Digital person

As Holden Karnofsky uses the term toterm, "digital person" may refer to human whole brain emulations  as well as digital "descendants" of humans:humans.[1]

The central case I'll focus on is that of digital people just like us, perhaps created via mind uploading (simulating human brains). However, one could also imagine entities unlike us in many ways, but still properly thought of as "descendants" of humanity; those would be digital people as well.

Karnofsky writes that "the transformative potential of something like digital people, combined with how quickly AI could lead According to it, form the case that we could be in the most important century".[2]

In particular, Karnofsky argues thatKarnofsky, digital people would have the same moral standing as humans (cf. moral patient), would accelerate economic growth and scientific progress,progress, and could cause a "lock-"lock-in" of values.values.  For this reason, Karnofsky writes:

Mostconsiders the emergence of digital people a transformative development, as well as one that, because of advances in artificial intelligence, could occur this piececentury—making it potentially the most important one in human history.[2] would apply to roughly any digital entities that (a) had moral value and human rights, like non-digital people; (b) could interact with their environments with equal (or greater) skill and ingenuity to today's people. With enough understanding of how (a) and (b) work, it could be possible to design digital people without imitating human brains.

  1. ^

    "The central case I'll focus on is that of digital people just like us, perhaps created via mind uploading (simulating human brains). However, one could also imagine entities unlike us in many ways, but still properly thought of as "descendants" of humanity; those would be digital people as well." Karnofsky, Holden (2021) Digital people would be an even bigger deal, Cold Takes, July 27.

  2. ^

    Karnofsky, Holden (2021) Digital people FAQ, Cold Takes, July 27.

Karnofsky, Holden (2021) Digital people FAQ, Cold Takes, July 27.

A digital person is a person running on digital computing hardware. Karnofsky (2021a) uses the term to refer to human whole brain emulations  as well as digital "descendants" of humans:[1]

Karnofsky (2021b) writes that "the transformative potential of something like digital people, combined with how quickly AI [artificial intelligence] could lead to it, form the case that we could be in the most important century".[2]

Most of this piece [the Digital People FAQ[2]] would apply to roughly any digital entities that (a) had moral value and human rights, like non-digital people; (b) could interact with their environments with equal (or greater) skill and ingenuity to today's people. With enough understanding of how (a) and (b) work, it could be possible to design digital people without imitating human brains.

BibliographyFurther reading

Karnofsky, Holden (2021a) Digital People Would Be An Even Bigger Deal, Cold Takes, July 27.

Karnofsky, Holden (2021b) Digital people FAQ, Cold Takes, July 27.

  1. ^

    Karnofsky, Holden (2021) Digital people would be an even bigger deal, Cold Takes, July 27.

  2. ^

    Karnofsky, Holden (2021) Digital people FAQ, Cold Takes, July 27.

  • WBE is usually defined in contrast to 'AI', rather than as a special case of 'AI'. I suggest "machine intelligence" as an umbrella term.
  • Holden doesn't define digital people as "moral patients"; he defines them as people ('human-ish things'?) that are digital, and he argues that they would (with high probability) have moral standing. (Presumably moral agency too, not just moral patienthood.)
  • I suggest including more quotations from source materials in the wiki, to reduce the risk that we'll mis-characterize claims like this. (Especially when the source material is itself an easy-to-understand introductory resource, rather than something dense and cryptic.)
2Pablo10mo
Thanks for your contributions. To address your points in turn: * After consulting some references, I conclude that you are right in that this is how the terms are commonly used. I'm still confused as to why the terms are used in this way, given that many common definitions of AI do not warrant this use. E.g. Wikipedia defines 'AI' as "intelligence demonstrated by machines, as opposed to the natural intelligence displayed by humans or animals." I've made a note to look into this more and perhaps add a section on terminology to the 'AI' entry. * You say that in the quoted passage Holden is making an argument, but my interpretation of it is rather that he is clarifying the concept of a digital person, and in particular noting two of its central characteristics. Moreover, defining "digital people" as "people that are digital" seems pretty unhelpful, since "people" is a notoriously contested term and Holden explicitly says that digital people may be very different from present-day people (and one of the meanings of "people" is precisely "moral patient"). One consideration favoring this interpretation is the final sentence in the passage: "With enough understanding of how (a) and (b) work, it could be possible to design digital people without imitating human brains." If (a) and (b) (i.e. moral personhood, and equal or greater than human-level ability) were not central for digital personhood, why would an understanding of these two characteristics be singled out as relevant for designing digital people? I emailed Holden in case he wants to chime in. * I think that quotes should not be used to reduce the risk of mischaracterization; the safeguard against this is provided by the citations. One of the ways in which the Wiki contributes value is by sparing the reader the need to consult the original source, and instead providing a succinct statement of the claims and arguments made in those sources. Quoti

I think "artificial" and "machine" are both sort of ambiguous -- ems are products of artifice/engineering/design in some respects but not in others. I think I've seen some people use "AI" to subsume ems, but I think this is less common, especially in EA-ish circles.

Also, I think the strategic significance of AI systems is wildly different from that of ems, so I think if we had one term "X" referring to AI, another "Y" referring to ems, and another "Z" referring to both, then we'd end up using the words X and Y a lot and the term Z rarely. I also don't know... (read more)

4RobBensinger10mo
I think citations are a vastly weaker safeguard against mischaracterization, compared to quoting the source (or at least giving a specific subsection or page number). This is especially true for citing a book, but reading a bunch of 30-page blog posts in order to dig up a source is a lot to ask too! I think there's similar value in finding a specific sentence or paragraph in a much larger work, and quoting it alongside other unusually-important content. If the author already put it about as clearly and concisely as you can, no need to reinvent the wheel. (Especially since reinventing the wheel actively loses value insofar as each more possibility for error is introduced each time info is summarized. A quote passed on from source A to B to C retains its original content, whereas if wiki A summarizes wiki B's summary of source C, there's liable to be some degradation of information each step along the way. We can try to minimize that degradation, but including quotations helps make that task easier, while also allowing the reader to verify more things for themselves rather than having to choose between 'take our word for it' vs. 'spend the next 45 minutes trying to figure out why you think the source supports the claim you're making'.)

I also want to make a general complaint about how bad normal impersonal citation style is for clarity / epistemics / understanding.

If I cite a source in normal conversation, it's usually very clear why I'm citing it and what role the citation plays in my argument. In contrast, sticking a '(Smith 2007)' parenthetical at the end of a paragraph often leaves it unclear what role the citation is playing. E.g. (picking an example at random, not trying to find an especially bad one or anything like that):

The inside view and the outside view are two alternative ap

... (read more)
9Pablo10mo
Thank you for this very thoughtful and useful comment. It may help to distinguish two separate claims you make, and address them separately: 1. "impersonal citation style" is bad for clarity and mutual understanding. 2. academic style is worse than impersonal style. Most of your comment focuses on (1), but towards the end you seem to suggest this is part of a much broader argument for (2). Concerning (1): 1. I fully agree with you that this is how citations are often used in academia and that this is bad for the reasons you note. 2. I don't think the problem is inherent to either citations or academia: sentences like "The most cited academic article on reference class forecasting is Kahneman & Lovallo 1993" or "The most cited academic article on reference class forecasting (Kahneman & Lovallo 1993)" conform to an academic style equally well. Citations are so often used in the annoying way you describe because doing so requires less effort and perhaps also because it protects authors from criticism, combined with the absence of a strong academic norm requiring citations to be more informative. 3. The Wiki doesn't encourage citing in that way: the only requirement is that citations be used instead of hyperlinks. So instead of writing e.g. "Nick Bostrom has discussed the vulnerable world hypothesis in numerous [https://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1111/1758-5899.12718] publications [https://aeon.co/essays/none-of-our-technologies-has-managed-to-destroy-humanity-yet] ", editors are asked to write "Nick Bostrom has discussed the vulnerable world hypothesis in numerous publications (Bostrom 2019; Bostrom & van der Merwe 2021)". This is orthogonal to the issues you raise. 4. In the specific EA Wiki example you mention, the source of the problem was probably just carelesless on my part. I've made a note to improve that paragraph and also check for similar problems in other articles. I'll also
4RobBensinger10mo
I passed the above comment on to the LW team and added:
2Pablo10mo
Further to my previous comment, Holden kindly got back to me and provided a helpful answer. In short, his original draft of "Digital people would be an even bigger deal [https://www.cold-takes.com/how-digital-people-could-change-the-world/]" used (a) and (b) as a definition of "digital person", but he later revised it (for reasons he cannot currently remember) and instead offered the vaguer statement included as the first quote in the current version of the article as his main characterization of digital personhood. In light of Holden's clarification, I propose the current definition: I also think that parts of the rest of the article should be revised. Given Holden's clarification, it doesn't seem correct to state that he is "arguing" for the claims in question. I'm inclined to just remove the final two paragraphs (i.e. the text starting with "In particular..."), perhaps expanding the article to include other things Holden has said about digital people that are less open to multiple interpretations.
2RyanCarey10mo
It can't be right to say that every descendant of a digital person is by definition also a person. A digital person could spawn (by programming, or by any other means) a bot that plays RPS randomly, in one line of code. Clearly not a person!
2Pablo10mo
I was assuming that "descendant" already carries a certain connotation that excludes these cases, but I agree ideally the definition should rule them out explicitly. Unfortunately, since Holden has dropped the explicit definition in terms of human ability and moral status, it's not entirely clear what sort of revision would be adequate. Maybe add something like "sufficiently similar to humans in the relevant respects", though it would later have to be clarified that these entities can also be very different from humans in other respects.
4RyanCarey10mo
Yeah, I haven't analysed Holden's intended meaning whatsoever, but something like what you describe would make much more sense.

A digital person is an a person running on digital computing hardware. Karnofsky (2021a) uses the term to refer to human whole brain emulations  as well as digital "descendants" of humans:

The central case I'll focus on is that of digital people just like us, perhaps created via mind uploading (simulating human brains). However, one could also imagine entities unlike us in many ways, but still properly thought of as "descendants" of humanity; those would be digital people as well.

Karnofsky (2021b) writes that "the transformative potential of something like digital people, combined with how quickly AI [artificial intelligence] could lead to it, form the case that is a moral patient and has at least human-level intelligence (Karnofsky 2021).

Beings created via whole brain emulation from typical humans constitute a paradigmatic example of digital people, at least on the plausible assumption that such beings would be phenomenally conscious or would at least inherit those properties by virtue of which human beings are generally regarded as possessing moral status. However, digital peoplewe could be created in ways other than by emulating human brains. Holdenthe most important century".

In particular, Karnofsky speculates argues that digital people very different fromwould have the same moral standing as humans might exist even soon after whole brain emulation becomes(cf. moral patient), would accelerate economic growth and scientific progress, and could cause a "lock-in" of values. Karnofsky writes:

Most of this piece [the Digital People FAQ] would apply to roughly any digital entities that (a) had moral value and human rights, like non-digital people; (b) could interact with their environments with equal (or greater) skill and ingenuity to today's people. With enough understanding of how (a) and (b) work, it could be possible (Karnofsky 2021).to design digital people without imitating human brains.

 

Karnofsky, Holden (2021)(2021a) Digital People Would Be An Even Bigger Deal, Cold Takes, July 27.

Karnofsky, Holden (2021b) Digital people FAQ, Cold Takes, July 27.

 

Beings created via whole brain emulation from typical humans constitute a paradigmatic example of digital people, at least on the plausible assumption that such beings would be phenomenally conscious or would at least inherit those properties by virtue of which human beings are generally regarded as possessing moral patients.status. However, digital people could be created in ways other than by emulating human brains. Holden Karnofsky speculates that digital people very different from humans might exist even soon after whole brain emulation becomes possible (Karnofsky 2021).

Applied to Digital People FAQ by Pablo at 10mo

A digital person is an artificial intelligence that is a moral patient and has at least human-level intelligence (Karnofsky 2021).

Beings created via whole brain emulation from typical humans constitute a paradigmatic example of digital people, at least on the plausible assumption that such beings would be phenomenally conscious or would at least inherit those properties by virtue of which human beings are generally regarded as moral patients. However, digital people could be created in ways other than by emulating human brains. Holden Karnofsky speculates that digital people very different from humans might exist even soon after whole brain emulation becomes possible (Karnofsky 2021).

Bibliography

Hanson, Robin (2016) The Age of Em: Work, Love, and Life When Robots Rule the Earth, Oxford: Oxford University Press.

Karnofsky, Holden (2021) Digital people FAQ, Cold Takes, July 27.

Related entries

artificial intelligence | artificial sentience | human-level artificial intelligence | moral patienthood | transformative development | whole brain emulation

Created by Pablo at 10mo