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“Acausal normalcy” by Andrew Critch

LessWrong (Curated)

Audio version of the posts shared in the LessWrong Curated newsletter.




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

This post is also available on the EA Forum.

Summary: Having thought a bunch about acausal trade — and proven some theorems relevant to its feasibility — I believe there do not exist powerful information hazards about it that stand up to clear and circumspect reasoning about the topic.  I say this to be comforting rather than dismissive; if it sounds dismissive, I apologize.  

With that said, I have four aims in writing this post:

  1. Dispelling myths.  There are some ill-conceived myths about acausal trade that I aim to dispel with this post.  Alternatively, I will argue for something I'll call acausal normalcy as a more dominant decision-relevant consideration than one-on-one acausal trades.  
  2. Highlighting normalcy.  I'll provide some arguments that acausal normalcy is more similar to human normalcy than any particular acausal trade is to human trade, such that the topic of acausal normalcy is — conveniently — also less culturally destabilizing than (erroneous) preoccupations with 1:1 acausal trades. 
  3. Affirming AI safety as a straightforward priority.  I'll argue that for most real-world-prevalent perspectives on AI alignment, safety, and existential safety, acausal considerations are not particularly dominant, except insofar as they push a bit further towards certain broadly agreeable human values applicable in the normal-everyday-human-world, such as nonviolence, cooperation, diversity, honesty, integrity, charity, and mercy.  In particular, I do not think acausal normalcy provides a solution to existential safety, nor does it undermine the importance of existential safety in some surprising way.
  4. Affirming normal human kindness.  I also think reflecting on acausal normalcy can lead to increased appreciation for normal notions of human kindness, which could lead us all to treat each other a bit better.  This is something I wholeheartedly endorse.