Eric Drexler

Wiki Contributions


What you describe is a form of spiral causation (only seeded by claims of impossibility), which surely contributes strongly to what we’ve seen in the evolution of ideas. Fortunately, interest in the composite-system solution space (in particular, the open agency model) is now growing, so I think we’re past the worst of the era of unitary-agent social proof.

Nate [replying to Eric Drexler]: I expect that, if you try to split these systems into services, then you either fail to capture the heart of intelligence and your siloed AIs are irrelevant, or you wind up with enough AGI in one of your siloes that you have a whole alignment problem (hard parts and all) in there….

GTP-Nate is confusing the features of the AI services model with the argument that “Collusion among superintelligent oracles can readily be avoided”. As it says on the tin, there’s no assumption that intelligence must be limited. It is, instead, an argument that collusion among (super)intelligent systems is fragile under conditions that are quite natural to implement.

The question then becomes, as always, what it is you plan to do with these weak AGI systems that will flip the tables strongly enough to prevent the world from being destroyed by stronger AGI systems six months later.

Yes, this is the key question, and I think there’s a clear answer, at least in outline:

What you call “weak” systems can nonetheless excel at time- and resource-bounded tasks in engineering design, strategic planning, and red-team/blue-team testing. I would recommend that we apply systems with focused capabilities along these lines to help us develop and deploy the physical basis for a defensively stable world — as you know, some extraordinarily capable technologies could be developed and deployed quite rapidly. In this scenario, defense has first move, can preemptively marshal arbitrarily large physical resources, and can restrict resources available to potential future adversaries. I would recommend investing resources in state-of-the-art hostile planning to support ongoing red-team/blue-team exercises.

This isn’t “flipping the table”, it’s reinforcing the table and bolting it to the floor. What you call “strong” systems then can plan whatever they want, but with limited effect.

Mind space is very wide

Yes, and the space of (what I would call) intelligent systems is far wider than the space of (what I would call) minds. To speak of “superintelligences” suggests that intelligence is a thing, like a mind, rather than a property, like prediction or problem-solving capacity. This is which is why I instead speak of the broader class of systems that perform tasks “at a superintelligent level”. We have different ontologies, and I suggest that a mind-centric ontology is too narrow.

The most AGI-like systems we have today are LLMs, optimized for a simple prediction task. They can be viewed as simulators, but they have a peculiar relationship to agency:

The simulation objective

A simulator trained with machine learning is optimized to accurately model its training distribution – in contrast to, for instance, maximizing the output of a reward function or accomplishing objectives in an environment.… Optimizing toward the simulation objective notably does not incentivize instrumentally convergent behaviors the way that reward functions which evaluate trajectories do.

LLMs have rich knowledge and capabilities, and can even simulate agents, yet they have no natural place in an agent-centric ontology. There’s an update to be had here (new information! fresh perspectives!) and much to reconsider.

So I think useful arrangements of diverse/competing/flawed systems is a hope in many contexts. It often doesn't work, so looks neglected, but not for want of trying.

What does and doesn’t work will depend greatly on capabilities, and the problem-context here assumes potentially superintelligent-level AI.

These are good points, and I agree with pretty much all of them. 

Instances in a bureaucracy can be very different and play different roles or pursue different purposes. They might be defined by different prompts and behave as differently as text continuations of different prompts in GPT-3

I think that this is an important idea. Though simulators analogous to GPT-3, it may be possible to develop strong, almost-provably-non-agentic intelligent resources, then prompt them to simulate diverse, transient agents on the fly. From the perspective of building multicomponent architectures this seems like a strange and potentially powerful tool.

Regarding interpretability, tasks that require communication among distinct AI components will tend to expose information, and manipulating “shared backgrounds” between information sources and consumers could potentially be exploited to make that information more interpretable. (How one might train against steganography is an interesting question.)

I don’t see that as an argument [to narrow this a bit: not an argument relevant to what I propose]. As I noted above, Paul Christiano asks for explicit assumptions.

To quote Paul again:.

I think that concerns about collusion are relatively widespread amongst the minority of people most interested in AI control. And these concerns have in fact led to people dismissing many otherwise-promising approaches to AI control, so it is de facto an important question

Dismissing promising approaches calls for something like a theorem, not handwaving about generic “smart entities”.

[Perhaps too-pointed remark deleted]

HCH-like amplification seems related, multiple unreliable agent instances assembled into a bureaucracy that as a whole improves on some of their qualities

This approach to amplification involves multiple instances, but not diverse systems, competing systems, different roles, adversarial relationships, or a concern with collusion. It is, as you say a training story for a single AI. Am I missing a stronger connection?

Yes, we need to weigh the considerations you mention, and many others.

I think copy-collusion is reasonably likely, and we don't currently know of a way to prevent it.

Copy-collusion must be considered carefully, and its implications will depend on both potential contexts for using copies (sometimes problematic, sometimes OK) and on potential alternatives to using copies.

Copies will always “collude” in the trivial sense of giving identical, potentially deceptive responses to identical inputs, but might also offer potentially deceptive, mutually-supporting responses to differing inputs. For some purposes, a multicomponent architecture must treat multiple copies as a single source of information. (Note that solving the alignment problem is often taken to require that we be able to trust a single copy, or a system that consists of nothing but copies of a single entity — this seems strictly riskier than anything I’ve suggested.)

Some constraints can be effective even among copies: Constrained communication can be applied to preclude coordination that requires new, shared knowledge. Lack of access to a shared clock can be applied to preclude coordination of simultaneous or cleverly sequenced actions. Systems that audit alternative behaviors by re-running processes from checkpoints can be applied to offline copies, where adaptive, multi-trial probing (by what may be highly intelligent systems!) can likely be leveraged to make some kinds of deceptions unwise.

Of course a central idea is that many roles call for systems that are not copies: proposers vs. critics, designers vs. testers, actors vs. auditors, diverse members of ensembles, and so on.

we need to make choices about which approaches are most promising, which to pursue, etc.

Before asking whether one approach is superior to another, we should ask whether they are competitors or complements. Multicomponent approaches for making non-collusion robust seem quite complementary to strategies for making individual systems more trustworthy.

Regarding criteria for investment, neglectedness is of course a huge consideration.

From the Afterword: “Note that I have presented a there-exists argument against a for-all proposition. Responses of the form “But I can think of something similar that won’t work” don’t count as counterarguments.” [This has been edited in the main text to sharpen the phrasing.]

B2: Copies might collude with one another, provided they have a broad decision theory: ∃(some sets of models) among which some mechanisms for impeding collusion might not work.

B4: A lot of models may be deployed over the internet: ∃(some communication channels) for which one of 6 mechanisms for impeding collusion might not work (given flawed security).

B6: LLM's will share a lot of knowledge: ∃(high performance models for some tasks) for which one of 6 mechanisms for impeding collusion doesn’t contribute to safety.

C1: Large models tend to beat compositions of small models for some tasks: ∃(some tasks) where some models should be large, and narrow knowledge won’t contribute to impeding collusion.

Not too worrisome, I think, but these are all considerations important to building robust multicomponent systems.

BTW, regarding the (non-)goal oriented nature of LLMs, I highly recommend the Simulators post by Janus.

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