↑ comment by Alex HT ·
2020-05-05T11:31:14.162Z · EA(p) · GW(p)
Not the author but I think I understand the model so can offer my thoughts:
1. Why do the time axes in many of the graphs span hundreds of years? In discussions about AI x-risk, I mostly see something like 20-100 years as the relevant timescale in which to act (i.e. by the end of that period, we will either go extinct or else build an aligned AGI and reach a technological singularity). Looking at Figure 7, if we only look ahead 100 years, it seems like the risk of extinction actually goes up in the accelerated growth scenario.
The model is looking at general dynamics of risk from the production of new goods, and isn’t trying to look at AI in any kind of granular way. The timescales on which we see the inverted U-shape depend on what values you pick for different parameters, so there are different values for which the time axes would span decades instead of centuries. I guess that picking a different growth rate would be one clear way to squash everything into a shorter time. (Maybe this is pretty consistent with short/medium AI timelines, as they probably correlate strongly with really fast growth).
I think your point about AI messing up the results is a good one -- the model says that a boom in growth has a net effect to reduce x-risk because, while risk is increased in the short-term, the long-term effects cancel that out. But if AI comes in the next 50-100 years, then the long-term benefits never materialise.
2. What do you think of Wei Dai's argument [LW(p) · GW(p)] that safe AGI is harder to build than unsafe AGI and we are currently putting less effort into the former, so slower growth gives us more time to do something about AI x-risk (i.e. slower growth is better)?
Sure, maybe there’s a lock-in event coming in the next 20-200 years which we can either
- Delay (by decreasing growth) so that we have more time to develop safety features, or
- Make more safety-focussed (by increasing growth) so it is more likely to lock in a good state
I’d think that what matters is resources (say coordination-adjusted-IQ-person-hours or whatever) spent on safety rather than time that could available to be spent on safety if we wanted. So if we’re poor and reckless, then more time isn’t necessarily good. And this time spent being less rich also might make other x-risks more likely. But that’s a very high level abstraction, and doesn’t really engage with the specific claim too closely so keen to hear what you think.
3. What do you think of Eliezer Yudkowsky's argument [LW · GW] that work for building an unsafe AGI parallelizes better than work for building a safe AGI, and that unsafe AGI benefits more in expectation from having more computing power than safe AGI, both of which imply that slower growth is better from an AI x-risk viewpoint?
The model doesn’t say anything about this kind of granular consideration (and I don’t have strong thoughts of my own).
4. What do you think of Nick Bostrom's urn analogy for technological developments? It seems like in the analogy, faster growth just means pulling out the balls at a faster rate without affecting the probability of pulling out a black ball. In other words, we hit the same amount of risk but everything just happens sooner (i.e. growth is neutral).
In the model, risk depends on production of consumption goods, rather than the level of consumption technology. The intuition behind this is that technological ideas themselves aren’t dangerous, it’s all the stuff people do with the ideas that’s dangerous. Eg. synthetic biology understanding isn’t itself dangerous, but a bunch of synthetic biology labs producing loads of exotic organisms could be dangerous.
But I think it might make sense to instead model risk as partially depending on technology (as well as production). Eg. once we know how to make some level of AI, the damage might be done, and it doesn’t matter whether there are 100 of them or just one.
And the reason growth isn’t neutral in the model is that there are also safety technologies (which might be analogous to making the world more robust to black balls). Growth means people value life more so they spend more on safety.
5. Looking at Figure 7, my "story" for why faster growth lowers the probability of extinction is this: The richer people are, the less they value marginal consumption, so the more they value safety (relative to consumption). Faster growth gets us sooner to the point where people are rich and value safety. So faster growth effectively gives society less time in which to mess things up (however, I'm confused about why this happens; see the next point). Does this sound right? If not, I'm wondering if you could give a similar intuitive story.
Sounds right to me.
6. I am confused why the height of the hazard rate in Figure 7 does not increase in the accelerated growth case. I think equation (7) for δ_t might be the cause of this, but I'm not sure. My own intuition says accelerated growth not only condenses along the time axis, but also stretches along the vertical axis (so that the area under the curve is mostly unaffected).
The hazard rate does increase for the period that there is more production of consumption goods, but this means that people are now richer, earlier than they would have been so they value safety more than they would otherwise.
As an extreme case, suppose growth halted for 1000 years. It seems like in your model, the graph for hazard rate would be constant at some fixed level, accumulating extinction probability during that time. But my intuition says the hazard rate would first drop near zero and then stay constant, because there are no new dangerous technologies being invented. At the opposite extreme, suppose we suddenly get a huge boost in growth and effectively reach "the end of growth" (near period 1800 in Figure 7) in an instant. Your model seems to say that the graph would compress so much that we almost certainly never go extinct, but my intuition says we do experience a lot of risk for extinction. Is my interpretation of your model correct, and if so, could you explain why the height of the hazard rate graph does not increase?
Hmm yeah, this seems like maybe the risk depends in part on the rate of change of consumption technologies - because if no new techs are being discovered, it seems like we might be safe from anthropogenic x-risk.
But, even if you believe that the hazard rate would decay in this situation, maybe what's doing the work is that you're imagining that we're still doing a lot of safety research, and thinking about how to mitigate risks. So that the consumption sector is not growing, but the safety sector continues to grow. In the existing model, the hazard rate could decay to zero in this case.
I guess I'm also not sure if I share the intuition that the hazard rate would decay to zero. Sure, we don't have the technology right now to produce AGI that would constitute an existential risk but what about eg. climate change, nuclear war, biorisk, narrow AI systems being used in really bad ways? It seems plausible to me that if we kept our current level of technology and production then we'd have a non-trivial chance each year of killing ourselves off.
What's doing the work for you? Do you think the probability of anthropogenic x-risk with our current tech is close to zero? Or do you think that it's not but that if growth stopped we'd keep working on safety (say developing clean energy, improving relationships between US and China etc.) so that we'd eventually be safe?Replies from: riceissa
↑ comment by riceissa ·
2020-05-07T22:47:06.504Z · EA(p) · GW(p)
What's doing the work for you? Do you think the probability of anthropogenic x-risk with our current tech is close to zero? Or do you think that it's not but that if growth stopped we'd keep working on safety (say developing clean energy, improving relationships between US and China etc.) so that we'd eventually be safe?
I think the first option (low probability of x-risk with current technology) is driving my intuition.
Just to take some reasonable-seeming numbers (since I don't have numbers of my own): in The Precipice, Toby Ord estimates ~19% chance of existential catastrophe from anthropogenic risks within the next 100 years. If growth stopped now, I would take out unaligned AI and unforeseen/other (although "other" includes things like totalitarian regimes so maybe some of the probability mass should be kept), and would also reduce engineered pandemics (not sure by how much), which would bring the chance down to 0.3% to 4%. (Of course, this is a naive analysis since if growth stopped a bunch of other things would change, etc.)
My intuitions depend a lot on when growth stopped. If growth stopped now I would be less worried, but if it stopped after some dangerous-but-not-growth-promoting technology was invented, I would be more worried.
but what about eg. climate change, nuclear war, biorisk, narrow AI systems being used in really bad ways?
I'm curious what kind of story you have in mind for current narrow AI systems leading to existential catastrophe.
Replies from: Alex HT
↑ comment by Alex HT ·
2020-05-08T10:42:46.221Z · EA(p) · GW(p)
So you think the hazard rate might go from around 20% to around 1%? That's still far from zero, and with enough centuries with 1% risk we'd expect to go extinct.
I don't have any specific stories tbh, I haven't thought about it (and maybe it's just pretty implausible idk). Replies from: riceissa
↑ comment by riceissa ·
2020-05-09T00:04:19.009Z · EA(p) · GW(p)
So you think the hazard rate might go from around 20% to around 1%?
I'm not attached to those specific numbers, but I think they are reasonable.
That's still far from zero, and with enough centuries with 1% risk we'd expect to go extinct.
Right, maybe I shouldn't have said "near zero". But I still think my basic point (of needing to lower the hazard rate if growth stops) stands.
Replies from: trammell
↑ comment by trammell ·
2020-05-10T17:02:19.113Z · EA(p) · GW(p)
Hey, thanks for engaging with this, and sorry for not noticing your original comment for so many months. I agree that in reality the hazard rate at t depends not just on the level of output and safety measures maintained at t but also on "experiments that might go wrong" at t. The model is indeed a simplification in this way.
Just to make sure something's clear, though (and sorry if this was already clear): Toby's 20% hazard rate isn't the current hazard rate; it's the hazard rate this century, but most of that is due to developments he projects occurring later this century. Say the current (instantaneous) hazard rate is 1% per century; my guess is that most of this consists of (instantaneous) risk imposed by existing stockpiles of nuclear weapons, existing climate instability, and so on, rather than (instantaneous) risk imposed by research currently ongoing. So if stopping growth would lower the hazard rate, it would be a matter of moving from 1% to 0.8% or something, not from 20% to 1%.Replies from: riceissa
↑ comment by riceissa ·
2020-05-12T05:54:07.144Z · EA(p) · GW(p)
So if stopping growth would lower the hazard rate, it would be a matter of moving from 1% to 0.8% or something, not from 20% to 1%.
Can you say how you came up with the "moving from 1% to 0.8%" part? Everything else in your comment makes sense to me.
Replies from: trammell
↑ comment by trammell ·
2020-05-12T11:08:46.856Z · EA(p) · GW(p)
I'm just putting numbers to the previous sentence: "Say the current (instantaneous) hazard rate is 1% per century; my guess is that most of this consists of (instantaneous) risk imposed by existing stockpiles of nuclear weapons, existing climate instability, and so on, rather than (instantaneous) risk imposed by research currently ongoing."
If "most" means "80%" there, then halting growth would lower the hazard rate from 1% to 0.8%.