Iterated Amplification

Wiki Contributions


The role of the Trust is to elect (and potentially replace) board members; its formal power comes entirely from the fact that it will eventually elect a majority of the board seats.

The post mentions a "failsafe" where a supermajority of investors can amend this arrangement, which I think is a reasonable compromise. But I'm not aware of any public information about what that supermajority is, or whether there are other ways the Trust's formal powers could be reduced.

Dylan Matthews reports the members of the board here: Dario, Daniela, Luke Meulhauser, and Yasmin Razavi. (I think it's also listed plenty of other places.)

We intend to leave this prize open until the end of September. At that point we will distribute prizes (probably just small prizes for useful arguments and algorithms, but no full solution).

I now pretty strongly suspect that the version of problem 1 with logarithmic dependence on  is not solvable. We would award a prize for an algorithm running in time  which can distinguish matrices with no PSD completion from those with a completion where the ratio of min to max eigenvalue is at least . And of course a lower bound is still fair game.

That said, I don't expect any new submissions to win prizes and so wouldn't recommend that anyone start working on it.

By process-based RL, I mean: the reward for an action doesn't depend on the consequences of executing that action. Instead it depends on some overseer's evaluation of the action, potentially after reading justification or a debate about it or talking with other AI assistants or whatever. I think this has roughly the same risk profile as imitation learning, while potentially being more competitive.

I'm generally excited and optimistic about coordination. If you are just saying that AI non-proliferation isn't that much harder than nuclear non-proliferation, then I think I'm with you. But I think (i) it's totally fair to call that "strong global coordination," (ii) you would probably have to do a somewhat better job than we did of nuclear non-proliferation.

I think the technical question is usually going to be about how to trade off capability against risk. If you didn't care about that at all, you could just not build scary ML systems. I'm saying that you should build smaller models with process-based RL. 

It might be good to focus on legible or easy-to-enforce lines rather than just trading off capability vs risk optimally. But I don't think that "no RL" is effective as a line---it still leaves you with a lot of reward-hacking (e.g. by planning against an ML model, or predicting what actions lead to a high reward, or expert iteration...). Trying to avoid all these things requires really tightly monitoring every use of AI, rather than just training runs. And I'm not convinced it helps significantly with deceptive alignment.

So in any event it seems like you are going to care about model size. "No big models" is also a way easier line to enforce. This is pretty much like saying "minimize the amount of black-box end-to-end optimization you do," which feels like it gets closer to the heart of the issue.

If you are taking that approach, I think you would probably prefer to do process-based RL with smaller models, rather than imitation learning with bigger models (and will ultimately want to use outcomes in relatively safe ways). Yes it would be safer to use neither process-based RL nor big models, and just make your AI weaker. But the main purpose of technical work is to reduce how demanding the policy ask is---how much people are being asked to give up, how unstable the equilibrium is, how much powerful AI we can tolerate in order to help enforce or demonstrate necessity. Otherwise we wouldn't be talking about these compromises at all---we'd just be pausing AI development now until safety is better understood.

I would quickly change my tune on this if e.g. we got some indication that process-based RL increased rather than decreased the risk of deceptive alignment at a fixed level of capability.

It would be safest of all to just not build powerful AI for a very long time. But alas, that seems wildly uncompetitive and so would require some kind of strong global coordination (and would create considerable instability and leave significant value on the table for other worldviews).

It's possible that "human-level AI with CoT" will be competitive enough, but I would guess not.

So to me the obvious approach is to use chain of thought and decomposition to improve performance, and then to distill the result back into the model.

You could try to do distillation with imitation learning. This is way more likely to be competitive then with no distillation at all.

But it still seems like it has a very good chance of being uncompetitive because the imitation objective significantly impairs performance and creates all kinds of artifacts. Using process-based RL for distillation seems like it has essentially the same safety profile to using imitation learning, while avoiding the obvious pathologies and having a much higher probability of being competitive.

(People give various reasons that RL in the distillation step is less safe than imitation learning in the distillation step, but so far I haven't found anything at all persuasive.)

I think there's still a good chance that process-based RL in the distillation step still can't be competitive and so you need to talk about how to develop new techniques or prudently incorporate outcomes. But I think it's at least much more likely to be competitive than CoT-only, or imitation learning in the distillation step. (Perhaps it cuts down the probability of deal-breaking uncompetitiveness by 30%, compared to using imitation learning alone for distillation.)

My guess is that if you hold capability fixed and make a marginal move in the direction of (better LM agents) + (smaller LMs) then you will make the world safer. It straightforwardly decreases the risk of deceptive alignment, makes oversight easier, and decreases the potential advantages of optimizing on outcomes.

Note that Evals has just published a description of some of their work evaluating GPT-4 and Claude. Their publication does not include transcripts, the details of the LM agents they evaluated, or detailed qualitative discussion of the strengths and weaknesses of the agents they evaluated. I believe that eventually Evals should be considerably more liberal about sharing this kind of information; my post is explaining why I believe that.

Yeah, I think sections 2, 3, 4 are probably more important and should maybe have come first in the writeup. (But other people think that 1 dominates.) Overall it's not a very well-constructed post.

At any rate thanks for highlighting this point. For the kinds of interventions I'm discussing (sharing information about LM agent capabilities and limitations) I think there are basically two independent reasons you might be OK with it---either you like sharing capabilities in general, or you like certain kinds of LM agent improvements---and either one is sufficient to carry the day.

Although this is an important discussion I want to emphasize up front that I don't think it's closely related to the argument in the OP. I tried to revise the OP to emphasize that the first section of the article is about LM agent improvements that are relevant to engineering better scaffolding rather than improving our ability to optimize such agents end to end.

I've seen little evidence of this so far, and don't think current LLM performance is even that well-characterized by this. This would be great, but I don't currently think its true. 

If you allow models to think for a while they do much better than if you just ask them to answer the question. By "think for a while" we mean they generate one sentence after another in the same way a human would. Their ability to use chain of thought seems to come essentially entirely from copying human chains of thought rather than e.g. using filler tokens to parallelize cognition or RL fine-tuning teaching them novel cognitive strategies.

I agree that models also memorize a lot of facts. Almost all the facts they actually use are facts that humans know, which they memorized by observing humans using them or stating them. So I don't really consider this evidence one way or the other.

If you want to state any concrete prediction about the future I'm happy to say whether I agree with it. For example:

  • I think that the gap between "spit out an answer" and chain of thought / tool use / decomposition will continue to grow. (Even as chain of thought becomes increasingly unfaithful for questions of any fixed difficulty, since models become increasingly able to answer such questions in a single shot.)
  • I think there is a significant chance decomposition is a big part of that cluster, say a 50% chance that context-hiding decomposition obviously improves performance by an amount comparable to chain of thought.
  • I think that end-to-end RL on task performance will continue to result in models that use superficially human-comprehensible reasoning steps, break tasks into human-comprehensible pieces, and use human interfaces for tools.

My sense right now is that this feels a bit semantic.

I do think that right now LMs are by far closest to doing useful work by exploiting human-legible interfaces and decompositions. Chain of thought, simple decompositions, and imitations of human tool use are already important for LM performance.  While more complex LM agents add only a small amount of additional value, it seems like extrapolating trends would make them pretty important soon.

Overall I think the world is shaping up extremely far in the direction of "AI systems learn to imitate human cognitive steps and then compose them into impressive performance." I'm happy to bet about whether that trend will continue to the extent we can operationalize it. E.g. I'd bet on increasingly wide gaps between each of LM snap judgments, chain of thought, and tool-use. I don't have a strong view about more complex decompositions unless context length is a serious limitation. I would guess that end-to-end optimization will make at most marginal differences in efficacy (probably smaller than RLHF).

To the extent models trained with RLHF are doing anything smart in the real world I think it's basically ~100% by solving a human-comprehensible task. Namely humans give the system a task, and it tries to do some rough combination of what a particular kind of human demonstrator would do and what a particular kind of human evaluator would rate highly. There is no further optimization to take intelligent actions in the world.

I changed the section to try to make it a bit more clear that I mean "understanding of LM agents." For the purpose of this post, I am trying to mostly talk about things like understanding the capabilities and limitations of LM agents, and maybe even incidental information about decomposition and prompting that help overcome these limitations. This is controversial because it may allow people to build better agents, but I think this kind of understanding is helpful if people continue to build such agents primarily out of chain of thought and decomposition, while not having much impact on our ability to optimize end-to-end.

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