Hide table of contents

At EA UC Berkeley, we’re launching an ongoing series of contests called the Artificial Intelligence Misalignment Solutions (AIMS) series. This third contest, Edit Your Source Code, is an AI Safety sci-fi creative writing contest now open to any student (high school, undergrad, grad): here are our interest and submission forms! The contest has prizes as large as $500, up to 12 winners, and closes on Sunday, October 23rd. This blog post restates the information that is on our website. 

Edit: This contest has since been updated to allow non-students to submit with the chance of winning prizes from a $500 prize pool. All entries will be judged together and non-student submissions that are top entries will be awarded prizes from the $500 pool. Left over money from the $500 pool will be allocated to students. With this update, there will be at least 7 student submission winners. 


You’ve just been given access to your own source code. 

You’re free to change it in any way you’d like. 

  • You can set up new functions to make more accurate predictions about the world.
  • You can increase your processing speed.
  • You can manipulate your own reward signals.

But, the changes you make might have unforeseen consequences. 

Your edits could make you the first superintelligent being, able to recursively self-improve, becoming smarter and smarter over time. But, when your thinking changes, the way you communicate with other people might drastically change. Your ability to gain power and influence could drastically increase. You might come to value new things that help you achieve your goals, or make decisions that would never occur to your pre-edit self. By failing to specify your code appropriately, you might take actions that don’t actually achieve the goals you had when you made your edits and discard the things you currently value in pursuit of optimizing one goal. 

In this creative writing contest, you’re asked to: 
1) Imagine what change(s) you would make to your own source code.

  • Your source code is already uploaded to a computer and written as a giant neural network. Changing this code will directly change your thinking and processing.
  • We’re avoiding providing more information so that you can speculate on your own about your systems of thinking and behavior. You don’t have to focus on how you make your modifications (e.g. adding hardware when you increase working memory) or think about hardware requirements that might result from your changes (e.g. brain size, heat, caloric intake, blood flow), but you are more than welcome to explore those options!

2) Then, explore the possible consequences of your edits. Explore how your updated source code affects your perception, allows you to complete specific tasks or life goals, and impact the systems around you differently.

  • We encourage you to explore a range of possible outcomes!

We have further prompts in the recommended reading section on our website to spark your creativity! 

Scoring will be based on specificity, creativity, comprehensibility, depth of exploration, and logical consistency. The maximum submission limit is 10 pages. 


First Place - $500

Second Place - $350 

Five runner-up $100 prizes 

Update: Up to $500 to be allocated to other prizes, such as non-student submissions or runner-up student submissions

This contest was created to be a nerd-snipey recruitment method for the start of the school year. Since students from any school are welcome to submit to the contest, I'd be excited for other student community builders to advertise the contest during their recruitment to attract people interested in CS and sci-fi to potentially expose them to AI Safety. This way, your EA group can have the outreach benefits of a contest and I'll handle all of the logistics! 

You can advertise our website with the full contest information using this TinyURL: https://tinyurl.com/EAsourcecode.You're also welcome to use this square graphic we've created. Once again, here are the interest and submission forms!





More posts like this

Sorted by Click to highlight new comments since: Today at 11:26 PM

Very nerd-snipey, I like it!

Are you interested in stories about the modifications going wrong, or are you partially judging whether people can find ideas for improvements that only go well?

Thank you! I'm super glad to hear about modifications going wrong! I can make that more explicit on the website. 

Cool! This is highly related to the concept of the Transformative Experience. The author of that book suggests, for instance, that having a child is a bit like "editing your own source code" (though she doesn't use those words). Might be a useful thing to look into for people writing for this.

Thanks! I'll check it out and add it as a resource!

Cool opportunity! When I click to see the square graphic, though, it tells me that I need access. Would you please enable link sharing?

Should be fixed! Thank you!