Why would an AI try to figure out its goals?

by cousin_it 8y9th Nov 20111 min read88 comments

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"So how can it ensure that future self-modifications will accomplish its current objectives? For one thing, it has to make those objectives clear to itself. If its objectives are only implicit in the structure of a complex circuit or program, then future modifications are unlikely to preserve them. Systems will therefore be motivated to reflect on their goals and to make them explicit." -- Stephen M. Omohundro, The Basic AI Drives

This AI becomes able to improve itself in a haphazard way, makes various changes that are net improvements but may introduce value drift, and then gets smart enough to do guaranteed self-improvement, at which point its values freeze (forever). -- Eliezer Yudkowsky, What I Think, If Not Why

I have stopped understanding why these quotes are correct. Help!

More specifically, if you design an AI using "shallow insights" without an explicit goal-directed architecture - some program that "just happens" to make intelligent decisions that can be viewed by us as fulfilling certain goals - then it has no particular reason to stabilize its goals. Isn't that anthropomorphizing? We humans don't exhibit a lot of goal-directed behavior, but we do have a verbal concept of "goals", so the verbal phantom of "figuring out our true goals" sounds meaningful to us. But why would AIs behave the same way if they don't think verbally? It looks more likely to me that an AI that acts semi-haphazardly may well continue doing so even after amassing a lot of computing power. Or is there some more compelling argument that I'm missing?