a gently pricked vein

Wiki Contributions


Computer science & ML will become lower in relevance/restricted in scope for the purposes of working with silicon-based minds, just as human-neurosurgery specifics are largely but not entirely irrelevant for most civilization-scale questions like economic policy, international relations, foundational research, etc.

Or IOW: Model neuroscience (and to some extent, model psychology) requires more in-depth CS/ML expertise than will the smorgasbord of incoming subfields of model sociology, model macroeconomics, model corporate law, etc.

EA has gotten a little more sympathetic to vibes-based reasoning recently, and will continue to incorporate more of it.

The mind (ie. your mind), and how it is experienced from the inside, is potentially a very rich source of insights for keeping AI minds aligned on the inside.

The virtue of the void is indeed the virtue above all others (in rationality), and fundamentally unformalizable.

There is likely a deep compositional structure to be found for alignment, possibly to the extent that AGI alignment could come from "merely" stacking together "microalignment", even if in non-trivial ways.


I haven't read this post super deeply yet, but obviously this is one of those excellent posts that's going to become a Schelling point for various semi-related gripes after a mere token skim, even though most of them have been anticipated already in the post!

Some of those gripes are:
- Near enemies: Once a term for a phenomenon is entrenched in a community, it's a lot a lot a lot of work to name anything that's close to it but not quite it. (See, for example, "goodhart" for what is IMO a very diverse and subtle cluster of clumsiness in holding onto intentionality.) Escaping near enemies is difficult in any community, but especially difficult in this community because there tend to be mathematical/formalist intuitions of "well I have Abstraction that captures The Other Thing as a special case", which is often true. But it is also often "false" in the sense of...
- Sneaking in Connotations: I'm sad ADBOC hasn't become as CK as it could, especially for checking the unconscious tools that receive salience. Usually, if you don't believe in "vibes" and the relevance of connotations, you tend to only do some denotational pattern-matching to check whether a concept applies. But then it sneaks in burdensome frames and stances to bring to bear anyway. Sure, basketball ultimately, technically, happens in physics. I'm not sure that looking for the relevant differential equations (which is what you often do in physics) is the best frame to bring to improve your shot! Further, connotations also very often carry information that just don't make it into your cleaned up abstraction...
- Stickiness: ...and then it sticks. This is a feature, of course, as you name in point five: reification. You've made plenty of remarks about how the kata is useful even though it is not The Thing. That's great. But the fact of stickiness also implies that the underlying frame needs to be the relevant one for contexts where it is cued in people's minds, because it's now in some kind of vaguely zero-sum game with other frames. Now there's some transaction costs in switching to the other frame, taxing other perspectives. This is not even beginning to touch though, the real taxing involved in...
- Reification bias: There's a spectrum of errors from taking "you only understand it if you can program it" too literally, forcefully narrowing all the kinds of clarity available to human brains and bodies. It's a short step from there to "it's only real if you can formalize it" and "it's only real if it can be made explicit" and "it's only real if it can be reified/sustained in some way", which last thing a lot of non-dual practices attempt to disabuse humans of. It's not like this is extremely difficult to recognize (although it can be for certain dispositions), but it is especially immune to being noticed if you believe in...
- Solving everything with more explicitness: I love how a lot of double binds are dissolved in this community by kind and skillful naming of things. This is greatly underpumped nearly everywhere else. But I think it's silly to automatically assume it is a safe defense for any issue. It isn't impossible that certain situations might benefit from limiting explicitness rather than unboundedly including ever more meta accounting.

In sum: Detailed models that frames and handles come with are great, but burdensome. It's probably an oversight to not account for transaction costs in switching to (or even instantiating to, if you think your handle is general) other frames when you camp around one frame though, roughly multiplied with how burdensome the current frame might be.

Even if SEP was right about getting around the infinity problem and CK was easy to obtain before, it certainly isn't now! (Because there is some chance that whoever you're talking to has read this post, and whoever reads this post will have some doubt about whether the other believes that...)

Love this post overall! It's hard to overstate the importance of (what is believed to be) common knowledge. Legitimacy is, as Vitalik notes[1], the most important scarce resource (not just in crypto) and is likely closer to whatever we usually intend to name when we say "common knowledge", which this post argues (successfully IMO) is not actually common knowledge. 

It does seem like legitimacy is possible to model with p-CK, but I'm not convinced.[2] Nor do I know how substitutable p-CK is with my old notion of CK, what it's good for! Which theorems can be rescued with p-CK where they depended on CK? Does Aumann's still hold with probability p upon p-CK of priors, or does the entire reasoning collapse? How careful do I have to be?

  1. ^

    He seems to only talk about finitely many layers of higher order knowledge, as does Duncan (for explicitly pedagogical reasons) in his post on CK and Miasma. I think this can be right, but if so, for complicated reasons. And it still leaves some seemingly self-undermining "rationality" in our frameworks.

  2. ^

    Mainly, I expect self-reference in legitimacy to be troublesome. A lot of things are legitimate because people think other people think they are legitimate, which seems enough like Lob's theorem that I worry about the lobstacle.

I've been a longtime CK atheist (and have been an influence on Abram's post), and your comment is in the shape of my current preferred approach. Unfortunately, rational ignorance seems to require CK that agents will engage in bounded thinking, and not be too rational! 

(CK-regress like the above is very common and often non-obvious. It seems plausible that we must accept this regress and in fact humans need to be Created Already in Coordination, in analogy with Created Already in Motion)

I think it is at least possible to attain p-CK in the case that there are enough people who aren't "inductively inclined". This sort of friction from people who aren't thinking too hard causes unbounded neuroticism to stop and allow coordination. I'm not yet sure if such friction is necessary for any agent or merely typical.

What are the standard doomy "lol no" responses to "Any AGI will have a smart enough decision theory to not destroy the intelligence that created it (ie. us), because we're only willing to build AGI that won't kill us"?

(I suppose it isn't necessary to give a strong reason why acausality will show up in AGI decision theory, but one good one is that it has to be smart enough to cooperate with itself.)

Some responses that I can think of (but I can also counter, with varying success):

A. Humanity is racing to build an AGI anyway, this "decision" is not really enough in our control to exert substantial acausal influence

B. It might not destroy us, but it will likely permanently lock away our astronomical endowment and this is basically just as bad and therefore the argument is mostly irrelevant

C. We don't particularly care to preserve what our genes may "wish" to preserve, not even the acausal-pilled among us

D. Runaway, reckless consequntialism is likely to emerge long before a sophisticated decision theory that incorporates human values/agency, and so if there is such a trade to be had, it will likely be already too late

E. There is nothing natural about the categories carved up for this "trade" and so we wouldn't expect it to take place. If we can't even tell it what a diamond is, we certainly wouldn't share enough context for this particular acausal trade to snap into place

F. The correct decision theory will actually turn out to only one-box in Newcomb's and not in Transparent Newcomb's, and this is Transparent Newcomb's

G.There will be no "agent" or "decision theory" to speak of, we just go out with a whimper via increasingly lowered fidelity to values in the machines we end up designing

This is from ten minutes of brainstorming, I'm sure it misses out some important ones. Obviously, if there don't exist any good ones (ones without counters), that gives us reason to beieve in alignment by default!

Keen to hear your responses.

When there's not a "right" operationalization, that usually means that the concepts involved were fundamentally confused in the first place.

Curious about the scope of the conceptual space where this belief was calibrated. It seems to me to tacitly say something like "everything that's important is finitely characterizable".

Maybe the "fundamentally confused" in your phrasing already includes the case of "stupidly tried to grab something that wasn't humanly possible, even if in principle" as a confused way for a human, without making any claim of reality being conveniently compressible at all levels. (Note that this link explicitly disavows beauty at "all levels" too.)

I suppose you might also say "I didn't make any claim of finiteness" but I do think something like "at least some humans are only a finite string away from grokking anything"  is implicit if you expect there to be blogposts/textbooks that can operationalize everything relevant. It would be an even stronger claim than "finiteness", it would be "human-typical length strings"

I believe Adam is pointing at something quite important, akin to a McNamara fallacy for formalization. To paraphrase:

The first step is to formalize whatever can be easily formalized. This is OK as far as it goes. The second step is to disregard that which can't be easily formalized or to make overly simplifying assumptions. This is artificial and misleading. The third step is to presume that what can't be formalized easily really isn't important. This is blindness. The fourth step is to say that what can't be easily formalized really doesn't exist. This is suicide.

In the case of something that has already been engineered (human brains with agency), we probably should grant that it is possible to operationalize everything relevant. But I want to pushback on the general version and would want "why do you believe simple-formalization is possible here, in this domain?" to be allowed to be asked.

[PS. am not a native speaker]

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