Aryeh Englander

I work on applied mathematics and AI at the Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory. I also do AI safety related work for the Johns Hopkins Institute for Assured Autonomy. I am currently doing a CS PhD focused on AI safety at the University of Maryland, Baltimore County.

Wiki Contributions


What would we do if alignment were futile?

Thank you for articulating this. This matches closely with my own thoughts re Eliezer's recently published discussion. I strongly agree that if Eliezer is in fact correct then the single most effective thing we could do is to persuasively show that to be true. Right now it's not even persuasive to many / most alignment researchers, let alone anybody else.

Conditional on Eliezer being wrong though, I'm not sure how valuable showing him to be wrong would be. Presumably it would depend on why exactly he's wrong, because if we knew that then we might be able to direct or resources more effectively.

I think that for those who agree with Eliezer, this is a very strong argument in favor of pouring money and resources into forecasting research or the like - as Open Philanthropy is in fact doing, I think. And even for people who disagree, if they put any non trivial probability mass on Eliezer's views, that would still make this high priority.

[Book Review] "The Bell Curve" by Charles Murray

Could someone please steelman the position of people who disagree strongly with this book? Which parts of the book are considered factually or logically incorrect, which parts do people object to so strongly on moral grounds, etc.?

2020 PhilPapers Survey Results

For what it's worth, I know of at least one decision theorist who is very familiar with and closely associated with the LessWrong community who at least at one point not long ago leaned toward two-boxing. I think he may have changed his mind since then, but this is at least a data point showing that it's not a given that philosophers who are closely aligned with LessWrong type of thinking necessarily one-box.

My experience at and around MIRI and CFAR (inspired by Zoe Curzi's writeup of experiences at Leverage)

I see that many people are commenting how it's crazy to try to keep things secret between coworkers, or to not allow people to even mention certain projects, or that this kind of secrecy is psychologically damaging, or the like.

Now, I imagine this is heavily dependent on exactly how it's implemented, and I have no idea how it's implemented at MIRI. But just as a relevant data point - this kind of secrecy is totally par for the course for anybody who works for certain government and especially military-related organizations or contractors. You need extensive background checks to get a security clearance, and even then you can't mention anything classified to someone else unless they have a valid need to know, you're in a secure classified area that meets a lot of very detailed guidelines, etc. Even within small groups, there are certain projects that you simply are not allowed to discuss with other group members, since they do not necessarily have a valid need to know. If you're not sure whether something is classified, you should be talking to someone higher up who does know. There are projects that you cannot even admit that they exist, and there are even words that you cannot mention in connection to each other even though each word on its own is totally normal and unclassified. In some places like the CIA or the NSA, you're usually not even supposed to admit that you work there.

Again, this is probably all very dependent on exactly how the security guidelines are implemented. I am also not commenting at all on whether or not the information that MIRI tries to keep secret should in fact be kept secret. I am just pointing out that if some organization thinks that certain pieces of information really do need to be kept secret, and if they implement secrecy guidelines in the proper way, then as far as I could tell everything that's been described as MIRI policies seems pretty reasonable to me.

How can one train philosophical skill?

Bit of a side point: One thing I got from spending a lot of time in the philosophy department was an appreciation for just how differently many philosophers think compared to how I tend to think. I spent a substantial fraction of my time in college trying to get at the roots of those differences - what exactly are the differences, what are the cruxes of the disagreements, and is there any way to show that one perspective is better than another? (And before anyone asks - nope, I still don't have good answers to any of those.)

It opened my eyes to the existence of entirely different ways of thinking, even if I still have a hard time wrapping my brain around them.

As I said, I still don't have a great way to even describe the differences very well. But I will at least say that if the kind of Bayesian and/or reductionist thinking that people tend to promote on LessWrong seems essentially right to you and (once you see it) almost common sense, then you should consider spending time talking to traditional non-Bayesian analytic philosophers and try to understand why their arguments feel compelling to them. Or maybe just read a bunch of articles on the Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy that describe non-reductionist, non-Bayesian approaches to metaphysics or epistemology. Maybe the discussions there will seem perfectly reasonable to you, but maybe you will discover that there are really smart people who think in fundamentally different ways than you do. I think just the realization of that seems useful.

Paths To High-Level Machine Intelligence

Thanks Daniel for that strong vote of confidence!

The full graph is in fact expandable / collapsible, and it does have the ability to display the relevant paragraphs when you hover over a node (although the descriptions are not all filled in yet). It also allows people to enter in their own numbers and spit out updated calculations, exactly as you described. We actually built a nice dashboard for that - we haven't shown it yet in this sequence because this sequence is mostly focused on phase 1 and that's for phase 2.

Analytica does have a web version, but it's a bit clunky and buggy so we haven't used it so far. However, I was just informed that they are coming out with a major update soon that will include a significantly better web version, so hopefully we can do all this then.

I certainly don't think we'd say no to additional funding or interns! We could certainly use them - there are quite a few areas that we have not looked into sufficiently because all of our team members were focused on other parts of the model. And we haven't gotten yet to much of the quantitative part (phase 2 as you called it), or the formal elicitation part.

The Best Software For Every Need

My wife specializes in this and she says that's like asking what clothing should I buy. It depends on a lot of factors plus an element of taste. If you want you can message me - my wife says she's happy to help you work through the options a bit for free.

alenglander's Shortform

Yes, this sounds like a reasonable interpretation.

alenglander's Shortform

I am reluctant to mention specific examples, partly because maybe I've misunderstood and partly because I hate being at all confrontational. But regardless, I have definitely seen this outside the rationalist community, and I have definitely noticed myself doing this. Usually I only do it in my head though, where I feel upset when it's coming from outside my group but if someone inside the group says it then I'll mentally nod along.

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