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[Week 3] “Is Power-Seeking AI an Existential Risk?” by Joe Carlsmith

AGI Safety Fundamentals: Alignment

Readings from the AI Safety Fundamentals: Alignment course.



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This report examines what I see as the core argument for concern about existential risk from misaligned artificial intelligence. I proceed in two stages. First, I lay out a backdrop picture that informs such concern. On this picture, intelligent agency is an extremely powerful force, and creating agents much more intelligent than us is playing with fire -- especially given that if their objectives are problematic, such agents would plausibly have instrumental incentives to seek power over humans. Second, I formulate and evaluate a more specific six-premise argument that creating agents of this kind will lead to existential catastrophe by 2070. On this argument, by 2070: (1) it will become possible and financially feasible to build relevantly powerful and agentic AI systems; (2) there will be strong incentives to do so; (3) it will be much harder to build aligned (and relevantly powerful/agentic) AI systems than to build misaligned (and relevantly powerful/agentic) AI systems that are still superficially attractive to deploy; (4) some such misaligned systems will seek power over humans in high-impact ways; (5) this problem will scale to the full disempowerment of humanity; and (6) such disempowerment will constitute an existential catastrophe. I assign rough subjective credences to the premises in this argument, and I end up with an overall estimate of ~5% that an existential catastrophe of this kind will occur by 2070. (May 2022 update: since making this report public in April 2021, my estimate here has gone up, and is now at >10%).



Narrated for Joe Carlsmith Audio by TYPE III AUDIO.

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