independent alignment researcher


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An example I think about a lot is the naturalistic fallacy. There is a lot horrible suffering that happens in the natural world, and a lot of people seem to be way too comfortable with that. We don't have any really high leverage options right now to do anything about it, but it strikes me as plausible that even if we could do something about it, we wouldn't want to. (perhaps even even make it worse by populating other planets with life

I really loved the post! I wish more people took S-risks completely seriously before dismissing them, and you make some really great points. 

In most of your examples, however, it seems the majority of the harm is in an inability to reason about the consequences of our actions, and if humans became smarter and better informed it seems like a lot of this would be ironed out. 

I will say the hospice/euthanasia example really strikes a chord with me, but even there, isn't it more a product of cowardice than a failure of our values?

GI is very efficient, if you consider that you can reuse a lot machinery that you learn, rather than needing to relearn it over and over again. 

Sometimes something can be infohazardous even if it's not completely true. Even though the northwest passage didn't really exist, it inspired many European expeditions to find it. There's a lot of hype about AI right now, and I think the idea for a cool new capabilities idea (even if it turns out not to work well) can also do harm by inspiring people try similar things. 

I interpret the goal as being more about figuring out how to use simulators as powerful tools to assist humans in solving alignment, and not at all shying away from the hard problems of alignment. Despite our lack of understanding of simulators, people (such as yourself) have already found them to be really useful, and I don't think it is unreasonable to expect that as we become less confused about simulators that we learn to use them in really powerful and game-changing ways. 

You gave "Google" as an example. I feel like having access to Google (or another search engine) improves my productivity by more than 100x. This seems like evidence that game-changing tools exist.

and increasing the number of actors can make collusive cooperation more difficult

An empirical counterargument to this is in the incentives human leaders face when overseeing people who might coordinate against them. When authoritarian leaders come into power they will actively purge members from their inner circles in order to keep them small. The larger the inner circle, the harder it becomes to prevent a rebellious individual from gathering the critical mass needed for a full blown coup. 

Source: The Dictator's Handbook by Bruce Bueno de Mesquita and Alastair Smith

What is evolution's true goal? If it's genetic fitness, then I don't see how this demonstrates alignment. Human sexuality is still just an imperfect proxy, and doesn't point at the base objective at all. 

I agree that it's very interesting how robust this is to the environment we grow up in, and I would expect there to be valuable lessons here for how value formation happens (and how we can control this process in machines).

To me this statement seems mostly tautological. Something is instrumental if it is helpful in bringing about some kind of outcome. The term "instrumental" is always (as far as I can tell) in reference to some sort of consequence based optimization. 

I agree that this is an important difference, but I think that "surely cannot be adaptive" ignores the power of group selection effects.

Wow, this post is fantastic! In particular I love the point you make about goal-directedness:

If a model is goal-directed with respect to some goal, it is because such goal-directed cognition was selected for.

Looking at our algorithms as selection processes that incentivize different types of cognition seems really important and underappreciated. 

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