Program Associate at Open Philanthropy and chair of the Long-Term Future Fund. I spend half my time on AI and half my time on EA community-building. Any views I express on the forum are my own, not the views of my employer.


HIPR: A new EA-aligned policy newsletter

FWIW I had a similar initial reaction to Sophia, though reading more carefully I totally agree that it's more reasonable to interpret your comment as a reaction to the newsletter rather than to the proposal. I'd maybe add an edit to your high-level comment just to make sure people don't get confused?

Ben Garfinkel's Shortform

Really appreciate the clarifications! I think I was interpreting "humanity loses control of the future" in a weirdly temporally narrow sense that makes it all about outcomes, i.e. where "humanity" refers to present-day humans, rather than humans at any given time period.  I totally agree that future humans may have less freedom to choose the outcome in a way that's not a consequence of alignment issues.

I also agree value drift hasn't historically driven long-run social change, though I kind of do think it will going forward, as humanity has more power to shape its environment at will.

Ben Garfinkel's Shortform

Wow, I just learned that Robin Hanson has written about this, because obviously, and he agrees with you.

Ben Garfinkel's Shortform

Do you have the intuition that absent further technological development, human values would drift arbitrarily far? It's not clear to me that they would-- in that sense, I do feel like we're "losing control" in that even non-extinction AI is enabling a new set of possibilities that modern-day humans would endorse much less than the decisions of future humans otherwise. (It does also feel like we're missing the opportunity to "take control" and enable a new set of possibilities that we would endorse much more.)

Relatedly, it doesn't feel to me like the values of humans 150,000 years ago and humans now and even ems in Age of Em are all that different on some more absolute scale.

The Long-Term Future Fund has room for more funding, right now

I think we probably will seek out funding from larger institutional funders if our funding gap persists. We actually just applied for a ~$1M grant from the Survival and Flourishing Fund.

Ben Garfinkel's Shortform

I agree with the thrust of the conclusion, though I worry that focusing on task decomposition this way elides the fact that the descriptions of the O*NET tasks already assume your unit of labor is fairly general. Reading many of these, I actually feel pretty unsure about the level of generality or common-sense reasoning required for an AI to straightforwardly replace that part of a human's job. Presumably there's some restructure that would still squeeze a lot of economic value out of narrow AIs that could basically do these things, but that restructure isn't captured looking at the list of present-day O*NET tasks.

The Long-Term Future Fund has room for more funding, right now

I'm also a little skeptical of your "low-quality work dilutes the quality of those fields and attracts other low-quality work" fear--since high citation count is often thought of as an ipso facto measure of quality in academia, it would seem that if work attracts additional related work, it is probably not low quality.

The difference here is that most academic fields are pretty well-established, whereas AI safety, longtermism, and longtermist subparts of most academic fields are very new. The mechanism for attracting low-quality work I'm imagining is that smart people look at existing work and think "these people seem amateurish, and I'm not interested in engaging with them". Luke Muelhauser's report on case studies in early field growth gives the case of cryonics, which "failed to grow [...]  is not part of normal medical practice, it is regarded with great skepticism by the mainstream scientific community, and it has not been graced with much funding or scientific attention." I doubt most low-quality work we could fund would cripple the surrounding fields this way, but I do think it would have an effect on the kind of people who were interested in doing longtermist work.

I will also say that I think somewhat different perspectives do get funded through the LTFF, partially because we've intentionally selected fund managers with different views, and we weigh it strongly if one fund manager is really excited about something. We've made many grants that didn't cross the funding bar for one or more fund managers.

EA Debate Championship & Lecture Series

I was confused about the situation with debate, so I talked to Evan Hubinger about his experiences. That conversation was completely wild; I'm guessing people in this thread might be interested in hearing it. I still don't know exactly what to make of what happened there, but I think there are some genuine and non-obvious insights relevant to public discourse and optimization processes (maybe less to the specifics of debate outreach). The whole thing's also pretty funny.

I recorded the conversation; don't want to share publicly but feel free to DM me for access.

The Long-Term Future Fund has room for more funding, right now

I imagine this could be one of the highest-leverage places to apply additional resources and direction though. People who are applying for funding for independent projects are people who desire to operate autonomously and execute on their own vision. So I imagine they'd require much less direction than marginal employees at an EA organization, for instance.

I don't have a strong take on whether people rejected from the LTFF are the best use of mentorship resources. I think many employees at EA organizations are also selected for being self-directed. I know of cases where mentorship made a big difference to both existing employees and independent LTFF applicants.

I personally would be more inclined to fund anyone who meets a particular talent bar. That also makes your job easier because you can focus on just the person/people and worry less about their project.

We do weigh individual talent heavily when deciding what to fund, i.e., sometimes we will fund someone to do work we're less excited about because we're interested in supporting the applicant's career. I'm not in favor of funding exclusively based on talent, because I think a lot of the impact of our grants is in how they affect the surrounding field, and low-quality work dilutes the quality of those fields and attracts other low-quality work.

Huh. I understood your rejection email says the fund was unable to provide further feedback due to high volume of applications.

Whoops, yeah-- we were previously overwhelmed with requests for feedback, so we now only offer feedback on a subset of applications where fund managers are actively interested in providing it.

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