Holden Karnofsky

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


> Besides RSPs, can you give any additional examples of approaches that you're excited about from the perspective of building a bigger tent & appealing beyond AI risk communities? This balancing act of "find ideas that resonate with broader audiences" and "find ideas that actually reduce risk and don't merely serve as applause lights or safety washing" seems quite important. I'd be interested in hearing if you have any concrete ideas that you think strike a good balance of this, as well as any high-level advice for how to navigate this.

I'm pretty focused on red lines, and I don't think I necessarily have big insights on other ways to build a bigger tent, but one thing I have been pretty enthused about for a while is putting more effort into investigating potentially concerning AI incidents in the wild. Based on case studies, I believe that exposing and helping the public understand any concerning incidents could easily be the most effective way to galvanize more interest in safety standards, including regulation. I'm not sure how many concerning incidents there are to be found in the wild today, but I suspect there are some, and I expect there to be more over time as AI capabilities advance.

> Additionally, how are you feeling about voluntary commitments from labs (RSPs included) relative to alternatives like mandatory regulation by governments (you can't do X or you can't do X unless Y), preparedness from governments (you can keep doing X but if we see Y then we're going to do Z), or other governance mechanisms? 

The work as I describe it above is not specifically focused on companies. My focus is on hammering out (a) what AI capabilities might increase the risk of a global catastrophe; (b) how we can try to catch early warning signs of these capabilities (and what challenges this involves); and (c) what protective measures (for example, strong information security and alignment guarantees) are important for safely handling such capabilities. I hope that by doing analysis on these topics, I can create useful resources for companies, governments and other parties.

I suspect that companies are likely to move faster and more iteratively on things like this than governments at this stage, and so I often pay special attention to them. But I’ve made clear that I don’t think voluntary commitments alone are sufficient, and that I think regulation will be necessary to contain AI risks. (Quote from earlier piece: "And to be explicit: I think regulation will be necessary to contain AI risks (RSPs alone are not enough), and should almost certainly end up stricter than what companies impose on themselves.")

My spouse isn't currently planning to divest the full amount of her equity. Some factors here: (a) It's her decision, not mine. (b) The equity has important voting rights, such that divesting or donating it in full could have governance implications. (c) It doesn't seem like this would have a significant marginal effect on my real or perceived conflict of interest: I could still not claim impartiality when married to the President of a company, equity or no. With these points in mind, full divestment or donation could happen in the future, but there's no immediate plan to do it.

The bottom line is that I have a significant conflict of interest that isn't going away, and I am trying to help reduce AI risk despite that. My new role will not have authority over grants or other significant resources besides my time and my ability to do analysis and make arguments. People encountering any analysis and arguments will have to decide how to weigh my conflict of interest for themselves, while considering arguments and analysis on the merits.

For whatever it's worth, I have publicly said that the world would pause AI development if it were all up to me, and I make persistent efforts to ensure people I'm interacting with know this. I also believe the things I advocate for would almost universally have a negative expected effect (if any effect) on the value of the equity I'm exposed to. But I don't expect everyone to agree with this or to be reassured by it.

Digital content requires physical space too, just relatively small amounts. E.g., physical resources/atoms are needed to make the calculations associated with digital interactions. At some point the number of digital interactions will be capped, and the question will be how much they can be made better and better. More on the latter here:

I expected readers to assume that my wife owned significant equity in Anthropic; I've now edited the post to state this explicitly (and also added a mention of her OpenAI equity, which I should've included before and have included in the past). I don't plan to disclose the exact amount and don't think this is needed for readers to have sufficient context on my statements here.

Sorry, I didn't mean to dismiss the importance of the conflict of interest or say it isn't affecting my views.

I've sometimes seen people reason along the lines of "Since Holden is married to Daniela, this must mean he agrees with Anthropic on specific issue X," or "Since Holden is married to Daniela, this must mean that he endorses taking a job at Anthropic in specific case Y." I think this kind of reasoning is unreliable and has been incorrect in more than one specific case. That's what I intended to push back against.

Thanks! I'm looking for case studies that will be public; I'm agnostic about where they're posted beyond that. We might consider requests to fund confidential case studies, but this project is meant to inform broader efforts, so confidential case studies would still need to be cleared for sharing with a reasonable set of people, and the funding bar would be higher.

I think this was a goof due to there being a separate hardcover version, which has now been removed - try again?

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.

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