I’m intrigued by your topic for another day.
How do you define “lifeform” so as to make us not examples? (Is the point e.g. that “we” are our _minds_ which could in principle exist without our _bodies_? Or do you consider that _Homo sapiens_ bodies don’t constitute a lifeform?)
I think your h4ck3r-versus-n00b dichotomy may need a little adjustment.
It’s true that some hackers prefer mathematics-y languages like, say, Haskell or Scheme, with elegantly minimal syntax and a modest selection of powerful features that add up to something tremendous.
But _plenty_ of highly skilled and experienced software-makers program in, for instance, C++, which really doesn’t score too highly on the elegance-and-abstraction front. Plenty more like to program in C, which does better on elegance and worse on abstraction and is certainly a long way from mathematical elegance. Plenty more like to program in Python, which was originally designed to be (inter alia) a noob-friendly language, and is in fact a pretty good choice for a first language to teach to a learner. And, on the other side of things, Scheme—which seems like it has a bunch of the characteristics you’re saying are typical of “expert-focused” languages—has always had a great deal of educational use, by (among others) the very people who were and are designing it.
If you’re designing a programming language, you certainly need to figure out whether to focus on newcomers or experts, but I don’t think that choice alone nails down very much about the language, and I don’t think it aligns with elegance-versus-let’s-politely-call-it-richness.
Would you care to distinguish between “there is no territory” (which on the face of it is a metaphysical claim, just like “there is a territory”, and if we compare those two then it seems like the consistency of what we see might be evidence for “a territory” over “no territory”) and “I decline to state or hold any opinion about territory as opposed to models”?
I’m pretty sure that’s wrong for three reasons. First, there are 365 days in a year, not 355. Second, there are actually 366 days next year because it’s a leap year (and the extra day is before April 1). Third, the post explicitly says “may not post again until April 1, 2020”.
I thought there was—I thought I’d seen one with numbers in the style 1), 2), 3), … going up to 25 -- but I now can’t find it and the obvious hypothesis is that I’m just misremembering what I saw. My apologies.
If only it were.
True, but I don’t think those were Markdown auto-numbers.
Already a thing: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Reverse_Turing_test.
I have the same suspicion that they’re human-written. (My comment there refers specifically to its better-than-expected counting skills; there are other less concrete signs, though I’m not enough of a GPT expert to know how strongly they really suggest non-bot-ness.)
I’m actually more impressed if the comments are written by a human; I am quite sure I couldn’t write kinda-GPT-looking text as plausible as “GPT2”’s at the rate he/she/it’s been churning them out at.
(Impressive or not, it’s a blight on LW and I hope it will disappear with the end of April Fool’s Day.)
I have strong-downvoted all of the GPT2 comments in the hope that a couple of other people will do likewise and push them below the threshold at which everyone gets them hidden without needing to diddle around in their profile. (I hope this doesn’t trigger some sort of automatic malice-detector and get me banned or anything. I promise I downvoted all those comments on their merits. Man, they were so bad they might almost have been posted by a bot or something!)
The idea is hilarious in the abstract, but very much less funny in reality because it makes LW horrible to read. Perhaps if GPT2 were responding to 20% of comments instead of all of them, or something, it might be less unbearable.
I’m really hoping they will all get deleted when what John Gruber calls “Internet Jackass Day” is over.
(Also … one of its posts has a list of numbered points from 1) to 25), all in the correct order. I’m a little surprised by that—I thought it had difficulty counting far. Is this actually a (very annoying) reverse Turing test?)
Clarification request: At face value you’re implying that typical rationalists always do require immediate explicit justification for their beliefs. I wonder whether that’s an exaggeration for rhetorical effect. Could you be a bit more, um, explicit about just what the state of affairs is that you’re suggesting is suboptimal?
Question: What empirical evidence do you have about this? (E.g., what do you observe introspectively, what have you seen others doing, etc., and how sure are you that those things are the way you think they are?)
2. Again, there are plenty of counterexamples to the idea that human values have already converged. The idea behind e.g. “coherent extrapolated volition” is that (a) they might converge given more information, clearer thinking, and more opportunities for those with different values to discuss, and (b) we might find the result of that convergence acceptable even if it doesn’t quite match our values now.
3. Again, I think there’s a distinction you’re missing when you talk about “removal of values” etc. Let’s take your example: reading adult MLP fanfiction. Suppose the world is taken over by some being that doesn’t value that. (As, I think, most humans don’t.) What are the consequences for those people who do value it? Not necessarily anything awful, I suggest. Not valuing reading adult MLP fanfiction doesn’t imply (e.g.) an implacable war against those who do. Why should it? It suffices that the being that takes over the world cares about people getting what they want; in that case, if some people like to write adult MLP fanfiction and some people like to read it, our hypothetical superpowerful overlord will likely prefer to let those people get on with it.
But, I hear you say, aren’t those fanfiction works made of—or at least stored in—atoms that the Master of the Universe can use for something else? Sure, they are, and if there’s literally nothing in the MotU’s values to stop it repurposing them then it will. But there are plenty of things that can stop the MotU repurposing those atoms other than its own fondness for adult MLP fanfiction—such as, I claim, a preference for people to get what they want.
There might be circumstances in which the MotU does repurpose those atoms: perhaps there’s something else it values vastly more that it can’t get any other way. But the same is true right here in this universe, in which we’re getting on OK. If your fanfiction is hosted on a server that ends up in a war zone, or a server owned by a company that gets sold to Facebook, or a server owned by an individual in the US who gets a terrible health problem and needs to sell everything to raise funds for treatment, then that server is probably toast, and if no one else has a copy then the fanfiction is gone. What makes a superintelligent AI more dangerous here, it seems to me, is that maybe no one can figure out how to give it even humanish values. But that’s not a problem that has much to do with the divergence within the range of human values: again, “just copy Barack Obama’s values” (feel free to substitute someone whose values you like better, of course) is a counterexample, because most likely even an omnipotent Barack Obama would not feel the need to take away your guns^H^H^H^Hfanfiction.
To reiterate the point I think you’ve been missing: giving supreme power to (say) a superintelligent AI doesn’t remove from existence all those people who value things it happens not to care about, and if it cares about their welfare then we should not expect it to wipe them out or to wipe out the things they value.
I’m mostly a fan.
1. I like presentation that foregrounds the structure of the ideas being presented. Sometimes bullet points do that well.
Some specific common structures that are served well by bullet points:
General principle with multiple supporting examples. (Like this list right here.)
Claim with multiple bits of supporting evidence/argument. This fits bullet points well because
you can put each bit in its own bullet point
you can bulletize recursively
so you can see the support for the claims that support the claims that support your main argument
if a reader is already satisfied that a thing is true, or so convinced it’s wrong that they don’t care what ridiculous bogus pseudo-evidence you’ve marshalled for it, they can skip the bullets
Claim with counterarguments/objections
You might think this is confusing because its presentation is just like that of the claim-with-support, where the bullet-pointed items have exactly the opposite significance.
Maybe it is, but I don’t think any other mode of presentation does better.
This and its predecessor might be better thought of as special cases: you make a claim, and then you bulletize whatever bits of evidence or argument bear on it one way or the other.
In plain-text bullet-lists, I like to use “+” and “-” (and sometimes “=”) as my “bullets” in this sort of context, with the obvious meaning.
Main argument and incidental remarks
I like pizza.
Chronological sequence with fairly clear-cut divisions (at regime changes, important technological/scientific developments, publication of important works, etc.)
2. I like concise, compact accounts of things. Bullet points can work against this (because they space things out) or for it (by encouraging terseness). But I don’t like concision when it comes at the cost of clarity or correctness, and maybe concise bullet points are bad because they encourage omission of necessary nuance.
3. I agree with the person who said numbered lists are better than bullet points because they allow for easy cross-reference. (But also for easy screwups, if you add something and everything gets renumbered without the cross-refs being fixed up.)
4. Bullet-lists don’t tend to make for elegant writing. Sometimes that matters, sometimes not.
5. Bullet-lists can obscure your logical structure instead of revealing it, as follows. The list structure takes the place of many explicit logical-structuring elements (“therefore”, “because”, “furthermore”, etc.) but sometimes explicit is better than implicit and e.g. it may not be clear to the reader whether you’re saying “here’s another reason to believe X”, “here’s a good argument against X which I’ll address below”, “here’s a silly argument against X which I bring up merely as a hook on which to hang something I want to say in favour of X”, etc.
6. Although bullet-lists tend (on the whole) to clarify logical structure at small scales, they don’t work so well at larger scales (say the length of an essay, or even a book). For that you need something else: chapters, headings, and so forth. And longer (say, paragraph-length or more) explanations of the structure. (“In this book I’m going to argue that scholarly publications in theoretical physics should be written in verse. The first three chapters motivate this by showing some examples of important papers whose impact was greatly reduced by their being written in prose. Then I’ll explain in detail what poetic forms are most appropriate for what sort of research and why, giving numerous examples. The final four chapters of the book illustrate my thesis by taking Einstein’s so-called “annus mirabilis” papers and rendering them in the sort of verse form I recommend. This book is dedicated to the memory of Omar Khayyam.”)
7. If I’m writing down my thoughts on something to help clarify them, I often use something like bullet-point structure.
1. Neither deontology nor virtue ethics is a special case of consequentialism. Some people really, truly do believe that sometimes the action with worse consequences is better. There are, to be sure, ways for consequentialists sometimes to justify deontologists’ rules, or indeed their policy of rule-following, on consequentialist grounds—and for that matter there are ways to construct rule-based systems that justify consequentialism. (“The one moral rule is: Do whatever leads to maximal overall flourishing!”) They are still deeply different ways of thinking about morality.
You consider questions of sexual continence, honour, etc., “social mores, not morals”, but I promise you there are people who think of such things as morals. You think such people have been “brainwashed”, and perhaps they’d say the same about you; that’s what moral divergence looks like.
2. I think that if what you wrote was intended to stand after “I think there is no convergence of moralities because …” then it’s missing a lot of steps. I should maybe repeat that I’m not asserting that there is convergence; quite likely there isn’t. But I don’t think anything you’ve said offers any strong reason to think that there isn’t.
3. Once again, I think you are not being clear about the distinction between the things I labelled (i) and (ii), and I think it matters. And, more generally, it feels as if we are talking past one another: I get the impression that either you haven’t understood what I’m saying, or you think I haven’t understood what you’re saying.
Let’s be very concrete here. Pick some human being whose values you find generally admirable. Imagine that we put that person in charge of the world. We’ll greatly increase their intelligence and knowledge, and fix any mental deficits that might make them screw up more than they need to, and somehow enable them to act consistently according to those admirable values (rather than, e.g., turning completely selfish once granted power, as real people too often do). Would you see that as an outcome much better than many of the nightmare misaligned-AI scenarios people worry about?
I would; while there’s no human being I would altogether trust to be in charge of the universe, no matter how they might be enhanced, I think putting almost any human being in charge of the universe would (if they were also given the capacity to do the job without being overwhelmed) likely be a big improvement over (e.g.) tiling the universe with paperclips or little smiley human-looking faces, or over many scenarios where a super-powerful AI optimizes some precisely-specified-but-wrong approximation to one aspect of human values.
I would not expect such a person in that situation to eliminate people with different values from theirs, or to force everyone to live according to that person’s values. I would not expect such a person in that situation to make a world in which a lot of things I find essential have been eliminated. (Would you? Would you find such behaviour generally admirable?)
Any my point here is that nothing in your arguments displays shows any obstacle to doing essentially that. You argue that we can’t align an AI’s values with those of all of humanity because “all of humanity” has too many different diverging values, and that’s true, but there remains the possibility that we could align them with those of some of humanity, to something like the extent that any individual’s values are aligned with those of some of humanity, and even if that’s the best we can hope for the difference between that and (what might be the default, if we ever make any sort of superintelligent AI) aligning its values with those of none of humanity is immense.
(Why am I bothering to point that out? Because it looks to me as if you’re trying to argue that worrying about “value alignment” is likely a waste of time because there can be no such thing as value alignment; I say, on the contrary, that even though some notions of value alignment are obviously unachievable and some others may be not-so-obviously unachievable, still others are almost certainly achievable in principle and still valuable. Of course, I may have misunderstood what you’re actually arguing for: that’s the risk you take when you choose to speak in parables without explaining them.)
I feel I need to defend myself on one point. You say “You switched from X to Y” as if you think I either failed to notice the change or else was trying to pull some sort of sneaky bait-and-switch. Neither is the case, and I’m afraid I think you didn’t understand the structure of my argument. I wanted to argue “we could do Thing One, and that would be OK”. I approached this indirectly, by first of all arguing that we already have Thing Two, which is somewhat like Thing One, and is OK, and then addressing the difference between Thing One and Thing Two. But you completely ignored the bit where I addressed the difference, and just said “oi, there’s a difference” as if I had no idea (or was pretending to have no idea) that there is one.
1. Some varieties of moral thinking whose diversity doesn’t seem to me to be captured by your eye-for-eye/golden-rule/max-flourish/min-suffer schema:
For some people, morality is all about results (“consequentialists”). For some, it’s all about following some moral code (“deontologists”). For some, it’s all about what sort of person you are (“virtue ethicists”). Your Minnie and Maxie are clearly consequentialists; perhaps Ivan is a deontologist; it’s hard to be sure what Goldie is; but these different outlooks can coexist with a wide variety of object-level moral preferences and your four certainly don’t cover all the bases here.
Your four all focus on moral issues surrounding _harming and benefiting_ people. Pretty much everyone does care about those things, but other very different things are important parts of some people’s moral frameworks. For instance, some people believe in a god or gods and think _devotion to their god(s)_ more important than anything else; some people attach tremendous importance to various forms of sexual restraint (only within marriage! only between a man and a woman! only if it’s done in a way that could in principle lead to babies! etc.); some people (perhaps this is part of where Ivan is coming from, but you can be quite Ivan-like by other means) have moral systems in which _honour_ is super-important and e.g. if someone insults you then you have to respond by taking them down as definitively as possible.
2. (You’re answering with “Because …” but I don’t see what “why?” question I asked, either implicitly or explicitly, so at least one of us has misunderstood something here.) (a) I agree that there are lots of different ways in which convergence could happen, but I don’t see why that in any way weakens the point that, one way or another, it _could_ happen. (b) It is certainly true that Maxie and Minnie, as they are now, disagree about some important things; again, that isn’t news. The point I was trying to make is that it might turn out that as you give Maxie and Minnie more information, a deeper understanding of human nature, more opportunities to talk to one another, etc., they stop disagreeing, and if that happens then we might do OK to follow whatever system they end up with.
3. I’m not sure what you mean about “values being eliminated from existence”; it’s ambiguous. Do you mean (i) there stop being people around who have those values or (ii) the world proceeds in a way that doesn’t, whether or not anyone cares, tend to satisfy those values? Either way, note that “that range” was the _normal range of respected human values_. Right now, there are no agents around (that we know of) whose values are entirely outside the range of human values, and we’re getting on OK. There are agents (e.g., some psychopaths, violent religious zealots, etc.) whose values are within the range of human values but outside the range of _respected human values_, and by and large we try to give them as little influence as possible. To be clear, I’m not proposing “world ruled by an entity whose values are similar to those of some particular human being generally regarded as decent” as a _triumphant win for humanity_, but it’s not an _obvious catastrophe_ either and so far as I can tell the sort of issue you’re raising presents no obstacle to that sort of outcome.
1. I think there are a lot more than four different kinds of moral system.
2. If “value alignment” turns out to be possible in any sense stronger than “alignment of a superintelligence’s values with those of one human or more-than-averagely-coherent group” it won’t mean making it agree with all of humanity about everything, or even about every question of moral values. That’s certainly impossible, and its impossibility is not news.
Way back, Eliezer had a (half-baked) scheme he called “coherent extrapolated volition”, whose basic premise was that even though different people think and feel very differently about values it might turn out that if you imagine giving everyone more and better information, clearer thinking, and better channels of communication with one another, then their values might converge as you did so. That’s probably wrong, but I’m not sure it’s obviously wrong, and some other thing along similar lines might turn out to be right.
An example of the sort of thing that could be true: while “maximize flourishing” and “minimize suffering” look like quite different goals, it might be that there’s a single underlying intuition that they stem from. (Perhaps which appeals more to you depends largely on whether you have noticed more dramatic examples of suffering or of missed opportunities to flourish.) Another: “an eye for an eye” isn’t, and can’t be, a moral system on its own—it’s dependent on having an idea of what sort of thing counts as putting out someone’s eye. So what’s distinctive about “an eye for an eye” is that we might want some people to flourish less, if they have been Bad. Well, it might turn out either that a strong policy of punishing defectors leads to things being better for almost everyone (in which case “Minnie” and “Maxie” might embrace that principle on pragmatic grounds, given enough evidence and understanding) or that it actually makes things worse even for the victims (in which case “Ivan” might abandon it on pragmatic grounds, given enough evidence and understanding).
3. Suppose that hope turns out to be illusory and there’s no such thing as a single set of values that can reasonably claim to be in any sense the natural extrapolation of everyone’s values. It might still turn out possible, e.g., to make a superintelligent entity whose values are, and remain, within the normal range of generally-respected human values. I think that would still be pretty good.
I don’t think Dagon saying not “don’t tell stories” but “if you want to make an argument by telling stories, please at least tell us what the argument is meant to be so that we can evaluate it with system 2 as well as system 1″.
Meditations on Moloch didn’t just quote Ginsberg and say “Lo!”, it explained what Scott was calling Moloch and why, and gave explicit concrete examples.
I think it’s entirely possible that Sailor Vulcan has something interesting and/or important to say here, but at least from my perspective (as I think from Dagon’s) it still needs actually saying rather than merely gesturing towards. Until we have at least some of those “nitty gritty details” we’re promised later, it’s hard to tell what bits of the story are intended more or less literally, what bits are intended as metaphors for other things, and what bits are mere window-dressing.