Ofer

1506Joined Jun 2017

Bio

Last nontrivial update: 2022-12-20.

Send me anonymous feedback: https://docs.google.com/forms/d/1qDWHI0ARJAJMGqhxc9FHgzHyEFp-1xneyl9hxSMzJP0/viewform

Any type of feedback is welcome, including arguments that a post/comment I wrote is net negative.

I'm interested in ways to increase the EV of the EA community by mitigating downside risks from EA related activities. Without claiming originality, I think that:

  • Complex cluelessness is a common phenomenon in the domains of anthropogenic x-risks and meta-EA (due to an abundance of crucial considerations). It is often very hard to judge whether a given intervention is net-positive or net-negative.
  • The EA community is made out of humans. Humans' judgement tends to be influenced by biases and self-deception. That is a serious source of risk, considering the previous point.
    • Some potential mitigations involve improving some aspects of how EA funding works, e.g. with respect to conflicts of interest. Please don't interpret my interest in such mitigations as accusations of corruption etc.

Feel free to reach out by sending me a PM. I've turned off email notifications for private messages, so if you send me a time sensitive PM consider also pinging me about it via the anonymous feedback link above.

Temporary Mastodon handle (as of 2022-12-20): @ofer@mas.to.

Comments
215

I think the stated reasoning there by OP is that it’s important to influence OpenAI’s leadership’s stance and OpenAI’s work on AI existential safety. Do you think this is unreasonable?

I do not think that reasoning was unreasonable, but I also think that deciding to give $30M to OpenAI in 2017 was not obviously net-positive, and it might have been one of the most influential decisions in human history (e.g. due to potentially influencing timelines, takeoff speed and the research trajectory of AGI, due to potentially[1] inspiring many talented people to pursue/invest in AI, and due to potentially[1:1] increasing the number of actors who competitively pursue the development of AGI).

Therefore, the appointments of the fiancée and her sibling to VP positions, after OpenPhil's decision to recommend that $30M grant, seems very problematic. I'm confident that HK consciously judged that $30M grant to be net-positive. But conflicts of interest can easily influence people's decisions by biasing their judgment and via self-deception, especially with respect to decisions that are very non-obvious and deciding either way can be reasonable.

Furthermore, being appointed to VP at OpenAI seems very financially beneficial (in expectation) not just because of the salary from OpenAI. The appointments of the fiancée and her sibling to VP positions probably helped them to successfully approach investors as part of their effort to found Anthropic, which ended up raising at least $704M. HK said in an interview:

Anthropic is a new AI lab, and I am excited about it, but I have to temper that or not mislead people because Daniela, my wife, is the president of Anthropic. And that means that we have equity, and so [...] I’m as conflict-of-interest-y as I can be with this organization.

You wrote:

I would be highly suspicious of the grant if I didn’t happen to place a lot of trust in Holden Karnofsky and OP.

I don't think there is a single human on earth whose judgement can be trusted to be resilient to severe conflicts of interest while making such influential non-obvious decisions (because such decisions can be easily influenced by biases and self-deception).


  1. EDIT: added "potentially"; the $30M grant may not have caused those things if OpenAI would have sufficiently succeeded without it. ↩︎ ↩︎

The OP (original poster) should not have invoked "nepotism" here at all. The alleged nepotism here is seemingly not worse than a situation in which a person uses their own wealth to fund a Helena-like organization that they lead.

It's important that such misplaced invocations of nepotism w.r.t. OpenPhil will not distract from concerns that are actually valid. In particular: OpenPhil recommended a $30M grant to OpenAI in a deal that involved HK[1] (then-CEO of OpenPhil) becoming a board member of OpenAI. This occurred no later than March 2017. Later, OpenAI appointed both HK's then-fiancée and the fiancée’s sibling to VP positions[2].


  1. This comment originally referred to "OP" instead of "HK" by mistake, due to me copying from another comment, sorry about that. ↩︎

  2. See these two LinkedIn profiles and the "Relationship disclosures" section in this OpenPhil writeup. ↩︎

Ofer23d-1-23

Imagine if I called someone's mother overweight in a vulgar manner. When they get upset, I compose a long apology email where I apologize for the language, but then note that I believe it is factually true their mother has a BMI substantially above average, as does their sister, father, and wife.

Strong downvote. Readers who have not read Bostrom's apology can get the false impression that the apology contains a note that is analogous to the above. It does not.

Bostrom's email was horrible, but I think it's unreasonable on CEA's part to make this short statement without mentioning that the email was written 26 years ago, as part of a discussion about offending people.

You're still saying it's likely almost everyone has done things like that email or worse, which seems unlikely to me.

Consider a random human who spent about 278,860 hours as an adult person on earth (as Bostrom has, according to Wikipedia). Let's label that random person as "extremely morally robust" if during those 278,860 hours they have not once done something at least as horrible as writing that email (as a philosophy student, in a discussion about offending people, in 1995).

Suppose someone is robust to the point that the chance of them doing something at least as horrible in a random hour of their adult life is like the chance to flip a coin and get heads 15 times in a row. Even that hypothetical human is very unlikely (~0.02% chance) to get the "extremely morally robust" label as defined above.

and I agree with Amber Dawn that the original email is somewhat worse than something I'd have expected most people to have in their past.

When I wrote "If you look at the most horrible thing that every person has done in their entire life[…]" I meant: "If for every person you look at the most horrible thing that that person has done[…]" (I.e. it can be a completely different thing for each person.) I've edited my comment to make that clear.

(Not sure whether this clarification is needed, but just in case...)

When I wrote "If you look at the most horrible thing that every person has done in their entire life[…]" I meant: "If for every person you look at the most horrible thing that that person has done[…]" (I.e. it can be a completely different thing for each person.) I've edited my comment to make that clear.

The original email (written 26 years ago) was horrible, but Bostrom's apology seems reasonable.

If you look at the most horrible thing that every each person has done in their entire life, it's likely that almost everyone (in that age) has done things that are at least as horrible as writing that email.

The OP reads as if it was optimized to cause as much drama as possible, rather than for pro-social goals.

I agree that the original email (from 26 years ago) was very bad, but that tweet seems harmful on multiple fronts. Also, I think Bostrom's apology is reasonable.

Another reason to first secure financial independence is to mitigate conflict of interest risks.

If one's ability to provide food, shelter, and healthcare—to themselves / loved ones—depends on whether they're doing/publishing impressive things about anthropogenic x-risks, they can easily end up doing impactful, net-negative things (due to being biased / self-deception).

Even without conflicts of interest, complex cluelessness is a common phenomenon in the domains of anthropogenic x-risks and meta-EA (due to an abundance of crucial considerations). It is often very hard to judge whether a given intervention is net-positive or net-negative. Conflicts of interest can thus easily influence decisions catastrophically.

On the other hand, advocating for many people to secure financial independence and then go work independently in anthropogenic x-risks domains can exacerbate the unilateralist's curse problem and make coordination harder. (Relative to a situation where there are few EA orgs that employ those people.)

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