Why don't we proceed with the discussion in Japanese and English, to begin with?

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I’ve a developing a hunch that the abstract framing of arguments for AI Safety are unlikely to ever gain a foothold in Japan. The way forward here is in contextual framing of the same arguments. (Whether in English or Japanese is less and less relevant with machine translation.)

I’ve been a resident of Tokyo for twelve years, half of that as a NY lawyer in a Japanese international law firm. I’m also a founding member working with AI Safety 東京 and the Chair of the Tokyo rationality community. Shoka Kadoi, please express interest in our 勉強会.

As a lawyer engaged with AI safety, I often have conversations with the more abstract-minded members of our groups that reveal an intellectual acceptance but strong aesthetic distaste for the contextual nature of legal systems. (The primitives of legal systems are abstraction-resistant ideas like ‘reasonableness’.)

Aesthetic distaste for contextual primitives leads to abstract framing of problems. Abstract framing of the AI safety issues tends to lead from standard AI premises to narrow conclusions that are often hard for contextual-minded people to follow. Conclusions like, we’ve found a very low-X percent chance of some very specific bad outcome, and so we logically need to take urgent preventative actions.

To generalize, Japan as a whole (and perhaps most of the world) does not approach problems abstractly. Contextual framing of AI safety issues tends to lead from standard AI premises to broad and easily accepted conclusions. Conclusions like, we’ve found a very high-Y chance of social disruption, and we are urgently compelled to take information-gathering actions. 

There’s obviously much more support needed for these framing claims. But you can see those essential differences in outcomes in the AI regulatory approaches of the EU and Japan, respectively. (The EU is targeting abstract AI issues like bias, adversarial attacks, and biometrics with specific legislation. Japan is instead attempting to develop an ‘agile governance’ approach to AI in order to keep up with “the speed and complexity of AI innovation”. In this case, Japan's approach seems wiser, to me.)

If the conclusions leading to existential risk are sound, both these framings should converge on similar actions and outcomes. Japan is a tough nut to crack. But having both framings active around the world would mobilize a significantly larger number of brains on the problem. Mobilizing all those brains in Japan is the course to chart now. 

I have less experience in Japan than Harold does, but would generally advocate a grounded approach to issues of AI safety and alignment, rather than an abstract one.  

I was perhaps most struck over the weekend that I did not speak to anyone who had actually been involved in developing or running safety-critical systems (aviation, nuclear energy, CBW...), on which lives depended.  This gave a lot of the conversations the flavour of a 'glass bead game'.

As Japan is famously risk-averse, it would seem to me - perhaps naively - that grounded arguments should land well here.

I wholeheartedly agree, Colin. (I think we're saying the same thing--let me know where we may disagree.) It's a daily challenge in my work to 'translate' what can sometimes seem like abstract nonsense into scenarios grounded in real context, and the reverse. I want to add that a grounded, high context decision process is slower (still wearing masks?) but significantly wiser (see the urbanism of Tokyo compared to any given US city).

I am under the impression that the public attitude towards AI safety / alignment is about to change significantly.
Strategies that aim at informing parts of the public that may have been pointless in the past (abstract risks etc.) may now become more successful, because mainstream newspapers are now beginning to write about AI risks, people are beginning to be concerned. The abstract risks are becoming more concrete.

Hello and welcome, Mr. Kadoi,

(I'm sorry that I don't speak Japanese. I asked ChatGPT to translate this into Japanese)

People in the USA and the United Kingdom are still debating about this. Some people think that it is best to promote AI alignment, to tell as many people as possible. Other people think that it will cause problems if everyone knows about AI alignment, there is a risk that more people will try to be the first, and then more people will build AI quickly instead of safely.

Right now, everyone agrees that we should tell AI scientists and AI workers in Japan about AI alignment. I don't know what the best strategy is, but I think one good strategy is this: we should have Japanese AI scientists and AI workers in Japan go out and introduce AI alignment to other Japanese AI scientists and AI workers.

These are two really good posts about ways to introduce people to AI alignment (unfortunately they are in english). Here in the US and the UK, we wish we had these things 10 years ago, when we started talking about AI alignment. The first is this post, which is the best thing to show to people to introduce them to AI alignment for the first time (it needs to be translated into japanese): https://www.lesswrong.com/posts/hXHRNhFgCEFZhbejp/the-best-way-so-far-to-explain-ai-risk-the-precipice-p-137

The second is this post, which is the lessons one man learned after talking to 100 academics and scientists and introducing them to AI safety for the first time. This post is supposed to help people who will go out and talk about AI safety: https://forum.effectivealtruism.org/posts/kFufCHAmu7cwigH4B/lessons-learned-from-talking-to-greater-than-100-academics

I think it's a good idea for more people to talk about AI alignment in japanese, so that more conversations can be in japanese instead of english.







One approach that may help would be to assess who are likely to be the major supporters and opponents of such efforts in the Japanese economic/political/academic/cultural/social spheres.

And who are likely to remain neutral in regards to promoting alignment.

A lot of the prior discussions on LW presume certain norms, standards, expectations, etc., that might not fully hold in the Japanese context.

I don't enough about the similarities and differences to estimate but probably there are such individuals who would be willing to contribute.

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How important is it to promote AI alignment in Japan? I ask this not to troll, but seriously. I've not heard of a lot of rapid progress towards transformative AI coming from Japan. Current progress seems to be coming out of the US. Are there a lot of folks in Japan working on things that could become AGI and don't engage with the existing AI alignment content enough to warrant a specific Japanese focus?

I've wondered the same about how important it is to spread certain ideas to other cultures/languages, not because I don't think it's not a nice thing to do, but because, given limited resources, it's unclear to me how much it will matter to the project of mitigating AI x-risks. Since it takes a lot of effort to bridge each culture gap, seems worth having a sense of how likely we think it matters for Japanese, Russian, Chinese, etc. so we can choose how to deploy people to such projects.

I think it could be valuable if academics in Japan were less allergic to alignment than those in the West. Then, perhaps we could reimport alignment ideas back into the US as people are generally more open to listening to strange ideas from people from another culture. In any case, it sounds like the OP is in Japan, so that they have more opportunity to promote alignment there than elsewhere.

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