jacquesthibs

AI Safety Researcher @ Independent Researcher
1133 karmaJoined Aug 2017Working (6-15 years)London, UK
jacquesthibodeau.com/about/

Bio

I work primarily on AI Alignment. My main direction at the moment is to accelerate alignment work via language models and interpretability.

Comments
79

I shared the following as a bio for EAG Bay Area 2024. I'm sharing this here if it reaches someone who wants to chat or collaborate.

Hey! I'm Jacques. I'm an independent technical alignment researcher with a background in physics and experience in government (social innovation, strategic foresight, mental health and energy regulation). Link to Swapcard profile. Twitter/X.

CURRENT WORK

  • Collaborating with Quintin Pope on our Supervising AIs Improving AIs agenda (making automated AI science safe and controllable). The current project involves a new method allowing unsupervised model behaviour evaluations. Our agenda.
  • I'm a research lead in the AI Safety Camp for a project on stable reflectivity (testing models for metacognitive capabilities that impact future training/alignment).
  • Accelerating Alignment: augmenting alignment researchers using AI systems. A relevant talk I gave. Relevant survey post.
  • Other research that currently interests me: multi-polar AI worlds (and how that impacts post-deployment model behaviour), understanding-based interpretability, improving evals, designing safer training setups, interpretable architectures, and limits of current approaches (what would a new paradigm that addresses these limitations look like?).
  • Used to focus more on model editing, rethinking interpretability, causal scrubbing, etc.

TOPICS TO CHAT ABOUT

  • How do you expect AGI/ASI to actually develop (so we can align our research accordingly)? Will scale plateau? I'd like to get feedback on some of my thoughts on this.
  • How can we connect the dots between different approaches? For example, connecting the dots between Influence Functions, Evaluations, Probes (detecting truthful direction), Function/Task Vectors, and Representation Engineering to see if they can work together to give us a better picture than the sum of their parts.
  • Debate over which agenda actually contributes to solving the core AI x-risk problems.
  • What if the pendulum swings in the other direction, and we never get the benefits of safe AGI? Is open source really as bad as people make it out to be?
  • How can we make something like the d/acc vision (by Vitalik Buterin) happen?
  • How can we design a system that leverages AI to speed up progress on alignment? What would you value the most?
  • What kinds of orgs are missing in the space?

POTENTIAL COLLABORATIONS

  • Examples of projects I'd be interested in: extending either the Weak-to-Strong Generalization paper or the Sleeper Agents paper, understanding the impacts of synthetic data on LLM training, working on ELK-like research for LLMs, experiments on influence functions (studying the base model and its SFT, RLHF, iterative training counterparts; I heard that Anthropic is releasing code for this "soon") or studying the interpolation/extrapolation distinction in LLMs.
  • I’m also interested in talking to grantmakers for feedback on some projects I’d like to get funding for.
  • I'm slowly working on a guide for practical research productivity for alignment researchers to tackle low-hanging fruits that can quickly improve productivity in the field. I'd like feedback from people with solid track records and productivity coaches.

TYPES OF PEOPLE I'D LIKE TO COLLABORATE WITH

  • Strong math background, can understand Influence Functions enough to extend the work.
  • Strong machine learning engineering background. Can run ML experiments and fine-tuning runs with ease. Can effectively create data pipelines.
  • Strong application development background. I have various project ideas that could speed up alignment researchers; I'd be able to execute them much faster if I had someone to help me build my ideas fast.

Another data point: I got my start in alignment through the AISC. I had just left my job, so I spent 4 months skilling up and working hard on my AISC project. I started hanging out on EleutherAI because my mentors spent a lot of time there. This led me to do AGISF in parallel.

After those 4 months, I attended MATS 2.0 and 2.1. I've been doing independent research for ~1 year and have about 8.5 more months of funding left.

More information about the alleged manipulative behaviour of Sam Altman

Source

Update, board members seem to be holding their ground more than expected in this tight situation:

My current speculation as to what is happening at OpenAI

How do we know this wasn't their best opportunity to strike if Sam was indeed not being totally honest with the board?

Let's say the rumours are true, that Sam is building out external orgs (NVIDIA competitor and iPhone-like competitor) to escape the power of the board and potentially go against the charter. Would this 'conflict of interest' be enough? If you take that story forward, it sounds more and more like he was setting up AGI to be run by external companies, using OpenAI as a fundraising bargaining chip, and having a significant financial interest in plugging AGI into those outside orgs.

So, if we think about this strategically, how long should they wait as board members who are trying to uphold the charter?

On top of this, it seems (according to Sam) that OpenAI has made a significant transformer-level breakthrough recently, which implies a significant capability jump. Long-term reasoning? Basically, anything short of 'coming up with novel insights in physics' is on the table, given that Sam recently used that line as the line we need to cross to get to AGI.

So, it could be a mix of, Ilya thinking they have achieved AGI while Sam places a higher bar (internal communication disagreements) + the board not being alerted (maybe more than once) about what Sam is doing, e.g. fundraising for both OpenAI and the orgs he wants to connect AGI to + new board members who are more willing to let Sam and GDB do what they want being added soon (another rumour I've heard) + ???. Basically, perhaps they saw this as their final opportunity to have any veto on actions like this.

Here's what I currently believe:

  • There is a GPT-5-like model that already exists. It could be GPT-4.5 or something else, but another significant capability jump. Potentially even a system that can coherently pursue goals for months, capable of continual learning, and effectively able to automate like 10% of the workforce (if they wanted to).
  • As of 5 PM, Sunday PT, the board is in a terrible position where they either stay on board and the company employees all move to a new company, or they leave the board and bring Sam back. If they leave, they need to say that Sam did nothing wrong and sweep everything under the rug (and then potentially face legal action for saying he did something wrong); otherwise, Sam won't come back.
  • Sam is building companies externally; it is unclear if this goes against the charter. But he does now have a significant financial incentive to speed up AI development. Adam D'Angelo said that he would like to prevent OpenAI from becoming a big tech company as part of his time on the board because AGI was too important for humanity. They might have considered Sam's action going in this direction.
  • A few people left the board in the past year. It's possible that Sam and GDB planned to add new people (possibly even change current board members) to the board to dilute the voting power a bit or at least refill board seats. This meant that the current board had limited time until their voting power would become less important. They might have felt rushed.
  • The board is either not speaking publicly because 1) they can't share information about GPT-5, 2) there is some legal reason that I don't understand (more likely), or 3) they are incompetent (least likely by far IMO).
  • We will possibly never find out what happened, or it will become clearer by the month as new things come out (companies and models). However, it seems possible the board will never say or admit anything publicly at this point.
  • Lastly, we still don't know why the board decided to fire Sam. It could be any of the reasons above, a mix or something we just don't know about.

Other possible things:

  • Ilya was mad that they wouldn't actually get enough compute for Superalignment as promised due to GPTs and other products using up all the GPUs.
  • Ilya is frustrated that Sam is focused on things like GPTs rather than the ultimate goal of AGI.

Quillette founder seems to be planning to write an article regarding EA's impact on on tech:

"If anyone with insider knowledge wants to write about the impact of Effective Altruism in the technology industry please get in touch with me claire@quillette.com. We pay our writers and can protect authors' anonymity if desired."

It would probably be impactful if someone in the know provided a counterbalance to whoever will undoubtedly email her to disparage EA with half-truths/lies.

To share another perspective: As an independent alignment researcher, I also feel really conflicted. I could be making several multiples of my salary if my focus was to get a role on an alignment team at an AGI lab. My other option would be building startups trying to hit it big and providing more funding to what I think is needed.

Like, I could say, "well, I'm already working directly on something and taking a big pay-cut so I shouldn't need to donate close to 10%", but something about that doesn't feel right... But then to counter-balance that, I'm constantly worried that I just won't get funding anymore at some point and would be in need of money to pay for expenses during a transition.

I've also started working on a repo in order to make Community Notes more efficient by using LLMs.

Don't forget that we train language models on the internet! The more truthful your dataset is, the more truthful the models will be! Let's revamp the internet for truthfulness, and we'll subsequently improve truthfulness in our AI systems!!

I shared a tweet about it here: https://x.com/JacquesThibs/status/1724492016254341208?s=20

Consider liking and retweeting it if you think this is impactful. I'd like it to get into the hands of the right people.

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