Comment author: itaibn 08 September 2017 12:38:24AM 0 points [-]

What do you mean by Feynman? I endorse his Lectures in Physics as something that had a big effect on my own intellectual development, but I worry many people won't be able to get that much out of it. While his more accessible works are good, I don't rate them as highly.

Comment author: Benito 08 September 2017 09:24:04PM 0 points [-]

"Surely You're Joking Mr Feynman" still shows genuine curiosity, which is rare and valuable. But as I say, it's less about whether I can argue for it, and more about whether the top intellectual contributors in our community found it transformative in their youth. I think many may have read Feynman when young (e.g. it had a big impact on Eliezer).

Comment author: Benito 05 September 2017 09:19:44PM 6 points [-]

I don't think the idea Anna suggests is to pick books you think young people should read, but to actually ask the best people what books they read that influenced them a lot.

Things that come to my mind include GEB, HPMOR, The Phantom Tolbooth, Feynman. Also, which surprises me but is empirically true for many people, Sam Harris's "The Moral Landscape" seems to have been the first book a number of top people I know read on their journey to doing useful things.

But either way I'd want more empirical data.

Comment author: Kerry_Vaughan 07 July 2017 05:45:21AM 19 points [-]

This was the most illuminating piece on MIRIs work and on AI Safety in general that I've read in some time. Thank you for publishing it.

Comment author: Benito 07 July 2017 05:57:42AM *  8 points [-]

Agreed! It was nice to see the clear output of someone who had spent a lot of time and effort into a good-faith understanding of the situation.

I was really happy with the layout of four key factors, this will help me have more clarity in further discussions.

Comment author: kierangreig 28 June 2017 03:55:57PM *  8 points [-]

(1) To what degree did your beliefs about the consciousness of insects (if insects are too broad a category please just focus on the common fruit fly) change from completing this report and what were the main reasons for those beliefs changing? I would be particularly interested in an answer that covers the following three points: (i) the rough probability that you previously assigned to them being conscious, (ii) the rough probability that you now assign to them being conscious and (iii) the main reasons for the change in that probability.

(2) Do you assign a 0% probability to electrons being conscious?

(3) In section 5.1 you write

I’d like to get more feedback on this report from long-time “consciousness experts” of various kinds. (So far, the only long-time “consciousness expert” from which I’ve gotten extensive feedback is David Chalmers.)

David Chalmers seems like an interesting choice for the one long-time “consciousness expert” to receive extensive feedback from. Why was he the only one that you got extensive feedback from? And of the other consciousness experts that you would like to receive extensive feedback from, do you think that most of them would disagree with some part of the report in a similar way, and if you think they would, what would that disagreement or those disagreements be?

(4) A while ago Carl Shulman put out this document detailing research advice. Can you please do the same, or if you already have a document like this can you please point me to it? I would probably find it useful and I would guess some others would too.

Comment author: Benito 28 June 2017 06:03:50PM 2 points [-]

(Meta: It might be more helpful to submit individual questions as separate comments, so that people can up vote them separately and people's favourite questions (and associated answers) can rise to the top.)

Comment author: Benito 28 June 2017 04:46:37PM 1 point [-]

I was confused by the issue regarding diet qualia. Does the argument reduce to answering this question: “Is it the case that explaining away all the individuals properties of conscious experience could ever add up to a completed explanation-away of consciousness”? (In my understanding, the weak illusionists say that it wouldn’t, the strong illusionists say that it would, and the not-illusionists say that this process can’t even get started.)

Comment author: Benito 28 June 2017 04:15:22PM 9 points [-]

Has OpenPhil (and in particular Lewis Bollard), to your knowledge, altered any grant recommendations based on your report, and if so, how?

Comment author: Benito 28 June 2017 04:04:29PM *  0 points [-]

It seems to me (based only on looking through your report and having read one or two books in the field) that the way many of the better theories of consciousness (e.g. multiple drafts) were formed by philosophers was through the following process:

  • Introspect and notice a phenomena occurring in their conscious experience that they don’t believe to have any known explanation


  • Propose a cognitive mechanism to explain it


  • Call this their explanation of consciousness

Firstly, does this seem like an accurate characterisation of how some of the stronger consciousness theories have been produced?

Secondly, do I correctly understand your hypothetical ‘agenda for producing a theory of consciousness’ (from Appendix B) to be iterating the first two steps of this process, with the idea that in the limit it should account for all the explanda of consciousness (whilst significantly improving the process by (a) writing a program that fits the theory (b) using said program to make predictions, and, instead of largely introspecting yourselves (c) gathering the mass introspections of many people)?

Comment author: Benito 28 June 2017 04:02:19PM 0 points [-]

What outputs/deliverables do you think you’d get from your hypothetical ‘consciousness’ agenda (from Appendix B), and how much resources (time/staff/money) do you think would be required to achieve them? For example, might you (ambitiously) think that this agenda would be able to move the field of consciousness studies into an agreed paradigm (a la your reference to Kuhn)?

Comment author: Benito 28 June 2017 04:00:41PM *  2 points [-]

You mention that a further project might be to attempt to make the case that chimpanzees aren’t conscious, and that Gazami crabs are, each to confirm your suspicion you could in fact make a plausible case for each. Could you outline what such cases might look like (knowing that you can’t provide the output of an investigation you haven’t performed)? What evidences would you be looking into that aren’t already in this report (e.g. would it mainly be information as to how their cognition in particular is similar to / differs from human cognition)?

Comment author: SteveGreidinger 22 June 2017 05:07:20AM 0 points [-]

This is a good start about some of the issues, but there is a need to bulk it up with information directly from neuroscientists.

For instance, some very senior people in the Stanford neuroscience community think that an essential difference between animals and people may be that the astrocytes, "helper cells," are so very different. Among many other things, astrocytes help to create and destroy synapses.

Neuroscientists also routinely do mice experiments, and a few have very sophisticated answers to ethical questions about what they do.

There are a lot of topics in EA ethics that benefit from a grounding in neuroscience and neuroethics. Both of these fields also contain many EA opportunities themselves. If money is being put down, then it's time to add some expert scientific opinion.

Comment author: Benito 22 June 2017 05:49:51PM *  1 point [-]

I think that certain arguments from neuroscience were definitely considered, see the extended section on 'necessary and sufficient conditions' which looks at the cortex-required view, and the section right before that on 'potentially consciousness indicating factors' which looks at 'neuroanatomical similarity' and has a whole appendix associated. These two would both probably cover the types of argument that you're making, even if it doesn't address your specific mechanism, so pointing out what he missed in the relevant section would probably be helpful.

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