[ExI] Fwd: Re: AI risks

Anders Sandberg anders at aleph.se
Mon Sep 7 23:24:47 UTC 2015

On 2015-09-07 17:08, Mike Dougherty wrote:
> On Sep 7, 2015 10:24 AM, "Ben" <bbenzai at yahoo.com 
> <mailto:bbenzai at yahoo.com>> wrote:
> > As there is zero probability of all these different points of view 
> ever agreeing, the whole concept of distinguishing between 'good use' 
> and 'bad use' of AI is meaningless.  I don't know what the answer is, 
> but I do think it's a waste of time talking in these terms.  We need a 
> new angle on the whole thing.
> Replace AI in this thread with a similarly disruptive technology: fire.
> Fire is inherently dangerous.
> Fire is useful when wielded responsibly.
> Fire is a dangerous weapon.
> All true. Somehow we have survived.

But note the differences too. Fire behaves in a somewhat predictable way 
that does not change, requires certain resources (air, heat, fuel) we 
can control, its spread is limited by the extent of resource patches, it 
is highly detectable and so on. It is exponential in the small, but 
linear or bounded in the large. You cannot just set fire to the whole world.

Understanding the underlying properties of technologies is essential for 
figuring out how to handle the risks. One of the problems with the AI 
safety debate is that far too many people are unwilling or unable to 
start decomposing the problem into understandable parts.

There is useful work to be done on the capacity for learning systems to 
infer things from limited data, and the rate with which their power 
grows. We can analyse how to control its capacities or motivations. We 
can examine different schemes for governance, policing and monitoring, 
as well as subtler methods of incentive structures. We can analyse the 
resources needed for different kinds of AI, and our uncertainty about 
them. We can investigate thresholds of entry to the technology, and what 
determines their height. We can analyse the game theory of AI-races. We 
can measure performance over time. And so on. Big questions, yes, but 
far less handwavy and actually possible to make progress on.

This goes for a lot of technological threat. On one hand, go to the meta 
level and abstract away details to see overall patterns that matter (low 
threshold to entry? exponential? adaptive?), on the other hand decompose 
the questions into chunks that can actually be investigated.

Anders Sandberg
Future of Humanity Institute
Oxford Martin School
Oxford University

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