I think it won’t be easy to modify the genome of individuals to achieve predictable outcomes even if you get the machinery you describe to work.
Is this because of factors like the almost-infinite number of interactions between different genes, such that even with a hypothetical magic technology to arbitrarily and perfectly change the DNA in every cell in the body, it wouldn’t be possible to predict the outcome of such a change? Or is it because you don’t think that any machinery will ever be precise enough to make this work well enough? Or some other issue entirely?
What I meant is changing the genetic code in ~all of the cells in a human body. Or some sort of genetic engineering which has the same effect as that.
Here’s one model I have as to how you could genetically engineer a living human:
Many viruses are able to reverse-transcribe RNA to DNA and insert that DNA into cells. This causes a lot of problems for cells, but there are (probably) large regions of the genome where insertions of new DNA wouldn’t cause problems. I don’t think it would be difficult to target insertion of DNA to those regions, as DNA binding proteins could be attached to DNA insertion proteins.
This sort of technology requires only the insertion of RNA into a cell. There are a number of ways to put RNA into cells at the moment, such as “edited” viruses, lipid droplets, and more might be developed.
I also believe targeting somatic stem cells for modification via cell-specific surface proteins is possible. If not we could also cause the modified cells to revert to stem cells (by causing them to express Yamanaka Factors etc.).
The stem cells will differentiate and eventually replace (almost all) unmodified cells.
The resulting technology would allow arbitrary insertion of genetic code into most somatic cells (neurons might not be direct targets but perhaps engineering of glia or whatever could do them). Using CRISPR-like technologies rather than reverse transcription we could also do arbitrary mutation, gene knockout, etc.
I guess this is still somewhat handwavey. Speculating on future technology is always handwavey.
I think cultural evolution will be the greater factor by a large margin. I think the technology for immortality is possible but that it will either directly involve genetic engineering of living humans, or be one or two steps away from it. People who are willing to take an immortality drug are very likely to also be willing to improve themselves in other ways. If the Horde is somehow going to outcompete them due entirely to beneficial mutations, the Imperium could simply steal them.
Thanks! I get your arguments about “knowledge” being restricted to predictive domains, but I think it’s (mostly) just a semantic issue. I also don’t think the specifics of the word “knowledge” are particularly important to my points which is what I attempted to clarify at the start, but I’ve clearly typical-minded and assumed that of course everyone would agree with me about a dog/fish classifier having “knowledge”, when it’s more of an edge-case than I thought! Perhaps a better version of this post would have either tabooed “knowledge” altogether or picked a more obviously-knowledge-having model.
This is a pretty strong indication of immune escape to me, if it persists in other outbreaks. If this was purely from increased infectiousness in naive individuals it would imply an R-value (in non-immune populations) of like 40 or something, which seems much less plausible than immune escape. I don’t know what the vaccination/infection rates are in these communities though.
The UK has just switched their available rapid Covid tests from a moderately unpleasant one to an almost unbearable one. Lots of places require them for entry. I think the cost/benefit makes sense even with the new kind, but I’m becoming concerned we’ll eventually reach the “imagine a society where everyone hits themselves on the head every day with a baseball bat” situation if cases approach zero.
My current belief on this is that the greatest difficulty is going to be finding the “human values” in the AI’s model of the world. Any AI smart enough to deceive humans will have a predictive model of humans which almost trivially must contain something that looks like “human values”. The biggest problems I see are:
1: “Human values” may not form a tight abstracted cluster in a model of the world at all. This isn’t so much conceptual issue as in theory we could just draw a more complex boundary around them, but it makes it practically more difficult.
2: It’s currently impossible to see what the hell is going on inside most large ML systems. Interpretability work might be able to allow us to find the right subsection of a model.
3: Any pointer we build to the human values in a model also needs to be stable to the model updating. If that knowledge gets moved around as parameters change, the computational tool/mathematical object which points to them needs to be able to keep track of that. This could include sudden shifts, slow movement, breaking up of models into smaller separate models.
(I haven’t defined knowledge, I’m not very confused about what it means to say “knowledge of X is in a particular location in the model” but I don’t have space here to write it all up)
Very good point. Perhaps there just intrinsically is no way of doing something that this community perceives as “burning” money, without upsetting people.
Having now had a lot of different conversations on consciousness I’m coming to a slightly disturbing belief that this might be the case. I have no idea what this implies for any of my downstream-of-consciousness views.
I’m confident your model of Eliezer is more accurate than mine.
Neither the twitter thread or other writings originally gave me the impression that he had a model in that fine-grained detail. I was mentally comparing his writings on consciousness to his writings on free will. Reading the latter made me feel like I strongly understood free will as a concept, and since then I have never been confused, it genuinely reduced free will as a concept in my mind.
His writings on consciousness have not done anything more than raise that model to the same level of possibility as a bunch of other models I’m confused about. That was the primary motivation for this post. But now that you mention it, if he genuinely believes that he has knowledge which might bring him closer to (or might bring others closer to to) programming a conscious being, I can see why he wouldn’t share it in high detail.
Basically yes I care about the subjective experiences of entities. I’m curious about the use of the word “still” here. This implies you used to have a similar view to mine but changed it, if so what made you change your mind? Or have I just missed out on some massive shift in the discourse surrounding consciousness and moral weight? If the latter is the case (which it might be, I’m not plugged into a huge number of moral philosophy sources) that might explain some of my confusion.
he defines consciousness as “what an algorithm implementing complex social games feels like when reflecting on itself”.
In that case I’ll not use the word consciousness and abstract away to “things which I ascribe moral weight to”, (which I think is a fair assumption given the later discussion of eating “BBQ GPT-3 wings” etc.)
Eliezer’s claim is therefore something along the lines of: “I only care about the suffering of algorithms which implement complex social games and reflect on themselves” or possibly “I only care about the suffering of algorithms which are capable of (and currently doing a form of) self-modelling”.
I’ve not seen nearly enough evidence to convince me of this.
I don’t expect to see a consciousness particle called a qualon. I more expect to see something like: “These particular brain activity patterns which are robustly detectable in an fMRI are extremely low in sleeping people, higher in dreaming people, higher still in awake people and really high in people on LSD and types of zen meditation.”
You present an excellently-written and interesting case here. I agree with the point that self-modelling systems can think in certain ways which are unique and special and chickens can’t do that.
One reason I identify consciousness with having qualia is that Eliezer specifically does that in the twitter thread. The other is that qualia is generally less ambiguous than terms like consciousness and self-awareness and sentience. The disadvantage is that the concept of qualia is something which is very difficult (and beyond my explaining capabilities) to explain to people who don’t know what it means. I choose to take this tradeoff because I find that I, personally, get much more out of discussions about specifically qualia, than any of the related words. Perhaps I’m not taking seriously enough the idea that illusionism will explain why I feel like I’m conscious and not explain why I am conscious.
I also agree that most other existing mainstream views are somewhat poor, but to me this isn’t particularly strong positive evidence for Eliezer’s views. This is because models of consciousness on the level of detail of Eliezer’s are hard to come up with, so there might be many other excellent ones that haven’t been found yet. And Eliezer hasn’t done (to my knowledge) anything which rules out other arguments on the level of detail of his own.
Basically I think that the reason the best argument we see is Eliezer’s is less along the lines of “this is the only computational argument that could be made for consciousness” and more along the lines of “computational arguments for consciousness are really difficult and this is the first one anyone has found”.
Eliezer later states that he is referring to qualia specifically, which for me are (within a rounding error) totally equivalent to moral relevance.
My first thought was that this could be avoided by—if the button was pressed—giving it to a “rare diseases in cute puppies” type charity, rather than destroying it. I’d suspect the intersection of “people who care strongly enough about effective altruism to be angry”, “people who don’t understand the point of Petrov Day”, and “people who have the power to generate large amounts of negative publicity” is very small.
But I think a lot of LWers who are less onboard with Petrov Day in general would be just as (or almost as) turned off by this concept as the idea of burning the money. Perhaps something akin to the one landfish did would be better? At least in that case I would guess most LWers are OK enough with either MIRI or AMF (or maybe substitute other charities?) receiving money at the expense of one another for it to work OK.