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Thanks for the reply! 

I think it might be true that substrate convergence is inevitable eventually. But it would be helpful to know how long it would take. Potentially we might be ok with it if the expected timescale is long enough (or the probability of it happening in a given timescale is low enough).

I think the singleton scenario is the most interesting, since I think that if we have several competing AI's, then we are just super doomed. 

If that's true then that is a super important finding! And also an important thing to communicate to people! I hear a lot of people who say the opposite and that we need lots of competing AIs.

I agree that analogies to organic evolution can be very generative. Both in terms of describing the general shape of dynamics, and how AI could be different. That line of thinking could give us a good foundation to start asking how substrate convergence could be exacerbated or avoided. 

I am interested in the substrate-needs convergence project. 

Here are some initial thoughts, I would love to hear some responses:

  • An approach could be to say under what conditions natural selection will and will not sneak in. 
  • Natural selection requires variation. Information theory tells us that all information is subject to noise and therefore variation across time. However, we can reduce error rates to arbitrarily low probabilities using coding schemes. Essentially this means that it is possible to propagate information across finite timescales with arbitrary precision. If there is no variation then there is no natural selection. 
  • In abstract terms, evolutionary dynamics require either a smooth adaptive landscape such that incremental changes drive organisms towards adaptive peaks and/or unlikely leaps away from local optima into attraction basins of other optima. In principle AI systems could exist that stay in safe local optima and/or have very low probabilities of jumps to unsafe attraction basins. 
  • I believe that natural selection requires a population of "agents" competing for resources. If we only had a single AI system then there is no competition and no immediate adaptive pressure.
  • Other dynamics will be at play which may drown out natural selection. There may be dynamics that occur at much faster timescales that this kind of natural selection, such that adaptive pressure towards resource accumulation cannot get a foothold. 
  • Other dynamics may be at play that can act against natural selection. We see existence-proofs of this in immune responses against tumours and cancers. Although these don't work perfectly in the biological world, perhaps an advanced AI could build a type of immune system that effectively prevents individual parts from undergoing runaway self-replication.