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I also stumbled over this sentence.

1) I think even non-obvious issues can get much more research traction than AI safety does today. And I don't even think that catastrophic risks from AI are particularly non-obvious?

2) Not sure how broadly "cause the majority of research" is defined here, but I have some hope we can find ways to turn money into relevant research

Some ideas take many decades to become widely (let alone universally) accepted—famous examples include evolution and plate tectonics.

One example that an AI policy person mentioned in a recent Q&A is "bias in ML" already being fairly much a consensus issue in ML and AI policy. I guess this happened in 5ish years?

What do you think about encouraging writers to add TLDRs on top of their posts? TLDRs make the purpose and content immediately clear so readers can decide whether to read on, and it plausibly also helps the writers to be more focused on their key points. (Advice that’s emphasized a lot at Rethink Priorities.)

Thanks, this was a really useful overview for me. 

I find the idea of the AI Objectives Institute really interesting. I've read their website and watched their kick-off call and would be interested how promising people in the AI Safety space think the general approach is, how much we might be able to learn from it, and how much solutions to the AI alignment problem will resemble a competently regulated competitive market between increasingly extremely competent companies.

I'd really appreciate pointers to previous discussions and papers on this topic, too. 

Sounds really cool! Regarding the 1st and 3rd person models, this reminded my of self-perception theory (from the man Daryl Bem), which states that humans model themselves in the same way we model others, just by observing (our) behavior.

I feel like in the end our theories of how we model ourselves must involve input and feedback from “internal decision process information“, but this seems very tricky to think about. I‘m soo sure I observe my own thoughts and feelings and use that to understand myself. 

Thanks for elaborating!

I guess I would say, any given desire has some range of how strong it can be in different situations, and if you tell me that the very strongest possible air-hunger-related desire is stronger than the very strongest possible social-instinct-related desire, I would say "OK sure, that's plausible." But it doesn't seem particularly relevant to me. The relevant thing to me is how strong the desires are at the particular time that you're making a decision or thinking a thought.

I think that almost captures what I was thinking, only that I expect the average intensity within these ranges to differ, e.g. for some individuals the desire for social interaction is usually very strong or for others rather weak (which I expect you to agree with). And this should explain which desires more often supply the default plan and for which additional "secondary" desires the neocortex has to work for to find an overall better compromise.

For example, you come home and your body feels tired and the desire that is strongest at this moment is the desire for rest, and the plan that suits this desire most is lying in bed and watching TV. But then another desire for feeling productive pushes for more plan suggestions and the neocortex comes up with lying on the coach and reading a book. And then the desire for being social pushes a bit and the revised plan is for reading the book your mum got you as a present.

It would be weird for two desires to have a strict hierarchical relationship.

I agree, I didn't mean to imply a strict hierarchical relationship, and I think you don't need a strict relationship to explain at least some part of the asymmetry. You just would need less honorable desires on average having more power over the default, e.g. 

  • taking care of hunger, 
  • thirst, 
  • breath, 
  • looking at aesthetically pleasing things,
  • remove discomforts 


  • taking care of long-term health
  • clean surrounding
  • expressing gratitude

And then we can try to optimize the default by searching for good compromises or something like that, which more often involve more honorable desires, like self-actualization, social relationships, or something like that. (I expect all of this to vary across individuals and probably also cultures).

there's a tradeoff between satisfying competing desires

I agree it depends on the current state, e.g. of course if your satiated you won't care much about food. But, similar to your example, could you make somebody stab their friend by starving them in their need for showing gratitude, or the desire for having fun? I suspect not. But could you do it by starving them in their need of breathing oxygen, or making them super-duper-depesperately thirsty? I (also) suspect more often yes. That seems to imply some more general weighing? 

> I guess 'wanting to smoke' should rather be thought of as a strategy to quench the discomfortful craving than a desire?

I'm not sure exactly what you mean ...

What you replied makes sense to me, thanks. 

Very interesting. This reminded me of Keith Stanovich's idea of the master rationality motive, which he defines as a desire to integrate higher-order preferences with first-order preferences. He gives an example of wanting to smoke and not wanting to want to smoke, which sounds like you would consider this as two conflicting preferences, health vs. the short-term reward from smoking. His idea how these conflicts are resolved are to have a "decoupled" simulation in which we can simulate adapting our first-order desires (I guess 'wanting to smoke' should rather be thought of as a strategy to quench the discomfortful craving than a desire?) and finding better solutions.

The master rationality motive seems to aim at something slightly different, though, e.g. given the questionnaire items Stanovich envisions to measure it, for example

  • I am only confident of decisions that are made after careful analysis of all available information.
  • I don’t feel I have to have reasons for what I do. (R)

Regarding the asymmetry, I have the intuition that the asymmetry of honorability comes through a different weighing of desires, e.g. you'd expect some things to be more important for our survival and reproduction, e.g. food, sex, not freezing, avoiding danger > honesty, caring for non-kin, right? 

But don't you share the impression that with increased wealth humans generally care more about the suffering of others? The story I tell myself is that humans have many basic needs (e.g. food, safety, housing) that historically conflicted with 'higher' desires like self-expression, helping others or improving the world. And with increased wealth, humans relatively universally become more caring. Or maybe more cynically, with increased wealth we can and do invest more resources into signalling that we are caring good reasonable people, i.e. the kinds of people others will more likely choose as friends/mates/colleagues.

This makes me optimistic about a future in which humans still shape the world. Would be grateful to have some holes poked into this. Holes that spontaneously come to mind:

  • influence-seeking people are more likely uncaring and/or psychpathic
  • the signals that humans use for determining who is a caring good person are not strongly correlated with actually caring about reducing suffering in the world
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