Holden Karnofsky

7435Joined Oct 2015


Implications of Most Important Century
Cold Takes on AI Risk
Cold Takes on Forecasting AI
The Most Important Century


To give a rough idea, I basically mean anyone who is likely to harm those around them (using a common-sense idea of doing harm) and/or "pollute the commons" by having an outsized and non-consultative negative impact on community dynamics. It's debatable what the best warning signs are and how reliable they are.

Re: "In the weeks leading up to that April 2018 confrontation with Bankman-Fried and in the months that followed, Mac Aulay and others warned MacAskill, Beckstead and Karnofsky about her co-founder’s alleged duplicity and unscrupulous business ethics" -

I don't remember Tara reaching out about this, and I just searched my email for signs of this and didn’t see any. I'm not confident this didn't happen, just noting that I can't remember or easily find signs of it.

In terms of what I knew/learned 2018 more generally, I discuss that here.

For context, my wife is the President and co-founder of Anthropic, and formerly worked at OpenAI.

80% of her equity in Anthropic is (not legally bindingly) pledged for donation. None of her equity in OpenAI is. She may pledge more in the future if there is a tangible compelling reason to do so.

I plan to be highly transparent about my conflict of interest, e.g. I regularly open meetings by disclosing it if I’m not sure the other person already knows about it, and I’ve often mentioned it when discussing related topics on Cold Takes.

I also plan to discuss the implications of my conflict of interest for any formal role I might take. It’s possible that my role in helping with safety standards will be limited to advising with no formal powers (it’s even possible that I’ll decide I simply can’t work in this area due to the conflict of interest, and will pursue one of the other interventions I’ve thought about).

But right now I’m just exploring options and giving non-authoritative advice, and that seems appropriate. (I’ll also note that I expect a lot of advice and opinions on standards to come from people who are directly employed by AI companies; while this does present a conflict of interest, and a more direct one than mine, I think it doesn’t and can’t mean they are excluded from relevant conversations.)

There was no one with official responsibility for the relationship between FTX and the EA community. I think the main reason the two were associated was via FTX’s/Sam having a high profile and talking a lot about EA - that’s not something anyone else was able to control. (Some folks did ask him to do less of this.)

It’s also worth noting that we generally try to be cautious about power dynamics as a funder, which means we are hesitant to be pushy about most matters. In particular, I think one of two major funders in this space attacking the other, nudging grantees to avoid association and funding from it, etc. would’ve been seen as strangely territorial behavior absent very strong evidence of misconduct.

That said: as mentioned in another comment, with the benefit of hindsight, I wish I’d reasoned more like this: “This person is becoming very associated with effective altruism, so whether or not that’s due to anything I’ve done, it’s important to figure out whether that’s a bad thing and whether proactive distancing is needed.”

In 2018, I heard accusations that Sam had communicated in ways that left people confused or misled, though often with some ambiguity about whether Sam had been confused himself, had been inadvertently misleading while factually accurate, etc. I put some effort into understanding these concerns (but didn’t spend a ton of time on it; Open Phil didn’t have a relationship with Sam or Alameda).

I didn’t hear anything that sounded anywhere near as bad as what has since come out about his behavior at FTX. At the time I didn’t feel my concerns rose to the level where it would be appropriate or fair to publicly attack or condemn him. The whole situation did make me vaguely nervous, and I spoke with some people about it privately, but I never came to a conclusion that there was a clearly warranted (public) action.

I don’t believe #1 is correct. The Open Philanthropy grant is a small fraction of the funding OpenAI has received, and I don’t think it was crucial for OpenAI at any point.

I think #2 is fair insofar as running a scaling lab poses big risks to the world. I hope that OpenAI will avoid training or deploying directly dangerous systems; I think that even the deployments it’s done so far pose risks via hype and acceleration. (Considering the latter a risk to society is an unusual standard to hold a company to, but I think it’s appropriate here.)

#3 seems off to me - “regulatory capture” does not describe what’s at the link you gave (where’s the regulator?) At best it seems like a strained analogy, and even there it doesn’t seem right to me - I don’t know of any sense in which I or anyone else was “captured” by OpenAI.

I can’t comment on #4.

#5 seems off to me. I don’t know whether OpenAI uses nondisparagement agreements; I haven’t signed one. The reason I am careful with public statements about OpenAI is (a) it seems generally unproductive for me to talk carelessly in public about important organizations (likely to cause drama and drain the time and energy of me and others); (b) I am bound by confidentiality requirements, which are not the same as nondisparagement requirements. Information I have access to via having been on the board, or via being married to a former employee, is not mine to freely share.

Just noting that many of the “this concept is properly explained elsewhere” links are also accompanied by expandable boxes that you can click to expand for the gist. I do think that understanding where I’m coming from in this piece requires a bunch of background, but I’ve tried to make it as easy on readers as I could, e.g. explaining each concept in brief and providing a link if the brief explanation isn’t clear enough or doesn’t address particular objections.

Noting that I’m now going back through posts responding to comments, after putting off doing so for months - I generally find it easier to do this in bulk to avoid being distracted from my core priorities, though this time I think I put it off longer than I should’ve.

It is generally true that my participation in comments is extremely sporadic/sparse, and folks should factor that into curation decisions.

I wouldn’t say I’m in “sprinting” mode - I don’t expect my work hours to go up (and I generally work less than I did a few years ago, basically because I’m a dad now).

The move is partly about AI timelines, partly about the opportunities I see and partly about Open Philanthropy’s stage of development.

I threw that book together for people who want to read it on Kindle, but it’s quite half-baked. If I had the time, I’d want to rework the series (and a more recent followup series at https://www.cold-takes.com/tag/implicationsofmostimportantcentury/) into a proper book, but I’m not sure when or whether I’ll do this.

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