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The Parable of Predict-O-Matic

I think this post is incredibly useful as a concrete example of the challenges of seemingly benign powerful AI, and makes a compelling case for serious AI safety research being a prerequisite to any safe further AI development. I strongly dislike part 9, as painting the Predict-o-matic as consciously influencing others personality at the expense of short-term prediction error seems contradictory to the point of the rest of the story. I suspect I would dislike part 9 significantly less if it was framed in terms of a strategy to maximize predictive accuracy.

More specifically, I really enjoy the focus on the complexity of “optimization” on a gears-level: I think that it’s a useful departure from high abstraction levels, as the question of what predictive accuracy means, and the strategy AI would use to pursue it, is highly influenced by the approach taken. I think a more rigorous approach to analyzing whether different AI approaches are susceptible to “undercutting” as a safety feature would be an extremely valuable piece. My suspicion is that even the engineer’s perspective here is significantly under-specified with the details necessary to determine whether this vulnerability exists.

I also think that Part 9 detracts from the piece in two main ways: by painting the predict-o-matic as conscious, it implies a significantly more advanced AI than necessary to exhibit this effect. Additionally, because the AI admits to sacrificing predictIve accuracy in favor of some abstract value-add, it seems like pretty much any naive strategy would outcompete the current one, according to the engineer, meaning that the type of threat is also distorted: the main worry should be AI OPTIMIZING for predictive accuracy, not pursuing its own goals. That’s bad sci-fi or very advanced GAI, not a prediction-optimizer.

I would support the deletion or aggressive editing of part 9 in this and future similar pieces: I’m not sure what it adds. ETA-I think whether or not this post should be updated depends on whether you think the harms of part 9 outweigh the benefit of the previous parts: it’s plausible to me that the benefits of a clearly framed story that’s relevant to AI safety are enormous, but it’s also plausible that the costs of creating a false sense of security are larger.