. [...] Reason and existence are central to Objectivism too after all

Objectivism claims to be grounded in rational thought, but that doesn't mean it is. Ayn Rand said a lot of things that I've personally found interesting or inspiring, but taking Objectivism seriously as a theory of how the world really works is just silly. The rationality I know is grounded in an empiricism which Rand just utterly fails at. She makes all these sorts of fascinating pronouncements on the nature of "man... (read more)

4StefanPernar12yI realize that I am being voted down here, but am not sure why actually. This site is dedicated to rationality and the core concern of avoiding a human extinction scenario. So far Rand and lesswrong seem a pretty close match. Don't you think it would be nice to know exactly where Rand took a wrong turn so that it can be explicitly avoided in this project? Rand making some random remarks on music taste surely does not invalidate her recognition that being rational and avoiding extinction are of crucial importance. So where did she take a wrong turn exactly and how is this wrong turn avoided here? Nobody interested in finding out?
4eirenicon12yThat is not the core concern of this site. We are in a human extinction scenario so long as the problem of death remains unsolved. Our interest is in escaping this scenario as quickly as possible. The difference is urgency; we are not trying to avoid a collision, but are trying to escape the burning wreckage.
1timtyler12yConventionally, there's a difference between death and extinction.
4Zack_M_Davis12yI've downvoted your comments in this thread because I don't think serious discussion of the relevance of Objectivism to existential risk reduction meets Less Wrong's quality standard; Ayn Rand just doesn't have anything useful to teach us. Nothing personal, just a matter of "I would like to see fewer comments like this one." (I do hope to see comments from you in the future.) Ayn Rand would hardly be alone in assenting to the propositions that "Rationality is good" and "The end of the world would be bad." A more relevant question would be whether Rand's teachings make a significant contribution to this community's understanding of how to systematically achieve more accurate beliefs and a lower probability of doom. As dearly as I loved Atlas Shrugged, I'm still going to have to answer no.
2Jack12yWell to begin with I don't really think Rand was concerned about human extinction, though I haven't read much so maybe you can enlighten me. She also used the word reason a lot. But it doesn't really follow that she was actually employing the concept that we call reason. If she wasn't then thats where she went wrong. He writing is seriously chalk full of obfuscation, conflation and any close to every logical fallacy. Even the quotes you gave above are either inane trivialities or unsupported assertions. There is never an attempt to empirically justify her claims about human nature. If you tried to program an AI using Objectivism it would be a disaster. I don't think you could ever get the thing running because all the terms are so poorly defined. So it just seems like a waste of time to listen to Eliezer talk about this. Edit: I think I only voted down the initial suggestion though. Not the ensuing discussion.

Actually compassion evolved many different times as a central doctrine of all major spiritual traditions.

No, it evolved once, as part of mammalian biology. Show me a non-mammal intelligence that evolved compassion, and I'll take that argument more seriously.

Also, why should we give a damn about "evolution" wants, when we can, in principle anyway, form a singleton and end evolution? Evolution is mindless. It doesn't have a plan. It doesn't have a purpose. It's just what happens under certain conditions. If all life on Earth was destroyed by run... (read more)

What single source of material (book, website, training course) do you think is most useful for a smart, motivated person to improve their own rationality in the decisions they encounter in everyday life?

Of the questions you decide not to answer, which is most likely to turn out to be a vital question you should have publicly confronted?

Not the question you don't want to answer but would probably have bitten the bullet anyway. The question you would have avoided completely if it weren't for my question.

[Edit - "If I thought they were vital, I wouldn't avoid" would miss the point, as not wanting to consider something suppresses counterarguments to dismissing it. Take a step back - which question is most likely to be giving you this reaction?]

1wedrifid12yIf this question has an obvious answer then I expect 'this one' would come in as a close second!

By the same argument, a Q&A session with a favorite author is a cultish activity.

He will simply ignore questions he doesn't want to answer, even if they somehow received 3^^^3 votes.

I am 99.99% certain that he will not ignore such questions.

3arundelo12yI am 99.995% certain that no question will receive that many votes.
5jimrandomh12yThere is a greater than 0.01% chance that Eliezer or another administrator will edit the site to display a score of "3^^^3" for some post. (Especially now that it's been suggested.)
2arundelo12yI guess I need to recalibrate!

If you thought an AGI couldn't be built what would you dedicate your life to doing? Perhaps another formulation, or a related question: what is the most important problem/issue not directly related to AI.

2Johnicholas12yAt the Singularity Summit, this question (or one similar) was asked, and (if I remember correctly) EY answer was something like: If the world didn't need saving? Possibly writing science fiction.
1MichaelVassar12yI'd be working on life extension. Followed by applied psychology and politics.
1DanArmak12yThat counterfactual seems like trouble. Do you mean literally impossible by the laws of physics (surely not)? Or highly improbable that humans will be able to build one? What counts as artificial intelligence - can we do human augmentation? What counts as "highly improbable" - can we really assume stupid or evil humans won't be able to build one eventually? It seems to me that plugging all the holes and ways of building a general intelligence to spec would require messing with the laws of physics. We may want to specify a Cosmic Censor law.

What recent developments in *narrow AI do you find most important/interesting and why?

*Let's say post-Stanley

Okay: Goedel, Escher, Bach. You like it. Big-time.

But why? Specifically, what insights should I have assimilated from reading it that are vital for AI and rationalist arts? I personally feel I learned more from Truly Part of You than all of GEB, though the latter might have offered a little (unproductive) entertainment.

6Kutta12yWhy? I think, maybe because GEB integrates form, style and thematic content into a seamless whole in a unique and pretty much artistic way, while still being essentially non-fiction. And GEB is probably second to nothing at conveying the notion of an intertwined reality. It also provides very intelligent and intuitive introduction to a whole lot of different areas. Sometimes you can't do all the job of conveying extremely complex ideas in a succinct essay; just look at the epic amount of writing Eliezer had to do merely to establish a bare framework for FAI discussion (besides, from the fact that Eliezer likes GEB does not follow that GEB should be a recommended reading for AI or rationalist arts. It just means that Eliezer thinks it's a good book).

I am sure you're familiar with the University of Chicago "Doomsday Clock", so: if you were in charge of a Funsday Clock, showing the time until positive singularity, what time would it be on? Any recent significant changes?

(Idea of Funsday Clock blatantly stolen from some guy on Twitter.)

How long do you think you can ignore evolutionary dynamics and get away with it before you have to get over your inertia and will be forced to align yourself to them by the laws of nature or perish?

A literal answer was probably not what you were after but probably about 40 years, depending on when a general AI is created. After that it will not matter whether I conform my behaviour evolutionary dynamics as best I can or not. I will not be able to compete with a superintelligence no matter what I do. I'm just a glorified monkey. I can hold about 7 items ... (read more)

If that is your stated position then in what way can you claim to create FAI with this whimsical set of goals?

Were it within my power to do so I would create a machine that was really, really good at doing things I like. It is that simple. This machine is (by definition) 'Friendly' to me.

you will end up being a deluded self serving optimizer.

I don't know where the 'deluded' bit comes from but yes, I would end up being a self serving optimizer. Fortunately for everyone else my utility function places quite a lot of value on the whims of other people... (read more)

Meaning any sufficiently rational mind will recognize it as such. The fact that not every human is in fact compassionate says more about their rationality (and of course their unwillingness to consider the arguments :-) ) than about that claim. That's why it is call ASPD - the D standing for 'disorder', it is an aberration, not helpful, not 'fit'.

APSD is only unfit in our current context. Would Stone Age psychiatrists have recognized it as an issue? Or as a positive trait good for warring against other tribes and climbing the totem pole? In other situat... (read more)

Assuming I have the correct blog, these two are the only entries that mention Eliezer by name.

Edit: The second entry doesn't mention him, actually. It comes up in the search because his name is in a trackback.

7Furcas12yFrom the second blog entry linked above: Heh.
8RobinZ12yThis quotation accurately summarizes the post as I understand it. (It's a short post.) I think I speak for many people when I say that assumption A requires some evidence. It may be perfectly obvious, but a lot of perfectly obvious things aren't true, and it is only reasonable to ask for some justification.
7AdeleneDawner12y... o.O Compassion isn't even universal in the human mind-space [http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Antisocial_personality_disorder]. It's not even universal in the much smaller space of human minds that normal humans consider comprehensible. It's definitely not universal across mind-space in general. The probable source of the confusion is discussed in the comments [http://rationalmorality.info/?p=93#comment-1027] - Stefan's only talking about minds that've been subjected to the kind of evolutionary pressure that tends to produce compassion. He even says himself, "The argument is valid in a “soft takeoff” scenario, where there is a large pool of AIs interacting over an extended period of time. In a “hard takeoff” scenario, where few or only one AI establishes control in a rapid period of time, the dynamics described do not come into play. In that scenario, we simply get a paperclip maximizer."
4RobinZ12yAh - that's interesting. I hadn't read the comments. That changes the picture, but by making the result somewhat less relevant. (Incidentally, when I said, "it may be perfectly obvious", I meant that "some people, observing the statement, may evaluate it as true without performing any complex analysis".)
2AdeleneDawner12yAh. That's not how I usually see the word used.
1RobinZ12yIt's my descriptivist side playing up - my (I must admit) intuition is that when people say that some thesis is "obvious", they mean that they reached this bottom line [http://lesswrong.com/lw/js/the_bottom_line/] by ... well, system 1 thinking. I don't assume it means that the obvious thesis is actually correct, or even universally obvious. (For example, it's obvious to me that human beings are evolved, but that's because it's a cached thought I have confidence in through system 2 thinking.) Actually, come to think: I know you've made a habit of reinterpreting pronouncements of "good" and "evil" in some contexts [http://lesswrong.com/lw/1em/the_danger_of_stories/18o5] - do you have some gut feeling for "obvious" that contradicts my read?
4AdeleneDawner12yI generally take 'obvious' to mean 'follows from readily-available evidence or intuition, with little to no readily available evidence to contradict the idea'. The idea that compassion is universal fails on the second part of that. The definitions are close in practice, though, in that most peoples' intuitions tend to take readily available contradictions into account... I think. ETA: Oh, and 'obviously false' seems to me to be a bit of a different concept, or at least differently relevant, given that it's easier to disprove something than to prove it. If someone says that something is obviously true, there's room for non-obvious proofs that it's not, but if something is obviously false (as 'compassion is universal' is), that's generally a firm conclusion.
2RobinZ12yYes, that makes sense - even if mine is a better description of usage, from the standpoint of someone categorizing beliefs, I imagine yours would be the better metric. ETA: I'm not sure the caveat is required for "obviously false", for two reasons. 1. Any substantive thesis (a category which includes most theses that are rejected as obviously false) requires less evidence to be roundly disconfirmed than it does to be confirmed. 2. As Yvain demonstrated in Talking Snakes [http://lesswrong.com/lw/2d/talking_snakes_a_cautionary_tale/], well-confirmed theories can be "obviously false", by either of our definitions. It's true that it usually takes less effort to disabuse someone of an obviously-true falsity than to convince them of an obviously-false truth, but I don't think you need a special theory to support that pattern.
2AdeleneDawner12yI've been thinking about the obviously true/obviously false distinction some more, and I think I've figured out why they feel like two different concepts. 'Obviously', as I use it, is very close to 'observably'. It's obviously true that the sky is blue where I am right now, and obviously false that it's orange, because I can see it. It's obviously true that the sky is usually either blue, white, or grey during the day (post-sunrise, pre-sunset), because I've observed the sky many times during the day and seen those colors, and no others. 'Apparently', as I use it, is very similar to 'obviously', but refers to information inferred from observed facts. The sky is apparently never orange during the day, because I've personally observed the sky many times during the day and never seen it be that color. I understand that it can also be inferred from certain facts about the world (composition of the atmosphere and certain facts about how light behaves, I believe) that the sky will always appear blue on cloudless days, so that's also apparently true. 'Obviously false' covers situations where the theory makes a prediction that is observably inaccurate, as this one did. 'Apparently false' covers situations where the theory makes a prediction that appears to be inaccurate given all the available information, but some of the information that's available is questionable (I consider inferences questionable by default - if nothing else, it's possible for some relevant state to have been overlooked; what if the composition of the atmosphere were to change for some reason?) or otherwise doesn't completely rule out the possibility that the theory is true. Important caveat: I do use those words interchangeably in conversation, partly because of the convention of avoiding repeating words too frequently and partly because it's just easier - if I were to try to be that accurate every time I communicated, I'd run out of spoons [http://www.butyoudontlooksick.com/navigation/BYDLS-TheSp
2AdeleneDawner12yIt also has the advantage of making it clear that the chance that the statement is accurate is dependent on the competence of the person making the statement - people who are more intelligent and/or have more experience in the relevant domain will consider more, and more accurate, evidence to be readily available, and may have better intuitions, even if they are sticking to system 1 thought. I suppose they don't need different wordings, but they do feel like different concepts to me. *shrug* (As I've mentioned elsewhere, I don't think in words. This is not an uncommon side-effect of that.)
3AdeleneDawner12yI was going to be nice and not say anything, but, yeah.
5timtyler12yRe: "Assumption A: Human (meta)morals are not universal/rational. Assumption B: Human (meta)morals are universal/rational. Under assumption A one would have no chance of implementing any moral framework into an AI since it would be undecidable which ones they were." (source: http://rationalmorality.info/?p=112 [http://rationalmorality.info/?p=112]) I think we've been over that already. For example, Joe Bloggs might choose to program Joe's preferences into an intelligent machine - to help him reach his goals. I had a look some of the other material. IMO, Stefan acts in an authoritative manner, but comes across as a not-terribly articulate newbie on this topic - and he has adopted what seems to me to be a bizarre and indefensible position. For example, consider this: "A rational agent will always continue to co-exist with other agents by respecting all agents utility functions irrespective of their rationality by striking the most rational compromise and thus minimizing opposition from all agents." http://rationalmorality.info/?p=8 [http://rationalmorality.info/?p=8]
1StefanPernar12y"I think we've been over that already. For example, Joe Bloggs might choose to program Joe's preferences into an intelligent machine - to help him reach his goals." Sure - but it would be moral simply by virtue of circular logic and not objectively. That is my critique. I realize that one will have to drill deep into my arguments to understand and put them into the proper context. Quoting certain statements out of context is definitely not helpful, Tim. As you can see from my posts, everything is linked back to a source were a particular point is made and certain assumptions are being defended. If you have a particular problem with any of the core assumptions and conclusions I prefer you voice them not as a blatant rejection of an out of context comment here or there but based on the fundamentals. Reading my blogs in sequence will certainly help although I understand that some may consider that an unreasonable amount of time investment for what seems like superficial nonsense on the surface. Where is your argument against my points Tim? I would really love to hear one, since I am genuinely interested in refining my arguments. Simply quoting something and saying "Look at this nonsense" is not an argument. So far I only got an ad hominem and an argument from personal incredulity.

Please estimate your probability of dying in the next year (5 years). Assume your estimate is perfectly accurate. What additional probability of dying in the next year (5 years) would you willingly accept for a guaranteed and safe increase of one (two, three) standard deviation(s) in terms of intelligence?

1wedrifid12yDoes this matter?
1anonym12yI'm not sure if it matters. I was imagining potentially different answers to the 2nd part of the question based on whether one includes additional adjustments and compensating factors to allow for the original estimate being inaccurate -- and trying to prevent those adjustments to get at the core issue.

The purpose was to test the waters for another story he was developing; there probably wasn't an in-story purpose to it beyond the obvious one of making it clear that the younger people had a very different worldview than the one we have now. He's been unwilling to give more detail because the reaction to the concept's insertion in that story was too negative to allow him to safely (without reputational consequence, I assume) share the apparently much more questionable other story, or, seemingly, any details about it.

I did upvote your question, by the way. I want to hear more about that other story.

2SilasBarta12yI don't see it doing much good to his reputation to stay silent either, given the inflammatory nature of the remark. Sure, people will be able to quote that part to trash Eliezer, but that's a lot worse than if someone could link a reasonable clarification in his defense. Yes, I voted Alicorn's question up. I want to know too.
4AdeleneDawner12yActually, there's a very good clarification of his views on rape in the context of our current society [http://lesswrong.com/lw/y8/interlude_with_the_confessor_48/qtf] later in that same comment thread that could be linked to. It didn't seem to be relevant to this conversation, though.

Which areas of science or angles of analysis currently seem relevant to the FAI problem, and which of those you've studied seem irrelevant? What about those that fall on the "AI" side of things? Fundamental math? Physics?

3mormon212yI think we can take a good guess on the last part of this question on what he will say: Bayes Theorem, Statistics, basic Probability Theory Mathematical Logic, and Decision Theory. But why ask the question with this statement made by EY: "Since you don't require all those other fields, I would like SIAI's second Research Fellow to have more mathematical breadth and depth than myself." ( http://singinst.org/aboutus/opportunities/research-fellow [http://singinst.org/aboutus/opportunities/research-fellow]) My point is he has answered this question before... I add to this my own question actually it is more of a request to see EY demonstrate TDT with some worked out math on a whiteboard or some such on the video.

Cf. "Stop Voting for Nincompoops" (2008):

Besides, picking the better lizard is harder than it looks. In 2000, the comic Melonpool showed a character pondering, "Bush or Gore... Bush or Gore... it's like flipping a two-headed coin." Well, how were they supposed to know? In 2000, based on history, it seemed to me that the Republicans were generally less interventionist and therefore less harmful than the Democrats, so I pondered whether to vote for Bush to prevent Gore from getting in. Yet it seemed to me that the barriers to keep o

... (read more)
1Eliezer Yudkowsky12y...and that's still my reply, but you could vote it up if you want me to repeat it on video. :)
5PlaidX12yI see. Were you similarly at a loss to distinguish the two parties in the 2004 and 2008 elections? It's one thing to say that you can't tell the difference and quite another to insist that nobody could have and we were all fools for voting. Maybe you just weren't paying attention.
1Eliezer Yudkowsky12yNo.
1CronoDAS12yUntil Obama, I've never voted for anyone who won a presidential election. (I voted for Nader in 2000 and Kerry in 2004.)

...I'm sorry, that doesn't even sound plausible to me. I think you need a lot of assumptions to derive this result - just pointing out the two I see in your admittedly abbreviated summary:

  • that any being will prefer its existence to its nonexistence.
  • that any being will want its maxims to be universal.

I don't see any reason to believe either. The former is false right off the bat - a paperclip maximizer would prefer that its components be used to make paperclips - and the latter no less so - an effective paperclip maximizer will just steamroller over disagreement without qualm, however arbitrary its goal.

the more I get the feeling that people vote comments down purely because they don't understand them not because they found a logical or factual error

I can see why it would seem this way to you, but from our perspective, it just looks like people around here tend to have background knowledge that you don't. More specifically: most people here are moral anti-realists, and by rationality we only mean general methods for acquiring accurate world-models and achieving goals. When people with that kind of background are quick to reject claims like "Compa... (read more)

1timtyler12y"Universal values" presumably refers to values the universe will converge on, once living systems have engulfed most of it. If rerunning the clock produces radically different moralities each time, the relativists would be considered to be correct. If rerunning the clock produces highly similar moralities, then the moral objectivists will be able to declare victory. Gould would no-doubt favour the first position - while Conway Morris would be on the side of the objectivists. I expect that there's a lot of truth on the objectivist side - though perhaps contingency plays some non-trivial role. The idea that physics makes no mention of morality seems totally and utterly irrelevant to me. Physics makes no mention of convection, diffusion-limited aggregation, or fractal drainage patterns either - yet those things are all universal.
2Eliezer Yudkowsky12yWhy should we care about this mere physical fact of which you speak? What has this mere "is" to do with whether "should" is "objective", whatever that last word means (and why should we care about that?)
1Tyrrell_McAllister12yWhere did Tim say that we should?

Boiling down rationality

Eliezer, if you only had 5 minutes to teach a human how to be rational, how would you do it? The answer has to be more or less self-contained so "read my posts on lw" is not valid. If you think that 5 minutes is not enough you may extend the time to a reasonable amount, but it should be doable in one day at maximum. Of course it would be nice if you actually performed the answer in the video. By perform I mean "Listen human, I will teach you to be rational now..."

EDIT: When I said perform I meant it as opposed to... (read more)

How about you read the paper linked under B and should that convince you

I have read B. It isn't bad. The main problem I have with it is that the language used blurs the line between "AIs will inevitably tend to" and "it is important that the AI you create will". This leaves plenty of scope for confusion.

I've read through some of your blog and have found that I consistently disagree with a lot of what you say. The most significant disagreement can be traced back to the assumption of a universal absolute 'Rational' morality. This passa... (read more)

If you conceptualized the high-level tasks you must attend to in order to achieve (1) FAI-understanding and (2) FAI-realization in terms of a priority queue, what would be the current top few items in each queue (with numeric priorities on some arbitrary scale)?

Why? It's not like SIAI is on a teleological track to be the one true organization to actually save the world. They have some first-mover advantage to be the focus of this movement, to the extent it's effective in gravitating activity their way. They are currently doing important work on spreading awareness. But if things catch up, others will start seriously working on the problem elsewhere.

1John_Maxwell12yBy things catching up, you mean awareness spreading, right? It doesn't seem like a stretch to guess that SIAI will continue to do a large portion of that. There's no advantage associated with FAI programmers starting a second group if they know they'll get funded by SIAI and don't have any major disagreements with SIAI's philosophy.

Previously, in Ethical Injunctions and related posts, you said that, for example,

You should never, ever murder an innocent person who's helped you, even if it's the right thing to do; because it's far more likely that you've made a mistake, than that murdering an innocent person who helped you is the right thing to do.

It seems like you're saying you will not and should not break your ethical injunctions because you are not smart enough to anticipate the consequences. Assuming this interpretation is correct, how smart would a mind have to be in order to safely break ethical injunctions?

5wedrifid12yAny given mind could create ethical injunctions of a suitable complexity that are useful to it given its own technical limitations.

Within the next 20 years or so, would you consider having a child and raising him/her to be your successor? Would you adopt? Have you donated sperm?

Edit: the first two questions dependent on you not being satisfied by the progress on FAI.

I could be having more fun. Something To Protect gives my life intensity that adds a LOT of value, but I think that if I was optimizing for short-term fun I would live somewhat differently. Study more physics for instance. Probably more music too.

4Vladimir_Nesov12yI love it. Before I embarked on this project, I lacked the drive to study hard, and sense of responsibility to make sure I understand what I studied well, but now I've learned some awesome things that it'd take much longer (if ever) otherwise.

I'm not confused at Eliezer's linked comments; I'm confused at your confusion. I think the linked comments clarified things because I learned relevant information from them, the following points in particular:

  1. The rape comment was not intended to be a plot point, or even major worldbuilding, for 3WC. The fact that we don't have enough in-story context to understand the remark may have been purposeful (though the purpose was not 3WC-related if so), and whether it was purposeful or not, 3WC is intended to be able to work without such an explanation.

  2. Elieze

... (read more)

Here's my attempt at explaining Eliezer's explanation. It's based heavily on my experiences as someone who's apparently quite atypical in a relevant way. This may require a few rounds of back-and-forth to be useful - I have more information about the common kind of experience (which I assume you share) than you have about mine, but I don't know if I have enough information about it to pinpoint all the interesting differences. Note that this information is on the border of what I'm comfortable sharing in a public area, and may be outside some peoples' comfort zones even to read about: If anyone reading is easily squicked by sexuality talk, they may want to leave the thread now.

I'm asexual. I've had sex, and experienced orgasms (anhedonically, though I'm not anhedonic in general), but I have little to no interest in either. However, I don't object to sex on principle - it's about as emotionally relevant as any other social interaction, which can range from very welcome to very unwelcome depending on the circumstances and the individual(s) with whom I'm socializing*. Sex tends to fall on the 'less welcome' end of that scale because of how other people react to it - I'm aware that othe... (read more)

6rhollerith_dot_com12yOne of the adverse effects of pain pills is temporarily to take away the ability of the person's emotions to inform decision-making, particularly, avoidance of harms. According to neuroscientist Antonio Damasio, for most people, the person's ability to avoid making harmful decisions depends on the ability of the person to have an emotional reaction to the consequences of a decision -- particularly an emotional reaction to imagined or anticipated consequences -- that is, a reaction that occurs before the decision is made. When on pain pills, a person tends not to have (or not to heed) these emotional reactions to consequences of decisions that have not been made yet, if I understand correctly. The reason I mention this is that you might want to wait till you are off the pain pills to continue this really, really interesting discussion of your sexuality. I do not mean to imply that your decision to comment will harm you -- I just thought a warning about pain pills might be useful to you.
5AdeleneDawner12yI noticed this issue myself, last night - I'd been nervous about posting the information in the second and third paragraphs before I took the meds, and wasn't, afterwards, which was unusual enough to be slightly alarming. (I did write both paragraphs before my visit to the dentist, and didn't edit them significantly afterwards.) The warning is appreciated, though. I've spent enough time thinking about this kind of thing, though, that I'm confident I can rely on cached judgments of what is and isn't wise to share, even in my slightly impaired state. I'll wait on answering anything questionable, but I suspect that that's unlikely to be an issue - I am really very open about this kind of thing in general, when I'm not worrying about making others uncomfortable with my oddness. It's a side-effect of not having a sexual self to defend.
3[anonymous]12yBit of a repeat warning: if you don't want to read about sex stuff, don't read this. You know, given my own experiences, reading this post makes me wonder if sexual anhedonia and rationality are correlated for some reason. (Note, if you wish, that I'm a 17-year-old male, and I've never had a sexual partner. I do know what orgasm is.)
1wedrifid12yI would be shocked if they weren't. The most powerful biasses are driven by hard-wired sexual signalling mechanisms.
2Kaj_Sotala12yThis was a fascinating comment; thank you. By the way, the Bering at Mind blog over at Scientific American had a recent, rather lengthy post discussing asexual people [http://www.scientificamerican.com/blog/post.cfm?id=are-there-asexuals-among-us-on-the-2009-10-29] .
2RobinZ12yThat is really, really interesting - thanks! (P.S. I do think that this is a fair elaboration on Eliezer's comment, insofar as I understood either.)
3AdeleneDawner12yYou're welcome. :)
1gwern12yFWIW, I think people don't find it implausible because they know, even if only vaguely, that there are people out there with fetishes for everything, and I have the impression that in heavily Islamic countries with full-on burkha-usage/purdah going, things like ankles are supposed to be erotic and often are.
3AdeleneDawner12yThat interpretation sounds odd to me, so I checked wikipedia, which says: 'Conventional' seems to be the sticking point. Ankles are conventionally considered sexual in that culture, so it's not a fetish, in that context; it's a cultural difference. It seems to make the most sense to think of it as a kind of communication - letting someone see your ankle, in that culture, is a communication about your thoughts regarding that person (though what exactly it communicates, I don't know enough to guess on), and the content of that communication is the turn-on. In our culture, the same thing might be communicated by, say, kissing, with similar emotional results. In either case, it's not the form of the communication that seems to matter, but the meaning, whereas in the case of a fetish, the form does matter, and what the action means to the other party (if there's another person involved) doesn't appear to. (Yes, I have some experience in this area. The fetish in question wasn't actually very interesting, and I don't think talking about it specifically will add to the conversation.)
2gwern12yI'm... not quite following. I gave 2 examples of why an educated modern person would not be surprised at Victorian ankles and their reception: that fetishes are known to be arbitrary and to cover just about everything, and that contemporary cultures are close or identical to the Victorians. These were 2 entirely separate examples. I wasn't suggesting that your random Saudi Arabian (or whatever) had a fetish for ankles or something, but that such a person had a genuine erotic response regardless of whether the ankle was exposed deliberately or not. A Western teenage boy might get a boner at bare breasts in porn (deliberate but not really communicating), his girlfriend undressing for him (deliberate & communicative), or - in classic high school anime fashion - a bra/swimsuit getting snagged (both not deliberate & not communicative).
1AdeleneDawner12yIt seems like we're using the word 'fetish' differently, and I'm worried that that might lead to confusion. My original point was about how the cultural meanings of various things can change over time - including but not limited to what would or would not be considered a fetish (i.e. 'unusual to be aroused by'). If nearly everyone in a given culture is aroused by a certain thing, then it's not unusual in that culture, and it's not a fetish for people in that culture to be aroused by that thing, at least given how I'm using the word. (Otherwise, any arousing trait would be considered a fetish if at least one culture doesn't or didn't share our opinion of it, and I suspect that idea wouldn't sit well with most people.) I propose that the useful dividing line between a fetish and an aspect of a given person's culture is whether or not the arousing thing is universal enough in that culture that it can be used communicatively - that appears to be a good indication that people in that culture are socialized to be aroused by that thing when they wouldn't naturally be aroused by it without the socialization. I also suspect that that socialization is accomplished by teaching people to see the relevant things as communication, automatically, as a deep heuristic - so that that flash of ankle or breast is taken as a signal that the flasher is sexually receptive, without any thought involved on the flashee's part. It makes much more sense to me that thinking that someone was sexually receptive would be arousing than that somehow nearly everyone in a given culture somehow wound up with an attraction to ankles for their own sake, for no apparent reason, and without other cultures experiencing the same thing. There may be another explanation, though - were you considering some other theory?
1gwern12yThis seems true to me. No American male would deny that he is attracted to at least one of the big three (breasts, buttocks, face), and attracted for their own sake, and for no apparent reason. (Who instructed them to like those?) Yet National Geographic is famous for all its bare-breasted photos of women who seem to neither notice nor care, and ditto for the men. The simplest explanation to me is just that cultures have regions of sexiness, with weak ties to biological facts like childbirth, and fetishes are any assessment of sexiness below a certain level of prevalence. Much simpler than all your communication.
1AdeleneDawner12yIt seems I was trying to answer a question that you weren't asking, then; sorry about that.
2Blueberry12yWell, the awareness that there are people who have a fetish for X in this culture might make it less surprising that there is a whole culture that finds X sexy. You're at least partly right about the communication theory. One big turn on for most people is that someone is sexually interested in them, as communicated by revealing normally hidden body parts. Supposedly in Victorian times legs were typically hidden, so revealing them would be communicative. Another part of this is that the idea of a taboo is itself sexy, whether or not there is communicative intent. Just the idea of seeing something normally secret or forbidden is arousing to many people. I'm curious about your example that came up in your life, if you're willing to share.
3AdeleneDawner12yI suppose that's true, though it's not obvious to me that something would have to start as a fetish to wind up considered sexual by a culture. This appears to be true - I've heard it before, anyway - but it doesn't make sense, to me, at least as a sexual thing. Except, as I'm thinking of it now, it does seem to make sense in the context of communicating. Sharing some risky (in the sense that if it were made public knowledge, you'd take a social-status hit) bit of information is a hard-to-fake signal that you're serious about the relationship, and doing something risky together is a natural way of reciprocating with each other regarding that. It seems like it'd serve more of a pair-bonding purpose than strictly a sexual one, but the two are so intertwined in humans that it's not really surprising that it'd do both. My first boyfriend had a thing for walking through puddles while wearing tennis shoes without socks. Pretty boring, as fetishes go.
1CronoDAS12yThis is interesting to know and read about. Are you a-romantic as well as asexual?
4AdeleneDawner12yIt depends how you define 'romantic'. I have a lot of trouble with the concept of monogamy, too, so if you're asking if I pair-bond, no. I do have deeply meaningful personal relationships that involve most of the same kinds of caring-about, though. On the other hand, I don't see a strong disconnect between that kind of relationship and a friendship - the difference in degree of closeness definitely changes how things work, but it's a continuum, not different categories, and people do wind up in spots on that continuum that don't map easily to 'friends' or 'romantic partners'. (I do have names for different parts of that continuum, to make it easier to discuss the resulting issues, but they don't seem to work the same as most peoples' categories.)
1SilasBarta12yOkay, sounds plausible. Now, I ask that you do a check. Compare the length of your explanation to the length of the confusion-generating passage in 3WC. Call this the "backpedal ratio". Now, compare this backpedal ratio to that of, say, typical reinterpretations of the Old Testament that claim it doesn't really have anything against homosexuals. If yours is about the same or higher, that's a good reason to write off your explanation with "Well, you could pretty much read anything into the text, couldn't you?"
4AdeleneDawner12yI don't think the length in words is a good thing to measure by, especially given the proportion of words I used offering metaphors to assist people in understanding the presented concepts or reinforcing that I'm not actually dangerous vs. actually presenting new concepts. I also think that the strength (rationality, coherency) of the explanation is more important than the number of concepts used, but it's your heuristic.
2Eliezer Yudkowsky12yMaybe it's just my experience with Orthodox Judaism, but the backpedal exegesis ratio - if, perhaps, computed as a sense of mental weight, more than a number of words - seems to me like a pretty important quantity when explaining others.
1arundelo12yDoes this mean you've experienced orgasms without enjoying them, or experienced orgasms without setting out to do so for pleasure, or something else?
4AdeleneDawner12yThe former. It actually took some research for me to determine that I was experiencing them at all, because most descriptions focus so heavily on the pleasure aspect.

To state the obvious, no, because there are things we need to do now to have fun in the future (like saving the world) which are not all that fun at the moment.

1CannibalSmith12yIt was not obvious to me at all.


Eliezer, you mentioned suffering from writer's molasses and your solution was to write daily on ob/lw. I consider this a clever and successful overcoming of akrasia. What other success stories from your life in relation to akrasia could you share?

Do you think that just explaining biases to people helps them substantially overcome those biases, or does it take practice, testing, and calibration to genuinely improve one's rationality?

2roland12yI can partially answer this. In the book "The logic of failure" by Dietrich Dorner he tested humans with complex systems they had to manage. It turned out that when one group got specific instructions of how to deal with complex systems they did not perform better than the control group. EDIT: Dorner's explanation was that just knowing was not enough, individuals had to actually practice dealing with the system to improve. It's a skillset.

I have studied the proof of the (downward) Lowenheim-Skolem theorem - as an undergraduate, so you should take my conclusions with some salt - but my understanding of the (downward) Lowenheim-Skolem theorem was exactly that the proof builds a model out of the syntax of the first-order theory in question.

I'm not saying that the proof is trivial - what I'm saying is that holding Godel-numberability and the possibility of a strict formalist interpretation of mathematics in your mind provides a helpful intuition for the result.

How would a utopia deal with human's seemingly contradicting desires - the desire to go up in status and the desire to help lower status people go up in status. Because helping lower status people go up in status will hurt our own status positions. I remember you mentioning how in your utopia you would prefer not to reconfigure the human mind. So how would you deal with such a problem?

(If someone finds the premise of my question wrong, please point it out)

2[anonymous]12yI don't think most people want to actually raise people who are lower status than themselves up to higher than themselves. I actually don't think that most people want to raise other's status very much. They seem to typically be more concerned with raising the material welfare of people who are significantly worse off, which doesn't necessarily change status. The main status effect of altruistic behavior is to raise the status of the altruist. For instance, consider the quote "It is more blessed to give than to receive." (Acts 20:35). If we think of "blessedness" as similar to status (status in the eyes of god maybe?) then a "status altruist" would read that and decide to always receive and never give in order raise the status of others. The traditional altruistic interpretation though is to give, and therefore become more blessed than the poor suckers who you are giving to.

Wouldn't cannibalism be an equally horrific thing to come up with? ... human on a petri dish.

I would not have any problems with eating human-on-a-petri-dish, as long as it never had any neurons. The problem with cannibalism is eating a person, not some cells with the wrong DNA. And cells in a petri dish are not a person.

0Cyan11yThe other problem with cannibalism is that you can get diseases that way far more easily than you can from eating non-human meat.
0MatthewB11yI know that, and you know that... But, what would the general population say about eating meat that was the product of Human DNA? It seems to me that some of the general population would be horribly incensed about it.
3DanArmak11yMost of the general population is incensed about most things, most of the time. I've stopped caring. Why don't you?
3byrnema11yIf a group of people donated their bodies to cannibalism when they die for a group of cannibals to then consume them, I would have no problem with that. (I submit myself as an example of someone with moderate rather than extremely liberal views.) I think the moral repugnance only comes in when people might be killed for food: the value of life and person-hood is so much greater than the value of an immediate meal. Someone speculated earlier [http://lesswrong.com/lw/1lf/open_thread_january_2010/1eg5] about a civilization of humans that had nothing to consume but other humans. Has it been mentioned yet that this population would shrink exponentially, because humans are heterotrophs, and there's something like only 10% efficiency from one step in the food chain to the next? That's what was disappointing about The Matrix. If the aliens wanted to generate energy there would have been more efficient ways to do so (say, one which actually generated more energy than it required). I pretend the aliens were just farming CPU and the director got it wrong.
1DanArmak11yWe already have moral repugnance towards the act of killing itself. I suspect that any feelings towards already-dead bodies exist independently of this. They may be rooted in feelings of disgust which evolved in part to protect from contamination (recently dead bodies can spread disease and also provide breeding ground for flies and parasites).
0byrnema11yI don't locate feelings of disgust. Perhaps we are just genetically or culturally different with respect to this sensitivity? I recall when my parakeet died, I felt a sense of awe while holding the body; and a moral obligation to be respectful and careful with its body. I suppose I wouldn't have enjoyed eating him, but only because I identified him as more of a person than food. If I thought he would have wanted me to eat him, I would. Except then I would worry about parasites, so I would have to weigh my wishes to make a symbolic gesture verses my wishes to stay healthy.
0MatthewB11yI would love to stop caring. It is indeed a wonderful suggestion. However, many of those people who would be offended by such things, also get offended by many, much less offensive things, things which often may cause a loss of liberty to others... And they vote. I do think it would behoove me to maybe turn up my apathy just a bit, as my near term future will have a lot more to say about my survival and ultimate value than worrying about a bunch of human cattle who like to get all bothered about things as trivial as the shape of the moon (absurd example)
1Vladimir_Nesov11yDoes your worrying about and discussing what other people believe contribute more to changing the outcome of their voting, or to other things, like personal payoff of social interaction while having the discussions about people of lower status according to this metric? Overestimating importance of personally discussing politics for policy formation is a classical mistake. See also: Dunbar's Function [http://lesswrong.com/lw/x9/dunbars_function/]
3MatthewB11yI see that I may be caught up in this mistake a bit. Some of my discussing is simply to gather information about what a typical person of a demographic might believe. It's mostly confirming what I might have read about in a poll, or that data from a website shows. Some times the discussion gets to the point where I try to change an attitude, and I keep tripping over myself when I do this, as few people will change their attitudes, political and/or religious without some form of emotional connection with the reason to change. This is sort of why I am here. I wish to stop using my valuable brain time to convince people of things which I haven't a hope of changing, and do something else which may contribute to the good of society in a more direct way. I am a mess of paranoid contradictions gathered from a mis-spent youth, and I wish to untangle some of that irrationality, as it is an intellectual drag on my progress.

The typical Bostromian reply again. There are plenty of other scholars who have an entirely different perspective on evolution than Bostrom. But beside that:

"Besides that"? All you did was name a statement of a fairly obvious preference choice after one guy who happened to have it so that you could then drop it dismissively.

you already do care, because if your (or your ancestors) violated the conditions of your existence (enjoying a particular type of food, a particular type of mate, feel pain when cut ect.) you would not even be here right

... (read more)

If laypeople didn't have a confused notion of free will, they wouldn't become so consistently confused when they learn elementary facts from physics or neuroscience.

Eliezer, in Excluding the Supernatural, you wrote:

Ultimately, reductionism is just disbelief in fundamentally complicated things. If "fundamentally complicated" sounds like an oxymoron... well, that's why I think that the doctrine of non-reductionism is a confusion, rather than a way that things could be, but aren't.

"Fundamentally complicated" does sound like an oxymoron to me, but I can't explain why. Could you? What is the contradiction?

6anonym12yIsn't the contradiction that "complicated" means having more parts/causes/aspects than are readily comprehensible, and "fundamental" things never are complicated, because if they were, they could be broken down into more fundamental things that were less complicated? The fact that things invariably get simpler and more basic as we move closer to the foundational level is in tension with things getting more complicated as we move down.

Where is the logical fallacy in the presented arguments

The claim "[Compassion is a universal value] = true. (as we have every reason to believe)" was rejected, both implicitly and explicitly by various commenters. This isn't a logical fallacy but it is cause to dismiss the argument if the readers do not, in fact, have every reason to have said belief.

To be fair, I must admit that the quoted portion probably does not do your position justice. I will read through the paper you mention. I (very strongly) doubt it will lead me to accept B but it may be worth reading.

In this case though, it's clear that Eliezer wants people to get something out of knowing about the AI box experiments. That's my extrapolated Eliezer volition at least. Since for me and many others we can't get anything out of the experiments without knowing what happened, I feel it is justified to question Eliezer where we see a contradiction in his stated wishes and our extrapolation of his volition.

In most situations I would agree that it's not cool to push.

So, despite the fact that we (human phenotypes) are endowed with a powerful self-preservation instinct, you find a signaling explanation more likely than a straightforward application of self-preservation to a person's concept of their own mind?

Given your peculiar preferences which value your DNA more highly than your brain, it's tempting to chalk your absurd hypothesis up to the typical mind fallacy. But I think you're well aware of the difference in values responsible for the split between your assessment of cryonics and Eliezer's or Robin's.

So I think y... (read more)

1timtyler12yAn over-generalisation of self-preservation instincts certainly seems to be part of it. On the other hand, one of my interests is in the spread of ideas. Without cryonic medalions, cryonic bracelets, cryonic advertising and cryonic preachers there wouldn't be any cryonics movement. There seems to be a "show your friends how much you care - freeze them!" dynamic. I have a similar theory about the pyramids. Not so much a real voyage to the afterlife, but a means of reinforcing the pecking order in everyone's minds. I am contrasting this signaling perspective with Robin's views - in part because I am aware that he is sympathetic to signaling theories in other contexts. I do think signaling is an important part of cryonics - but I was probably rash to attempt to quantify the effect. I don't pretend to have any good way of measuring its overall contribution relative to other factors.

To what extent is the success of your FAI project dependent upon the reliability of the dominant paradigm in Evolutionary Psychology (a la Tooby & Cosmides)?

Old, perhaps off-the-cuff, and perhaps outdated quote (9/4/02): “ well, the AI theory assumes evolutionary psychology and the FAI theory definitely assumes evolutionary psychology” (http://www.imminst.org/forum/lofiversion/index.php/t144.html).

Thanks for all your hard work.

To be more precise, recursive self-improvement in humans (like learning how to learn more effectively) is limited to small improvements and few recursions. It is of a fundamentally different nature than recursive self-improvement would be for an agent that had access to and understood its source code and was able to recursively self-improve at the source code level for a large number of recursions in relatively quick succession. The analogous kind of recursive self-improvement in humans would be if it were possible to improve your intelligence to a signifi... (read more)

0zero_call12yYou make a number of assumptions here and you also ignore my previous comments regarding the following point: you assume that knowledge of one's source code permits a fundamentally more powerful kind of recursive self improvement. This is a crucial assumption on which your argument rests... if this assumption is false (and it is certainly insubstantiated) then we have no reason to believe that a GAI can do any more than what a human can do, given full knowledge of the brain. And as we know, there are some serious limitations on what we can do with the brain. Thus the concept of recursive self improvement leading to super-human intelligence is equated to (essentially) the problem of drug and surgical treatment and expansion, which has a rightfully limiting sounding ring to it. Furthermore, your assumptions consist in (for example) the idea that such a thing as the agent you describe can possibly exist. It is all well and good in theory to talk abstractly about a system (e.g., a human) improving its intelligence to improve its intelligence, but you seem to draw a kind of arbitrary distinction between this process and the more common processes involves in human activities, like piano playing. In the piano example, you are just incorrect to claim there is no recursive self improvement (RSI, now) going on there. Just consider the following ideas. Specifically, you point out that pianists don't actively seek to recursively self-improve, which is true, as it would be hopelessly convoluted and they would never learn how to actually play anything. However, you neglect to consider the passive action of recursive self-improvement which takes part in the process. This action is clear from the simple observation that an experienced pianist can learn (i.e., sight read a new piece and play it) much better than a beginner pianist. Since learning pieces is exactly what makes you a better pianist, this is an empirical evidence of recursive self-improvement. It is besides the po
4Jordan12yYes, but imagine not only that we have complete access to the brain's source code, but that the brain is digitally implemented and any component can be changed at whim. What could we achieve? At the very least, some very helpful things, if not superintelligence: We already have examples of drugs and diseases that boost cognitive performance. Personally, I've been hyperthyroid before. The cognitive boost at the peak was very pronounced. This can't be sustained in wetware (at the moment) for various reasons. None of those reasons, as far as I've seen, would matter in silicon. Sustainable hyperthyroidism via alterations to my 'source code' alone would make me 5 times more productive. Once a mechanism of action is understood, it's likely it can be increased, at least a little. For instance, nootropes (such as piracetam, huperzine a, modafinil) work via chemical pathways. It seems reasonable to expect that bypassing the chemical aspect and directly tweaking the code should provide better results. If nothing else the quality and quantity of the dose can be regularized and optimized much more efficiently. This isn't even mentioning all the drugs that can't cross the blood-brain barrier but which could be directly 'injected' into individual neurons in a simulation, which is a tiny subset of all the 'drugs' that could be tried from directly changing the way the neuron works. Many nootropes, too, either diminish in effect over time (for chemical reasons) or tax the body in unsupportable ways, as with hyperthyroidism: neither of these would pose a problem for a silicon brain, which could be permanently pumped up on a whole cocktail of crazy drugs and mood modifiers without worrying about the damage being done to the endocrine system or any other fragile wetware. In short, an uploaded human with access to its source code and an understanding of neurology and biochemistry, while probably falling short of superintelligence, would have a hell of an advantage over meatspace huma
2anonym12yIt's not really a difference in kind so much as a radical difference in terms of efficiency. If asked to improve a C program, do you think a C programmer would rather have a memory dump of the running program or the memory dump and the source code for the program? The source code is a huge help in understanding and improving the program, and this translates into an ability to make improvements at a rate that is orders of magnitude greater with the source code than without. There's no reason to expect the case to be different for programs that are AGIs than for other kinds of programs, and no reason to expect it to be different for programmers that are AGIs than for human programmers. On the contrary, I think the advantage of having and understanding the source code increases as programs get larger and more complex, and is greater for programs that were artificially designed and are modular and highly compressed versus naturally evolved programs that have lots of redundancy and are non-modular.
2Pavitra12ySeveral posts in this thread seem to be confusing recursive self-improvement with merely iterative self-improvement. If a human pianist practices to get better, and then practices some more to get even better, and then practices some more to get even better than that, then that is ISI: essentially linear growth. RSI in humans would have to involve things like rationality training and "learning how to learn": getting better at getting better. ISI does not go foom. RSI can. (A human RSI foom would involve neurosurgery and transhumanism.)
0zero_call12yThanks for trying to clear that up but again, you're not understanding the piano example. I'm not going to repeat it again as that would just be redundant, but if you read carefully in the example, you see that there is an empirical evidence of recursive self improvement. This isn't a matter of confusion. The pianist may seem like they are just practicing to get better, practing some more to get even better, as you say. However, if you look at the final product (the highly experienced pianist) he isn't just better at playing -- he is also much better at learning to play better. This is RSI, even though his intentions (as you correctly say) may not be explicitly set up to achieve RSI.
1Pavitra12yI reread it (here [http://lesswrong.com/lw/1f4/less_wrong_qa_with_eliezer_yudkowsky_ask_your/19f5] , right?) and I don't see anything about recursion. Yes, a master pianist can learn a new piece faster than a novice can, but this is merely... let's call it concentric self-improvement. The master is (0) good at playing piano, (1) good at learning to do 0, (2) good at learning to do 1, etc., for finitely many levels in a strict, non-tangled hierarchy [http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Tangled_hierarchy]. This is fundamentally different-in-kind from being (0) good at playing piano, and (1) good at learning to do 0 and 1. ISI grows linearly, CSI grows polynomially (of potentially very large degree), and RSI grows superexponentially.

Yes, it is. How could examples of X not be evidence that the "norm is X"? It may not be sufficiently strong evidence, but if this one example is not sufficiently damning, there are certainly plenty more.

1Jess_Riedel12yYes, of course it is weak evidence. But I can come up with a dozen examples off the top of my head where powerful organizations did realize important things, so you're examples are very weak evidence that this behavior is the norm. So weak that it can be regarded as negligible.
3alyssavance12yImportant things that weren't recognized by the wider populace as important things? Do you have citations? Even for much more mundane things, governments routinely fail to either notice them, or to act once they have noticed. Eg., Chamberlain didn't notice that Hitler wanted total control of Europe, even though he said so in his publicly-available book Mein Kampf. Stalin didn't notice that Hitler was about to invade, even though he had numerous warnings from his subordinates.

Do you think that morality or rationality recommends placing no intrinsic weight or relevance on either a) backwards-looking considerations (e.g. having made a promise) as opposed to future consequences, or b) essentially indexical considerations (e.g. that I would be doing something wrong)?

5) This thread will be open to questions and votes for at least 7 days. After that, it is up to Eliezer to decide when the best time to film his answers will be.

This disadvantages questions which are posted late (to a greater extent than would give people an optimal incentive to post questions early). (It also disadvantages questions which start with a low number of upvotes by historical accident and then are displayed low on the page, and are not viewed as much by users who might upvote them.)

It's not your fault; I just wish the LW software had a stati... (read more)

5JamesAndrix12yReddit has implemented a 'best' view which tries to compensate for this kind of thing:http://blog.reddit.com/2009/10/reddits-new-comment-sorting-system.html [http://blog.reddit.com/2009/10/reddits-new-comment-sorting-system.html] LW is based on reddit's source code, so it should be relatively easy to integrate.
1Douglas_Knight12yThere's probably significant value in the low-hanging fruit of just tweaking the parameters in the current algorithm (which are currently set for the much larger reddit!). Don't let the perfect be the enemy of the good.

I don't see the need for more than this:

"rape" in their world just doesn't mean the same thing to them as it does to us

I just figured that these humans have been biologically altered to have a different attitude towards sex. Perhaps, for them, initiating sex with someone is analogous to initiating a conversation. Sure, you wish that some people wouldn't talk to you, but you wouldn't want to live in a world where everyone needed your permission before initiating a conversation. Think of all the interesting conversations you'd miss!

2Alicorn12yAnd if that's what's going on, that would constitute a (skeezy) answer to my question, but I'd like to hear it from the story's author. Goodness knows it would annoy me if people started drawing inaccurate conclusions about my constructed worlds when they could have just asked me and I would have explained.
1Technologos12yAlicorn: On the topic of your constructed worlds, I would be fascinated to read how your background in world-building (which, iirc, was one focus of your education?) might contribute to our understanding of this one.
1Alicorn12yYes, worldbuilding was my second major (three cheers for my super-cool undergrad institution!). My initial impression of Eliezer's skills in this regard from his fiction overall are not good, but that could be because he tends not to provide very much detail. It's not impossible that the gaps could be filled in with perfectly reasonable content, so the fact that these gaps are so prevalent, distracting, and difficult to fill in might be a matter of storytelling prowess or taste rather than worldbuilding abilities. (It's certainly possible to create a great world and then do a bad job of showcasing it.) I should be able to weigh in on this one in more detail if and when I get an answer to the above question, which is a particularly good example of a distracting and difficult-to-fill-in gap.
3Johnicholas12yIf I understand EY's philosophy of predicting the future correctly, the gaps in the world are intentional. Suppose that you are a futurist, and you know how hard it is to predict the future, but you're convinced that the future will be large, complicated, weird, and hard to connect directly to the present. How can you provide the reader with the sensation of a large, complicated, weird, and hard-to-connect-to-the-present future? Note that as a futurist, the conjunction fallacy (more complete predictions are less likely to be correct) is extremely salient in your thinking. You put deliberate gaps into your stories, any resolution of which would require a large complicated explanation - that way the reader has the desired (distracting and difficult-to-fill-in) sensation, without committing the author to any particular resolution.
3Eliezer Yudkowsky12yThe author still has to know what's inside the gaps. Also, the gaps have to look coherent - they can't appear to the reader as noise, or it simply won't create the right impression, no matter what. You may be overanalyzing here. I've never published anything that I would've considered sending in to a science fiction magazine - maybe I'm holding myself to too-high standards, but still, it's not like I'm outlining the plot and building character sheets. My goal in writing online fiction is to write it quickly so it doesn't suck up too much time (and I quite failed at this w/r/t Three Worlds Collide, but I never had the spare days to work only on the novella, which apparently comes with a really large productivity penalty).
1Alicorn12yMaybe he's a good futurist. That does not make him a good worldbuilder, even if he's worldbuilding about the future. Does it come as any surprise that the skills needed to write good fiction in well-thought-out settings aren't the exact same skills needed to make people confused about large, complicated, weird, disconnected things?
1Johnicholas12yTaking your question as rhetorical, with the presumed answer "no", I agree with you - of course the skills are different. However, I hear an implication (and correct me if I'm wrong) that good fiction requires a well-thought-out setting. Surely you can think of good writers who write in badly-constructed or deeply incomplete worlds.
1Alicorn12yGood fiction does not strictly require a well-built setting. A lot of fiction takes place in a setting so very like reality that the skill necessary to provide a good backdrop isn't worldbuilding, but research. Some fiction that isn't set in "the real world" still works with little to no sense of place, history, culture, or context, although this works mostly in stories that are very simple, very short, or (more typically) both. Eliezer writes speculative fiction (eliminating the first excuse), and his stories typically depend heavily on backdrop elements (eliminating the second excuse, except when he's writing fanficiton and can rely on prior reading of others' works to do this job for him).
1Johnicholas12yI agree with you regarding the quality of his writing, but your generalizations regarding worldbuilding's relationship to quality may be overbroad or overstrong. Worldbuilding is fun and interesting and I like it in my books, but lack of worldbuilding, or deep difficult holes in the world are not killing flaws. Almost nothing cannot be rescued by a sufficient quality in other areas. Consider Madeline L'Engle's A Wrinkle in Time, Gene Wolfe's Book of the New Sun, Stanislaw Lem's Cyberiad.
2Alicorn12yThe only one of the books you mention that I've read is Wrinkle in Time, so I'll address that one. It isn't world-driven! It's a strongly character-driven story. The planets she invents, the species she imagines, the settings she dreams up - these do not supply the thrust of the story. The people populating the book do that, and pretty, emotionally-charged prose does most of the rest. Further, L'Engle's worldbuilding isn't awful, and moreover, its weaknesses aren't distracting. It has an element of whimsy to it and it's colored by her background values, but there's nothing much in there that is outrageous and important and unexplained. Eliezer's stories, meanwhile - I'd have to dislike them even more if I were interpreting them as being character-driven. His characters tend to be ciphers with flat voices, clothed in cliché and propped up by premise. And it's often okay to populate your stories with such characters if they aren't the point - if the point is world or premise/conceit or plot or even just raw beautiful writing. I actually think that Eliezer's fiction tends to be premise/conceit driven, not setting driven, but he backs up his premises with setting, and his settings do not appear to be up to the task. So to summarize: A bad story element (such as setting, characterization, plot, or writing quality) may be forgivable, and not preclude the work it's found in from being good, if: * The bad element is not the point of the story * The bad element isn't indispensable to help support whatever element is the point of the story (for instance, you might get away with bad writing in a character-driven story only if you don't depend on your character's written voice to convey their personality) * And it is not so bad as to distract from the point of the story. Eliezer's subpar worldbuilding slips by according to the first criterion. I don't think his stories are truly setting-driven. But it fails the second two. His settings are indispensably neces

The underlying genetic machinery that produces an individual's morality is a human universal. But the production of the morality is very likely dependent upon non-genetic factors. The psychological unity of humankind no more implies that people have the same morality than it implies that they have the same favorite foods.

That is not the core concern of this site. We are in a human extinction scenario so long as the problem of death remains unsolved. Our interest is in escaping this scenario as quickly as possible. The difference is urgency; we are not trying to avoid a collision, but are trying to escape the burning wreckage.

. . .

If we can't stop dying, we can't stop extinction. . . . To those down-voting me: I take my lumps willingly, but could you at least tell me why you think I'm wrong?

To solve the problem of death, you have to solve the problem of extinction and y... (read more)

Sod that, start a religion in which people have to symbolically eat your body and drink your blood once a week. Better yet, tell them that when they do it, it magically becomes the real thing!

How does the goal of acquiring self-knowledge (for current humans) relate to the goal of happiness (insofar as such a goal can be isolated)?

If one aimed to be as rational as possible, how would this help someone (today) become happy? You have suggested (in conversation) that there might be a tradeoff such that those who are not perfectly rational might exist in an "unhappy valley". Can you explain this phenomenon, including how one could find themselves in such a valley (and how they might get out)? How much is this term meant to indicate an anal... (read more)

All google is, is a manifestation of the power of the humans that built it

No. If you take that approach then you'll just be saying that about every GAI, no matter how powerful. Google engineers can not solve the problems that google solves. They can't even hold the problem (which includes links between millions of websites) in their heads. They CAN hold in their heads the problem of creating something that can solve the problem. Within google's domain, humans aren't even players.

Even allowing a human the time and notepaper and procedural knowledge to d... (read more)

10^4 neurons per supercomputer
10^11 neurons per brain

Another difference in working assumptions.

Maybe it turns out that nearly all biological organisms except us prefer to be orgasmium - to bliss out on pure positive reinforcement, as much of it as possible, caretaken by external AIs, until the end. Let this be a fact in some inconvenient possible world. Why does this fact say anything about morality in that inconvenient possible world? Why is it a universal moral attractor? Why not just call it a sad but true attractor in the evolutionary psychology of most aliens?

There is no such thing as an "unobjectionable set of values".

Imagine the values of an agent that wants all the atoms in the universe for its own ends. It will object to any other agent's values - since it objects to the very existence of other agents - since those agents use up its precious atoms - and put them into "wrong" configurations.

Whatever values you have, they seem bound to piss off somebody.

It seems like, if I'm trying to make up my mind about philosophical questions (like whether moral realism is true, or whether free will is an illusion) I should try to find out what professional philosophers think the answers to these questions are.

If I found out that 80% of professional philosophers who think about metaethical questions think that moral realism is true, and I happen to be an anti-realist, then I should be far less certain of my belief that anti-realism is true.

But surveys like this aren't done in philosophy (I don't think). Do you thin... (read more)

5Jack12yMy answer to this depends on what you mean by "professional philosophers who think about". You have to be aware that subfields have selection biases. For example, the percent of philosophers of religion who think God exists is much, much larger than the percent of professional philosophers generally who think God exists. This is because if God does not exist philosophy of religion ceases to be a productive area of research. Conversely, if you have an irrational attachment to the idea that God exists this than you are likely to spend an inordinate amount of time trying to prove one exists. This issue is particularly bad with regard to religion but it is in some sense generalizable to all or most other subfields. Philosophy is also a competitive enterprise and there are various incentives to publishing novel arguments. This means in any given subfield views that are unpopular among philosophers generally will be overrepresented. So the circle you draw around "professional philosophers who think about [subfield x] questions" needs to be small enough to target experts but large enough that you don't limit your survey to those philosophers who are very likely to hold a view you are surveying in virtue of the area they work in. I think the right circle is something like 'professional philosophers who are equipped to teach an advanced undergraduate course in the subject'. Edit: The free will question will depend on what you want out of a conception of free will. But the understanding of free will that most lay people have is totally impossible.
2Alicorn12ySeconded. There are a lot of libertarians-about-free-will who study free will, but nobody I've talked to has ever heard of anyone changing their mind on the subject of free will (except inasmuch as learning new words to describe one's beliefs counts) - so this has to be almost entirely due to more libertarians finding free will an interesting thing to study.
3Jack12yFree will libertarianism is also infected with religious philosophy. There are certainly some libertarians with secular reasons for their positions but a lot of the support for this for position comes from those whose religious world view requires radical free will and if they didn't believe in God they wouldn't be libertarians. Same goes for a lot of substance dualists, frankly.
2Blueberry12yI've definitely changed my mind on free will. I used to be an incompatibilist with libertarian leanings. After reading Daniel Dennett's books, I changed my mind and became a compatiblist soft determinist.

There is no adult master pianist whose ability to learn new pieces is orders of magnitude better than that of a 12-year old prodigy (i.e., the same master pianist when they were 12 years old). The primary difference between them is not their ability to learn, but how much they have learned -- i.e., pianistic technique, non-pianistic skills related to general musicianship, musical interpretation and style, etc.

0zero_call12yRecursive self-improvement isn't completely well defined and I was only making the point that the learning process for humans involves some element of recursive self improvement. The piano example at this point is no longer entirely useful, because we are just picking and choosing any kind of more specific example to suit our personal opinions. For example, I could reply that you are wrong to contrast the child prodigy with the master pianist, because that confuses the intended comparison between a pianist and a non-pianist. The point of the example is that any experienced pianist can learn new pieces far, far faster than a noob. Since learning new pieces amounts to more knowledge and more experience, more technique, poise, and so on, this process equates to self-improvement. Thus, the experienced pianist has definitely achieved a level of meta-improvement, or improving his ability to improve. However, you could reply that the experienced pianist no longer continues his meta-learning process, (as compared to the prodigy), so therefore the sense of recursive self-improvement has been irrepairably weakened and no longer retains the same level of significance as we are trying to attach to the term. In other words, you might claim that humans don't have the required sense of longevity to their recursive self improvement. In any case, let's return to the main point. The main point is that humans do recursively self improve, on some level, in some fasion. Why should we expect a formal computer that recursively self improves to reach some greater heights? I realize that there is somewhat of a problem with my original question in that it is too large in scope, perhaps too fundamental for this kind of small, bullet point type of Q&A. Still, it would be nice if people could maybe give more references or something more serious in order to educate me.
4anonym12yThere are many reasons, but here are just a few that should be sufficient: it's much, much easier for a computer program to change its own program (which, having been artificially designed, would be far more modular and self-comprehensible than the human brain and genome, independently of how much easier it is to change bits in memory than synapses in a brain) than it is for a human being to change their own program (which is embedded in a brain that takes decades to mature and is a horrible mess of poorly understood, interdependent spaghetti code); a computer program can safely and easily make perfect copies of itself for experimentation and can try out different ideas on these copies; and a computer program can trivially scale up by adding more hardware (assuming it was designed to be parallelizable, which it would be).
0zero_call12yFirst of all, it's purely conjecture that a programmed system of near human intelligence would be any simpler than a human brain. A highly complicated program such as a modern OS is practically incomprehensible to a single individual. Second of all, there is no direct correlation between speed and intelligence. Just because a computer can scale up for more processing power doesn't mean that it's any smarter. Hence it can't all of a sudden use this technique to RSI "foom". Third, making copies of itself is a non-trivial activity with which amounts to self-simulating itself, which amounts to an exponential reduction in its processing power available. I don't see the GAI being able to make copies of itself much easier than say, two humans ...reproducing... and waiting 9 months to get a baby.
6anonym12y1. it's conjecture, yes, but not pure conjecture. Natural selection doesn't optimize, it satisfices, and the slow process of accreting new features and repurposing existing systems for alternative uses ensures that there's lots of redundancy, with lots of room for simplification and improvement. When has the artificial solution ever been as complex as the naturally evolved alternative it replaced, and why should the human brain be any different? 2. Intelligence tests are timed for a reason, and that's because speed is one aspect of intelligence. If the program is smart enough (which it is by hypothesis) that it will eventually comes across the right theory, consider the right hypothesis, develop the appropriate mathematics, etc., at some point (just as we might argue the smartest human beings are), then more processing power results in that happening much faster, since the many dead ends can be reached faster, and the alternatives explored more quickly. 3. Making a copy of itself requires a handful of machine instructions, and sending that copy to a new processing node with instructions on what hypotheses to investigate is a few more instructions. I feel like I'm being trolled here, with the suggestion that copying a big number in computer memory from one location to another can't be done any more easily than creating a human baby (and don't forget educating it for 20 years).
3Pavitra12yAnd yet its source code is much more comprehensible (and, crucially, much more maintainable) than the DNA of even a very simple single-celled organism.

We self improve. Recursive self improvement means improving our means of self improvement. Reading about tactics for efficient self improvement would be recursive self improvement. Altering your neurology to gain eidetic memory so you can remember all the answers to the test, while using your neurology to figure out how to do it, would be recursive self improvement (of the kind we don't have). Then, with the comprehension problems that eidetics get you keep on altering your neurology.

It's like eating your dogfood in computer parlance.

1timtyler12yAs you say, humans can certainly improve their means of self improvement. They do that by things like learning lanugages, learning thinking tools, and inventing new thinking tools that are then passed down the generations. IMO, those who want "recursive self improvement" to refer to something that doesn't yet exist must tie themselves in knots with counter-intuitive and non-literal conceptions of what that phrase means.

"Intents and purposes".

"Since I don't expect senior traditional-AI-folk to pay me any such attention short of spending a HUGE amount of effort to get it and probably not even then, I haven't, well, expended a huge amount of effort to get it.

Why? If you expect to make FAI you will undoubtedly need people in the academic communities' help; unless you plan to do this whole project by yourself or with purely amateur help. ..."

"That 'probably not even then' part is significant."

My implication was that the idea that he can create FAI completely outside the academic... (read more)

9Eliezer Yudkowsky12yAnd so the utter difference of working assumptions is revealed.
[-][anonymous]12y 3

Eliezer's belief, as I recall, is that human intelligence is a relatively small and arbitrary point in the "intelligence hierarchy", i.e. relative to minds at large, the smartest human is not much smarter than the dumbest. If an AI's intelligence stops increasing somewhere, why would it just happen to stop within the human range?

If you want to claim you're smart you have to have accomplishments that back it up right?

I think you have confused "smart" with "accomplished", or perhaps "possessed of a suitably impressive resumé".

2mormon212yNo, because I don't believe in using IQ as a measure of intelligence (having taken an IQ test) and I think accomplishments are a better measure (quality over quantity obviously). If you have a better measure then fine.
3Alicorn12yWhat do you think "intelligence" is? Do you think that accomplishments, when present, are fairly accurate proof of intelligence (and that you are skeptical of claims thereto without said proof), but that intelligence can sometimes exist in their absence; or do you claim something stronger?
1Kaj_Sotala12yPreviously, Eliezer has said that intelligence is efficient optimization [http://lesswrong.com/lw/tx/optimization/].
1mormon212y"Do you think that accomplishments, when present, are fairly accurate proof of intelligence (and that you are skeptical of claims thereto without said proof)" Couldn't have said it better myself. The only addition would be that IQ is an insufficient measure although it can be useful when combined with accomplishment.

Keep in mind that that's only up to an affine transformation ;).

What do you estimate the utility of Less Wrong to be?

Roughly 4,250 expected utilons.

8Unnamed12yCould you please convert to dust specks?
4timtyler12yWell yes: the question was a bit ambiguous. Maybe one should adopt a universal standard yardstick for this kind of thing, though - so such questions can be answered meaningfully. For that we need something that everyone (or practically everyone) values. I figure maybe the love of a cute kitten could be used as a benchmark. Better yardstick proposals would be welcome, though.
6Larks12yIf only there existed some medium of easy comparison, such that we could easily compare the values placed on common goods and services...
1timtyler12yExactly: the elephant in my post ;-)
2Larks12yI don't think elephants are a very practical yardstick. For a start, they're of varying size. I mean, apparently they can fit in posts now!
3DanArmak12yWay to Other-ize dog people.
2Alicorn12yIt'd have to be a funny yardstick. Almost nothing we value scales linearly. I would start getting tired of kittens after about 4,250 of them had gone by.
1timtyler12yVelocity runs into diminishing returns too near the speed of light - but it is still useful to try and measure it - and a yardstick can help with that.

What does the fact that when you were celibate you espoused celibacy say about your rationality?

In practice, most people inspired by Objectivism have not been able to achieve the sort of things that Rand and her heroes achieved. As far as I can tell, other than Rand herself, no dogmatic Objectivists have done so. Most strikingly, the most influential Objectivist came to head the Federal Reserve Bank. Given this, I conclude that Objectivism isn't the stuff that makes you win, so it's not rationality. That said, I'm very interested in discussing rationality with reflective people who ARE trying to win.

2StefanPernar12y"Given this, I conclude that Objectivism isn't the stuff that makes you win, so it's not rationality." Do you think it is worthwhile to find out where exactly their rationality broke down to avoid a similar outcome here? How would you characterize 'winning' exactly?
3MichaelVassar12yWinning = FAI before UFAI, though there are lots of sub-goals to that. It's definitely worth understanding where other people's rationality breaks down, but I think I understand it reasonably well, both in terms of general principles and the specific history of Objectivism, which has been pretty well documented. We do have a huge amount of written material on rationality breaking down and I think I know rather more than we have published. Major points include Rand's disinterest in science, especially science that felt mystical to her like modern physics or hypnosis, and her failure to notice her foundational confusions and respond with due skepticism to long inferential chains built on them. That said, I'd be happy to discuss the topic with Nathaniel Branden some time if he's interested in doing so. I'm sure that his life experience would contribute usefully to my understanding and that it isn't all found in existing bodies of literature either.

"Preference satisfaction utilitarianism" is a lot closer to Eliezer's ethics than hedonic utilitarianism. In other words, there's more important things to maximize than happiness.

Are you a meat-eater?

2Alicorn12yLooks like. [http://lesswrong.com/lw/ei/essayquestion_poll_dietary_choices/10f5]

Yes, but it's very easy for the actual large scale consequences of a human morality to be very different. We all feel compasion for freinds and fear of strangers; but when we scale our morality to the size of humanity, the difference is huge depending whether the compassion or the fear dominates.

Hitler and Ghandi may not be that different, but the consequences of their actions were.

I have questions. You say we must have one question per comment. So, I will have to make multitple posts.

1) Is there a domain where rational analysis does not apply?

3CannibalSmith12yImprovisational theater. (I'm not Eliezer, I know.)
4nazgulnarsil12yactually...http://greenlightwiki.com/improv/Status [http://greenlightwiki.com/improv/Status] http://craigtovey.blogspot.com/2008/02/popular-comedy-formulas.html [http://craigtovey.blogspot.com/2008/02/popular-comedy-formulas.html] learning this stuff allowed me (introvert) to successfully fake extroversion for my own benefit when I need to.
1ABranco12yOh!, I've done impro myself and I agree. Well, partly. The dynamics of what works and doesn't has lots of explanation behind it, and the storytelling is all pretty structured. However, when you're right on the scene there's not room for explicit rational analysis, sure.
2MichaelVassar12yAnalysis takes time, so anywhere timed. Rational analysis, crudely speaking, is the proper use of 'system 2'. Most domains work better via 'system 1' with 'system 2' watching and noticing what's going wrong in order to analyze problems or nudge habits.

I'm not Eliezer, and perhaps not being an AGI researcher means that my answer is irrelevant, but I think that things can have a deep aesthetic value or meaning from which one could gain insights into things more important than AI or rationality. One of these things may be the 'something to protect' that Eliezer wrote about. Others may be intrinsic values to discover, to give your rationality purpose. If I could only keep one of a copy of the Gospels of Buddha or a copy of MITECS, I would keep the Gospels of Buddha, because it reminds me of the importance o... (read more)

Alas, the first link seems almost too silly to bother with to me, but briefly:

Unobjectionable - to whom? An agent objecting to another agent's values is a simple and trivial occurrence. All an agent has to do is to state that - according to its values - it wants to use the atoms of the agent with the supposedly unobjectionable utility function for something else.

"Ensure continued co-existence" is vague and wishy-washy. Perhaps publicly work through some "trolley problems" using it - so people have some idea of what you think it mean... (read more)

A lot of sexuals find it exciting just because it's "forbidden". You might be able to relate if you've ever been told you can't do something and that just made you want it more.

That sounds bizarre. I understand assuming that something that a higher-ranking person is allowed to have, that you're not allowed, is a good thing to try to get. It sounds like the cause and effect part of it what you described is backwards from the way that makes sense to me: 'This is good because it's not allowed', not 'this is not allowed because it's good and in li... (read more)

1Blueberry12yWell, you're really asking two questions: why is it useful, and how to comprehend it. As far as comprehending it... well, I had thought it was a human universal to be drawn to forbidden things. Have you really never felt the urge to do something forbidden, or the desire to break rules? Maybe it's just because I tend to be a thrill-seeker and a risk-taker. I think you might be misunderstanding. I don't make a logical deduction that something is a good thing because it's not allowed. I do feel emotionally drawn towards things that are forbidden. It's got nothing to do with "higher-ranking" people. It's a pretty natural human urge to go exploring and messing around in forbidden areas. It's useful because it's what helps topple dictatorships, encourages scientific inquiry, and stirs up revolutions.
2AdeleneDawner12yI don't think I've ever felt the need to break a rule just for the sake of doing so. I vaguely remember being curious enough about the supposed draw of doing forbidden things to try it in some minor way, out of curiosity, as a teenager, but it's pretty obvious how that worked out. (My memory of my teenage years is horrible [http://lesswrong.com/lw/1ds/our_house_my_rules/181e], so I don't have details, and could actually be incorrect altogether.) My reaction to rules in general is fairly neutral: I tend to assume that they have (or at least, were intended to have) good reasons behind them, but have no objection to breaking rules whose reasons don't seem relevant to the issue at hand. I did understand that you were talking about something different, but that different thing doesn't make sense.
1Alicorn12yI am typically only drawn to forbidden things when I do not know why they are forbidden, or know that they are forbidden for stupid reasons and find the forbidden thing a desideratum for other reasons. In the first case, it's a matter of curiosity - why has someone troubled to forbid me this thing? In the second, it's just that the thing is already a desideratum and the forbiddance provides no successfully countervailing reason to avoid seeking it.
1wedrifid12yLike the 'prestige' metric that has been discussed recently 'things that the powerful want to stop me from doing' is a strong indicator of potential value to someone even though it is intrinsically meaningless. Obviously having this generalised wiring leads them to desire irrelevant or even detrimental things sometimes.

What is the practical value (e.g., predicted impact) of the Less Wrong website (and similar public communication regarding rationality) with respect to FAI and/or existential risk outcomes?

(E.g., Is there an outreach objective? If so, for what purpose?)

Let me be explicit: your contention is that unFriendly AI is not a problem, and you justify this contention by, among other things, maintaining that any AI which values its own existence will need to alter its utility function to incorporate compassion.

I'm not asking for your proof - I am assuming for the nonce that it is valid. What I am asking is the assumptions you had to invoke to make the proof. Did you assume that the AI is not powerful enough to achieve its highest desired utility without the cooperation of other beings, for example?

Edit: And the re... (read more)

Would it not be utterly self contradicting if compassion where [sic] a condition for our existence (particularly in the long run) and we would not align ourselves accordingly?

What premises do you require to establish that compassion is a condition for existence? Do those premises necessarily apply for every AI project?

I don't think I'm actually coming around to your position so much as stumbling upon points of agreement, sadly. If I understand your assertions correctly, I believe that I have developed many of them independently - in particular, the belief that the evolution of social animals is likely to create something much like morality. Where we diverge is at the final inference from this to the deduction of ethics by arbitrary rational minds.

Assuming that compassion is indeed a human level universal (detailed argument on my blog - but I see that you are slowly co

... (read more)

If only thinking made it so! Alas, even we confused philosophers run experiments. The percentage of laymen who express incompatibilist intuitions is around 60-67%.

1RobinZ12y...with the caveat that other studies have shown different results.

Yep, limerence is foreign to me, though not as incomprehensible as some emotions.

The wikipeida entry on love styles may be useful. I'm very familiar with storge, and familiar with agape. Ludus and pragma make sense as mental states (pragma more so than ludus), but it's unclear to me why they're considered types of love. I can recognize mania, but doubt that there's any situation in which I'd experience it, so I consider it foreign. Eros is simply incomprehensible - I don't even recognize when others are experiencing it.

That said, it seems completely accur... (read more)

2wedrifid12yThanks for the link. This part was fascinating:

The measure I had in mind was how long it takes to learn a new piece from scratch so that you can perform it to the absolute best of your current abilities. It's true that the abilities themselves continue to increase past age 12, which for the moment may preclude certain things that are beyond the current ability level, but the point is that the rate of learning of everything the 12-year old has the technique for is not radically different than that of the adult. There are no quantum leaps in rate of learning, as would be expected if we were dealing with recursive self-improvement that iterated many times.

More generally, do you listen to music much, and if so, what sorts of music, under what circumstances, and who/what are your favorites?

I think the human brain has a whole bunch of circuitry designed to understand other agents - as modified versions of yourself.

That circuitry can also be pushed into use for understanding the behaviour of organisations, companies and governments - since those systems have enough "agency" to make the analogy more fruitful than confusing.

My take on the issue is that this typically results in more insight for less effort.

Critics might say this is anthropomorphism - but IMO, it pays.

Humans don't recursively self-improve and they don't have access to their source code (yet).

You get zilch, in the case of Hanson (and the Academia) is right. Zero in the informative sense. You get quite a bit, if Yudkowsky is right.

Verifying Hanson (& the so called Academia) means no new information.

You get not needing to run around trying to save the world and a pony if Hanson is right. It's not useful to be deluded.

Intelligently insane efficiently optimize stuff in the way they don't want it optimized.

I'm not sure what you mean by your first few sentences. But I disagree with your last two. It is good for me to see this debate.

Of course startups sometimes lose; they certainly aren't invincible. But startups out-competing companies that are dozens or hundreds of times larger does happen with some regularity. Eg. Google in 1998.

"If you ever get out into the world you will find plenty of people who will make you feel like your dumb and that make EYs intellect look infantile."

(citation needed)

I don't assign intrinsic value to individuals not yet born

Note that this is dynamically inconsistent: given the opportunity, this value implies that at time T, you would want to bind yourself so that at all times greater than T, you would still only intrinsically care about people who were alive at time T. (Unless you have 'overriding' values of not modifying yourself, or of your intrinsic valuations changing in certain ways, etc., but that sounds awfully messy and possibly unstable.)

(Also, that's assuming causal decision theory. TDT/UDT probably gives ... (read more)

I think he means "as opposed to living in a simulation (possibly in another simulation, and so on)"

This seems to be one of those questions that seem like they should answer, but actually don't.

If there's at least one copy of you in "a simulation" and at least one in "base level reality", then you're going to run into the same problems as sleeping beauty/absent minded driver/etc when you deal with 'indexical probabilities'.

There are Decicion Theory answers, but the ones that work don't mention indexical probabilities. This doe... (read more)

Well, Eliezer's reply to this comment prompts a follow-up question:

In "Free to optimize", you alluded to "the gift of a world that works on improved rules, where the rules are stable and understandable enough that people can manipulate them and optimize their own futures together". Can you say more about what you imagine such rules might be ?

2Kutta12yI think that there isn't any point in attempting to come up with anything more exact than the general musings of the Fun Theory [http://lesswrong.com/lw/xy/the_fun_theory_sequence/]. It really takes a superintelligence and knowledge of CEV to conceive such rules (and it's not even guaranteed that there'd be anything that resemble "rules" per se).

In reference to this comment, can you give us more information about the interface between the modules. Also what leads you to believe that a human level intelligence can be decomposed nicely in such a fashion.

Sticking with biography/family background:

Anyone who has read this poignant essay knows that Eliezer had a younger brother who died tragically young. If it is not too insensitive of me, may I ask what the cause of death was?

4Kutta12yIt's been discussed somewhere in the second half of this podcast: http://www.speakupstudios.com/Listen.aspx?ShowUID=333035 [http://www.speakupstudios.com/Listen.aspx?ShowUID=333035]

Yeah, I've felt for a while now that philosophers should do a better job explaining and popularizing the conclusions they come to. I've never been able to find literature reviews or meta-analysis, either. Part of the problem is definitely that a lot of philosophers are skeptical that they have anything true or interesting to say to non-philosophers. Also, despite some basic agreements about what is definitely wrong philosophers, at least with a lot of issues have so many different views that it wouldn't be very educational to poll them. Also, a lot of phil... (read more)

Likewise, if Bob is a moral realist, he could 'know' that compassion is good and not give a crap if Jenny believes otherwise.

Tangentially, something like this might be an important point even for moral irrealists. A lot of people (though not here; they tend to be pretty bad rationalists) who profess altruistic moralities express dismay that others don't, in a way that suggests they hold others sharing their morality as a terminal rather than instrumental value; this strikes me as horribly unhealthy.

Do you think a cog psych research program on “moral biases” might be helpful (e.g., regarding existential risk reduction)?

[The conceptual framework I aim working on (philosophy dissertation) targets a prevention-amenable form of “moral error” that requires (a) the perpetrating agent’s acceptance of the assessment of moral erroneousness (i.e., individual relativism to avoid categoricity problems), and (b) that the agent, for moral reasons, would not have committed the error had he been aware of the erroneousness (i.e., sufficiently motivating v. moral indifference, laziness, and/or akrasia).]

2Nick_Tarleton12yMore generally, what kind of psychology research would you most like to see done?

Full discussion with Kaj at her http://xuenay.livejournal.com/325292.html?view=1229740 live journal with further clarifications by me.

3Cyan12yKaj is male (or something else [http://www.xuenay.net/aboutme.html]).

The problem with pointing to the development of compassion in multiple human traditions is that all these are developed within human societies. Humans are humans the world over - that they should think similar ideas is not a stunning revelation. Much more interesting is the independent evolution of similar norms in other taxonomic orders, such as canines.

(No, I have no coherent point, why do you ask?)

They only start expressing incompatibilist intuitions when asked to comment on abstract philosophical statements of a kind one would not normally encounter.

  1. This is the Nichols and Knobe hypothesis which argued that people in general are incompatibilists but that language which generates strong affective responses will nonetheless lead people to import moral responsibility. The hypothesis is formed by taking some vignette about free will and making the action significantly more condemnable. So people will think that someone who gives to others in a dete

... (read more)

No, I wasn't, and I agree with you. Defending philosophical positions as a career creates a bias where you're less likely to change your mind (see Cialdini's work on congruence: e.g. POWs in communist brainwashing camps who wrote essays on why communism was good were more likely to support communism afer release). But even so, professional philosophers do change their mind once in a while.

1Jack12yAbsolutely! I tentatively hold the thesis that professional philosophers even make progress on understanding some issues. But there seem to be a couple positions that professional philosophers rarely sway from once they hold those positions and I think Alicorn is right that metaphysical libertarianism is one of these views.

What do you mean by "morality"? It obviously has nothing to do with the function I try to compute to figure out what I should be doing.

1timtyler12y1 2 and 3 on http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Morality [http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Morality] all seem OK to me. I would classify the mapping you use between possible and actual actions to be one type of moral system.

Assuming that I'm right about this:


...it seems likely that most future agents will be engineered. So, I think we are pretty-much talking about the same thing.

Re: universalism vs objectivism - note that he does use the "u" word.

In the context of a hard-takeoff scenario (a perfectly plausible outcome, from our view), there will be no community of AIs within which any one AI will have to act. Therefore, the pressure to develop a compassionate utility function is absent, and an AI which does not already have such a function will not need to produce it.

In the context of a soft-takeoff, a community of AIs may come to dominate major world events in the same sense that humans do now, and that community may develop the various sorts of altruistic behavior selected for in such a community... (read more)

As the OP said, Eliezer hasn't been subpoenaed. The questions here are merely stimulus to which he can respond with whichever insights or signals he desires to convey. For what little it is worth my 1.58 bits is 'up'.

(At least, if it is granted that a given person has read a post and that his voting decision is made actively then I think I would count it as 1.58 bits. It's a little blurry.)

1[anonymous]12yIt depends on the probability distribution of comments.

It appears you are trying to shift the emphasis from the argument itself to the particular semantics of how things are being said

Quite the reverse.

humans have reached a major plateau in intelligence.

No they haven't. Whatever effect the the currently volatile evolutionary pressures may have on human intelligence a 'major plateau' would be incredible.

0zero_call12yPlease elaborate as I fail to understand your reasoning.

I don't think that evaluating the length of the explanation - or the number of new concepts used - is a useful heuristic at all, as I mentioned. I can go into more detail than I have regarding why, but that explanation would also be long, so I assume you'd disregard it, therefore I don't see much point in taking the time to do so. (Unless someone else wants me to, or something.)

4SilasBarta12yGiven unlimited space, I can always outline plausible-sounding scenarios where someone's outlandish remarks were actually benign. This is an actual cottage industry among people who want to show adherence to the Bible while assuring others they don't actually want to murder homosexuals. For this reason, the fact that you can produce a plausible scenario where Eliezer meant something benign is weak evidence he actually meant that. And it is the power of elaborate scenarios that implies we should be suspicious of high backpedal ratios. To the extent that you find length a bad measure, you have given sceanarios where length doesn't actually correlate with backpedaling. It's a fair point, so I suggested you clip out such false positives for purposes of calculating the ratios, yet you still claim you have a good reason to ignore the backpedal ratio. That I don't get. More generally, I am still confused in that I don't see a clean, simple reason why someone in the future would be confused as to why lots of rape would be a bad thing back in the 20th century, given that he'd have historical knowledge of what that society was like.
4AdeleneDawner12yI wasn't trying to explain how Eliezer's world works - I upvoted the original comment specifically because I don't know how it works, and I'm curious. If you were taking my explanation as an attempt to provide that information, I'm sure it came across as a poor attempt, because I was in fact specifically avoiding speculating about the world Eliezer created. What I was attempting to do was show - from an outsider's perspective, since that's the one I have, and it's obviously more useful than an insider's perspective in this case - the aspects how humans determine selfhood and boundaries that make such a change possible (yes, just 'possible'), and also that Eliezer had shown understanding of the existence of those aspects. If I had been trying to add more information to the story - writing fanfiction, or speculating on facts about the world itself - applying your backpedal-ratio heuristic would make some sense (though I'd still object to your use of length-in-words as a measurement, and there are details of using new-concepts as a measurement that I'm not sure you've noticed), but I wasn't. I was observing facts about the real world, specifically about humans and how dramatically different socialization can affect us. As to why the character didn't understand why people from our time react so strongly to rape, the obvious (to me) answer is a simple lack of explanation by us. There's a very strong assumption in this society that everyone shares the aspects of selfhood that make rape bad (to the point where I often have to hide the fact that I don't share them, or suffer social repercussions), and very little motivation to even to consider why it's considered bad, much less leave a record of such thoughts. Even living in this society, with every advantage but having the relevant trait in understanding why people react that way, I haven't found an explanation that really makes sense of the issue, only one that does a coherent job of organizing the reactions that I've o
1Blueberry12ySo does your lack of a sexual self make it so you can't see rape as bad at all, or "only" as bad as beating someone up? Presumably someone without a sexual self could still see assault as bad, and rape includes assault and violence.
9AdeleneDawner12yDisregarding the extra physical and social risks of the rape (STDs, pregnancy, etc.), I expect that I wouldn't find assault-plus-unwelcome-sex more traumatic than an equivalent assault without the sex. I do agree that assault is traumatic, and I understand that most people don't agree with me about how traumatic assault-with-rape is compared to regular assault. A note, for my own personal safety: The fact that I wouldn't find it as traumatic means I'm much more likely to report it, and to be able to give a coherent report, if I do wind up being raped. It's not something I'd just let pass, traumatic or no; people who are unwilling to respect others' preferences are dangerous and should be dealt with as such.
6Blueberry12yAssault by itself is pretty traumatic. Not just the physical pain, but the stress, fear, and feeling of loss of control. I was mugged at knifepoint once, and though I wasn't physically hurt at all, the worst part was just feeling totally powerless and at the mercy of someone else. I was so scared I couldn't move or speak. I don't think your views on rape are as far from the norm as you seem to think. They make sense to me.
4AdeleneDawner12yRape can happen without assault, though - I know someone to whom such a rape happened, and she found it very traumatic, to the point where it still affects her life decades later. There are also apparently other things that can evoke the same kind of traumatized reaction without involving physical contact at all; Eliezer gave 'having nude photos posted online against your will' as an example. (I mentioned that example in a discussion with the aforementioned friend, and she agreed with Eliezer that it'd be similarly traumatic, in both type and degree, for whatever one data-point might be worth.)
2Blueberry12yYou seem confused about several things here. Unlike Biblical exegesis, in this conversation we are trying to elaborate and discuss possibilities for the cultural features of a world that was only loosely sketched out. You realize this is a fictional world we're discussing, not a statement of morality, or a manifesto that would require "backpedaling"? The point of introducing socially acceptable non-consensual sex was to demonstrate huge cultural differences. Neither EY nor anyone else is claiming this would be a good thing, or "benign" : it's just a demonstration of cultural change over time. Someone in the future, unless he was a historian, might not be familiar with history books discussing 20th century life. He might think lots of rape in the 20th century would be good (incorrectly) because non-consensual sex is a good thing by his cultural standards. He'd be wrong, but he wouldn't realize it. Your question is analogous to "I don't see why someone now couldn't see that slavery was a good thing back in the 17th century, given that he'd have historical knowledge of what that society was like." Well, yes, slavery was seen (by some people) as a good thing back then, but it's not now. In the story, non-consensual sex is seen (incorrectly) as a good thing in the future, so people in the future interpret the past through those biases.


It is irrelevant to us. It is highly relevant to your claims in the previous post.

[-][anonymous]12y 1

Evolution hasn't stopped.

I can solve more problems when I have a hammer than when I don't, I can be synergistic with a hammer, you don't need other people for synergy. This just means that the power depends upon the environment.

Lets talk about the power P of a system S being defined as a function P(S, E). With E being the environment. So when I am talking about something more powerful I mean for all E. P(S1,E) > P (S2,E). Or at least for huge amounts of E or on average. It is not sufficient to show a single case.

I don't think that organizations of humans have a coherent goal structure, so they don't have a coherent power.

1timtyler12yWhy don't you think organizations have "coherent goals". They certainly claim to do so. For instance, Google claims it wants "to organize the world's information and make it universally accessible and useful". Its actions seems to be roughly consistent with that. What is the problem?
1whpearson12yThey really don't maximise that value... you'd get closer to the mark if you added in words like profit and executive pay. But the main reason I don't think they have a coherent goal is because they may evaporate tomorrow. If the goal seeking agents that make them up decide there is somewhere better to fulfill there goals, then they can just up and leave and the goal does not get fulfilled. They have to balance the variety of goals of the agents inside it (which constantly change as they get new people) with the business goals, if it is to survive. Sometimes no one making up an organisation wants it to survive.
1timtyler12yOrganisms die as well as organisations. That doesn't mean they are not goal-directed. Nor do organisms act entirely harmoniously. There are millions of bacterial symbionts inside every animal, who have their own reproductive ends. Their bodies are infected with pathogens, which make them sneeze, cough and scratch. Also, animals are uneasy coalitions of genes - some of which (e.g. segregation distorters) want to do other things besides helping the organism reproduce. So, if you rule out companies on those grounds, organisms seem unlikely to qualify either. In practice, both organisms and companies are harmonious enough for goal-seeking models to work as reasonably good predictors of their behaviour.
1whpearson12yIf I want to predict what a company will do, I look at the board of directors/ceo/upper management/powerful unions, not the previous actions of the company. This allows me to predict if they will refocus the company on doing something new or sell it off to be gutted.
1timtyler12yCompanies are not the only agents which can be so dissected. You could similarly examine the brain of an animal - or examine the source code of a robot. However, treating agents in a behavioural manner - as input-process-output black boxes is a pretty conventional method of analysing their behaviour. Sure it has some disadvantages. If an organism is under attack by a pathogen and is near to death, their previous behaviour may not be an accurate predictor of future actions. However, that is not usually the case - and there are corresponding advantages. For example, you might not have access to the organism's internal state - in which case a "black box" analysis would be attractive. Anyway, your objections don't look too serious to me. Companies typically behave in a highly goal-directed manner - broadly similar to the way in which organisms behave - and for similar reasons.

I'm taking an opioid, but I suspect that the effect would be seen with anything that affects sensory impressions, since it'll also affect your ability to sense your emotions.

I believe it's better to just state a judgment even if without a useful explanation than to not state a judgment at all

And a simple downvote isn't sufficient?

1RobinZ12yIf I'm reading the conversation correctly, Vladimir Nesov is indicating with his remark that he is no longer interested in continuing. If he were not a major participant in the thread, a downvote would be appropriate, but as a major participant, more is required of him.

I would ask the same question to other AGI organizations if I could, but this is a Q&A with only Eliezer (though I'm also curious to know if he knows anything about what other groups are doing with regards to this).

Regardless of who is the first to get to AGI, that group could potentially run into the kind of problems I mentioned. I never said it was the most probable thing that can go wrong. But it should probably be looked into seriously since, if it does happen, it could be pretty catastrophic.

The way I see it, either AGI is developed in secret and... (read more)

As I said, there is not necessarily any kind of rationalist/AI content in GEB directly relevant to us. It could be well just simply a good book.

I should have said more open.

I don't see why you're being downvoted either, but one obvious point (besides Richard's) is that if for some reason there can only be finitely many humans, probably the same reason means humans can only live finitely long.

Eliezer called the example in the link 95% rigged by virtue of how much the problem was constrained before a program attacked it. Chess is likewise the very definition of a constrained problem.

Certainly, the Kasparov match wasn't "rigged" (other than being able to review Kasparov's previous games while Kasparov couldn't do the same for Deep Blue), but when the search space is so constrained, and tree pruning methods and computer speed only get faster, it's bound to surpass humans eventually. There was no crucial AI insight that had to be overcome to beat Kasparov; if they had failed to notice some good tree-pruning heuristics, it would have just delayed the victory by a few years as computers got faster.

[-][anonymous]12y 1

Of all the people you ever met in your life, who would you consider, if anyone, to be just a few hair's length away from your level. If properly taught, do you think this person can become the next Eliezer Yudkowsky?

How could it be better? What parts still need clarifying?

1SilasBarta12yOkay, after reading the thread and more of Eliezer's comments on the issue, it makes more sense. If I understand it correctly, in the story world, women normally initiate sex, and so men would view female-initiated sex as the norm and -- understandably -- not see what's wrong with non-consensual sex, since they wouldn't even think of the possibility of male-initiated sex. Akon, then, is speaking from the perspective of someone who wouldn't understand why men would have a problem with sex being forced on them, and not considering rape of women as a possibility at all. Is that about right? ETA: I still can't make sense of all the business about redrawing of boundaries of consent. ETA2: I also can't see how human nature could change so that women normally initate sex, AND men continue to have the same permissive attitude toward sex being forced upon them. It seems that the severity of being raped is part and parcel of being the gender that's choosier about who they have sex with.
2AdeleneDawner12yRegarding the first part, I don't think we were given enough information, either in the story or in the explanation, to determine how exactly the 3WC society differs from ours in that respect - and the point wasn't how it's different so much as that it's different, so I don't consider that a problem. I could be wrong, though, about having enough information - I'm apparently wired especially oddly in ways that are relevant to understanding this aspect of the story, so there's a reasonable chance that I'm personally missing one or more pieces of information that Eliezer assumed that the readers would be bringing to the story to make sense of it. Regarding 'boundaries of consent', I'm working on an explanation of how I understood Eliezer's explanation. This is a tricky area, though, and my explanation necessarily involves some personal information that I want to present carefully, so it may be another few hours. (I've been out for the last four, or it would have been posted already.)
5Blueberry12yMy understanding was that any society has things that are considered consented to by default, and things that need explicit permission. For instance, among the upper class in England in the last century, it was considered improper to start a conversation with someone unless you had been formally introduced. In modern-day America, it's appropriate to start a conversation with someone you see in public, or tap someone on the shoulder, but not to grope their sexual organs, for instance. I think this is what EY meant by "boundaries of consent": for instance, imagine a society where initiating sex was the equivalent of asking the time. You could decline to answer, but it would seem odd. Even so, there's a difference between changing the default for consent, and actually allowing non-consensual behavior. For instance, if someone specifically tells me not to tap her shoulder (say she's an Orthodox Jew) it would then not be acceptable for me to do so, and in fact would legally be assault. But if a young child doesn't want to leave a toy store, it's acceptable for his parent to forcibly remove him. So there's actually two different ideas: changing the boundaries of what's acceptable, and changing the rules for when people are allowed to proceed in the face of an explicit "no".

hedonic (fellicific) calculation

See Not For The Sake of Happiness (Alone).

I am asking how you determined (if that is the case) that the best way to judge the optimality of decision making was through utilitarianism as opposed to say ethical egoism or virtue (not to equivocate).

See The "Intuitions" Behind "Utilitarianism" for a partial answer.

It might be making visible progress, or failing that, at least not making basic fatal errors.

Yes, it's possible to encode the nonconsequentialism or "nonutilitarianism" into the utility function. However, by doing so you're making the utility function inconvenient to work with. You can't simultaneously claim that the utility function is "simply" an encoding of people's preferences and ALSO that the utility function is convenient or preferable.

Then you go and approximate the (uglified) utility function! Put yourself in the virtue theorist's or Kantian's shoes. It certainly sounds to me like you're planning to discard their conce... (read more)