Interesting. I think there are two related concepts here, which I'll call individual modesty and communal modesty. Individual modesty, meaning that an individual would defer to the perceived experts (potentially within his community) and communal modesty, meaning that the community defers to the relevant external expert opinion. I think EAs tend to have fairly strong individual modesty, but occasionally our communal modesty lets us down.
With most issues that EAs are likely to have strong opinions on, here are a few of my observations:
1. Ethics: I'd guess that most individual EAs think they're right about the fundamentals- that consequentialism is just better than the alternatives. I'm not sure whether this is more communal or individual immodesty.
2. Economics/ Poverty: I think EAs tend to defer to smart external economists who understand poverty better than core EAs, but are less modest when it comes to what we should prioritise based on expert understanding.
3. Effective Giving: Individuals tend to defer to a communal consensus. We're the relevant experts here, I think.
4. General forecasting/ Future: Individuals tend to defer to a communal consensus. We think the relevant class is within our community, so we have low communal modesty.
5. Animals: We probably defer to our own intuitions more than we should. Or Brian Tomasik. If you're anything like me, you think: "he's probably right, but I don't really want to think about it".
6. Geopolitics: I think that we're particularly bad at communal modesty here - I hear lots of bad memes (especially about China) that seem to be fairly badly informed. But it's also difficult to work out the relevant expert reference class.
7. AI (doom): Individuals tend to defer to a communal consensus, but tend to lean towards core EA's 3-20% rather than core-LW/Eliezer's 99+%. People broadly within our community (EA/ rationalists) genuinely have thought about this issue more than anyone else, but I think there's a debate whether we should defer to our pet experts or more establishment AI people.
I think there's a range of things that could happen with lower-level AGI, with increasing levels of 'fire-alarm-ness' (1-4), but decreasing levels of likelihood. Here's a list; my (very tentative) model would be that I expect lots of 1s and a few 2s within my default scenario, and this will be enough to slow down the process and make our trajectory slightly less dangerous.
Forgive the vagueness, but these are the kind of things I have in mind:
1. Mild fire alarm:
- Hacking (prompt injections?) within current realms of possibility (but amped up a bit)
- Human manipulation within current realms of possibility (IRA disinformation *5)
- Visible, unexpected self-improvement/ escape (without severe harm)
- Any lethal autonomous weapon use (even if generally aligned) especially by rogue power
- Everyday tech (phones, vehicles, online platforms) doing crazy, but benign misaligned stuff
- Stock market manipulation causing important people to lose a lot of money
2. Moderate fire alarm:
- Hacking beyond current levels of possibility
- Extreme mass manipulation
- Collapsing financial or governance systems causing minor financial or political crisis
- Deadly use of autonomous AGI in weapons systems by rogue group (killing over 1000 people)
- Misaligned, but less deadly, use in weapons systems
- Unexpected self-improvement/ escape of a system causing multiple casualties/ other chaos
- Attempted (thwarted) acquisition of WMDs/ biological weapons
- Unsuccessful (but visible) attempts to seize political power
3. Major fire alarm:
- Successful attempts to seize political power
- Effective global mass manipulation
- Successful acquisition of WMDs, bioweapons
- Complete financial collapse
- Complete destruction of online systems- internet becomes unuseable etc.
- Misaligned, very deadly use in weapons systems
4. The fire alarm has been destroyed, so now it's just some guy hitting a rock with a scorched fencepost:
- Actual triggering of nuclear/ bio conflict/ other genuine civilisational collapse scenario (destroying AI in the process)
Okay, I think your reference to infinite time periods isn't particularly relevant here (seems to be a massive difference between 5 and 20 years), but I get your point that short timelines play an important role.
I guess the relevant factors that might be where we have different intuitions are:
If you hold these assumptions robustly, the most direct answer would be to focus on the kind of beings who are likely to experience greater suffering by default, namely factory-farmed animals, and potentially some wild animals. You should focus on interventions (alternative proteins, vegan advocacy) that are likely to cause these animals not to come into existence, rather than welfarist approaches that improve the lives of animals but keep numbers relatively constant. This is a very popular approach, so you'd be welcome in this part of the EA space.
But you might want to slightly relax your assumptions slightly when considering practical work you could do. Assuming that reducing suffering is your ultimate goal, if the "best way not to suffer is not to live", it doesn't necessarily follow that the most effective way to reduce suffering (given limited resources) is stopping beings coming into existence.
For example, an intervention to help people in poor countries detect particularly painful congenital defects before birth and terminate these pregnancies might reduce suffering and satisfy your assumptions, but if it's expensive, it might be more effective to reduce the suffering of existing people, for example, providing relatively cheap pain relief for people with late-stage cancer.
Or if you could cause x number of factory-farmed chickens to be raised in a free-range/ organic way for the same cost/ resources as stopping y number of factory-farmed chickens being born, there's probably some number for x and y for which you'd choose the first option.
Rambling question here. What's the standard response to the idea that very bad things are likely to happen with non-existential AGI before worse things happen with extinction-level AGI?
Eliezee dismissed this as unlikely "what, self-driving cars crashing into each other?", and I read his "There is no fire alarm" piece, but I'm unconvinced.
For example, we can imagine a range of self-improving, kinda agentic AGIs, from some kind of crappy ChaosGPT let loose online, to a perfect God-level superintelligence optimising for something weird and alien, but perfectly able to function in, conceal itself in and manipulate human systems.
It seems intuitively more likely we'll develop many of the crappy ones first (seems to already be happening). And that they'll be dangerous.
I can imagine flawed, agentic, and superficially self-improving AI systems going crazy online, crashing financial systems, hacking military and biosecurity, taking a shot at mass manipulation, but ultimately failing to displace humanity, perhaps because they fail to operate in analog human systems, perhaps because they're just not that good.
Optimistically, these crappy AIs might function as a warning shot/ fire alarm. Everyone gets terrified, realises we're creating demons, and we're in a different world with regards to AI alignment.
I sympathise, but... For 1), if your negative utilitarianism (NU) is a sincerely held, 'psychologically normal' belief, I think that you can be a very strong NU and still want to pursue totally 'normal' EA goals. For any brand of utilitarianism, greatly reducing or eradicating suffering is a valid and obviously normal goal. Assuming you don't have the capability for 'magic annihilation', there are so many alternatives. Is there a worldview where 'ending your own suffering' is higher expected-value than ending factory farming or treating extreme cancer pain in Sub-Saharan Africa? Preventing S-risks is also a productive way for an NU to work on/ think about an EA topic.
I feel that strong negative utilitarianism (we should only consider disutility) is just a non-starter. It doesn't match any of my moral intuitions.
But a weaker negative utilitarianism is a powerful and potentially valid position. These are my views:
Some random thoughts:
Yep, agreed (I haven't read those books, but I broadly know the story). I wasn't trying to imply that eugenics was the main cause of the one-child policy, but the two are definitely connected. Post-1CP, the state took a really active role in controlling how and when kids were born, compulsory sterilisation (mostly of females, despite vasectomies being safer) became normalised for 'quality and quantity' etc.
A stronger "eugenics taboo" could plausibly have limited the scope of the policy.
Interesting - I definitely think this is valuable. I have two small recommendations for the survey:
- Specify in the sugary drinks question whether it only includes commercial, fizzy sugary drinks, or any drinks with sugar in (e.g. coffee with sugar, milkshakes, bubble tea, traditional sweet drinks etc.) As it is, you give examples of commercial fizzy drinks, but it's a little ambiguous whether other sweet drinks might be included.
- Make it clear that you can choose percentages over 100% for the first two options (a life in prison, or without any pleasure is worse than death - many people are likely to believe this). I think that your example percentages (e.g. 0.1%, 1%, 10%, 20%, 30%, 100% etc) are anchoring people to a particularly low score.