Feedback Request on EA Philippines' Career Advice Research for Technical AI Safety

by BrianTan3 min read3rd Oct 20205 comments

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AI AlignmentCareer Choice
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Summary

Hi EAs, I'm Brian, co-founder of EA Philippines. I've spent a few days researching for and writing an article around the topic of "Can Filipinos help solve the problem of AI safety?". The format and content is drawn heavily from 80K's AI problem profile and career guide, and other AI-related career resources of 80K.

My goal with the article is to help inform Filipinos why this problem is important, and outline what type of Filipinos would be a good fit to be a technical AI safety researcher or engineer. I'm aiming to post this in a few Facebook groups that have Filipinos interested in or working on AI and/or data science.

I would like to ask feedback from EAs who are working on technical AI safety (or are familiar with it) on the article. I'd also like answers to the questions I've listed in the bottom section, and also get advice on the extra research we are planning on doing to validate or invalidate what I've written so far.

Context on the Article

I initially wrote this article back in April this year, as part of EA Philippines' project of doing cause prioritization and career advice research. This is so we can determine what are the high-impact career paths that Filipinos can take. We also researched on and wrote a problem profile on local poverty, and we also aim to publish problem profiles on technical AI safety, local farm animal welfare, and local mental health.

I initially wrote in the article that AI safety is a very pressing problem, but that EA Philippines doesn't see this career path as a "recommended" one. The rationale was that for a Filipino to be a technical AI safety researcher or engineer, they would need to get a Ph.D in computer science / machine learning at a top university abroad, and I hadn't found or heard of any Filipino with a Ph.D in computer science abroad yet before.

However, recently, I've found three Filipinos on LinkedIn who are taking or have taken PhD programs in Computer Science abroad. I have yet to get in touch with them, but it seems doable for really smart and talented Filipinos to take PhDs abroad and enter this field.

As such, I now think that a select few Filipinos can be technical AI safety researchers and engineers, and I thought of reframing the article to be more positive. This is so that Filipinos who are able to study and work abroad in the field of machine learning, or who are already studying or working abroad in this field, may consider working on technical AI safety.

Our AI Safety Career Advice Research Plans

Anyway, I realized though that I wrote the article without interviewing any AI or AI safety experts, such as foreign EAs working on AI safety, or top local AI professors, or employees/leaders in top AI firms locally. I only have gotten feedback from a few people in EA Philippines who are interested in AI safety, but they are not experts or AI professionals yet.

As such, a friend and I are planning on interviewing a few people to better inform our thinking and advice in the article. We have reached out to a top local AI professor (who isn't knowledgeable in AI safety, but has written a book on deep learning) to interview him, and he has agreed to it.

We also aim to interview 1-3 of those Filipinos who have taken PhD programs abroad, to see their familiarity with AI safety and if they'd consider working on the field, and to get insights on their experience in getting a PhD abroad in Computer Science.

Aside from this though, I'd like to get feedback from EAs familiar with AI safety on what they think about the content and advice I put in the article, and what questions we should be asking in these expert interviews we are planning to do.

Questions we'd like feedback on

Here are things I'd like feedback on or answers to. Some of these can be answered without reading the article, but it would also be good for you to read it first before answering:

1. Is anything in the article unclear, misleading, or false?

2. What could be improved in it? What's missing in it?

3. Aside from the U.S., U.K., Canada, Australia, and Singapore, are there other countries that have organizations working on AI safety research?

4. Is it possible to contribute to technical AI safety research even from outside of the 5 countries above, i.e. being an AI researcher in a university outside of these 5 countries?

5. Let's say I meet a Filipino who is interested in technical AI safety, but is unable or unwilling to work or study outside of the Philippines. Can he/she still contribute to technical AI safety directly as a researcher or engineer, whether by working remotely for a foreign organization, being an independent researcher locally, or working at a local AI firm?

6. Would it be more impactful for a Filipino to work on AI policy in the Philippines rather than try to go for technical AI safety? What would there need to be done in terms of AI policy in the Philippines? Should we consider doing research and writing an article about that?

7. What questions should we ask people at local firms to gauge if they are working on anything related to AI safety? How do we gauge if working at them would still be useful career capital for someone interested in technical AI safety research or engineering?

If someone you know can answer some of these questions, maybe you can tell them to comment here, or let me know so I can reach out to them. Thanks!

Appendix

For added context, here are the type of questions that we are planning on asking in the expert interviews we do:

  1. How would you describe what your research interests are?
  2. What are some research projects that you’re currently working on?
  3. What made you decide to enter the field of AI research?
  4. Are you familiar with what technical AI safety research is? What are your impressions and thoughts about this field and the problem of AI alignment / AI safety?
  5. What are your thoughts on whether AI systems would ever be as smart or smarter than humans? If you think this is possible, when do you think this might happen?
  6. What are things about the development of AI that you worry about?
  7. If someone wanted to have a career in technical AI safety research, could they be able to contribute to it while working in the Philippines?
  8. How can Filipino undergraduates best prepare themselves to get a PhD in Computer Science or Machine Learning?
  9. What are your thoughts on the state of AI research in the Philippines? How could this be improved?

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