Co-founder of and researcher at Convergence. Convergence does foundational existential risk strategy research. See here for our growing list of publications.

Past: R&D Project Manager, Software Engineer.


Anti-Aging: State of the Art

Unfortunately, there is no good 'where to start' guide for anti-aging. This is insane, given this is the field looking for solutions to the biggest killer on Earth today.

Low hanging fruit intervention: Create a public guide to that effect on a web site.

Is this viable physics?

That being said, I would bet that one would be able to find other formalisms that are equivalent after kicking down the door...

At least, we've now hit one limit in the shape of universal computation: No new formalism will be able to do something that couldn't be done with computers. (Unless we're gravely missing something about what's going on in the universe...)

Good and bad ways to think about downside risks

When it comes to the downside risk, it's often that there are more unknown unknown that produce harm then positive unknown unknown. People are usually biased to overestimate the positive effects and underestimate the negative effects for the known unknown.

This seems plausible to me. Would you like to expand on why you think this is the case?

The asymmetry between creation and destruction? (I.e., it's harder to build than it is to destroy.)

Good and bad ways to think about downside risks

Very good point! The effect of not taking an action depends on what the counterfactual is: what would happen otherwise/anyway. Maybe the article should note this.

mind viruses about body viruses

Excellent comment, thank you! Don't let the perfect be the enemy of the good if you're running from an exponential growth curve.

The recent NeurIPS call for papers requires authors to include a statement about the potential broader impact of their work

Looks promising to me. Technological development isn't by default good.

Though I agree with the other commenters that this could fail in various ways. For one thing, if a policy like this is introduced without guidance on how to analyze the societal implications, people will think of wildly different things. ML researchers aren't by default going to have the training to analyze societal consequences. (Well, who does? We should develop better tools here.)

Jan Bloch's Impossible War

Or, at least, include a paragraph or a few to summarize it!

A point of clarification on infohazard terminology

Some quick musings on alternatives for the "self-affecting" info hazard type:

  • Personal hazard
  • Self info hazard
  • Self hazard
  • Self-harming hazard
AI alignment concepts: philosophical breakers, stoppers, and distorters

I wrote this comment to an earlier version of Justin's article:

It seems to me that most of the 'philosophical' problems are going to get solved as a matter of solving practical problems in building useful AI. You could call ML systems, AI, that is getting developed now 'empirical'. From the perspective of the people building current systems, they likely don't consider what they're doing as solving philosophical problems. Symbol grounding problem? Well, an image classifier built on a convolutional neural network learns to get quite proficient at grounding out classes like 'cars' and 'dogs' (symbols) from real physical scenes.

So, the observation I want to make, is that the philosophical problems we can think of that might trip over a system are likely to turn out to look like technical/research/practical problems that need to be solved by default for practical reasons in order to make useful systems.

The image classification problem wasn't solved in one day, but it was solved using technical skills, engineering skills, more powerful hardware, and more data. People didn't spend decades discussing philosophy: the problem was solved from some advances in the ideas of building neural networks and from more powerful computers.
Of course, image classification doesn't solve the symbol grounding problem in full. But other aspects of symbol grounding that people might find mystifying are getting solved piece-wise, as researchers and engineers are solving practical problems of AI.

Let's look at a classic problem formulation from MIRI, 'Ontology Identification':

Technical problem (Ontology Identification). Given goals specified in some ontology and a world model, how can the ontology of the goals be identified in the world model? What types of world models are amenable to ontology identification? For a discussion, see Soares (2015).

When you create a system that performs any function in the real world, you are in some sense giving it goals. Reinforcement Learning-trained systems are pursuing 'goals'. An autonomous car takes you from chosen points A to chosen points B; it has the overall goal of transporting people. The ontology identification problem is getting solved piece-wise as a practical matter. Perhaps the MIRI-style theory could give us a deeper understanding that helps us avoid some pitfalls, but it's not clear why these wouldn't be caught as practical problems.

What would a real philosophical landmine look like? A class of philosophical problems that wouldn't get solved as a practical matter, and pose a risk for harm against humanity would be the real philosophical landmines.

AIXSU - AI and X-risk Strategy Unconference

I expect the event to have no particular downside risks, and to give interesting input and spark ideas in experts and novices alike. Mileage will vary, of course. Unconferences foster dynamic discussion and a living agenda. If it's risky to host this event, then I expect AI strategy and forecasting meetups and discussions at EAG to be risky and they should also not be hosted.

I and other attendees of AIXSU pay careful attention to potential downside risks. I also think it's important we don't strangle open intellectual advancement. We need to figure out what we should talk about; not that we shouldn't talk.

AISC: To clarify: AI safety camp is different and puts bigger trust in the judgement of novices, since teams are generally run entirely by novices. The person who proposed running a strategy AISC found the reactions from experts to be mixed. He also reckoned the event would overlap with the existing AI safety camps, since they already include strategy teams.

Potential negative side effects of strategy work is a very important topic. Hope to discuss it with attendees at the unconference!

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