Personal blogpost. Previously: “What I'll be doing at MIRI

For the last three years (since I left OpenAI), I've been a Research Fellow at MIRI. Starting next week, however, I'm going to be stepping down from that position and joining Anthropic as a safety researcher instead.[1]

To start with, some things that this does not mean:

  • That I have anything in particular against MIRI.
  • That I endorse everything Anthropic does.
  • That I'm going to stop doing theoretical AI safety research.
  • Any particular substantive change in my beliefs about AI safety.

So why do I think this is a good idea? The most basic reason is just that I think things are heating up and it'll be valuable for me to be closer to the action. I think current large language models are getting quite scary but that there's a lot of work to be done in understanding exactly how and what to do about it—see e.g. the recent paper I collaborated with Anthropic on. I'll be splitting my time between theoretical and empirical work—both of which I'll continue to do—with the idea that being closer to current models should improve my ability to do both.

I expect that a lot of my time will be spent on the Conditioning Predictive Models agenda I've been working on for the past ~6 months, which I expect will be published in the next month or so. Until then, this post and this post probably contain the best current public writeups of some of the basic ideas. That being said, I won't be particularly tied down to it and might end up deciding to work on something completely different (e.g. what happened the last time I wrote up a big agenda).

Since I'm sure I'm going to be asked about it a bunch now, some of my thoughts on Anthropic as an organization (obviously all thoughts are my own):

  • I think it's really impressive and a very positive sign (and costly signal) that Anthropic has been able to do a bunch of capability work without publishing it.
  • I think Anthropic is doing some of the best AI safety work of any organization right now—e.g. Transformer Circuits.
  • Nevertheless, Anthropic is undoubtedly working on improving the capabilities of their models, and that absolutely has negative externalities, e.g. in increasing overall competition between labs.
  • That being said, as someone whose overall estimates of AI existential risk are on the pessimistic side, I think high-variance bets—e.g. build cutting edge models so we can do cutting-edge AI safety work, have more leverage to influence other AI labs, etc.—can often make a lot of sense, especially when combined with strategies for mitigating potential downsides (e.g. not publishing capabilities advances).
  • Overall, I think Anthropic's current strategy seems reasonable to me, but I am quite uncertain.

  1. Though I will technically be keeping my MIRI affiliation as a Research Associate. ↩︎

New Comment
2 comments, sorted by Click to highlight new comments since:

What do you think MIRI is currently doing wrong/what should they change about their approach/general strategy?

I thought I was pretty clear in the post that I don't have anything against MIRI. I guess if I were to provide feedback, the one thing I most wish MIRI would do more is hire additional researchers—I think MIRI currently has too high of a hiring bar.