Liability insurance

Someone walking around stabbing people can cause a lot of damage before anyone stops them. That’s a bummer, but some technologies make the situation much worse. If we don’t want to ban dangerous technologies outright (because they have legitimate purposes, or because we really love guns), we could instead expand liability insurance requirements. In the case of … More Liability insurance

Honest organizations

Suppose that I’m setting up an AI project, call it NiceAI. I may want to assure my competitors that I abide by strong safety norms, or make other commitments about NiceAI’s behavior. This post presents one possible strategy for making such commitments credible. A realistic plan will be much more complicated and messy, and this … More Honest organizations

Hyperbolic growth

(Reposted from Facebook,  I would prefer put it here than have it lost to the sands of time.) My view of the future is strongly influenced by the history of economic output. I think it’s instructive to look at the sequence of doubling times—how long did it take economic output to double, and then how … More Hyperbolic growth

The Comet King

(If you read one post from my blog, it shouldn’t be this one. Also, serious Unsong spoilers.) Unsong’s Comet King is something of an indulgent caricature, implausibly determined and noble and capable. But if I put aside the desire to be respectable, I enjoy indulgent caricatures. This post presents some Unsong excerpts that touch on the Comet King’s character and fate, in chronological … More The Comet King

Crowdsourcing moderation without sacrificing quality

(Previously: optimizing the news feed) Online discussions consist mostly of uninteresting filler, with a sprinkling of thoughtful and valuable content that I’d like to engage with. The net result is that I usually avoid them. This is a shame, because in principle the internet offers a really great opportunity to increase access to and participation in useful discussions. It’s easy to focus on … More Crowdsourcing moderation without sacrificing quality

Optimizing the news feed

Humans publish trillions of words each year, yet any given human is going to read only a few of them. How should they choose which ones? This has long been a tricky and interesting question. But it’s much more fun now that society is basically forced to write an algorithm to answer it. I like this topic because it is a relatable allegory for value alignment. Conveniently, it’s also an issue du jour on … More Optimizing the news feed

If we can’t lie to others, we will lie to ourselves

Many apparent cognitive biases can be explained by a strong desire to look good and a limited ability to lie; in general, our conscious beliefs don’t seem to be exclusively or even mostly optimized to track reality. If we take this view seriously, I think it has significant implications for how we ought to reason and behave. (See … More If we can’t lie to others, we will lie to ourselves