Bio

Participation
4

Evolutionary psychology professor, author of 'The Mating Mind', 'Spent', 'Mate', & 'Virtue Signaling'. B.A. Columbia; Ph.D. Stanford. My research has focused on human cognition, machine learning, mate choice, intelligence, genetics, emotions, mental health, and moral virtues.  Interested in long termism, X risk,  longevity, pronatalism, population ethics, AGI, China, crypto.

How others can help me

Looking to collaborate on (1) empirical psychology research related to EA issues, especially attitudes towards long-termism, X risks and GCRs, sentience, (2) insights for AI alignment & AI safety from evolutionary psychology, evolutionary game theory, and evolutionary reinforcement learning, (3)  mate choice, relationships, families , pronatalism, and population ethics as cause areas.

How I can help others

I have 30+ years experience in behavioral sciences research, have mentored 10+ PhD students and dozens of undergrad research assistants. I'm also experienced with popular science outreach, book publishing, public speaking, social media, market research, and consulting.

Comments
699

Raemon -- I strongly agree, and I don't think EAs should be overthinking this as much as we seem to be in the comments here. Some ethical issues are, actually, fairly simple.

OpenAI, Deepmind, Meta, and even Anthropic are pushing recklessly ahead with AGI capabilities development. We all understand the extinction risks and global catastrophic risks that this imposes on humanity. These companies are not aligned with EA values of preserving human life, civilization, and sentient well-being. 

Therefore, instead of 80k Hours advertising jobs at such companies, which does give them our EA seal of moral approval, we should be morally stigmatizing them, denouncing them, and discouraging people from working with them.

If we adopt a 'sophisticated', 'balanced', mealy-mouthed approach where we kinda sorta approve of them recruiting EAs, but only in particular kinds of safety roles, in hope of influencing their management from the inside, we are likely to (1) fail to influence management, and (2) undermine our ability to use a moral stigmatization strategy to slow or pause AGI development. 

In my opinion, if EAs banded together to advocate an immediate pause on any further AGI development, and adopted a public-relations strategy of morally stigmatizing any work in the AI industry, we would be much more likely to reduce AI extinction risk, than if spend our time trying to play 4-D chess in figuring out how to influence AI companies from the inside. 

Some industries are simply evil and reckless, and it's good for us to say so. 

Let's be honest with ourselves. The strategy we've followed for a decade, of trying to influence AI companies from the inside, to slow capabilities development and to promote AI alignment work, has failed. The strategy of trying to promote government regulation to slow reckless AI development is showing some signs of success, but is probably too slow to actually inhibit AI capabilities development. This leaves the informal public-relations strategy of stigmatizing the industry, to reduce up its funding, reduce its access to talent, and to make it morally embarrassing rather than cool to work in AI. 

But EAs can only pursue the moral stigmatization strategy to slow AGI development if we are crystal clear that working on AGI development is a moral evil that we cannot endorse. 

Michael -- I agree with your assessment here, both that the CEARCH report is very helpful and informative, but also that their estimated likelihood of nuclear (only 10% per century) seems much lower than seems reasonable, and much lower than other expert estimates that I've seen. 

Just as a lot can happen in a century of AI development, a lot can happen over the next century that could increase the likelihood of nuclear war.

sammyboiz - I strongly agree. Thanks for writing this.

There seems to be no realistic prospect of solving AGI alignment or superalignment before the AI companies develop AGI or ASI. And they don't care. There are no realistic circumstances under which OpenAI, or DeepMind, or Meta, would say 'Oh no, capabilities research is far outpacing alignment; we need to hire 10x more alignment researchers, put all the capabilities researchers on paid leave, and pause AGI research until we fix this'. It will not happen.

Alternative strategies include formal governance work. But they also include grassroots activism, and informal moral stigmatization of AI research. I think of PauseAI as doing more of the last two, rather than just focusing on 'governance' per se. 

As I've often argued, if EAs seriously think that AGI is an extinction risk, and that the AI companies seeking AGI cannot be trusted to slow down or pause until they solve the alignment and control problems, then our only realistic option is to use social, cultural, moral, financial, and government pressure to stop them. Now. 

Will - please expand a little bit more on what you're looking for? I found this question a little bit too abstract to answer, and others might share this confusion.

Rob - excellent post. Wholeheartedly agree. 

This is the time for EAs to radically rethink our whole AI safety strategy. Working on 'technical AI alignment' is not going to work in the time that we probably have, given the speed of AI capabilities development.

Richard - this is an important point, nicely articulated. 

My impression is that a lot of anti-EA critics actually see scope-sensitivity as actively evil, rather than just a neutral corollary of impartial beneficence or goal-directed altruism. One could psychoanalyze why they think this -- I suspect it's usually more of an emotional defense than a thoughtful application of deontology. But I think EAs need to contend with the fact that to many non-EAs, scope-sensitive reasoning about moral issues comes across as somewhat sociopathic. Which is bizarre, and tragic, but seems often true.

I think, at this point, EAs (including 80k Hours) publicly boycotting OpenAI, and refusing to work there, and explaining why, clearly and forcefully, would do a lot more good than trying to work there and nudge them from the inside towards not imposing X risks on humanity. 

Linch - I agree with your first and last paragraphs. 

I have my own doubts about our political institutions, political leaders, and regulators. They have many and obvious flaws. But they're one of the few tools we have to hold corporate power accountable to the general public. We might as well use them, as best we can.

Neel - am I incorrect that Anthropic and DeepMind are still pursuing AGI, despite AI safety and alignment research still lagging far behind AI capabilities research? If they are still pursuing AGI, rather than pausing AGI research, they are no more ethical than OpenAI, in my opinion. 

The OpenAI debacles and scandals help illuminate some of the commercial incentives, personal egos, and systemic hubris that sacrifices safety for speed in the AI industry. But there's no reason to think those issues are unique to OpenAI.

If Anthropic came out tomorrow and said, 'OK, everyone, this AGI stuff is way too dangerous to pursue at the moment; we're shutting down capabilities research for a decade until AI safety can start to catch up', then they would have my respect. 

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