Alex Flint

Independent AI safety researcher


The accumulation of knowledge

Wiki Contributions


Knowledge is not just mutual information

First, an ontology is just an agents way of organizing information about the world...

Second, a third-person perspective is a "view from nowhere" which has the capacity to be rooted at specific locations...

Yep I'm with you here

Well, what's a 3rd-person perspective good for? Why do we invent such things in the first place? It's good for communication.

Yeah I very much agree with justifying the use of 3rd person perspectives on practical grounds.

we should be able to consider the [first person] viewpoint of any physical object.

Well if we are choosing to work with third-person perspectives then maybe we don't need first person perspectives at all. We can describe gravity and entropy without any first person perspectives at all, for example.

I'm not against first person perspectives, but if we're working with third person perspectives then we might start by sticking to third person perspectives exclusively.

Let's look at a different type of knowledge, which I will call tacit knowledge -- stuff like being able to ride a bike (aka "know-how"). I think this can be defined (following my "very basic" theme) from an object's ability to participate successfully in patterns.

Yeah right. A screw that fits into a hole does have mutual information with the hole. I like the idea that knowledge is about the capacity to harmonize within a particular environment because it might avoid the need to define goal-directedness.

Now we can start to think about measuring the extent to which mutual information contributes to learning of tacit knowledge. Something happens to our object. It gains some mutual information w/ external stuff. If this mutual information increases its ability to pursue some goal predicate, we can say that the information is accessible wrt that goal predicate. We can imagine the goal predicate being "active" in the agent, and having a "translation system" whereby it unpacks the mutual information into what it needs.

The only problem is that now we have to say what a goal predicate is. Do you have a sense of how to do that? I have also come to the conclusion that knowledge has a lot to do with being useful in service of a goal, and that then requires some way to talk about goals and usefulness.

The hope is to eventually be able to build up to complicated types of knowledge (such as the definition you seek here), but starting with really basic forms.

I very much resonate with keeping it as simple as possible, especially when doing this kind of conceptual engineering, which can become so lost. I have been grounding my thinking in wanting to know whether or not a certain entity in the world has an understanding of a certain phenomenon, in order to use that to overcome the deceptive misalignment problem. Do you also have go-to practical problems against which to test these kinds of definitions?

[Event] Weekly Alignment Research Coffee Time (11/29)

Today this link does not seem to be working for me, I see:

Our apologies, your invite link has now expired (actually several hours ago, but we hate to rush people).

I also notice that the date is still 10/25 so perhaps the event is not happening today?

David Wolpert on Knowledge

Yeah that resonates with me. I'd be interested in any more thoughts you have on this. Particularly anything about how we might recognize knowing in another entity or in a physical system.

The Blackwell order as a formalization of knowledge

Yes I believe everything you have said here is consistent with the way the Blackwell order is defined.

Provide feedback on Open Philanthropy’s AI alignment RFP

Thank you for posting this Asya and Nick. After I read it I realized that it connected to something that I've been thinking about for a while that seems like it might actually be a fit for this RFP under research direction 3 or 4 (interpretability, truthful AI). I drafted a very rough 1.5-pager this morning in a way that hopefully connects fairly obviously to what you've written above:

Interested in your thoughts.

Feedback from everyone is most welcome, too, of course.

AI Risk for Epistemic Minimalists

Yes. Thank you. Would love to hear more about you work on goal-directedness. Let me know if you're up for chatting.

AI Risk for Epistemic Minimalists

Seems excellent to me. Thank you as always for your work on the newsletter Rohin.

Agency in Conway’s Game of Life

Yup, Life does not have time-reversibility, so it does not preserve the phase space volume under time evolution, so it does not obey the laws of thermodynamics that exist under our physics.

But one could still investigate whether there is some analog of thermodynamics in Life.

There also is a cellular automata called Critters that does have time reversibility.

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