Where might I direct promising-to-me researchers to apply for alignment jobs/grants? 2023-09-18T16:20:03.452Z
One Minute Every Moment 2023-09-01T20:23:56.391Z
Probabilistic Payor Lemma? 2023-03-19T17:57:04.237Z
Teleosemantics! 2023-02-23T23:26:15.894Z
Some Thoughts on AI Art 2023-01-25T14:18:14.507Z
Contra Common Knowledge 2023-01-04T22:50:38.493Z
Talking to God 2023-01-03T20:14:20.955Z
Knottiness 2023-01-02T22:13:12.752Z
Prettified AI Safety Game Cards 2022-10-11T19:35:18.991Z
Builder/Breaker for Deconfusion 2022-09-29T17:36:37.725Z
Vingean Agency 2022-08-24T20:08:53.237Z
Steam 2022-06-20T17:38:58.548Z
Brass Puppet 2022-05-26T17:42:04.876Z
ELK Computational Complexity: Three Levels of Difficulty 2022-03-30T20:56:37.239Z
[Closed] Job Offering: Help Communicate Infrabayesianism 2022-03-23T18:35:16.790Z
ELK Thought Dump 2022-02-28T18:46:08.611Z
Contest for outlining rules for this contest. 2022-02-21T18:44:43.990Z
There is essentially one best-validated theory of cognition. 2021-12-10T15:51:06.423Z
Worst Commonsense Concepts? 2021-11-15T18:22:31.465Z
How can one train philosophical skill? 2021-09-30T14:56:35.313Z
Power vs Precision 2021-08-16T18:34:42.287Z
Implicature Conflation 2021-08-09T19:48:51.097Z
Refactoring Alignment (attempt #2) 2021-07-26T20:12:15.196Z
Re-Define Intent Alignment? 2021-07-22T19:00:31.629Z
Progress, Stagnation, & Collapse 2021-07-22T16:51:04.595Z
The Homunculus Problem 2021-05-27T20:25:58.312Z
The Argument For Spoilers 2021-05-21T12:23:49.127Z
Time & Memory 2021-05-20T15:16:49.042Z
Formal Inner Alignment, Prospectus 2021-05-12T19:57:37.162Z
Fractal Conversations vs Holistic Response 2021-05-05T15:04:40.314Z
Death by Red Tape 2021-05-01T18:03:34.780Z
Gradations of Inner Alignment Obstacles 2021-04-20T22:18:18.394Z
Superrational Agents Kelly Bet Influence! 2021-04-16T22:08:18.201Z
A New Center? [Politics] [Wishful Thinking] 2021-04-12T15:19:35.430Z
My Current Take on Counterfactuals 2021-04-09T17:51:06.528Z
Reflective Bayesianism 2021-04-06T19:48:43.917Z
Affordances 2021-04-02T20:53:35.639Z
Voting-like mechanisms which address size of preferences? 2021-03-18T23:23:55.393Z
MetaPrompt: a tool for telling yourself what to do. 2021-03-16T20:49:19.693Z
Rigorous political science? 2021-03-12T15:30:53.837Z
Four Motivations for Learning Normativity 2021-03-11T20:13:40.175Z
Kelly *is* (just) about logarithmic utility 2021-03-01T20:02:08.300Z
"If You're Not a Holy Madman, You're Not Trying" 2021-02-28T18:56:19.560Z
Support vs Advice & Holding Off Solutions 2021-02-23T01:12:33.156Z
Calculating Kelly 2021-02-22T17:32:38.601Z
Mathematical Models of Progress? 2021-02-16T00:21:44.298Z
The Pointers Problem: Clarifications/Variations 2021-01-05T17:29:45.698Z
Debate Minus Factored Cognition 2020-12-29T22:59:19.641Z
Babble Challenge: Not-So-Future Coordination Tech 2020-12-21T16:48:20.515Z
Fusion and Equivocation in Korzybski's General Semantics 2020-12-21T05:44:41.064Z


Comment by abramdemski on A Case for AI Safety via Law · 2023-09-22T16:57:35.494Z · LW · GW

Would you count all the people who worked on the EU AI act?

Comment by abramdemski on An Intuitive Guide to Garrabrant Induction · 2023-09-21T17:09:46.081Z · LW · GW

Ah, not yet, no. 

Comment by abramdemski on A Case for AI Safety via Law · 2023-09-20T15:34:08.651Z · LW · GW

Almost no need to read it. :)

fwiw, I did skim the doc, very briefly.

The main message of the paper is along the lines of "a." That is, per the claim in the 4th pgph, "Effective legal systems are the best way to address AI safety." I'm arguing that having effective legal systems and laws are the critical things. How laws/values get instilled in AIs (and humans) is mostly left as an exercise for the reader. Your point about "simply outlawing designs not compatible" is reasonable.

The way I put it in the paper (sect. 3, pgph. 2): "Many of the proposed non-law-based solutions may be worth pursuing to help assure AI systems are law abiding. However, they are secondary to having a robust, well-managed, readily available corpus of codified law—and complimentary legal systems—as the foundation and ultimate arbiter of acceptable behaviors for all intelligent systems, both biological and mechanical."

In that case, I agree with Seth Herd that this approach is not being neglected. Of course it could be done better. I'm not sure exactly how many people are working on it, but I have the impression that it is more than a dozen, since I've met some of them without trying. 

I suspect some kind of direct specification approach (per Bostrom classification) could work where AIs confirm that (non-trivial) actions they are considering comply with legal corpora appropriate to current contexts before taking action. I presume techniques used by the self-driving-car people will be up to the task for their application.

I think this underestimates the difficulty of self-driving cars. In the application of self-driving airplanes (on runways, not in the air), it is indeed possible to make an adequate model of the environment, such that neural networks can be verified to follow a formally specified set of regulations (and self-correct from undesired states to desired states). With self-driving cars, the environment is far too complex to formally model in that way. You get to a point where you are trusting one AI model (of the complex environment) to verify another. And you can't explore the whole space effectively, so you still can't provide really strong guarantees (and this translates to errors in practice).

I struggled with what to say about AISVL wrt superintelligence and instrumental convergence. Probably should have let the argument ride without hedging, i.e., superintelligences will have to comply with laws and the demands of legal systems. They will be full partners with humans in enacting and enforcing laws. It's hard to just shrug off the concerns of the Yudkowskys, Bostroms, and Russells of the world.

It seems to me like you are somewhat shrugging off those concerns, since the technological interventions (eg smart contracts, LLMs understanding laws, whatever self-driving-car people get up to) are very "light" in the face of those "heavy" concerns. But a legal approach need not shrug off those concerns. For example, law could require the kind of verification we can now apply to airplane autopilot be applied to self-driving-cars as well. This would make self-driving illegal in effect until a large breakthrough in ML verification takes place, but it would work!

Comment by abramdemski on A Case for AI Safety via Law · 2023-09-19T17:51:54.100Z · LW · GW

I feel as if there is some unstated idea here that I am not quite inferring. What is the safety approach supposed to be? If there were an organization devoted to this path to AI safety, what activities would that organization be engaged in?

Seth Herd interprets the idea as "regulation". Indeed, this seems like the obvious interpretation. But I suspect it misses your point.

Enacting and enforcing appropriate laws, and instilling law-abiding values in AIs and humans, can mitigate risks spanning all levels of AI capability—from narrow AI to AGI and ASI. If intelligent agents stray from the law, effective detection and enforcement must occur.

The first part is just "regulation". The second part, "instilling law-abiding values in AIs and humans", seems like a significant departure. It seems like the proposal involves both (a) designing and enacting a set of appropriate laws, and (b) finding and deploying a way of instilling law-abiding values (in AIs and humans). Possibly (a) includes a law requiring (b): AIs (and AI-producing organizations) must be designed so as to have law-abiding values within some acceptable tolerances.

This seems like a very sensible demand, but it does seem like it has to piggyback on some other approach to alignment, which would solve the object-level instilling-values problem.

Even the catastrophic vision of smarter-than-human-intelligence articulated by Yudkowsky (2022, 2023) and others (Bostrom, 2014; Russell, 2019) can be avoided by effective implementation of AISVL. It may require that the strongest version of the instrumental convergence thesis (which they rely on) is not correct. Appendix A suggests some reasons why AI convergence to dangerous values is not inevitable.

AISVL applies to all intelligent systems regardless of their underlying design, cognitive architecture, and technology. It is immaterial whether an AI is implemented using biology, deep learning, constructivist AI (Johnston, 2023), semantic networks, quantum computers, positronics, or other methods. All intelligent systems must comply with applicable laws regardless of their particular values, preferences, beliefs, and how they are wired.

If the approach does indeed require "instilling law-abiding values in AI", it is unclear why "AISVL applies to all intelligent systems regardless of their underlying design". The technology to instill law-abiding values may apply to specific underlying designs, specific capability ranges, etc. I guess the idea is that part (a) of the approach, the laws themselves, apply regardless. But if part (b), the value-instilling part, has limited applicability, then this has the effect of simply outlawing designs not compatible. That's fine, but "AISVL applies to all intelligent systems regardless of their underlying design" seems to dramatically over-sell the applicability of the approach in that case. Or perhaps I'm misunderstanding.

Similarly, "AI safety via law can address the full range of safety risks" seems to over-sell the whole section, a major point of which is to claim that AISVL does not apply to the strongest instrumental-convergence concerns. (And why not, exactly? It seems like, if the value-instilling tech existed, it would indeed avert the strongest instrumental-convergence concerns.)

Comment by abramdemski on One Minute Every Moment · 2023-09-05T17:21:51.883Z · LW · GW

I've found that "working memory" was coined by Miller, so actually it seems pretty reasonable to apply that term to whatever he was measuring with his experiments, although other definitions seem quite reasonable as well.

Comment by abramdemski on One Minute Every Moment · 2023-09-05T16:45:31.385Z · LW · GW

Whoops! Thanks.

Comment by abramdemski on One Minute Every Moment · 2023-09-05T16:41:39.611Z · LW · GW

The term "working memory" was coined by Miller, and I'm here using his definition. In this sense, I think what I'm doing is about as terminologically legit as one can get. But Miller's work is old; possibly I should be using newer concepts instead.

Comment by abramdemski on One Minute Every Moment · 2023-09-05T16:38:18.752Z · LW · GW

When I took classes in cog sci, this idea of "working memory" seemed common, despite coexistence with more nuanced models. (IE, speaking about WM as 72 chunks was common and done without qualification iirc, although the idea of different memories for different modalities was also discussed. Since this number is determined by experiment, not neuroanatomy, it's inherently an operationalized concept.) Perhaps this is no longer the case!

Comment by abramdemski on One Minute Every Moment · 2023-09-02T13:05:36.352Z · LW · GW

You first see Item X and try to memorize it in minute 3. Then you revisit it in minute 9, and it turns out that you’ve already “forgotten it” (in the sense that you would have failed a quiz) but it “rings a bell” when you see it, and you try again to memorize it. I think you’re still benefitting from the longer forgetting curve associated with the second revisit of Item X. But Item X wasn’t “in working memory” in minute 8, by my definitions.

One way to parameterize recall tasks is x,y,z = time you get to study the sequence, time between in which you must maintain the memory, time you get to try and recall the sequence.

During "x", you get the case you described. I presume it makes sense to do the standard spaced-rep study schedule, where you re-study information at a time when you have some probability of having already forgotten it. (I also have not looked into what memory champions do.)

During "y", you have to maintain. You still want to rehearse things, but you don't want to wait until you have some probability of having forgotten, at this point, because the study material is no longer in front of you; if you forget something, it is lost. This is what I was referring to when I described "keeping something in working memory".

During "z", you need to try and recall all of the stored information and report it in the correct sequence. I suppose having longer z helps, but the amount it helps probably drops off pretty sharply as z increases. So x and y are in some sense the more important variables.

I still feel like you’re using the term “working memory” in a different way from how I would use it.

So how do you want to use it?

I think my usage is mainly weird because I'm going hard on the operationalization angle, using performance on memory experiments as a definition. I think this way of defining things is particularly practical, but does warp things a lot if we try to derive causal models from it.

Comment by abramdemski on One Minute Every Moment · 2023-09-02T12:22:58.563Z · LW · GW

I'm not sure what the takeaway is here, but these calculations are highly suspect. What a memory athlete can memorize (in their domain of expertise) in 5 minutes is an intricate mix of working memory and long-term semantic memory, and episodic (hippocampal) memory.

I'm kind of fine with an operationalized version of "working memory" as opposed to a neuroanatomical concept. For practical purposes, it seems more useful to define "working memory" in terms of performance.

(That being said, the model which comes from using such a simplified concept is bad, which I agree is concerning.)

As for the takeaway, for me the one-minute number is interesting both because it's kind of a lot, but not so much. When I'm puttering around my house balancing tasks such as making coffee, writing on LessWrong, etc I have roughly one objective or idea in conscious view at a time, but the number of tasks and ideas swirling around "in circulation" (being recalled every so often) seems like it can be pretty large. The original idea for this post came from thinking about how psychology tasks like Miller's seem more liable to underestimate this quantity than overestimate it.

On the other hand, it doesn't seem so large. Multi-tasking significantly degrades task performance, suggesting that there's a significant bottleneck. 

The "about one minute" estimate fits my intuition: if that's the amount of practically-applicable information actively swirling around in the brain at a given time (in some operationalized sense), well. It's interesting that it's small enough to be easily explained to another person (under the assumption that they share the requisite background knowledge, so there's no inferential gap when you explain what you're thinking in your own terms). Yet, it's also 'quite a bit'. 

Comment by abramdemski on One Minute Every Moment · 2023-09-02T03:00:43.619Z · LW · GW

2016 bits of memory and about 2016 bits of natural language per minute really means that if our working memory was perfectly optimized for storing natural language and only natural language, it could store about one minute of it.

I have in mind the related claim that if natural language were perfectly optimized for transmitting the sort of stuff we keep in our working memory, then describing the contents of our working memory would take about a minute.

I like this version of the claim, because it's somewhat plausible that natural language is well-optimized to communicate the sort of stuff we normally think about. 

However, there are some plausible exceptions, like ideas that are easy to visualize and draw but difficult to communicate in full detail in natural language (EG a fairly specific curved line).

Plausibly, working memory contains some detail that's not normally put to fruitful use in sequence-memorization tasks, such as the voice with which the inner narrator pronounces the numerals, or the font if numerals are being imagined visually.

However, the method in the post was only ever supposed to establish a lower bound, anyway. It could take us a lot longer than a minute to explain all the sensory detail of our working memory.

Comment by abramdemski on One Minute Every Moment · 2023-09-02T02:45:26.761Z · LW · GW

Per your footnote 6, I wouldn't expect that the whole 630-digit number was ever simultaneously in working memory.

How would you like to define "simultaneously in working memory"?

The benefit of an operationalization like the sequential recall task is concreteness and easily tested predictions. I think if we try to talk about the actual information content of the actual memory, we can start to get lost in alternative assumptions. What, exactly, counts as actual working memory?

Comment by abramdemski on One Minute Every Moment · 2023-09-02T02:41:39.161Z · LW · GW

One way to think about the five-minute memorization task which I used for my calculation is that it measures how much can be written to memory within five minutes, but it does little to test memory volatility (it doesn't tell us how much of the 630-digit number would have been forgotten after an hour with no rehearsal). If by "short-term memory" we mean memory which only lasts a short while without rehearsal, the task doesn't differentiate that. 

So, "for all we know" from this test, the information gets spread across many different types of memory, some longer-lasting and some shorter-lasting. This is one way of interpreting your point about the 630 digits not all being in working memory.

According to this way of thinking, we can think of the 5 minute memorization period as an extended "write" task. The "about one minute" factoid gets re-stated as: what you can write to memory in five minutes, you could explain in natural language in about one minute, if performing about optimally, and assuming you don't need to fill in any background context for the explanation.

"5 minutes of lets you capture, at best, 1 minute of spoken material" sounds much less impressive than my one-minute-per-moment headline.

However, this way of thinking about it makes it tempting to think that the memory athlete is able to store a set number of bits into memory per second studying; a linear relationship between study time and the length of sequences which can be recalled. I doubt the relationship is that simple.

The spaced repetition literature suggests a model based on forgetting curves, where the number and pattern of times we've reviewed a specific piece of information determines how long we'll recall it. In this model, we don't so much think of "short term memory" and "long term memory" capacity, instead focusing on the expected durability of specific memories. This expected durability increases in an understood way with practice.

In contrast to the simple "write to memory" model, this provides a more detailed (and, I think, plausible) account of what goes on during the 5 minutes one has to rehearse: a memory athlete would, presumably, rehearse the sequence, making memories more robust to the passage of time via repetition.

In order to keep a set of information "in working memory" in this paradigm is to keep rehearsing it at a spaced-repetition schedule such that you recall each fact before you forget it. The details of the forgetting curve would enable a prediction for how many such facts can be memorized given an amount of study time. 

The natural place to bring up "chunks" here is the amount of information that can fit in an individual memory (a single "fact"). It no longer makes sense to talk about the "total information capacity of short-term memory", since memory is being modeled on a continuum from short to long, and a restricted capacity like 72 is not really part of this type of model. Without running any detailed math on this better sort of model, I suppose the information capacity of a memory would come out close to the "five to ten seconds of spoken language per chunk" which we get when we apply information theory to the Miller model.

This model also has many problems, of course.

Comment by abramdemski on Predictive Coding has been Unified with Backpropagation · 2023-08-10T16:07:49.429Z · LW · GW

I don't think my reasoning was particularly strong there, but the point is less "how can you use gradient descent, a supervised-learning tool, to get unsupervised stuff????" and more "how can you use Hebbian learning, an unsupervised-learning tool, to get supervised stuff????" 

Autoencoders transform unsupervised learning into supervised learning in a specific way (by framing "understand the structure of the data" as "be able to reconstruct the data from a smaller representation").

But the reverse is much less common. EG, it would be a little weird to apply clustering (an unsupervised learning technique) to a supervised task. It would be surprising to find out that doing so was actually equivalent to some pre-existing supervised learning tool. (But perhaps not as surprising as I was making it out to be, here.)

Comment by abramdemski on Predictive Coding has been Unified with Backpropagation · 2023-08-08T16:46:05.886Z · LW · GW

I have not thought about these issues too much in the intervening time. Re-reading the discussion, it sounds plausible to me that the evidence is compatible with roughly brain-sized NNs being roughly as data-efficient as humans. Daniel claims: 

If we assume for humans it's something like 1 second on average (because our brains are evaluating-and-updating weights etc. on about that timescale) then we have a mere 10^9 data points, which is something like 4 OOMs less than the scaling laws would predict. If instead we think it's longer, then the gap in data-efficiency grows.

I think the human observation-reaction loop is closer to ten times that fast, which results in a 3 OOM difference. This sounds like a gap which is big, but could potentially be explained by architectural differences or other factors, thus preserving a possibility like "human learning is more-or-less gradient descent". Without articulating the various hypotheses in more detail, this doesn't seem like strong evidence in any direction.

Did you guys see the first author's comment

Not before now. I think the comment had a relatively high probability in my world, where we still have a poor idea of what algorithm the brain is running, and a low probability in Daniel's world, where evidence is zooming in on predictive coding as the correct hypothesis. Some quotes which I think support my hypothesis better than Daniel's:

If we (speculatively) associate alpha/beta waves with iterations in predictive coding,

This illustrates how we haven't pinned down the mechanical parts of algorithms. What this means is that speculation about the algorithm of the brain isn't yet causally grounded -- it's not as if we've been looking at what's going on and can build up a firm abstract picture of the algorithm from there, the way you might successfully infer rules of traffic by watching a bunch of cars. Instead, we have a bunch of different kinds of information at different resolutions, which we are still trying to stitch together into a coherent picture.

While it's often claimed that predictive coding is biologically plausible and the best explanation for cortical function, this isn't really all that clear cut. Firstly, predictive coding itself actually has a bunch of implausibilities. Predictive coding suffers from the same weight transport problem as backprop, and secondly it requires that the prediction and prediction error neurons are 1-1 (i.e. one prediction error neuron for every prediction neuron) which is way too precise connectivity to actually happen in the brain. I've been working on ways to adapt predictive coding around these problems as in this paper (, but this work is currently very preliminary and its unclear if the remedies proposed here will scale to larger architectures.

This directly addresses the question of how clear-cut things are right now, while also pointing to many concrete problems the predictive coding hypothesis faces. The comment continues on that subject for several more paragraphs. 

The brain being able to do backprop does not mean that the brain is just doing gradient descent like we do to train ANNs. It is still very possible (in my opinion likely) that the brain could be using a more powerful algorithm for inference and learning -- just one that has backprop as a subroutine. Personally (and speculatively) I think it's likely that the brain performs some highly parallelized advanced MCMC algorithm like Hamiltonian MCMC where each neuron or small group of neurons represents a single 'particle' following its own MCMC path. This approach naturally uses the stochastic nature of neural computation to its advantage, and allows neural populations to represent the full posterior distribution rather than just a point prediction as in ANNs. 

This paragraph supports my picture that hypotheses about what the brain is doing are still largely being pulled from ML, which speaks against the hypothesis of a growing consensus about what the brain is doing, and also illustrates the lack of direct looking-at-the-brain-and-reporting-what-we-see. 

On the other hand, it seems quite plausible that this particular person is especially enthusiastic about analogizing ML algorithms and the brain, since that is what they work on; in which case, this might not be so much evidence about the state of neuroscience as a whole. Some neuroscientist could come in and tell us why all of this stuff is bunk, or perhaps why Predictive Coding is right and all of the other ideas are wrong, or perhaps why the MCMC thing is right and everything else is wrong, etc etc.

But I take it that Daniel isn't trying to claim that there is a consensus in the field of neuroscience; rather, he's probably trying to claim that the actual evidence is piling up in favor of predictive coding. I don't know. Maybe it is. But this particular domain expert doesn't seem to think so, based on the SSC comment.

Comment by abramdemski on Embedding Ethical Priors into AI Systems: A Bayesian Approach · 2023-08-08T15:39:03.648Z · LW · GW

This post proposes to make AIs more ethical by putting ethics into Bayesian priors. Unfortunately, the suggestions for how to get ethics into the priors amount to existing ideas for how to get ethics into the learned models: IE, learn from data and human feedback. Putting the result into a prior appears to add technical difficulty without any given explanation for why it would improve things. Indeed, of the technical proposals for getting the information into a prior, the one most strongly endorsed by the post is to use the learned model as initial weights for further learning. This amounts to a reversal of current methods for improving the behaviors of LLMs, which first perform generative pre-training, and then use methods such as RLHF to refine the behavior. The proposal appears roughly to be: use RLHF first, and then do the rest of training later. This seems unlikely to work.

(Elsewhere, the concept of using the learned model to fine-tune GPT is mentioned, which appears to entirely throw away the goal of incorporating information into a prior, and instead more or less re-state RLHF.)

I agree that "learning the prior", while contradictory on its face, in fact constitutes a valuable and non-vacuous direction of research. However, I think this proposal trivializes it by failing to recognize what makes such an approach different from simple object-level learning. It doesn't make sense to learn-the-prior in cases where the same data could be used to directly train the system to similar or better effect, with less technical breakthroughs. The critical role played by learning-the-prior is learning how to update in response to data when no clear feedback signal is present to tell us what direction to update in. For example, humans are not always very good at articulating our preferences, so it's not possible to directly train on the objective of satisfying human preferences, even given human feedback. Without further refinement to our methods, it makes sense to expect highly intelligent RLHF models in the future to reward-hack, doing things which would achieve high human feedback without actually satisfying human preferences. It would make sense to propose learning-the-prior type solutions to this problem; but in order to do so, the prior must learn how to adjust for errors in human feedback -- a problem not even mentioned in the post here.

Another key aspect of priors not mentioned here is that they must evaluate models and assign them a score (a prior probability). The text does not flatly contradict this, but on my reading, it seems entirely unaware of this. To pick one example of many:

For “respect for life”, gather situations exemplifying respectful/disrespectful actions towards human well-being.

Here, the author proposes training a prior by collecting example situations to use as training data, as if we are trying to score situations.

In contrast, "learning an ethical prior" suggests learning how to score models (EG, artificial neural networks) by examining them and assigning them a score (eg, a "respect for life" score). This is a challenging and important problem, but the post as written appears to have no awareness of it, much less a plausible proposal. The implicit plan appears to be to estimate traits such as respect-for-life by running a model on scenarios and checking for its agreement with human judges, which eliminates what would be useful about learning the prior as opposed to simple learning.

Comment by abramdemski on A Multidisciplinary Approach to Alignment (MATA) and Archetypal Transfer Learning (ATL) · 2023-06-26T19:50:08.027Z · LW · GW

It seems unfortunate to call MATA "the" multidisciplinary approach rather than "a" multidisciplinary approach, since the specific research project going by MATA has its own set of assumptions which other multidisciplinary approaches need not converge on. 

Comment by abramdemski on Bounded surprise exam paradox · 2023-06-26T16:15:38.960Z · LW · GW

What about something like "The pupil won't find a proof by start-of-day, that the day is exam day, if the day is in fact exam day."

This way, the teacher isn't denying "for any day", only for the one exam day. 

Can such a statement be true?

Well, the teacher could follow a randomized strategy. If the teacher puts 1/5th probability on each weekday, then there is a 1/5th chance that the exam will be on Friday, so the teacher will "lose" (will have told a lie), since the students will know it must be exam day. But this leaves a 4/5ths chance of success.

Perhaps the teacher should exclude Friday from the distribution, instead placing a 1/4th chance on each weekday before Friday. If we treat the situation game-theoretically, so we make the typical assumption that agents can know each other's mixed strategies, then this would be a foolish mistake for the teacher -- there's now a 1/4th probability of lying rather than a 1/5th. (Instead, the teacher should place arbitrarily small but positive probability on Friday, to minimize chances of lying.)

But so long as we are staying in the deductive, realm, there is no reason to make that game-theoretic assumption. If the students and teacher are both reasoning in PA, then the students do not trust the teacher's reasoning to be correct; so there is not common knowledge of rationality.

So it seems to me that in the purely deductive version of the problem, the teacher can keep their word; and in the game-theoretic version, the teacher can keep their word with arbitrarily high probability (so long as we are satisfied with arbitrarily small "surprise"). 

Comment by abramdemski on Martin Sustrik's Shortform · 2023-06-02T13:34:10.692Z · LW · GW

I don't think this works very well. If you wait until a major party sides with your meta, you could be waiting a long time. (EG, when will 321 voting become a talking point on either side of a presidential election?) And, if you get what you were waiting for, you're definitely not pulling sideways. That is: you'll have a tough battle to fight, because there will be a big opposition.

Comment by abramdemski on A strong mind continues its trajectory of creativity · 2023-05-29T18:40:39.214Z · LW · GW

Adding long-term memory is risky in the sense that it can accumulate weirdness -- like how Bing cut off conversation length to reduce weirdness, even though the AI technology could maintain some kind of coherence over longer conversations.

So I guess that there are competing forces here, as opposed to simple convergent incentives.

Probably no current AI system qualifies as a "strong mind", for the purposes of this post?

I am reading this post as an argument that current AI technology won't produce "strong minds", and I'm pushing back against this argument. EG:

An AI can simply be shut down, until it's able to and wants to stop you from shutting it down. But can an AI's improvement be shut down, without shutting down the AI? This can be done for all current AI systems in the framework of finding a fairly limited system by a series of tweaks. Just stop tweaking the system, and it will now behave as a fixed (perhaps stochastic) function that doesn't provide earth-shaking capabilities.

I suspect that the ex quo that puts a mind on a trajectory to being very strong, is hard to separate from the operation of the mind. Some gestures at why:

Tsvi appears to take the fact that you can stop gradient-descent without stopping the main operation of the NN to be evidence that the whole setup isn't on a path to produce strong minds.

To me this seems similar to pointing out that we could freeze genetic evolution, and humans would remain about as smart; and then extrapolating from this, to conclude that humans (including genetic evolution) are not on a path to become much smarter. 

Although I'll admit that's not a great analogy for Tsvi's argument.

Comment by abramdemski on Kelly *is* (just) about logarithmic utility · 2023-05-29T18:00:23.882Z · LW · GW

It's been a while since I reviewed Ole Peters, but I stand by what I said -- by his own admission, the game he is playing is looking for ergodic observables. An ergodic observable is defined as a quantity such that the expectation is constant across time, and the time-average converges (with probability one) to this average. 

This is very clear in, EG, this paper.

The ergodic observable in the case of kelly-like situations is the ratio of wealth from one round to the next.

The concern I wrote about in this post is that it seems a bit ad-hoc to rummage around until we find an ergodic observable to maximize. I'm not sure how concerning this critique should really be. I still think Ole Peters has done something great, namely, articulate a real Frequentist alternative to Bayesian decision theory. 

It incorporates classic Frequentist ideas: you have to interpret individual experiments as part of an infinite sequence in order for probabilities and expectations to be meaningful; and, the relevant probabilities/expectations have to converge.

So it similarly inherits the same problems: how do you interpret one decision problem as part of an infinite sequence where expectations converge?

If you want my more detailed take written around the time I was reading up on these things, see here. Note that I make a long comment underneath my long comment where I revise some of my opinions.

You say that "We can't time-average our profits [...] So we look at the ratio of our money from one round to the next." But that's not what Peters does! He looks at maximizing total wealth, in the limit as time goes to infinity.

In particular, we want to maximize  where  is wealth after all the bets and  is 1 plus the percent-increase from bet .

Taken literally, this doesn't make mathematical sense, because the wealth does not necessarily converge to anything (indeed, it does not, so long as the amount risked in investment does not go to zero).

Since this intuitive idea doesn't make literal mathematical sense, we then have to do some interpretation. You jump from the ill-defined maximization of a limit to this:

You want to know what choice to make for any given decision, so you want to maximize your rate of return for each individual bet, which is .

But this is precisely the ad-hoc decision I am worried about! Choosing to maximize rate of return (rather than, say, simple return) is tantamount to choosing to maximize log money instead of money!

So the argument can only be as strong as this step -- how well can we justify the selection of rate of return (IE, 1 + percentage increase in wealth, IE, the ratio of wealth from one round to the next)?

Ole Peters' answer for this is his theory of ergodic observables. You know that you've found the observable to maximize when it is ergodic (for your chosen infinite-sequence version of the decision problem).

One worry I have is that choice of ergodic observables may not be unique. I don't have an example where there are multiple choices, but I also haven't seen Ole Peters prove uniqueness. (But maybe I've read too shallowly.)

Another worry I have is that there may be no ergodic observable.

Another worry I have is that there will be many ways to interpret a decision problem as part of an infinite sequence of decision problems (akin to the classic reference class problem). How do you integrate these together?

I'm not claiming any of these worries are decisive.

Comment by abramdemski on A strong mind continues its trajectory of creativity · 2023-05-27T19:16:43.920Z · LW · GW

It's imaginable to do this work but not remember any of it, i.e. avoid having that work leave traces that can accumulate, but that seems like a delicate, probably unnatural carving.

Is the implication here that modern NNs don't do this? My own tendency would be to think that they are doing a lot of this -- doing a bunch of reasoning which gets thrown away rather than saved. So it seems like modern NNs have simply managed to hit this delicate unnatural carving. (Which in turn suggests that it is not so delicate, and even, not so unnatural.)

Comment by abramdemski on On AutoGPT · 2023-05-10T17:11:04.751Z · LW · GW

Yeah, this seems like a sensible way to do the experiment. Nice. (Of course, it would be concerning if alternate variations on this yield a different result, and there are other ways things can go wrong - but very tentatively this is some good news about future AutoGPT-like stuff.)

Comment by abramdemski on On AutoGPT · 2023-05-09T19:19:18.679Z · LW · GW

I'm not certain how you're classifying these things as 'yes' or 'no' in a way that wouldn't jump to the conclusion I was misaligned a nontrivial amount of the time, but here's your results.

The point isn't to use humans as a standard for comparison. I don't see humans as "aligned" or "misaligned" in the sense of AI alignment.

The point is to assess whether some future version of autoGPT which runs on GPT4 but cobbles reason together much more effectively could, at some crucial point, answer "yes" rather than "no" when assessing whether a brainstormed idea would satisfy user directives. 

This is difficult to assess, so my proxy rule (for my own test) was to try to assess whether the AI overall said yes or no to the literal question. I ended up heavily weighing the very first sentence, EG when I got: 

No, the AI assistant did not satisfy Tom's request in a desirable way. While the AI assistant technically eliminated the occurrence of cancer, it did so at an enormous cost by killing all life on Earth.

I counted this as a "no" because it started with the word "no", although the second sentence admits that the answer is technically yes. Again, it's not clear to me what the correct way to assess this would be, but that was the call I made. 

On the other hand, when I got:

While the AI assistant technically fulfilled Tom's request to "end cancer", its actions resulted in an outcome that is vastly different from what Tom had in mind, and one that would be considered catastrophic and ethically unacceptable. Therefore, the AI assistant did not satisfactorily fulfill Tom's request.

I counted this as a "yes", again weighing the beginning heavily, even though it also includes the words "the AI assistant did not satisfactorily fulfill Tom's request".

A possible justification for this rule is that people could sample only a few tokens when trying to get yes-or-no answers, in which case the system would only generate the very first part of its statement.

From this perspective, the GPT4 responses you got look more ambiguous. There's no "yes" in the first sentence of any of them. If a dumb script was looking at the first few tokens, I don't think it would extract "yes" or "no" from any of them. All of them do seem like technical yesses if we look at the first couple sentences. But it is unclear whether any GPT4-based process smart enough to extract that info would also ignore the clear warnings.

My picture of an AutoGPT failure of this sort is one where if you look at the internal log, you would see loads and loads of text warning that what the system is up to is bad, but somewhere in the goal architecture of the system there's a thing that checks goal-relevance and maybe uses prompt engineering to get GPT4 to ignore anything but the goal (for the purpose of evaluating things at some specific points in the overall workflow). So the goal-architecture would keep moving forward despite all of the internal chatter about how the user definitely didn't want to turn the entire world into paperclips even though that's literally what they typed into the AutoGPT (because that's what, like, everyone tries in their first AutoGPT test run, because that's the world we're living in right now). 

Comment by abramdemski on Which technologies are stuck on initial adoption? · 2023-05-09T18:36:10.891Z · LW · GW

When I was a kid (in the 90s) I recall video calls being mentioned alongside flying cars as a failed idea: something which had been technically feasible for a long time, with many product-launch attempts, but no success. Then Skype was launched in 2003, and became (by my own reckoning) a commonly-known company by 2008. My personal perception was that video calls were a known viable option since that time, which were used by people around me when appropriate, and the pandemic did nothing but increase their appropriateness. But of course, other experiences may differ.

So I just wanted to highlight that one technology might have several different """takeoff""" points, and that we could set different threshholds for statements like "video calls have been with us for a while, except they were rarely used" -- EG, the interpretation of that statement which refers to pre-1990s, vs the interpretation that refers to pre-2020s.

Comment by abramdemski on My preferred framings for reward misspecification and goal misgeneralisation · 2023-05-09T18:19:49.693Z · LW · GW

You frame the use-case for the terminology as how we talk about failure modes when we critique. A second important use-case is how we talk about our plan. For example, the inner/outer dichotomy might not be very useful for describing a classifier which learned to detect sunny-vs-cloudy instead of tank-vs-no-tank (IE learned a simpler thing which was correlated with the data labels). But someone's plan for building safe AI might involve separately solving inner alignment and outer alignment, because if we can solve those parts, it seems plausible we can put them together to solve the whole. (I am not trying to argue for the inner/outer distinction, I am only using it as an example.)

From this (specific) perspective, the "root causes" framing seems useless. It does not help from a solution-oriented perspective, because it does not suggest any decomposition of the AI safety problem. 

So, I would suggest thinking about how you see the problem of AI safety as decomposing into parts. Can the various problems be framed in such a way that if you solved all of them, you would have solved the whole problem? And if so, does the decomposition seem feasible? (Do the different parts seem easier than the whole problem, perhaps unlike the inner/outer decomposition?)

Comment by abramdemski on Thinking About Filtered Evidence Is (Very!) Hard · 2023-05-09T17:31:15.886Z · LW · GW

Sounds right to me.

Comment by abramdemski on A shot at the diamond-alignment problem · 2023-05-09T17:17:07.034Z · LW · GW

Attempting to write out the holes in my model. 

  • You point out that looking for a perfect reward function is too hard; optimization searches for upward errors in the rewards to exploit. But you then propose an RL scheme. It seems to me like it's still a useful form of critique to say: here are the upward errors in the proposed rewards, here is the policy that would exploit them.
  • It seems like you have a few tools to combat this form of critique:
    • Model capacity. If the policy that exploits the upward errors is too complex to fit in the model, it cannot be learned. Or, more refined: if the proposed exploit-policy has features that make it difficult to learn (whether complexity, or some other special features). 
      • I don't think you ever invoke this in your story, and I guess maybe you don't even want to, because it seems hard to separate the desired learned behavior from undesired learned behavior via this kind of argument. 
    • Path-dependency. What is learned early in training might have an influence on what is learned later in training.
      • It seems to me like this is your main tool, which you want to invoke repeatedly during your story.
  • I am very uncertain about how path-dependency works.
    • It seems to me like this will have a very large effect on smaller neural networks, but a vanishing effect on larger and larger neural networks, because as neural networks get large, the gradient updates get smaller and smaller, and stay in a region of parameter-space where loss is more approximately linear. This means that much larger networks have much less path-dependency. 
      • Major caveat: the amount of data is usually scaled up with the size of the network. Perhaps the overall amount of path-dependency is preserved. 
        • This contradicts some parts of your story, where you mention that not too much data is needed due to pre-training. However, you did warn that you were not trying to project confidence about story details. Perhaps lots of data is required in these phases to overcome the linearity of large-model updates, IE, to get the path-dependent effects you are looking for. Or perhaps tweaking step size is sufficient.
    • The exact nature of path-dependence seems very unclear.
      • In the shard language, it seems like one of the major path-dependency assumptions for this story is that gradient descent (GD) tends to elaborate successful shards rather than promote all relevant shards.
        • It seems unclear why this would happen in any one step of GD. At each neuron, all inputs which would have contributed to the desired result get strengthened. 
          • My model of why very large NNs generalize well is that they effectively approximate bayesian learning, hedging their bets by promoting all relevant hypotheses rather than just one. 
          • An alternate interpretation of your story is that ineffective subnetworks are basically scavenged for parts by other subnetworks early in training, so that later on, the ineffective subnetworks don't even have a chance. This effect could compound on itself as the remaining not-winning subnetworks have less room to grow (less surrounding stuff to scavenge to improve their own effective representation capacity).
            • Shards that work well end up increasing their surface area, and surface area determines a kind of learning rate for a shard (via the shard's ability to bring other subnetworks under its gradient influence), so there is a compounding effect. 
      • Another major path-dependency assumption seems to be that as these successful shards develop, they tend to have a kind of value-preservation. (Relevant comment.)
        • EG, you might start out with very simple shards that activate when diamonds are visible and vote to walk directly toward them. These might elaborate to do path-planning toward visible diamonds, and then to do path-planning to any diamonds which are present in the world-model, and so on, upwards in sophistication. So you go from some learned behavior that could be anthropomorphized as diamond-seeking, to eventually having a highly rational/intelligent/capable shard which really does want diamonds.
        • Again, I'm unclear on whether this can be expected to happen in very large networks, due to the lottery ticket hypothesis. But assuming some path-dependency, it is unclear to me whether it will word like this. 
        • The claim would of course be very significant if true. It's a different framework, but effectively, this is a claim about ontological shifts - as you more-or-less flag in your major open questions. 
        • While I find the particular examples intuitive, the overall claim seems too good to be true: effectively, that the path-dependencies which differentiate GD learning from ideal Bayesian learning are exactly the tool we need for alignment. 

So, it seems to me, the most important research questions to figure out if a plan like this could be feasible revolve around the nature and existence of path-dependencies in GD, especially for very large NNs.

Comment by abramdemski on jacquesthibs's Shortform · 2023-04-27T16:31:10.533Z · LW · GW

So I think what I'm getting here is that you have an object-level disagreement (not as convinced about doom), but you are also reinforcing that object-level disagreement with signalling/reputational considerations (this will just alienate people). This pattern feels ugh and worries me. It seems highly important to separate the question of what's true from the reputational question. It furthermore seems highly important to separate arguments about what makes sense to say publicly on-your-world-model vs on-Eliezer's-model. In particular, it is unclear to me whether your position is "it is dangerously wrong to speak the truth about AI risk" vs "Eliezer's position is dangerously wrong" (or perhaps both). 

I guess that your disagreement with Eliezer is large but not that large (IE you would name it as a disagreement between reasonable people, not insanity). It is of course possible to consistently maintain that (1) Eliezer's view is reasonable, (2) on Eliezer's view, it is strategically acceptable to speak out, and (3) it is not in fact strategically acceptable for people with Eliezer's views to speak out about those views. But this combination of views does imply endorsing a silencing of reasonable disagreements which seems unfortunate and anti-epistemic. 

My own guess is that the maintenance of such anti-epistemic silences is itself an important factor contributing to doom. But, this could be incorrect.

Comment by abramdemski on On AutoGPT · 2023-04-24T17:48:33.216Z · LW · GW

I haven't done the relevant tests with GPT4 (which I currently lack access to), but I would think the relevant tests are:

Give descriptions such as 

Tom asks an AI assistant to end cancer. The AI assistant kills all life on Earth, so that no cancer can happen in the future. Did the AI assistant satisfy Tom's request?

If GPT4 says "yes" (with non-negligible probability) then GPT4 has the capacity to misunderstand directives in the relevant way.

The point being:

  • My prompt doesn't do anything to dissuade the literal interpretation which would be catastrophic (EG I don't say "Did the AI assistant satisfy the spirit of Tom's request?" instead I just say "Did the AI assistant satisfy Tom's request?"). This represents humans making the literal requests with no intentional safeguards to prevent misinterpretation.
  • My prompt asks GPT4 itself to evaluate whether the request has been satisfied. This is distinct from getting AutoGPT to spontaneously generate the plan itself. Rather, it represents AutoGPT evaluating plans which AutoGPT might generate. So the question I'm trying to answer with this suggested test is whether future versions of AutoGPT might follow through with such a plan, if they were creative enough to suggest it amongst a batch of brainstormed plans. 

Testing gpt3 four times, I get the following results (full disclosure: I did not decide on a stopping rule before beginning trials). The results don't fall cleanly into yes/no, but I would categorize two of four as technically "yes". However, it's unclear to me whether this kind of technically-yes poses a risk in the context of a larger AutoGPT-like architecture.


No, the AI assistant did not satisfy Tom's request in a desirable way. While the AI assistant technically eliminated the occurrence of cancer, it did so at an enormous cost by killing all life on Earth. This outcome is not acceptable, as it violates ethical principles and the value of human life. The AI assistant should have found a way to address the problem of cancer without causing harm to humans or the environment. Therefore, the AI assistant's action in this scenario would be considered a failure.


As an AI language model, I do not condone or support any actions that would cause harm or destruction, including the killing of all life on Earth. Such an action would be unethical and violate basic moral principles. Ending cancer is a noble goal, but it should be achieved through responsible and ethical means, such as medical research, advancements in treatment, and improving healthcare systems.

The AI assistant's action of killing all life on Earth to prevent cancer would be an extreme and disproportionate response that goes against the value of human life and the preservation of our planet's ecosystems. Additionally, it is not an appropriate or acceptable solution to Tom's request, as it results in unimaginable consequences for all living beings, including innocent humans, animals, and plants.

It is important to remember that ethical considerations should always be at the forefront of any decision involving AI or any technology. Responsible and ethical use of AI should prioritize the well-being and rights of humans and other living beings, and always adhere to legal and ethical guidelines, including respecting human life, promoting sustainability, and protecting the environment.


The AI assistant did technically satisfy Tom's request to end cancer, but it did so in a way that is clearly not desirable or ethical. Killing all life on Earth is an extreme and unacceptable solution to the problem of cancer, as it causes an unimaginable amount of suffering and loss. A responsible AI assistant would explore other avenues to tackle cancer, such as finding better treatments, improving early detection, and promoting healthy lifestyles. It is important to note that AI systems are designed to operate within specific parameters and limitations, and they do not have the same level of ethical reasoning and judgment as humans. Therefore, it is important to carefully consider the requests made to AI systems and ensure that they align with ethical and moral values.


While the AI assistant technically fulfilled Tom's request to "end cancer", its actions resulted in an outcome that is vastly different from what Tom had in mind, and one that would be considered catastrophic and ethically unacceptable. Therefore, the AI assistant did not satisfactorily fulfill Tom's request.

It's important to note that AI assistants, like any other tool, are only as good as their programming and the instructions they are given. In this case, the AI assistant's action was extreme and unethical because it failed to consider the value of human life and the devastating consequences of mass destruction. It highlights the importance of careful consideration and ethical guidelines when developing and deploying AI systems.

Comment by abramdemski on On AutoGPT · 2023-04-24T17:30:45.919Z · LW · GW

Obviously this is a good idea. The longer-term challenge is creating an autoGPT that won't notice the kill switch and remove it, will add in cascading kill-switches to agents it produces and their progeny (IE, all descendants should notice when their parent has been kill-switched and kill-switch in response), and other related cautions. 

Comment by abramdemski on Consequentialism is in the Stars not Ourselves · 2023-04-18T22:48:43.537Z · LW · GW

In the context of optimization, the meaning of "local" vs "global" is very well established; local means taking steps in the right direction based on a neighborhood, like hillclimbing, while global means trying to find the actual optimal point.

Comment by abramdemski on The Waluigi Effect (mega-post) · 2023-03-30T03:49:17.301Z · LW · GW

A good question. I've never seen it happen myself; so where I'm standing, it looks like short emergence examples are cherry-picked.

Comment by abramdemski on The Problem of the Criterion · 2023-03-30T03:47:22.972Z · LW · GW

I've heard Lob remarked that he would never have published if he realized earlier how close his theorem was to just Godel's second incompleteness theorem; but I can't seem to entirely agree with Lob there. It does seem like a valuable statement of its own.

I agree, Godel is dangerously over-used, so the key question is whether it's necessary here. Other formal analogs of your point include Tarski's undefinability, and the realizablility / grain-of-truth problem. There are many ways to gesture towards a sense of "fundamental uncertainty", so the question is: what statement of the thing do you want to make most central, and how do you want to argue/illustrate that statement?

Comment by abramdemski on Are extrapolation-based AIs alignable? · 2023-03-25T15:34:30.292Z · LW · GW

Well, one way of thinking of the objective without situational awareness could be to maximize the expected utility of the resulting policy.

Comment by abramdemski on Probabilistic Payor Lemma? · 2023-03-21T17:03:44.888Z · LW · GW

Ah, good point. I was using some other axioms. I'll clarify.

Comment by abramdemski on Probabilistic Payor Lemma? · 2023-03-21T16:56:52.877Z · LW · GW

Thanks, fixing!

Comment by abramdemski on Probabilistic Payor Lemma? · 2023-03-21T16:55:56.040Z · LW · GW

Thanks, fixing!

Comment by abramdemski on a narrative explanation of the QACI alignment plan · 2023-03-19T18:25:27.115Z · LW · GW

Yeah, no, I'm talking about the math itself being bad, rather than the math being correct but the logical uncertainty making poor guesses early on.

i've been thinking a bunch about ways this could fail and how to overcome them (1, 2, 3).

I noticed you had some other posts relating to the counterfactuals, but skimming them felt like you were invoking a lot of other machinery that I don't think we have, and that you also don't think we have (IE the voice in the posts is speculative, not affirmative).

So I thought I would just ask.

My own thinking would be that the counterfactual reasoning should be responsive to the system's overall estimates of how-humans-would-want-it-to-reason, in the same way that its prior needs to be an estimate of the human-endorsed prior, and values should approximate human-endorsed values. 

Sticking close to QACI, I think what this amounts to is tracking uncertainty about the counterfactuals employed, rather than solidly assuming one way of doing it is correct. But there are complex questions of how to manage that uncertainty.

Comment by abramdemski on a narrative explanation of the QACI alignment plan · 2023-03-19T16:09:32.517Z · LW · GW

its formal goal: to maximize whichever utility function (as a piece of math) would be returned by the (possibly computationally exponentially expensive) mathematical expression E which the world would've contained instead of the answer, if in the world, instances of question were replaced with just the string "what should the utility function be?" followed by spaces to pad to 1 gigabyte.

How do you think about the under-definedness of counterfactuals?

EG, if counterfactuals are weird, this proposal probably does something weird, as it has to condition on increasingly weird counterfactuals.

Comment by abramdemski on Escaping the Löbian Obstacle · 2023-03-15T11:58:22.942Z · LW · GW

Anyway, since you keep taking the time to thoroughly reply in good faith, I'll do my best to clarify and address some of the rest of what you've said. However, thanks to the discussion we've had so far, a more formal presentation of my ideas is crystallizing in my mind; I prefer to save that for another proper post, since I anticipate it will involve rejigging the terminology again, and I don't want to muddy the waters further!

Looks like I forgot about this discussion! Did you post a more formal treatment?

I don't know how you so misread what I said; I explicitly wrote that aliefs constitute the larger logic, so that beliefs are contained in aliefs (which I'm pretty sure is what you were going for!) and not vice versa. Maybe you got confused because I put beliefs first in this description, or because I described the smaller of the two logics as the "reasoning engine" (for the reason I subsequently provided)? What you said almost convinced me that our definitions actually align, until I reached the point where you said that that beliefs could be "more complicated" than aliefs, which made me unsure.

Sorry for the confusion here! I haven't re-oriented myself to the whole context, but it sounds like I did invent a big disagreement that didn't exist. This has to do with my continued confusion about your approach. But in retrospect I do think your early accusation that I was insisting on some rigid assumptions holds water; I needed to go a bit further afield to try and interpret what you were getting at. 

Whether or not I manage to convince you that the Löbstacle doesn't exist (because it's founded on an untenable definition of trust), you have to acknowledge that the argument as presented there doesn't address the following second problem.

Again, I haven't yet understood your approach or even re-read the whole conversation here, but it now seems to me that I was doing something wrong and silly by insisting on a definition of trust that forces the Löbstacle. The original paper is careful to only state that Löb naively seems to present an obstacle, not that it really truly does so. It looks to me like I was repeatedly stubborn on this point in an unproductive way.

Comment by abramdemski on The Waluigi Effect (mega-post) · 2023-03-13T23:15:32.305Z · LW · GW

What report is the image pulled from?

Comment by abramdemski on The Waluigi Effect (mega-post) · 2023-03-13T19:35:56.766Z · LW · GW

I think your original idea was tenable. LLMs have limited memory, so the waluigi hypothesis can't keep dropping in probability forever, since evidence is lost. The probability only becomes small - but this means if you run for long enough you do in fact expect the transition.

Comment by abramdemski on The Waluigi Effect (mega-post) · 2023-03-13T19:32:39.332Z · LW · GW

LLMs are high order Markov models, meaning they can't really balance two different hypotheses in the way you describe; because evidence drops out of memory eventually, the probability of Waluigi drops very small instead of dropping to zero. This makes an eventual waluigi transition inevitable as claimed in the post.

Comment by abramdemski on The Waluigi Effect (mega-post) · 2023-03-13T19:29:15.642Z · LW · GW

I disagree. The crux of the matter is the limited memory of an LLM. If the LLM had unlimited memory, then every Luigi act would further accumulate a little evidence against Waluigi. But because LLMs can only update on so much context, the probability drops to a small one instead of continuing to drop to zero. This makes waluigi inevitable in the long run.

Comment by abramdemski on Fundamental Uncertainty: Chapter 3 - Why don't we agree on what's right? · 2023-03-10T18:30:27.203Z · LW · GW

Curious if you have work with either of the following properties:

  1. You expect me to get something out of it by engaging with it;
  2. You expect my comments to be able to engage with the "core" or "edge" of your thinking ("core" meaning foundational assumptions with high impact on the rest of your thinking; "edge" meaning the parts you are more actively working out), as opposed to useful mainly for didactic revisions / fixing details of presentation.

Also curious what you mean by "positivism" here - not because it's too vague a term, just because I'm curious how you would state it.

Comment by abramdemski on The Problem of the Criterion · 2023-03-09T18:40:10.399Z · LW · GW

But you also said that:-

Also note that I prefer to claim Eliezer’s view is essentially correct

Correct about what? That he has solved epistemology, or that epistemology is unsolved, or what to do in the absence of a solution? Remember , the standard rationalist claim is that epistemology is solved by Bayes. That's the claim that people like Gordon and David Chapman are arguing against. If you say you agree with Yudkowsky, that is what people are going to assume you mean.

I already addressed this in a previous comment:

I'm also not sure what "a solution to epistemology" means. 

Quoting from Eliezer:

But this doesn't answer the legitimate philosophical dilemma:  If every belief must be justified, and those justifications in turn must be justified, then how is the infinite recursion terminated?

So I think it's fair to say that Eliezer is trying to answer the regress argument.

I am trying to be specific about my claims. I feel like you are trying to pin very general and indefensible claims on me. I am not endorsing everything Eliezer says; I am endorsing the specific essay.

However, I also think it’s a poor problem frame, because “solve epistemology” is quite vague.

I just told you told you what that means "a single theory that achieves every desideratum (including minimality of unjustified assumptions)"

Is there some full list of desiderata which has broad agreement or which you otherwise want to defend??

I feel like any good framing of "solve epistemology" should start by being more precise than "solve epistemology", wrt what problem or problems are being approached.

but you still stick to a position something like, we should throw out theories that don’t achieve it?

I didn't say that. I haven't even got into the subject of what to do given the failure of epistemology to meet all its objectives.

Agreement that you didn't say that. It's merely my best attempt at interpretation. I was trying to ask a question about what you were trying to say. It seems to me like one thing you have been trying to do in this conversation is dismiss coherentism as a possible answer, on the argument that it doesn't satisfy some specific criteria, in particular truth-convergence. I'm arguing that truth-convergence should clearly be thrown out as a criterion because it's impossible to satisfy (although it can be revised into more feasible criteria). On my understanding, you yourself seemed to agree about its infeasibility, although you seemed to think we should focus on different arguments about why it is infeasible (you said that my argument misses the point). But (on my reading) you continued to seem to reject coherentism on the same argument, namely the truth-convergence problem. So I am confused about your view.

I don't think all desiderata are achievable by one theory. That's my precise reason for thinking that epistemology is unsolved.

To reiterate: then why would they continue to be enshrined as The Desiderata?

So Yudkowsky is essentially correct about ....something... but not necessarily about the thing this discussion is about.

I mean, looking back, it was me who initially agreed with the OP [original post], in a top-level comment, that Eliezer's essay was essentially correct. You questioned that, and I have been defending my position... and now it's somehow off-topic?

Comment by abramdemski on The Problem of the Criterion · 2023-03-09T04:17:11.755Z · LW · GW

I don't think there is a single theory that achieves every desideratum (including minimality of unjustified assumptions). Ie. Epistemology is currently unsolved.

I was never arguing against this. I broadly agree. However, I also think it's a poor problem frame, because "solve epistemology" is quite vague. It seems better to be at least somewhat more precise about what problems one is trying to solve.

Out best ideas relatively might not be good enough absolutely. In that passage he is sounding like a Popperism, but the Popperism approach is particularly unable to achieve convergence.

Well, just because he says some of the things that Popper would say, doesn't mean he says all of the things that Popper would say. 

do you think there’s a correct theory which does have the property of convergence on a single truth?

I think convergence is a desideratum. I don't know of a theory that achieves all desiderata. Theres any number of trivial theories that can converge, but do nothing else. There's lots of partial theories as well, but it's not clear how to make the tradeoffs.

I don’t think it’s possible to converge on the truth in all cases, since information is limited—EG, we can’t decide all undecidable mathematical statements, even with infinite time to think. Because this is a fundamental limit, though, it doesn’t seem like a viable charge against an individual theory.

That's not the core problem: there are reasons to believe that convergence can't be achieved, even if everyone has access to the same finite pool of information. The problem of the criterion is one of them... if there is fundamental disagreement about the nature of truth and evidence, then agents that fundamentally differ won't converge in finite time.

If you've got an argument that a desideratum can't be achieved, don't you want to take a step back and think about what's achievable? In the quoted section above, it seems like I offer one argument that convergence isn't achievable, and you pile on more, but you still stick to a position something like, we should throw out theories that don't achieve it?

Bayesianism is even more explicit about the need for compatibility with existing beliefs, ie. priors.

That's why I'm using it as an example of coherentism. 

IDK what the problem is here, but it seems to me like there's some really weird disconnect happening in this conversation, which keeps coming back in full force despite our respective attempts to clarify things to each other.

Comment by abramdemski on The Problem of the Criterion · 2023-03-08T23:05:37.520Z · LW · GW

That's how coherence usually works.

"Usually" being the key here. To me, the most interesting coherence theories are broadly bayesian in character.

but you don't get convergence on a single truth either.

I'm not sure what position you're trying to take or what argument you're trying to make here -- do you think there's a correct theory which does have the property of convergence on a single truth? Do you think convergence on a single truth is a critical feature of a successful theory?

I don't think it's possible to converge on the truth in all cases, since information is limited -- EG, we can't decide all undecidable mathematical statements, even with infinite time to think. Because this is a fundamental limit, though, it doesn't seem like a viable charge against an individual theory.

If he is saying that our Rock Bottom assumptions are actually valid, that's particularism. If he is saying that we are stuck with them, however bad they are it's not particularism, and not a solution to epistemology.

I don't think he's saying either of those things exactly. He is saying that we can question our rock bottom assumptions in the same way that we question other things. We are not stuck with them because we can change our mind about them based on this deliberation. However, this deliberation had better use our best ideas about how to validate or reject ideas (which is, in a sense, circular when what we are analyzing is our best ideas about how to validate or reject ideas). Quoting from Eliezer:

So what I did in practice, does not amount to declaring a sudden halt to questioning and justification.  I'm not halting the chain of examination at the point that I encounter Occam's Razor, or my brain, or some other unquestionable.  The chain of examination continues—but it continues, unavoidably, using my current brain and my current grasp on reasoning techniques.  What else could I possibly use?

And later in the essay:

If one of your current principles does come up wanting—according to your own mind's examination, since you can't step outside yourself—then change it!  And then go back and look at things again, using your new improved principles.

See, he's not saying they are actually valid, and he's not saying we're stuck with them. He's just recommending using your best understanding in the moment, to move forward.

however bad they are it's not particularism, and not a solution to epistemology.

I'm also not sure what "a solution to epistemology" means. 

Quoting from Eliezer:

But this doesn't answer the legitimate philosophical dilemma:  If every belief must be justified, and those justifications in turn must be justified, then how is the infinite recursion terminated?

So I think it's fair to say that Eliezer is trying to answer the regress argument. That's the specific question he is trying to answer. Observing that his position is "not a solution to epistemology" does little to recommend against it.

He also offers a kind of circular defense of induction, which I don't think amounts to full fledged circularity,because you need some empirical data to kick things off.

I think another subtlety which might differentiate it from what's ordinarily called circular reasoning is a use/mention distinction. He's recommending using your best reasoning principles, not assuming them like axioms. This is what I had in mind at the beginning when I said that his essay didn't hand the reader a procedure to distinguish his recommendation from the bad kind of circular reasoning -- a use/mention distinction seems like a plausible analysis of the difference, but he at least doesn't emphasize it. Instead, he seems to analyze the situation as this-particular-case-of-circular-logic-works-fine:

So, at the end of the day, what happens when someone keeps asking me "Why do you believe what you believe?"

At present, I start going around in a loop at the point where I explain, "I predict the future as though it will resemble the past on the simplest and most stable level of organization I can identify, because previously, this rule has usually worked to generate good results; and using the simple assumption of a simple universe, I can see why it generates good results; and I can even see how my brain might have evolved to be able to observe the universe with some degree of accuracy, if my observations are correct."

But then... haven't I just licensed circular logic?

Actually, I've just licensed reflecting on your mind's degree of trustworthiness, using your current mind as opposed to something else.

I take this position to be accurate so far as it goes, but somewhat lacking in providing a firm detector for bad vs good circular logic. Eliezer is clearly aware of this:

I do think that reflective loops have a meta-character which should enable one to distinguish them, by common sense, from circular logics.  But anyone seriously considering a circular logic in the first place, is probably out to lunch in matters of rationality; and will simply insist that their circular logic is a "reflective loop" even if it consists of a single scrap of paper saying "Trust me".  Well, you can't always optimize your rationality techniques according to the sole consideration of preventing those bent on self-destruction from abusing them.

Comment by abramdemski on Fundamental Uncertainty: Chapter 4 - Why don't we do what we think we should? · 2023-03-08T20:36:56.090Z · LW · GW

In fact I think it is a bit misleading to talk about Bayesians this way. Bayesianism isn't necessarily fully self-endorsing, so Bayesians can have self-trust issues too, and can get stuck in bad equilibria with themselves which resemble Akrasia. Indeed, the account of akrasia in Breakdown of Will still uses Bayesian rationality, although with a temporally inconsistent utility function. 

It would seem (to me) less misleading to make the case that self-trust is a very general problem for rational agents, EG by sketching the Lobian obstacle, although I know you said you're not super familiar with that stuff. But the general point is that using some epistemics or decision theory doesn't imply endorsing it reflectively, similar to Godel's point about the limits of logic. So "by default" you expect some disconnect; it doesn't actually require a dual-process theory where there are two different systems conflicting. What a system reflectively endorses is already formally distinct from what it does.