Thank you! I think that what we see right now is that as the horizon grows, the more "tricks" we need to make end-to-end learning works, to the extent that it might not really be end to end. So while supervised learning is very successful, and seems to be quite robust to choice of architecture, loss functions, etc., in RL we need to be much more careful, and often things won't work "out of the box" in a purely end to end fashion.
I think the question would be how performance scales with horizon, if the returns are rapidly diminishing, and the cost to train is rapidly increasing (as might well be the case because of diminishing gradient signals, and much smaller availability of data), then it could be that the "sweet spot" of what is economical to train would remain at a reasonably short horizon (far shorter than the planning needed to take over the world) for a long time.
Perhaps given my short-term preference, it's not surprising that I find it hard to track very deep comment threads, but let me just give a couple of short responses.
I don't think the argument on hacking relied on the ability to formally verify systems. Formally verified systems could potentially skew the balance of power to the defender side, but even if they don't exist, I don't think balance is completely skewed to the attacker. You could imagine that, like today, there is a "cat and mouse" game, where both attackers and defenders try to find "zero day vulnerabilities" and exploit (in one case) or fix (in the other). I believe that in the world of powerful AI, this game would continue, with both sides having access to AI tools, which would empower both but not necessarily shift the balance to one or the other.
I think the question of whether a long-term planning agent could emerge from short-term training is a very interesting technical question! Of course we need to understand how to define "long term" and "short term" here. One way to think about this is the following: we can define various short-term metrics, which are evaluable using information in the short-term, and potentially correlated with long-term success. We would say that a strategy is purely long-term if it cannot be explained by making advances on any combination of these metrics.
Let me try to respond (note the claim numbers below are not the same as in the essay, but rather as in Vanessa's comment):
Claim 1: Our claim is that one can separate out components - there is the predictable component which is non stationary, but is best approximated with a relatively simple baseline, and the chaotic component, which over the long run is just noise.In general, highly complex rules are more sensitive to noise (in fact, there are theorems along these lines in the field of Analysis of Boolean Functions), and so in the long run, the simpler component will dominate the accuracy.
Claim 2: Hacking is actually a fairly well-specified endeavor. People catalog, score, and classify security vulnerabilities. To hack would be to come up with a security vulnerability, and exploit code, which can be verified. Also, you seem to be envisioning a long-term AI that is then fine-tuned on a short-term task, but how did it evolve these long-term goals in the first place?
Claim 3: I would not say that there is no such thing as talent in being a CEO or presidents. I do however believe that the best leaders have been some combination of their particular characteristics and talents, and the situation they were in. Steve Jobs has led Apple to become the largest company in the world, but it is not clear that he is a "universal CEO" that would have done as good in any company (indeed he failed with NeXT). Similarly, Abraham Lincoln is typically ranked as the best U.S. president by historians, but again I think most would agree that he fit well the challenge that he had to face, rather than being someone that would have just as well handled the cold war or the 1970s energy crisis. Also, as Yafah points elsewhere here, for people to actually trust an AI with being the leader of a company or a country, it would need to not just be as good as humans or a little better, but better by a huge margin. In fact, most people's initial suspicion is that AIs (or even humans that don't look like them) is not "aligned" with their interests, and if you don't convince them otherwise, their default would be to keep them from positions of power.
Claim 4: The main point is that we need to measure the powers of a system as a whole, not compare the powers of an individual human with an individual AI. Clearly, if you took a human, made their memory capacity 10 times bigger, and made their speed 10 times faster, then they could do more things. But we are comparing with the case that humans will be assisted with short-term AIs that would help them in all of the tasks that are memory and speed intensive.
It is indeed the case that sometimes we see phase transitions / discontinuous improvements, and this is an area which I am very interested in. Note however that (while not in our paper) typically in graphs such as BIG-Bench, the X axis is something like log number of parameters. So it does seem you pay quite a price to achieve improvement. The claim there is not so much about the shape of the laws but rather about potential (though as you say, not certain at all) limitations as to what improvements you can achieve through pure software alone, without investing more compute and/or data. Some other (very rough) calculations of costs are attempted in my previous blog post.