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which feels to me like it implies it's easy to get medium-scalable safety cases that get you acceptable levels of risks by using only one or two good layers of security

I agree there's a communication issue here. Based on what you described, I'm not sure if we disagree.

> (maybe 0.3 bits to 1 bit)

I'm glad we are talking bits. My intuitions here are pretty different. e.g. I think you can get 2-3 bits from testbeds. I'd be keen to discuss standards of evidence etc in person sometime.


This makes sense. Thanks for the resources!


Thanks for leaving this comment on the doc and posting it.

But I feel like that's mostly just a feature of the methodology, not a feature of the territory. Like, if you applied the same methodology to computer security, or financial fraud, or any other highly complex domain you would end up with the same situation where making any airtight case is really hard.

You are right in that safety cases are not typically applied to security. Some of the reasons for this are explained in this paper, but I think the main reason is this:

"The obvious difference between safety and security is the presence of an intelligent adversary; as Anderson (Anderson 2008) puts it, safety deals with Murphy’s Law while security deals with Satan’s Law... Security has to deal with agents whose goal is to compromise systems."

My guess is that most safety evidence will come down to claims like "smart people tried really hard to find a way things could go wrong and couldn't." This is part of why I think 'risk cases' are very important.

I share the intuitions behind some of your other reactions.

I feel like the framing here tries to shove a huge amount of complexity and science into a "safety case", and then the structure of a "safety case" doesn't feel to me like it is the kind of thing that would help me think about the very difficult and messy questions at hand. 

Making safety cases is probably hard, but I expect explicitly enumerating their claims and assumptions would be quite clarifying. To be clear, I'm not claiming that decision-makers should only communicate via safety and risk cases. But I think that relying on less formal discussion would be significantly worse.

Part of why I think this is that my intuitions have been wrong over and over again. I've often figured this out after eventually asking myself "what claims and assumptions am I making? How confident am I these claims are correct?"

it also feels more like it just captures "the state of fashionable AI safety thinking in 2024" more than it is the kind of thing that makes sense to enshrine into a whole methodology.

To be clear, the methodology is separate from the enumeration of arguments (which I probably could have done a better job signaling in the paper). The safety cases + risk cases methodology shouldn't depend too much on what arguments are fashionable at the moment.

I agree that the arguments will evolve to some extent in the coming years. I'm more optimistic about the robustness of the categorization, but that's maybe minor.


To me, the introduction made it sound a little bit like the specifics of applying safety cases to AI systems have not been studied

This is a good point. In retrospect, I should have written a related work section to cover these. My focus was mostly on AI systems that have only existed for ~ a year and future AI systems, so I didn't spend much time reading safety cases literature specifically related to AI systems (though perhaps there are useful insights that transfer over).

The reason the "nebulous requirements" aren't explicitly stated is that when you make a safety case you assure the safety of a system against specific relevant hazards for the system you're assuring. These are usually identified by performing a HAZOP analysis or similar. Not all AI systems have the same list of hazards, so its obviously dubious to expect you can list requirements a priori.

My impression is that there is still a precedent for fairly detailed guidelines that describe how safety cases are assessed in particular industries and how hazards should be analyzed. For example, see the UK's Safety Assessment Principles for Nuclear Facilities. I don't think anything exists like this for evaluating risks from advanced AI agents.

I agree, however, that not everyone who mentions that developers should provide 'safety evidence' should need to specify in detail what this could look like.


Thanks, this is good feedback!

Addressing the disagreements:

The level of practicality you assign to some approaches is just insanely high. Neither modeling generalization nor externalized reasoning, and certainly not testbeds seem to "strongly practical" (defined as "Applies to arguments that do not require fundamental research advances, but might require"). The only one that is justifiably "strongly practical" to me is "absence of precursor abilities."

Externalized reasoning: just a capability argument, no?
Testbeds: I think the best testbed ideas rn just require training a bunch of models to have particular policies, which seems pretty straightforward. I think these are good enough to make a moderate-strength argument (which is the bar where practicality is evaluated).
Modeling generalization: I definitely think that versions of this aren't very practical, but e.g. looking at efficiency inductive biases is pretty straightforward -- and this is sufficient to make a moderate strength not-alignment-faking argument.

Strong practicality ~refers to "does there exist an argument of this type of moderate strength that can be made without fundamental research." So, lots of arguments of these types will still require fundamental research, but if some don't, then that means they are strongly practical.

I disagree with putting testbeds and amplification in trustworthiness (at least not as strong or even medium practicality), I think they usually don't help to know if AIs can be trusted (and in particular they don't prevent any forms of alignment faking).

I agree that amplification arguments do not help to rule out alignment faking, but testbeds could help. I've read your post on protocol evaluations vs control. If I remember correctly, the main objection you had to testbeds ruling out alignment faking is that the testbed models could intentionally throw off the results. I think this is a knock-down problem. For example, consider a testbed where models have been trained to defect if they are confident they've been deployed to the real internet. Then, developers could try to tell these models from benign ones without being able to access the real internet. It is straightforward in this case to verify that the behavior of the testbed models is consistent with their intended policies (nice when not on the internet, and otherwise bad). So, the only the models can do to throw off the test is to change their internal states (e.g. think in simple ways when they know they could otherwise obfuscate their reasoning by thinking in convoluted ways).

"Claim 4: AI systems are not faking alignment" is just extremely hard to assess. I think that the focus of trustworthiness assessment on "Claim 3: All enumerated causes of correlated infractions are unlikely aside from alignment faking." is somewhat unwarranted.

I agree claim 4 is hard to assess. I'm not sure what you mean by 'unwarranted' so I can't comment much on this.

I think the description of macrosystem risks was not very convincing, aside from risks that make systems less trustworthy - so I think macrosystem should maybe have been folded into trustworthiness.

I don't think it would have made sense to fold macrosystem risks into trustworthiness. One reason for this is that some macrosystem risks relate to control / inability. e.g. models might combine their intelligence at scale and become much more capable.

Another reason for this is that I also think it is harder to assess trustworthiness arguments at larger scales. In particular, not alignment faking arguments claim that de-correlated misalignment is not going to be an issue. At a macrosystem level, this requires answering the question: "would it be bad if 1% of my AI population was misaligned?" This is pretty different from answering the question "if one model in X subsystem is misaligned, would that be bad?"

The strength of almost all "high strength" measures is overrated, almost nothing is "strong" (where "strong" is defined as "Applies to arguments that could bring catastrophic risk below acceptable levels without needing other arguments."). Control is not strong, monitoring is not strong, externalized reasoning is not strong (for control and trustworthiness), ... Even with a notion of acceptable that is quite generous (e.g. 2% p(doom)) I think nothing is strong, but given the stakes I think we shouldn't use "acceptable" for anything above 1% (and ideally reserve that word for 0.1% or below).

I suspect that this disagreement might be mostly semantic. The main reason I labeled capability arguments as strong is that developers could in principle demonstrate a large margin of error. e.g. it's clear that gpt-2 is not going to cause a catastrophe. Or it could be very clear that smarter models are controlled if they are sufficiently isolated.

Strength labels indicate an upper bound. It's on me for not making that more clear.


Thanks, I'll summarize my takeaways in the form of an argument that control is sufficient to safely accelerate alignment research by 30x. This is certainly not the only argument one could make, but I like it because it is clear and concrete.

I'll specifically focus on justifying that the red team is competitive.

If your AI systems can accelerate AI safety research by 30x, then they are producing effectively superhuman outputs; however, this does not imply they can produce superhuman evasion plans because AI systems can't spend as much of their thinking on how to evade control measures as they can on safety research.

Suppose that the AI systems have approximately human capabilities and are sped up by 30x.

Suppose also that the human red team has spent 2 months identifying evasion strategies (call this 'coup research' following your control paper)

I'll argue that the AI systems will not be able to do more than the equivalent of 2 months of coup research. Since our red team has lots of advantages over the AI systems, this is a conservative argument that the red team is competitive.

Suppose that we only want to justify that the red team is competitive for the next two months (and we'll continuously search for attack strategies in order to maintain this 1 to 1 ratio).

Two months of deployment is equivalent to 5 years of human thinking since our AI system is sped up by 30x. We need to show that no more than 1 / 30th of this thinking is coup research.

  • Training algorithms might pressure AI systems to be at least somewhat efficient about doing useful work (and coup research isn't useful for the task at hand). Perhaps this implies a 1 / N coup research budget.
  • Furthermore, suppose the AI systems' reasoning is externalized. Monitoring setups are very likely to   catch coup research if it is present at a frequency greater than 1 / M.
  • min(1 / N, 1 / M) <= 1 / 30

I think I buy this argument or some variation of it.


Thanks for writing this. I think it does a good job laying out the assumptions needed for control.

It seems like it could be challenging to justify that a red team is competitive  -- especially if you are aiming to extract massive amounts of work from AI systems.

For example, if your AI system is like a human sw engineer but 30X faster, then it might come up with effectively superhuman plans just because it has lots of time to think. Externalized reasoning can help, but it's not very clear to me that externalized reasoning can scale to domains where AI systems are doing a bunch of research that humans (and GPT-4) can't readily disentangle and understand. I'm imagining that chain of thought will amount to thousands of pages of technical content that is written like rambly google docs. It might be hard to pick out the AI safety research from the cyberoffense planning in this case  -- especially with dumb models like GPT-4.

It seems like to the extent you want to use AI systems for work that is hard to evaluate, control measures are difficult to trust. Maybe a key crux is whether AI systems will have to do work that is hard to evaluate to yield a 30x acceleration factor. I'd imagine this would apply for AI systems to achieve fundemental research advances  -- e.g. in interpretability, formal verification, etc.

Curious about your thoughts.


The results seem to be cherry picked or else perhaps I am using the code incorrectly. I'm trying to use the VAE for a separate project and the encoded vectors don't steer generations very well (or reconstruct  -- which is what I was hoping to use this for).


In addition to seeing more AI behavioral psychology work, I would be excited about seeing more AI developmental psychology -- i.e. studying how varying properties of training or architecture affect AI behavior. Shard theory is an example of this.

I've written a bit about the motivations for AI developmental psychology here.


I agree with this norm, though I think it would be better to say that the "burden of evidence" should be on labs. When I first read the title, I thought you wanted labs to somehow prove the safety of their system in a conclusive way. What this probably looks like in practice is "we put x resources into red teaming and didn't find any problems." I would be surprised if 'proof' was ever an appropriate term. 

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