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capybaralet comments on Principia Qualia: blueprint for a new cause area, consciousness research with an eye toward ethics and x-risk - Effective Altruism Forum

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Comment author: capybaralet 20 December 2016 01:00:19AM 1 point [-]

Hey I (David Krueger) remember we spoke about this a bit with Toby when I was at FHI this summer.

I think we should be aiming for something like CEV, but we might not get it, and we should definitely consider scenarios where we have to settle for less.

For instance, some value-aligned group might find that its best option (due to competitive pressures) is to create an AI which has a 50% probability of being CEV-like or "aligned via corrigibility", but has a 50% probability of (effectively) prematurely settling on a utility function whose goodness depends heavily on the nature of qualia.

If (as I believe) such a scenario is likely, then the problem is time-sensitive.

Comment author: Paul_Christiano 20 December 2016 03:20:18AM *  2 points [-]

(effectively) prematurely settling on a utility function whose goodness depends heavily on the nature of qualia

This feels extremely unlikely; I don't think we have plausible paths to obtaining a non-negligibly good outcome without retaining the ability to effectively deliberate about e.g. the nature of qualia. I also suspect that we will be able to solve the control problem, and if we can't then it will be because of failure modes that can't be avoided by settling on a utility function. Of course "can't see any way it can happen" is not the same as "am justifiably confident it won't happen," but I think in this case it's enough to get us to pretty extreme odds.

More precisely, I'd give 100:1 against: (a) we will fail to solve the control problem in a satisfying war, (b) we will fall back to a solution which depends on our current understanding of qualia, (c) the resulting outcome will be non-negligibly good according to our view about qualia at the time that we build AI, and (d) it will be good because we hold that view about qualia.

(My real beliefs might be higher than 1% just based on "I haven't thought about it very long" and peer disagreement. But I think it's more likely than not that I would accept a bet at 100:1 odds after deliberation, even given that reasonable people disagree.)

(By non-negligibly good I mean that we would be willing to make some material sacrifice to improve its probability compared to a barren universe, perhaps of $1000/1% increase. By because I mean that the outcome would have been non-negligibly worse according to that view if we had not held it.)

I'm not sure if there is any way to turn the disagreement into a bet. Perhaps picking an arbiter and looking at their views in a decade? (e.g. Toby, Carl Schulman, Wei Dai?) This would obviously involve less extreme odds.

Probably more interesting than betting is resolving the disagreement. This seems to be a slightly persistent disagreement between me and Toby, I have never managed to really understand his position but we haven't talked about it much. I'm curious about what kind of solutions you see as plausible---it sounds like your view is based on a more detailed picture rather than an "anything might happen" view.

Comment author: capybaralet 04 January 2017 07:32:22PM *  2 points [-]

I think I was too terse; let me explain my model a bit more.

I think there's a decent chance (OTTMH, let's say 10%) that without any deliberate effort we make an AI which wipes our humanity, but is anyhow more ethically valuable than us (although not more than something which we deliberately design to be ethically valuable). This would happen, e.g. if this was the default outcome (e.g. if it turns out to be the case that intelligence ~ ethical value). This may actually be the most likely path to victory.**

There's also some chance that all we need to do to ensure that AI has (some) ethical value (e.g. due to having qualia) is X. In that case, we might increase our chance of doing X by understanding qualia a bit better.

Finally, my point was that I can easily imagine a scenario in which our alternatives are: 1. Build an AI with 50% chance of being aligned, 50% chance of just being an AI (with P(AI has property X) = 90% if we understand qualia better, 10% else) 2. Allow our competitors to build an AI with ~0% chance of being ethically valuable.

So then we obviously prefer option1, and if we understand qualia better, option 1 becomes better.

* I notice as I type this that this may have some strange consequences RE high-level strategy; e.g. maybe it's better to just make something intelligent ASAP and hope that it has ethical value, because this reduces *its X-risk, and we might not be able to do much to change the distribution of the ethical value the AI we create produces that much anyhow. I tend to think that we should aim to be very confident that the AI we build is going to have lots of ethical value, but this may only make sense if we have a pretty good chance of succeeding.

Comment author: Paul_Christiano 20 January 2017 06:58:42PM 1 point [-]

Ah, that makes a lot more sense, sorry for misinterpreting you. (I think Toby has a view closer to the one I was responding to, though I suspect I am also oversimplifying his view.)

I agree that there are important philosophical questions that bear on the goodness of building various kinds of (unaligned) AI, and I think that those questions do have impact on what we ought to do. The biggest prize is if it turns out that some kinds of unaligned AI are much better than others, which I think is plausible. I guess we probably have similar views on these issues, modulo me being more optimistic about the prospects for aligned AI.

I don't think that an understanding of qualia is an important input into this issue though.

For example, from a long-run ethical perspective, whether or not humans have qualia is not especially important, and what mostly matters is human preferences (since those are what shape the future). If you created a race of p-zombies that nevertheless shared our preferences about qualia, I think it would be fine. And "the character of human preferences" is a very different kind of object than qualia. These questions are related in various ways (e.g. our beliefs about qualia are related to our qualia and to philosophical arguments about consciousness), but after thinking about that a little bit I think it is unlikely that the interaction is very important.

To summarize, I do agree that there are time-sensitive ethical questions about the moral value of creating unaligned AI. This was item 1.2 in this list from 4 years ago. I could imagine concluding that the nature of qualia is an important input into this question, but don't currently believe that.