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[Week 2] “What failure looks like” by Paul Christiano

AGI Safety Fundamentals: Alignment

Readings from the AI Safety Fundamentals: Alignment course.



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Crossposted from the AI Alignment Forum. May contain more technical jargon than usual.

The stereotyped image of AI catastrophe is a powerful, malicious AI system that takes its creators by surprise and quickly achieves a decisive advantage over the rest of humanity.

I think this is probably not what failure will look like, and I want to try to paint a more realistic picture. I’ll tell the story in two parts:

Part I: machine learning will increase our ability to “get what we can measure,” which could cause a slow-rolling catastrophe. ("Going out with a whimper.")

Part II: ML training, like competitive economies or natural ecosystems, can give rise to “greedy” patterns that try to expand their own influence. Such patterns can ultimately dominate the behavior of a system and cause sudden breakdowns. ("Going out with a bang," an instance of optimization daemons.) I think these are the most important problems if we fail to solve intent alignment.

In practice these problems will interact with each other, and with other disruptions/instability caused by rapid progress. These problems are worse in worlds where progress is relatively fast, and fast takeoff can be a key risk factor, but I’m scared even if we have several years.

Crossposted from the LessWrong Curated Podcast by TYPE III AUDIO.

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