Vojtech Kovarik

My original background is in mathematics (analysis, topology, Banach spaces) and game theory (imperfect information games). Nowadays, I do AI alignment research (mostly systemic risks, sometimes pondering about "consequentionalist reasoning").

Wiki Contributions


(For context: My initial reaction to the post was that this is misrepresenting the MIRI-position-as-I-understood-it. And I am one of the people who strongly endorse the view that "it was never about getting the AI to predict human preferences". So when I later saw Yudkowsky's comment and your reaction, it seemed perhaps useful to share my view.)

It seems like you think that human preferences are only being "predicted" by GPT-4, and not "preferred." If so, why do you think that?

My reaction to this is that: Actually, current LLMs do care about our preferences, and about their guardrails. It was never about getting some AI to care about our preferences. It is about getting powerful AIs to robustly care about our preferences. Where by "robustly" includes things like (i) not caring about other things as well (e.g., prediction accuracy), (ii) generalising correctly (e.g., not just maximising human approval), and (iii) not breaking down when we increase the amount of optimisation pressure a lot (e.g., will it still work once we hook it into future-AutoGPT-that-actually-works and have it run for a long time?).

Some examples of what would cause me to update are: If we could make LLMs not jailbreakable without relying on additional filters on input or output.

Nitpicky comment / edit request: The circle inversion figure was quite confusing to me. Perhaps add a note to it saying that solid green maps onto solid blue, red maps onto itself, and dotted green maps onto dotted blue. (Rather than colours mapping to each other, which is what I intuitively expected.)

Fun example: The evolution of offensive words seems relevant here. IE, we frown upon using currently-offensive words, so we end up expressing ourselves using some other words. And over time, we realise that those other words are (primarily used as) Doppelgangers, and mark them as offensive as well.

E.g. Living in large groups such that it’s hard for a predator to focus on any particular individual; a zebra’s stripes.

Off-topic, but: Does anybody have a reference for this, or a better example? This is the first time I have heard this theory about zebras.

Two points that seem relevant here:

  1. To what extent are "things like LLMs" and "things like AutoGPT" very different creatures, with the latter sometimes behaving like a unitary agent?
  2. Assuming that the distinction in (1) matters, how often do we expect to see AutoGPT-like things?

(At the moment, both of these questions seem open.)

This made me think of "lawyer-speak", and other jargons.

More generally, this seems to be a function of learning speed and the number of interactions on the one hand, and the frequency with which you interact with other groups on the other. (In this case, the question would be how often do you need to be understandable to humans, or to systems that need to be understandable to humans, etc.)

I would like to point out one aspects of the "Vulnerable ML systems" scenario that the post doesn't discuss much: the effect on adversarial vulnerability on widespread-automation worlds.

Using existing words, some ways of pointing towards what I mean are: (1) Adversarial robustness solved after TAI (your case 2), (2) vulnerable ML systems + comprehensive AI systems, (3) vulnerable ML systems + slow takeoff, (4) fast takeoff happening in the middle of (3).

But ultimately, I think none of these fits perfectly. So a longer, self-contained description is something like:

  • Consider the world where we automate more and more things using AI systems that have vulnerable components. Perhaps those vulnerabilities primarily come from narrow-purpose neural networks and foundation models. But some might also come from insecure software design, software bugs, and humans in the loop.
  • And suppose some parts of the economy/society will be designed more securely (some banks, intelligence services, planes, hopefully nukes)...while others just have glaring security holes.
  • A naive expectation would be that a security hole gets fixed if and only if there is somebody who would be able to exploit it. This is overly optimistic, but note that even this implies the existence of many vulnerabilities that would require stronger-than-existing level of capability to exploit. More realistically, the actual bar for fixing security holes will be "there might be many people who can exploit this, but it is not worth their opportunity cost". And then we will also not-fix all the holes that we are unaware of, or where the exploitation goes undetected.
    These potential vulnerabilities leave a lot of space for actual exploitation when the stakes get higher, or we get a sudden jump in some area of capabilities, or when many coordinated exploits become more profitable than what a naive extrapolation would suggest.

There are several potential threats that have particularly interesting interactions with this setting:

  • (A) Alignment scheme failure: An alignment scheme that would otherwise work fails due to vulnerabilities in the AI company training it. This seems the closest to what this post describes?
  • (B) Easier AI takeover: Somebody builds a misaligned AI that would normally be sub-catastrophic, but all of these vulnerabilities allow it to take over.
  • (C) Capitalism gone wrong: The vulnerabilities regularly get exploited, in ways that either go undetected or cause negative externalities that nobody relevant has incentives to fix. And this destroys a large portion of the total value.
  • (D) Malicious actors: Bad actors use the vulnerabilities to cause damage. (And this makes B and C worse.)
  • (E) Great-power war: The vulnerabilities get exploited during a great-power war. (And this makes B and C worse.)

Connection to Cases 1-3: All of this seems very related to how you distinguish between adversarial robustness gets solved before tranformative AI/after TAI/never. However, I would argue that TAI is not necessarily the relevant cutoff point here. Indeed, for Alignment failure (A) and Easier takeover (B), the relevant moment is "the first time we get an AI capable of forming a singleton". This might happen tomorrow, by the time we have automated 25% of economically-relevant tasks, half a year into having automated 100% of tasks, or possibly never. And for the remaining threat models (C,D,E), perhaps there are no single cutoff points, and instead the stakes and implications change gradually?

Implications: Personally, I am the most concerned about misaligned AI (A and B) and Capitalism gone wrong (C). However, perhaps risks from malicious actors and nation-state adversaries (D, E) are more salient and less controversial, while pointing towards the same issues? So perhaps advancing the agenda outlined in the post can be best done through focusing on these? [I would be curious to know your thoughts.]

An idea for increasing the impact of this research: Mitigating the "goalpost moving" effect for "but surely a bit more progress on capabilities will solve this".

I suspect that many people who are sceptical of this issue will, by default, never sit down and properly think about this. If they did, they might make some falsifiable predictions and change their minds --- but many of them might never do that. Or perhaps many people will, but it will all happen very gradually, and we will never get a good enough "coordination point" that would allow us to take needle-shifting actions.

I also suspect there are ways of making this go better. I am not quite sure what they are, but here are some ideas: Making and publishing surveys. Operationalizing all of this better, in particular with respect to the "how much does this actually matter?" aspect. Formulating some memorable "hypothesis" that makes it easier to refer to this in conversations and papers (cf "orthogonality thesis"). Perhaps making some proponents of "the opposing view" make some testable predictions, ideally some that can be tested with systems whose failures won't be catastrophic yet?

For the purpose of this section, we will consider adversarial robustness to be solved if systems cannot be practically exploited to cause catastrophic outcomes.

Regarding the predictions, I want to make the following quibble: According to the definition above, one way of "solving" adversarial robustness is to make sure that nobody tries to catastrophically exploit the system in the first place. (In particular, exploitable AI that takes over the world is no longer exploitable.)

So, a lot with this definition rests on how do you distinguish between "cannot be exploited" and "will not be exploited".

And on reflection, I think that for some people, this is close to being a crux regarding the importance of all this research.

Yup, this is a very good illustration of the "talking past each other" that I think is happening with this line of research. (I mean with adversarial attacks on NNs in general, not just with Go in particular.) Let me try to hint at the two views that seem relevant here.

1) Hinting at the "curiosity at best" view: I agree that if you hotfix this one vulnerability, then it is possible we will never encounter another vulnerability in current Go systems. But this is because there aren't many incentives to go look for those vulnerabilities. (And it might even be that if Adam Gleave didn't focus his PhD on this general class of failures, we would never have encountered even this vulnerability.)

However, whether additional vulnerabilities exist seems like an entirely different question. Sure, there will only be finitely many vulnerabilities. But how confident are we that this cyclic-groups one is the last one? For example, I suspect that you might not be willing to give 1:1000 odds on whether we would encounter new vulnerabilities if we somehow spent 50 researcher-years on this.

But I expect that you might say that this does not matter, because vulnerabilities in Go do not matter much, and we can just keep hotfixing them as they come up?

2) And the other view seems to be something like: Yes, Go does not matter. But we were only using Go (and image classifiers, and virtual-environment football) to illustrate a general point, that these failures are an inherent part of deep learning systems. And for many applications, that is fine. But there will be applications where it is very much not fine (eg, aligning strong AIs, cyber-security, economy in the presence of malicious actors).

And at this point, some people might disagree and claim something like "this will go away with enough training". This seems fair, but I think that if you hold this view, you should make some testable predictions (and ideally ones that we can test prior to having superintelligent AI).

And, finally, I think that if you had this argument with people in 2015, many of them would have made predictions such as "these exploits work for image classifiers, but they won't work for multiagent RL". Or "this won't work for vastly superhuman Go".

Does this make sense? Assuming you still think this is just an academic curiosity, do you have some testable predictions for when/which systems will no longer have vulnerabilities like this? (Pref. something that takes fewer than 50 researcher years to test :D.)

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