Newcombness of the Dining Philosophers Problem

Before finding this site, I didn’t normally associate the Prisoner’s Dilemma or other questions of Decision Theory with the field of Artificial Intelligence. After all, when writing software I don’t have to negotiate to get the program to cooperate with me; rather, it obeys simply by the nature of its function.

So then my next thought was the possibility of autonomous agents needing to negotiate with each other. This could be multiple components of a superintelligent construct, or possibly multiple different superintelligent AIs that share resources of the planet between them. In this scenario, it would be important for the AIs to cooperate whenever they have conflicting tasks that use the same resources.

At that point, it occurred to me that the problem of programs concurrently requiring the same resource have been known to Computer Science for decades, known as the Dining Philosophers Problem. (The analogy of philosophers “only able to eat or think” reflects the historically low opinion computer scientists have for philosophers).

Of course, the philosophers in this analogy merely represent non-autonomous programs or execution threads, and not agents, but I think an analogous issue could still appear in the real world. For example, if two agents simultaneously arrived to a resource they both require, CDT would conclude both agents should attempt to obtain the resource at the same time, causing deadlock.

Officially, the Dining Philosophers Problem has “no general solution”, but current operating systems have certain approaches to mitigate it, either with a global hierarchy of resources or a “waiter” implemented as a mutex.

On the surface, it would seem that a supervising operating system across all AGIs would be a trivial solution for their mutual cooperation. Similar to the Dining Philosophers Problem, a kind of mutex would be used to regulate autonomous agents across the network, a process currently known as the Internet of Things. In fact, this kind of operating system could be a cheeky way to solve almost any Newcomblike problem.

Of course, this doesn’t always work in practice, because the AI also has to consider humans as agents in the same simulation, who are both unable and unwilling to be governed in the same operating system. So instead, the AI has to model other agents decisions using something like FDT or UDT.

So in the situation where the Dining Philosophers are autonomous agents, how would FDT resolve the problem? I’m not very experienced in the field, but from what I read I would guess that each philosopher would understand the tasks that the other one needs to do, because they can assume that they all have copies of the same function. So, the philosophers would defer to whichever task is of greater importance, or has a more pressing time limit, or takes shorter time, etc.

On a final note, I start to wonder what it would be like if a computer had no operating system at all, but instead relied entirely on Decision Theory. An OS is basically a monarch of the computer, dictating an organization for programs who can’t decide for themselves. But if programs were autonomous, then a computer can essentially run on “anarchy” with each execution thread carrying their own Bible of FDT.