Ivan Vendrov

Wiki Contributions


A transparency and interpretability tech tree

This is very helpful as a roadmap connecting current interpretability techniques to the techniques we need for alignment.

One thing that seems very important but missing is how the tech tree looks if we factor in how SOTA models will change over time, including

  1. large (order-of-magnitude) increases in model size
  2. innovations in model architectures (e.g. the LSTM -> Transformer transition)
  3. innovations in learning algorithms (e.g. gradient descent being replaced by approximate second-order methods or by meta-learning)

For example, if we restricted our attention to ConvNets trained on MNIST-like datasets we could probably get to tech level (6) very quickly. But would this would help with solving transparency for transformers trained on language? And if we don't expect it to help, why do we expect solving transparency for transformers will transfer over to the architectures that will be dominant 5 years from now?

My tentative answer would be that we don't really know how much transparency generalizes between scales/architectures/learning algorithms, so to be safe we need to invest in enough interpretability work to both keep up with whatever the SOTA models are doing and to get higher and higher in the tech tree. This may be much, much harder than the "single tech tree" metaphor suggests.

Alignment research exercises

** Explain why cooperative inverse reinforcement learning doesn’t solve the alignment problem.


Feedback: I clicked through to the provided answer and had a great deal of difficulty understanding how it was relevant - it makes a number of assumptions about agents and utility functions and I wasn't able to connect it to why I should expect an agent trained using CIRL to kill me.

FWIW here's my alternative answer:

CIRL agents are bottlenecked on the human overseer's ability to provide them with a learning signal through demonstration or direct communication.  This is unlikely to scale to superhuman abilities in the agent, so superintelligent agents simply will not be trained using CIRL.

In other words it's only a solution to "Learn from Teacher" in Paul's 2019 decomposition of alignment, not to the whole alignment problem.

Supervise Process, not Outcomes

I don't think I buy the argument for why process-based optimization would be an attractor.  The proposed mechanism - an evaluator maintaining an "invariant that each component has a clear role that makes sense independent of the global objective" - would definitely achieve this, but why would the system maintainers add such an invariant? In any concrete deployment of a process-based system, they would face strong pressure to optimize end-to-end for the outcome metric.

I think the way process-based systems could actually win the race is something closer to "network effects enabled by specialization and modularity".  Let's say you're building a robotic arm.  You could use a neural network optimized end-to-end to map input images into a vector of desired torques, or you could use a concatenation of a generic vision network and a generic action network, with a common object representation in between.  The latter is likely to be much cheaper because the generic network training costs can be amortized across many applications (at least in an economic regime where training cost dominates inference cost).  We see a version of this in NLP where nobody outside the big players trains models from scratch, though I'm not sure how to think about fine-tuned models: do they have the safety profile of process-based systems or outcome-based systems?