Risks from Learned Optimization

This sequence is based on the MIRI paper “Risks from Learned Optimization in Advanced Machine Learning Systems” by Evan Hubinger, Chris van Merwijk, Vladimir Mikulik, Joar Skalse, and Scott Garrabrant. Each post in the sequence corresponds to a different section of the paper.

The goal of this sequence is to analyze the type of learned optimization that occurs when a learned model (such as a neural network) is itself an optimizer—a situation we refer to as mesa-optimization, a neologism we introduce in this sequence. We believe that the possibility of mesa-optimization raises two important questions for the safety and transparency of advanced machine learning systems. First, under what circumstances will learned models be optimizers, including when they should not be? Second, when a learned model is an optimizer, what will its objective be—how will it differ from the loss function it was trained under—and how can it be aligned?