Reframing Impact

This post (or sequence of posts) not only gave me a better handle on impact and what that means for agents, but it also is a concrete example of de-confusion work. The execution of the explanations gives an "obvious in hindsight" feeling, with "5-minute timer"-like questions which pushed me to actually try and solve the open question of an impact measure. It's even inspired me to apply this approach to other topics in my life that had previously confused me; it gave me the tools and a model to follow.

And, the illustrations are pretty fun and engaging, too.

What's a Decomposable Alignment Topic?

b) seems right. I'm unsure what (a) could mean (not much overhead?).

I feel confused to think about decomposability w/o considering the capabilities of the people I'm handing the tasks off to. I would only add:

By "smart", assume they can notice confusion, google, and program

since that makes the capabilities explicit.

What's a Decomposable Alignment Topic?

If you only had access to people who can google, program, and notice confusion, how could you utilize that to make conceptual progress on a topic you care about?

Decomposable: Make a simple first person shooter. Could be decomposed into creating asset models, and various parts of the actual code can be decomposed (input-mapping, getting/dealing damage).

Non-decomposable: Help me write an awesome piano song. Although this can be decomposed, I don't expect anyone to have the skills required (and acquiring the skills requires too much overhead).

Let's operationalize "too much overhead" to mean "takes more than 10 hours to do useful, meaningful tasks".

What's a Decomposable Alignment Topic?

The first one. As long as you can decompose the open problem into tractable, bite-sized pieces, it's good.

Vanessa mentioned some strategies that might generalize to other open problems: group decomposition (we decide how to break a problem up), programming to empirically verify X, and literature reviews.

What's a Decomposable Alignment Topic?

I don't know (partially because I'm unsure who would stay and leave).

If you didn't take math background that in consideration and wrote a proposal (saying "requires background in real analysis" or ...), then that may push out people w/o that background but also attract people with that background.

As long as pre-reqs are explicit, you should go for it.