It does make me more uncertain about most of the details. And that then makes me more pessimistic about the solution, because I expect that I'm missing some of the problems.
(Analogy: say I'm working on a math exercise sheet and I have some concrete reason to suspect my answer may be wrong; if I then realize I'm actually confused about the entire setup, I should be even more pessimistic about having gotten the correct answer).
To briefly hop in and say something that may be useful: I had a reaction pretty similar to what Eliezer commented, and I don't see continuity or "Things will be weird before getting extremely weird" as a crux. (I don't know why you think he does, and don't know what he thinks, but would guess he doesn't think it's a crux either)
Yeah we're on the same page here, thanks for checking!
For one thing, you use the “might” near the end of that excerpt. That seems more compatible with a ‘maybe, maybe not’ claim, than with an ‘(almost) definitely not’ claim, right?
I feel pretty uncertain about all the factors here. One reason I overall still lean towards the 'definitely not' stance is that building a toddler AGI that is alignable in principle is only one of multiple steps that need to go right for us to get a reflectively-stable docile AGI; in particular we still need to solve the problem of actually aligning the toddler AGI. (Another step is getting labs to even seriously attempt to box it and align it, which maybe is an out-of-scope consideration here but it does make me more pessimistic).
For another thing, if we have, umm, “toddler AGI” that’s too unsophisticated to have good situational awareness, coherence, etc., then I would think that the boxing / containment problem is a lot easier than we normally think about, right? We’re not talking about hardening against a superintelligent adversary.
I agree we're not talking about a superintelligent adversary, and I agree that boxing is doable for some forms of toddler AGI. I do think you need coherence; if the toddler AGI is incoherent, then any "aligned" behavioral properties it has will also be incoherent, and something unpredictable (and so probably bad) will happen when the AGI becomes more capable or more coherent. (Flagging that I'm not sure "coherent" is the right way to talk about this... wish I had a more precise concept here.)
We can use non-reflectively-endorsed desires to help tide us over until the toddler AGI develops enough reflectivity to form any reflectively-endorsed desires at all.
I agree a non-reflective toddler AGI is in many ways easier to deal with. I think we will have problems at the threshold where the tAGI is first able to reflect on its goals and realizes that the RLHF-instilled desires aren't going to imply docile behavior. (If we can speculate about how a superintelligence might extrapolate a set of trained-in desires and realize that this process doesn't lead to a good outcome, then the tAGI can reason the same way about its own desires).
(I agree that if we can get aligned desires that are stable under reflection, then maybe the 'use non-endorsed desires to tide us over' plan could work. Though even then you need to somehow manage to prevent the tAGI from reflecting on its desires until you get the desires to a point where they stay aligned under reflection, and I have no idea how you would do something like that - we currently just don't have that level of fine control over capabilities).
The basic problem here is the double-bind where we need the toddler AGI to be coherent, reflective, capable of understanding human intent (etc) in order for it to be robustly alignable at all, even though those are exactly the incredibly dangerous properties that we really want to stay away from. My guess is that the reason Nate's story doesn't hypothesize a reflectively-endorsed desire to be nondeceptive is that reflectively-stable aligned desires are really hard / dangerous to get, and so it seems better / at least not obviously worse to go for eliezer-corrigibility instead.
Some other difficulties that I see:
Are you arguing that it’s probably not going to work, or that it’s definitely not going to work? I’m inclined to agree with the first and disagree with the second.
I'm arguing that it's definitely not going to work (I don't have 99% confidence here bc I might be missing something, but IM(current)O the things I list are actual blockers).
First bullet point → Seems like a very possible but not absolutely certain failure mode for what I wrote.
Do you mean we possibly don't need the prerequisites, or we definitely need them but that's possibly fine?
In particular, if we zap the AGI with negative reward when it’s acting from a deceptive motivation and positive reward when it’s acting from a being-helpful motivation, would those zaps turn into a reflectively-endorsed desire for “I am being docile / helpful / etc.”? Maybe, maybe not, I dunno.
Curious what your take is on these reasons to think the answer is no (IMO the first one is basically already enough):
That's a challenge, and while you (hopefully) chew on it, I'll tell an implausibly-detailed story to exemplify a deeper obstacle.
Some thoughts written down before reading the rest of the post (list is unpolished / not well communicated)
The main problems I see:
Is there an open-source implementation of causal scrubbing available?
I also think that often "the AI just maximizes reward" is a useful simplifying assumption. That is, we can make an argument of the form "even if the AI just maximizes reward, it still takes over; if it maximizes some correlate of the reward instead, then we have even less control over what it does and so are even more doomed".
(Though of course it's important to spell the argument out)
I would not call 1) an instance of goal misgeneralization. Goal misgeneralization only occurs if the model does badly at the training objective. If you reward an RL agent for making humans happy and it goes on to make humans happy in unintended ways like putting them into heroin cells, the RL agent is doing fine on the training objective. I'd call 1) an instance of misspecification and 2) an instance of misgeneralization.
(AFAICT The Alignment Problem from a DL Perspective uses the term in the same way I do, but I'd have to reread more carefully to make sure).
I agree with much of the rest of this post, eg the paragraphs beginning with "The solutions to these two problems are pretty different."
Here's our definition in the RL setting for reference (from https://arxiv.org/abs/2105.14111):
FWIW I think this definition is flawed in many ways (for example, the type signature of the agent's inner goal is different from that of the reward function, bc the agent might have an inner world model that extends beyond the RL environment's state space; and also it's generally sketchy to extend the reward function beyond the training distribution), but I don't know of a different definition that doesn't have similarly-sized flaws.