Jessica Taylor

Jessica Taylor. CS undergrad and Master's at Stanford; former research fellow at MIRI.

I work on decision theory, social epistemology, strategy, naturalized agency, mathematical foundations, decentralized networking systems and applications, theory of mind, and functional programming languages.



Wiki Contributions


Competitive paperclip maximization in a controlled setting sounds like it might be fun. The important thing is that it's one thing that's fun out of many things, and variety is important.

What if I’m mainly interested in how philosophical reasoning ideally ought to work?

My view would suggest: develop a philosophical view of normativity and apply that view to the practice of philosophy itself. For example, if it is in general unethical to lie, then it is also unethical to lie about philosophy. Philosophical practice being normative would lead to some outcomes being favored over others. (It seems like a problem if you need philosophy to have a theory of normativity and a theory of normativity to do meta-philosophy and meta-philosophy to do better philosophy, but earlier versions of each theory can be used to make later versions of them, in a bootstrapping process like with compilers)

I mean normativity to include ethics, aesthetics, teleology, etc. Developing a theory of teleology in general would allow applying that theory to philosophy (taken as a system/practice/etc). It would be strange to have a distinct normative theory for philosophical practice than for other practices, since philosophical practice is a subset of practice in general; philosophical normativity is a specified variant of general normativity, analogous to normativity about other areas of study. The normative theory is mostly derived from cases other than cases of normative philosophizing, since most activity that normativity could apply to is not philosophizing.

How would you flesh out the non-foundationalist view?

That seems like describing my views about things in general, which would take a long time. The original comment was meant to indicate what is non-foundationalist about this view.

I don’t understand this sentence at all. Please explain more?

Imagine a subjective credit system. A bunch of people think other people are helpful/unhelpful to them. Maybe they help support helpful people and so people who are more helpful to helpful people (etc) succeed more. It's subjective, there's no foundation where there's some terminal goal and other things are instrumental to that.

An intersubjective credit system would be the outcome of something like Pareto optimal bargaining between the people, which would lead to a unified utility function, which would imply some terminal goals and other goals being instrumental.

Speculatively, it's possible to create an intersubjective credit system (implying a common currency) given a subjective credit system.

This might apply at multiple levels. Perhaps individual agents seem to have terminal goals because different parts of their mind create subjective credit systems and then they get transformed into an objective credit system in a way that prevents money pumps etc (usual consequences of not being a VNM agent).

I'm speculating that a certain kind of circular-seeming discourse, where area A is explained in terms of area B and vice versa, might be in some way analogous to a subjective credit network, and there might be some transformation of it that puts foundations on everything, analogous to founding an intersubjective credit network in terminal goals. Some things that look like circular reasoning can be made valid and others can't. The cases I'm considering are like, cases where your theory of normativity depends on your theory of philosophy and your theory of philosophy depends on your theory of meta-philosophy and your theory of meta-philosophy depends on your theory of normativity, which seems kind of like a subjective credit system.

Sorry if this is confusing (it's confusing to me too).

Philosophy is a social/intellectual process taking place in the world. If you understand the world, you understand how philosophy proceeds.

Sometimes you don't need multiple levels of meta. There's stuff, and there's stuff about stuff, which could be called "mental" or "intensional". Then there's stuff about stuff about stuff (philosophy of mind etc). But stuff about stuff about stuff is a subset of stuff about stuff. Mental content has material correlates (writing, brain states, etc). I don't think you need a special category for stuff about stuff about stuff, it can be thought of as something like self-reading/modifying code. Or like compilers compiling themselves; you don't need a special compiler to compile compilers.

Philosophy doesn't happen in a vacuum, it's done by people with interests in social contexts, e.g. wanting to understand what other people are saying, or be famous by writing interesting things. A sufficiently good theory of society and psychology would explain philosophical discourse (and itself rely on some sort of philosophy for organizing its models). You can think of people as having "a philosophy" that can be studied from outside by analyzing text, mental states, and so on.

Reasoning about mind embeds reasoning about matter, reasoning about people embeds reasoning about mind, reasoning about matter embeds reasoning about people. Mainstream meta-philosophy consists of comparative analysis of philosophical texts, contextualized by the historical context and people and so on.

Your proposed reflection process for designing a utopia is your proposed utopia. If you propose CEV or similar, you propose that the world would be better if it included a CEV-like reflection context, and that this context had causal influence over the world in the future.

I'm not sure how clear I'm being, but I'm proposing something like collapsing levels of meta by finding correspondences between meta content and object content, and thinking of meta-meta content as meta relative to the objects corresponding to the meta content. This leads to a view where philosophy is one of many types of discourse/understanding that each shape each other (a non-foundationalist view). This is perhaps disappointing if you wanted ultimate foundations in some simple framework. Most thought is currently not foundationalist, but perhaps a foundational re-orientation could be found by understanding the current state of non-foundational thought.

Do you think of counterfactuals as a speedup on evolution? Could this be operationalized by designing AIs that quantilize on some animal population, therefore not being far from the population distribution, but still surviving/reproducing better than average?

Note the preceding

Let's first, within a critical agential ontology, disprove some very basic forms of determinism.

I'm assuming use of a metaphysics in which you, the agent, can make choices. Without this metaphysics there isn't an obvious motivation for a theory of decisions. As in, you could score some actions, but then there isn't a sense in which you "can" choose one according to any criterion.

Maybe this metaphysics leads to contradictions. In the rest of the post I argue that it doesn't contradict belief in physical causality including as applied to the self.

AFAIK the best known way of reconciling physical causality with "free will" like choice is constructor theory, which someone pointed out was similar to my critical agential approach.

AI improving itself is most likely to look like AI systems doing R&D in the same way that humans do. “AI smart enough to improve itself” is not a crucial threshold, AI systems will get gradually better at improving themselves. Eliezer appears to expect AI systems performing extremely fast recursive self-improvement before those systems are able to make superhuman contributions to other domains (including alignment research), but I think this is mostly unjustified. If Eliezer doesn’t believe this, then his arguments about the alignment problem that humans need to solve appear to be wrong.

One different way I've been thinking about this issue recently is that humans have fundamental cognitive limits e.g. brain size that AGI wouldn't have. There are possible biotech interventions to fix these but the easiest ones (e.g. just increase skull size) still require decades to start up. AI, meanwhile, could be improved (by humans and AIs) on much faster timescales. (How important something like brain size is depends on how much intellectual progress is explained by max intelligence than total intelligence; a naive reading of intellectual history would say max intelligence is important given that a high percentage of relevant human knowledge follows from <100 important thinkers.)

This doesn't lead me to assign high probability to "takeoff in 1 month", my expectation is still that AI improving AI will be an extension of humans improving AI (and then centaurs improving AI), but the iteration cycle time could be a lot faster due to AIs not having fundamental human cognitive limits.

“myopia” (not sure who correctly named this as a corrigibility principle),

I think this is from Paul Christiano, e.g. this discussion.

I assumed EER did account for that based on:

All portable air conditioner’s energy efficiency is measured using an EER score. The EER rating is the ratio between the useful cooling effect (measured in BTU) to electrical power (in W). It’s for this reason that it is hard to give a generalized answer to this question, but typically, portable air conditioners are less efficient than permanent window units due to their size.

Regarding the back-and-forth on air conditioners, I tried Google searching to find a precedent for this sort of analysis; the first Google result was "air conditioner single vs. dual hose" was this blog post, which acknowledges the inefficiency johnswentworth points out, overall recommends dual-hose air conditioners, but still recommends single-hose air conditioners under some conditions, and claims the efficiency difference is only about 12%.


In general, a single-hose portable air conditioner is best suited for smaller rooms. The reason being is because if the area you want to cool is on the larger side, the unit will have to work much harder to cool the space.

So how does it work? The single-hose air conditioner yanks warm air and moisture from the room and expels it outside through the exhaust. A negative pressure is created when the air is pushed out of the room, the air needs to be replaced. In turn, any opening in the house like doors, windows, and cracks will draw outside hot air into the room to replace the missing air. The air is cooled by the unit and ejected into the room.


Additionally, the single-hose versions are usually less expensive than their dual-hose counterparts, so if you are price sensitive, this should be considered. However, the design is much simpler and the bigger the room gets, the less efficient the device will be.


In general, dual-hose portable air conditioners are much more effective at cooling larger spaces than the single-hose variants. For starters, dual-hose versions operate more quickly as it has a more efficient air exchange process.

This portable air conditioning unit has two hoses, one functions as an exhaust hose and the other as an intake hose that will draw outside hot air. The air is cooled and expelled into the area. This process heats the machine, to cool it down the intake hose sucks outside hot air to cool the compressor and condenser units. The exhaust hose discard warmed air outside of the house.

The only drawback is that these systems are usually more expensive, and due to having two hoses instead of one, they are slightly less portable and more difficult to set up, yet most people tend to agree the investment in the extra hose is definitely worth the extra cost.

One thing to bear in mind is that the dual hose conditioners tend to be louder than single hoses. Once again, this depends on the model you purchase and its specifications, but it’s definitely worth mulling over if you need to keep the noise down in your area.


All portable air conditioner’s energy efficiency is measured using an EER score. The EER rating is the ratio between the useful cooling effect (measured in BTU) to electrical power (in W). It’s for this reason that it is hard to give a generalized answer to this question, but typically, portable air conditioners are less efficient than permanent window units due to their size.



Price | Starts at $319.00 | Starts at $449.00


Energy Efficient Ratio (EER) | 10 | 11.2

Power Consumption Rate | about $1 a day | Over $1 a day

Load More