“The appointment of Christiano, which was said to come directly from Secretary of Commerce Gina Raimondo (NIST is an agency under the US Department of Commerce) has sparked outrage among NIST employees who fear that Christiano’s association with EA and longtermism could compromise the institute’s objectivity and integrity.”

“The AISI was established in November 2023 to “support the responsibilities assigned to the Department of Commerce” under the AI Executive Order. Earlier today, US Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY) announced that the NIST will receive up to $10 million to establish the US AI Safety Institute.”

Sorted by Click to highlight new comments since:

I don't really see anything in the article to support the headline claim, and the anonymous sources don't actually work at NIST, do they?

The National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) is facing an internal crisis as staff members and scientists have threatened to resign over the anticipated appointment of Paul Christiano to a crucial, though non-political, position at the agency’s newly-formed US AI Safety Institute (AISI), according to at least two sources with direct knowledge of the situation, who asked to remain anonymous.

I don't know, threatening to resign is a pretty concrete thing and I don't find "revolt" such an exaggeration. You can doubt the sources and wish for more concrete evidence (a letter?), but I'd still put >50% that it's broadly correct

EDIT: okay there's a clear ambiguity about how many people are threatening to resign, in a way that if it's only 1 or 2, it's clearly misleading.

Agreed, the evidence is solely, "according to at least two sources with direct knowledge of the situation, who asked to remain anonymous."

That is still consistent with them working at NIST

I think the argument is that if they did work at NIST then the article would have included that, so we can infer the very likely don't?

Perhaps I am overestimating how worried a source might be that their organisation traces a leak back to them if it's known that someone from within the organisation provided it.

Not exactly a great sign about EA's reputation!

Not sure I understand the disagree-voters here, it seems that some NIST staffers are upset about the EA connection, and not just a perception that the appointment has been rushed through

(edit: unless you think that the reporting is just unrealiable?)

Yeah agree, though the disagreement is also specific to views on AI x-risk, which I view as very different from reputation

This story is interesting; however, I must admit, I am most surprised by the "up to $10 million" figure. I had assumed the US would allocate significantly more funds for this. For comparison:

  • The UK safety institute is expected to spend over £100 million (128m+ USD) during the first two years, if I understand correctly.
  • The EU AI Office (while serving a slightly different role, yet with considerable overlap) will likely spend €46.5 million (50m+ USD) annually.

What am I overlooking?

Does anyone know the precise number of people who are threatening to resign?

Hard to tell from the information given. Two sources saying an unknown number of people are threatening to resign could just mean that two people are disgruntled and might themselves resign.

Is Paul “supremely qualified” regarding CBRNs?

Also what’s the difference between a political and non political position?

I think the tweet is referring to political appointments. I think the tweet is implying that the position must not be extremely influential, because the most influential positions are politically appointed. (And, if this were a political appointment, we would know about it because of various disclosure requirements for those positions.)

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