Beth Barnes


Debate update: Obfuscated arguments problem
In the ball-attached-to-a-pole example, the honest debater has assigned probabilities that are indistinguishable from what you would do if you knew noting except that the claim is false. (I.e., assign probabilities that doubt each component equally.) I'm curious how difficult it is to find the flaw in this argument structure. Have you done anything like showing these transcripts to other experts and seeing if they will be able to answer it?

Not systematically; I would be excited about people doing these experiments. One tricky thing is that you might think this is a strategy that's possible for ML models, but that humans aren't naturally very good.

If I had to summarize this finding in one sentence, it would be "it seems like an expert can generally find a set of arguments for a false claim that is flawed such that an equally competent expert can't identify the flawed component, and the set of arguments doesn't immediately look suspect". This seems surprising, and I'm wondering whether it's unique to physics. (The cryptographic example was of this kind, but there, the structure of the dishonest arguments was suspect.)

Yeah, this is a great summary. One thing I would clarify is that it's sufficient that the set of arguments don't look suspicious to the judge. The arguments might look suspicious to the expert, but unless they have a way to explain to the judge why it's suspicious, we still have a problem.

If this finding holds, my immediate reaction is "okay, in this case, the solution for the honest debater is to start a debate about whether the set of arguments from the dishonest debater has this character". I'm not sure how good this sounds. I think my main issue here is that I don't know enough physics understand why the dishonest arguments are hard to identify

Yeah, I think that is the obvious next step. The concern is that the reasons the argument is suspicious may be hard to justify in a debate, especially if they're reasons of the form 'look, I've done a bunch of physics problems, and approaching it this way feels like it will makes things messy, whereas approaching it this way feels cleaner'. Debate probably doesn't work very well for supervising knowledge that's gained through finding patterns in data, as opposed to knowledge that's gained through step-by-step reasoning. Something like imitative generalisation (AKA 'learning the prior') is trying to fill this gap.

Imitative Generalisation (AKA 'Learning the Prior')
It seems like the only thing stopping z from primarily containing object-level knowledge about the world is the human prior about the unlikelihood of object-level knowledge. But humans are really bad at assigning priors even to relatively simple statements - this is the main reason that we need science.

Agree that humans are not necessarily great at assigning priors. The main response to this is that we don't have a way to get better priors than an amplified human's best prior. If amplified humans think the NN prior is better than their prior, they can always just use this prior. So in theory this should be both strictly better than the alternative, and the best possible prior we can use.

Science seems like it's about collecting more data and measuring the likelihood, not changing the prior. We still need to use our prior - there are infinite scientific theories that fit the data, but we prefer ones that are simple and elegant.

z will consist of a large number of claims, but I have no idea how to assign a prior to the conjunction of many big claims about the world, even in theory. That prior can't calculated recursively, because there may be arbitrarily-complicated interactions between different components of z.

One thing that helps a bit here is that we can use an amplified human. We also don't need the human to calculate the prior directly, just to do things like assess whether some change makes the prior better or worse. But I'm not sure how much of a roadblock this is in practice, or what Paul thinks about this problem.

Consider the following proposal: "train an oracle to predict the future, along with an explanation of its reasoning. Reward it for predicting correctly, and penalise it for explanations that sound fishy". Is there an important difference between this and imitative generalisation?

Yeah, the important difference is that in this case there's nothing that constrains the explanations to be the same as the actual reasoning the oracle is using, so the explanations you're getting are not necessarily predictive of the kind of generalisation that will happen. In IG it's important that the quality of z is measured by having humans use it to make predictions.

An agent can "generalise badly" because it's not very robust, or because it's actively pursuing goals that are misaligned with those of humans. It doesn't seem like this proposal distinguishes between these types of failures. Is this distinction important in motivating the proposal?

I'm not sure exactly what you're asking. I think the proposal is motivated by something like: having the task be IID/being able to check arbitrary outputs from our model to make sure it's generalising correctly buys us a lot of safety properties. If we have this guarantee, we only have to worry about rare or probabilistic defection, not that the model might be giving us misleading answers for every question we can't check.

Debate Minus Factored Cognition

Thanks for the post, I'm excited that you're thinking about debate!

I think I disagree with the claim you're making about being able to avoid requiring the judge to assume that one player is honest (but I might be confused about what you're proposing). 
Basically, it sounds like you're saying that we can get good answers by just running the whole debate and throwing out answers that turn out to have a defeater, or a defeater-defeater-defeater, or whatever. But if this is the only guarantee we're providing, then we're going to need to run an extremely large number of debates to ever get a good answer (ie an exp number of debates for a question where the explanation for the answer is exp-sized)

It sounds like you're saying that we can not require that the judge assume one player is honest/trust the claims lower in the debate tree when evaluating the claims higher in the tree. But if we can't assume this, that presumably means that some reasonable fraction of all claims being made are dishonest (because if there were only a few dishonest claims, then they'd have honest defeaters and we'd have a clear training signal away from dishonesty, so after training for a bit we'd be able to trust the lower claims). This probably means that most debates will give us a bad answer (as you only need a few bad claims to invalidate the whole tree).  At this point, debate isn't really competitive, because it gives us dud answers almost all the time, and we're going to have to run an exponential number of debates before we happen on a correct one.

Are you suggesting we use debate more as a check on our AI systems, to help us discover that they're bad, rather than as a safe alternative? Ie debate never produces good answers, it just lets you see that bad answers are bad?

But also, the 'amplified judge consulting sub-debates' sounds like it's just the same thing as letting the judge assume that claims lower in the debate are correct when evaluating claims higher in the tree. 

Debate Minus Factored Cognition

The standard argument against having a non-zero-sum debate game is that then you may incentivise your debaters to collude.  

I don't know if you've seen our most recent debate rules and attempt at analysis of whether they provide the desired behavior - seems somewhat relevant to what you're thinking about here. 

Debate update: Obfuscated arguments problem

To be clear, I think this is a good suggestion and is close to how I imagine we'd actually run debate in practice. It just doesn't get us beyond MA if the debaters only write P-size arguments.

Debate update: Obfuscated arguments problem

I'd be interested to hear more detail of your thoughts on how we might use robustness techniques!

Debate update: Obfuscated arguments problem

Yep, planning to put up a post about that soon. The short argument is something like:
The equivalent of an obfuscated argument for IDA is a decomposition that includes questions the model doesn't know how to answer. 
We can't always tell the difference between an IDA tree that uses an obfuscated decomposition and gets the wrong answer, vs an IDA tree that uses a good decomposition and gets the right answer, without unpacking the entire tree

Debate update: Obfuscated arguments problem

I just mean that this method takes order(length of argument in judge-understandable language) time. So if the argument is large then you're going to need to let the debate run for a long time. This is as opposed to the previous hope that even if the argument tree is exp-sized, the debate can run in p-time

Debate update: Obfuscated arguments problem


Yep, this does work, but limits us to questions where the argument in judge-understandable language is short enough that the debaters can write the whole thing down. So if the debaters run in P-time at deployment time, this gives us MA, not PSPACE as originally hoped. 

Homogeneity vs. heterogeneity in AI takeoff scenarios

One counterexample is Manhattan Project - they developed two different designs simultaneously because they weren't sure which would work better. From wikipedia: Two types of atomic bombs were developed concurrently during the war: a relatively simple gun-type fission weapon and a more complex implosion-type nuclear weapon.,Tube%20Alloys%20project)%20and%20Canada.

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