Adam Shai

Neuroscientist turned Interpretability Researcher. Starting Simplex, an AI Safety Research Org.


Introduction to Computational Mechanics

Wiki Contributions


I very strongly agree with the spirit of this post. Though personally I am a bit more hesitant about what exactly it is that I want in terms of understanding how it is that GPT-4 can talk. In particular I can imagine that my understanding of how GPT-4 could talk might be satisfied by understanding the principles by which it talks, but without necessarily being able to from scratch write a talking machine. Maybe what I'd be after in terms of what I can build is a talking machine of a certain toyish flavor - a machine that can talk in a synthetic/toy language. The full complexity of its current ability seems to have too much structure to be constructed from first princples. Though of course one doesn't know until our understanding is more complete.

I'm wondering if you have any other pointers to lessong/methods you think are valuable from neuroscience?

This makes a lot of sense to me, and makes me want to figure out exactly how to operationalize and rigorously quantify depth of search in LLMs! Quick thought is that it should have something to do with the spectrum of the transition matrix associated with the mixed state presentation (MSP) of the data generating process, as in Transformers Represent Belief State Geometry in their Residual Stream .  The MSP describes synchronization to the hidden states of the data generating process, and that feels like a search process that has max-depth of the Markov order of the data generating process.

I really like the idea that memorization and this more lofty type of search are on a spectrum, and that placement on this spectrum has implications for capabilities like generalization. If we can figure out how to understand these things a more formally/rigorously that would be great!

Adam Shai155

I can report my own feelings with regards to this. I find cities (at least the American cities I have experience with) to be spiritually fatiguing. The constant sounds, the lack of anything natural, the smells - they all contribute to a lack of mental openness and quiet inside of myself.

The older I get the more I feel this.

Jefferson had a quote that might be related, though to be honest I'm not exactly sure what he was getting at:

I think our governments will remain virtuous for many centuries; as long as they are chiefly agricultural; and this will be as long as there shall be vacant lands in any part of America. When they get piled upon one another in large cities, as in Europe, they will become corrupt as in Europe. Above all things I hope the education of the common people will be attended to; convinced that on their good sense we may rely with the most security for the preservation of a due degree of liberty.

One interpretation of this is that Jefferson thought there was something spiritually corrupting of cities. This supported by another quote:

I view great cities as pestilential to the morals, the health and the liberties of man. true, they nourish some of the elegant arts; but the useful ones can thrive elsewhere, and less perfection in the others with more health virtue & freedom would be my choice.


although like you mention, there does seem to be some plausible connection to disease.

I've also noticed this phenomenon. I wonder if a solution would be to have an initial period where votes are considered more democratically, and then after that period the influence of high-karma users are applied (including back applying the influence of votes that occured during the intial period). I can also imagine downsides to this.

We've decided to keep the hackathon as scheduled. Hopefully there will be other opportunities in the future for those that can't make it this time!

Thanks! In my experience Computational Mechanics has many of those types of technical insights. My background is in neuroscience and in that context it really helped me think about computation in brains, and design experiments. Now I'm excited to use Comp Mech in a more concrete and deeper way to understand how artificial neural network internal structures relate to their behavior. Hopefully this is just the start!

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