Dominic Cummings - An 'Odyssean' Education [review]
On the most crucial topics, and in capturing the nuance and complexity of the real world, this piece fails again and again: epistemic overconfidence plus uncharitable disdain for the work of others, spread thinly over as many topics as possible.

Interestingly, this reminds me of Nassim Nicholas Taleb.

[U.S. Specific] Free money (~$5k-$30k) for Independent Contractors and grant recipients from U.S. government

Another thing for people to keep in mind:

Apparently, if you want loan forgiveness, you can only spend 8 weeks worth of the money on payroll.

From here,

If you’re a sole proprietor, you can have eight weeks of the loan forgiven as a replacement for lost profit. But you’ll need to provide documentation for the remaining two weeks worth of cash flow, proving you spent it on mortgage interest, rent, lease, and utility payments.

So if at some point you need to check boxes saying what you're applying for this loan for, and you can check more than one box, you should check all of them, or at least payroll + something else. If you can only check one box, I guess check payroll.

I doubt that that box checking actually matters, but it seems prudent to do this, just in case it does.

[U.S. Specific] Free money (~$5k-$30k) for Independent Contractors and grant recipients from U.S. government

I recommend that everyone who is eligible apply through US Bank ASAP.

Other lenders might still work, but US Bank was by far the fastest. A person that I was coaching through this process and I both received our loans within 4 days of initially filling out their application (I say "initially" because there were several steps where they needed additional info).

Also, we now know that the correct answer to how many employees you have is "0 employees, it's just me", not "1 employee, because I employ myself."

[U.S. Specific] Free money (~$5k-$30k) for Independent Contractors and grant recipients from U.S. government

An email I received from Bench reads: "If your bank isn’t participating, your next best option is to apply through Fundera—they will match you with the best lender."

However, when I tried to fill out their application, they asked me to upload...

  • a business bank statement,
  • a copy of my drivers license,
  • proof of payroll (IRS Form 941),
  • and voided a business check,

...of which I have only one out of three.

I'm Buck Shlegeris, I do research and outreach at MIRI, AMA

I think a lot of this is right and important, but I especially love:

Don't let the fact that Bill Gates saved a million lives keep you from saving one.

We're all doing the best we can with the privileges we were blessed with.

Bottlenecks and Solutions for the X-Risk Ecosystem

I like the breakdown of those two bullet points, a lot, and I want to think more about them.

Both of these I think are fairly easily measurable from looking at someone's past work and talking to them, though.

I bet that you could do that, yes. But that seems like a different question than making a scalable system that can do it.

In any case, Ben articulates the view that generated the comment above, above.

X-risk dollars -> Andrew Yang?
[Edit: it'd be very strange if we end up preferring candidates who hadn't thought about AI at all to candidates who had thought some about AI but don't have specific plans for it.]

That doesn't seem that strange to me. It seems to mostly be a matter of timing.

Yes, eventually we'll be in an endgame where the great powers are making substantial choices about how powerful AI systems will be deployed. And at that point I want the relevant decision makers to have sophisticated views about AI risk and astronomical stakes.

But in the the decades before that final period, I probably prefer that governmental actors not really think about powerful AI at all because...

1. There's not much that those governmental actors can usefully do at this time.

2. The more discussion of powerful AI there is in the halls of government, the more likely someone is to take action.

Given that there's not much that can be usefully done, it's almost a tautology that any action taken is likely to be net-negative.

Additionally, there are specific reasons to to think that governmental action is likely to be more bad than good.

  • Politicization:
    • As Ben says above, this incurs a risk of politicizing the issue, that prevents good discourse in the future, and traps the problem in a basically tribal-political frame. (Much as global climate change, a technical problem with consequences for everyone on planet earth, has been squashed into a frame of "liberal vs. conservative.")
  • Swamping the field:
    • If the president of the United States openly says that AI alignment is a high priority for our generation, that makes AI alignment (or rather things called "AI alignment") high status, sexy, and probably sources of funding. This incentives many folks to either rationalize the work that they were already doing as "AI alignment" or to more-genuinely try to switch into switch into doing AI alignment work.
    • But the field of AI alignment is young and fragile, it doesn't yet have standard methods or approaches, and it is unlike most technical fields in that there is possibly a lot of foundational philosophical work to be done. The field does not yet have clear standards of what kind of work is good and helpful, and which problems are actually relevant. These standards are growing, slowly. For instance Stuart Russell's new textbook is a very clear step in this direction (though I don't know if it is any good or not).
    • If we added 100 or 1000x more people to the field of AI alignment, without having slowly built that infrastructure, the field will be swamped: there will be a lot of people trying to do work in the area, using a bunch of different methods, most of which will not be attacking the the core problem (that's a crux for me). The signal to noise ratio would collapse. This will inhibit building a robust, legible paradigm that is tracking the important part of the problem.
      • Elaborating: Currently, the the people working on AI alignment are unusually ideologically motivated (ie they're EAs), and the proportion of people working in the field who have deep inside view models of what work needs to be done and why, is relatively high.
      • If we incentivized working on AI alignment, via status or funding, more of the work in the area will be motivated by people seeking status or funding, instead of motivated by a desire to solve the core problem. I expect that this will warp the direction of the field, such that most of the work done under the heading of "AI alignment" is relatively useless.
      • (My impression is that this is exactly what happened with the field of nanotechnology: There was a relatively specific set of problems, leading up to specific technologies. The term "Nanotech" became popular and sexy, and a lot of funding was available for "nanotech." The funders couldn't really distinguish between people trying to solve the core problems that were originally outlined and people doing other vaguely related work (see Paul Graham, on "the Design Paradox" (the link to the full post is here)). The people doing vaguely related work that they called nanotech got the funding and the prestige. The few people trying to solve the original problems were left out in the cold, and more importantly, the people who might have eventually been attracted to working on those problems were instead diverted to working on things called "nanotech." And now, in 2019 we don't have a healthy field building towards Atomically Precise manufacturing.
    • We do want 100x the number of people working on the problem, eventually, but it is very important to grow the field in a way that allows the formation of good open problems and standards.

My overall crux here is point #1, above. If I thought that there were concrete helpful things that governments could do today, I might very well think that the benefits outweighed the risks that I outline above.

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