How can I help research Friendly AI?

post by avichapman · 2019-07-09T00:15:09.335Z · score: 23 (8 votes) · LW · GW · No comments

This is a question post.


    16 TurnTrout
    3 ofer
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I've just started my journey toward a PhD in machine learning. My first steps are in computer vision. But my long term goal is to be able to help in the effort to solve the alignment problem and produce Friendly AI before any non-friendly alternatives emerge.

What sort of trajectory should I aim for with my research? What sort of post-PhD jobs should I be aiming for? Who should I be making contacts with as I go?


answer by TurnTrout · 2019-07-09T15:22:41.698Z · score: 16 (5 votes) · LW · GW

Hi. I'm also a PhD student (upcoming fourth year). Last year, I wrote about my process of auto didacting and switching research areas to directly work on FAI. Beyond that advice, I have more which is yet unpublished: select your committee wisely. I purposefully chose those professors who were easy to get along with and who seemed likely to be receptive to longer-term concerns.

I generally recommend working on an alignment research area in your free time, levelling up as necessary. One path I took: make some proposals and demonstrate you can think novel thoughts and do research. Then, get funding to make this your full-time research.

Alternatively, you can just level up while in your program. Check out Critch's Deliberate Grad School and Leveraging Academia.

If you're interested in a Skype sometime, feel free to message me. There's a MIRIx Discord server I can invite you to as well.

Welcome to the journey!

comment by avichapman · 2019-07-11T04:39:34.163Z · score: 6 (4 votes) · LW · GW

Thanks for your great story. I particularly enjoyed 'Swimming Upstream'.

I'm much earlier in my journey and the milestones are probably different than yours. In Australia, a PhD is 3 years and I don't know if you get much choice on committee selection. As it happens, I haven't even started it yet as I am currently doing an Honours research project to prove my research bona fides.

My first challenge is to find a way to pay for my PhD. In Australia, you can get a salary to do a PhD, but it is 1/4 of my current salary and I have kids to feed. I have a plan to convince my company to pay for my PhD and a backup plan involving continuous part-time research to make a name and cover some important background over the next five years until my children are grown.

This year, my research is in Computer Vision. Next year if I can start my PhD, it will be in real--time scene interpretation. If I don't start my PhD, I will have more freedom to choose my topic - so I want to make it a topic that serves my long-term interests.

answer by ofer · 2019-08-09T09:30:25.875Z · score: 3 (2 votes) · LW · GW

If you haven't already, check out the 80,000 Hours website (their goal is to provide useful advice on how people can use their career to do the most good).

Here are some links that seem relevant specifically for you (some might be out of date): (see "AI safety technical researcher" box)

You can also apply for their coaching service.

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