Some argue that Elon Musk's plan to build a self-sustaining colony on Mars is effectively impossible for the foreseeable future without discontinuous tech progress. (See e.g. Jess Riedel's claim here, which Robin Hanson agrees with.)
Is there a simple explanation for why this might be so? I'd be especially interested in Fermi estimates of key bottleneck resources.
The post will be a summary of my current key views on various aspects what is going on, especially in places where I see many or most responsible-looking people getting it importantly wrong.
This post is not making strong evidence-based arguments for these views. This is not that post. This is me getting all this out there, on the record, in a place one can reference.
It is impossible to actually understand Covid-19 if you think of some things as ‘risky’ and other things as ‘safe’ and group together all the things in each category. And yet, that’s exact... (Read more)
If it’s worth saying, but not worth its own post, here's a place to put it. (You can also make a shortform post)
And, if you are new to LessWrong, here's the place to introduce yourself. Personal stories, anecdotes, or just general comments on how you found us and what you hope to get from the site and community are welcome.
If you want to explore the community more, I recommend reading the Library, checking recent Curated posts, seeing if there are any meetups in your area, and checking out the Getting Started section of the LessWrong FAQ.
The Open Thread sequence is here.
In Inaccessible Information, Paul Christiano lays out a fundamental challenge in training machine learning systems to give us insight into parts of the world that we cannot directly verify. The core problem he lays out is as follows.
Suppose we lived in a world that had invented machine learning but not Newtonian mechanics. And suppose we trained some machine learning model to predict the motion of the planets across the sky -- we could do this by observing the position of the planets over, say, a few hundred days, and using this as training data for, say, a recurrent neural network. And suppos... (Read more)
I was just thinking about how to work myself up to posting full-posts, and this seemed like exactly the right level of difficulty and exposure for what I'm currently comfortable with. I'm glad that a norm for this exists!
This is mostly going to consist of old notebook-extracts regarding various ideas I've chewed on over the years.
In my recent post on the case study of the transistor, we saw that the research that led to its invention did not fall neatly into the categories of “basic” vs. “applied”, but in fact cycled rapidly between them.
An entire book—Pasteur’s Quadrant, by Donald Stokes—is dedicated to the thesis that “basic” vs. “applied” is a false dichotomy that is harming science funding.
The core idea of Pasteur’s Quadrant is that basic and applied research are not opposed, but orthogonal. Instead of a one-dimensional spectrum, wi... (Read more)
I've been optimizing various aspects of my investment setup recently, and will write up some tips and tricks that I've found in the form of "answers" here. Others are welcome to share their own here if they'd like. (Disclaimer: I’m not a lawyer, accountant, or investment advisor, and everything here is for general informational purposes only.)
As researchers and philosophers discuss the path towards human-equivalent / superhuman general artificial intelligence, they frequently examine the concept of control. Control of our world has always been of central importance to our species, so it’s no surprise that we’d look to extend our control in the future. However, most of the currently discussed control methods miss a crucial point about intelligence – specifically the fact that it is a fluid, emergent property, which does not lend itself to control in the ways we’re used to. These methods treat the problem ... (Read more)
Special thanks to Kate Woolverton, Paul Christiano, Rohin Shah, Alex Turner, William Saunders, Beth Barnes, Abram Demski, Scott Garrabrant, Sam Eisenstat, and Tsvi Benson-Tilsen for providing helpful comments and feedback on this post and the talk that preceded it.
This post is a collection of 11 different proposals for building safe advanced AI under the current machine learning paradigm. There's a lot of literature out there laying out various different approaches such as amplification, debate, or recursive reward modeling, but a lot of that literature focuses primarily on outer alignment at... (Read more)
I am trying to find out what are the most cost-effective ways of (early) education. I have a 4-year-old daughter and that gives me about ~2 more years to figure this out and I am trying to put together as much material as I can. Given the age of my daughter, I’d like to “solve” something like K-12 for now, but I guess some things may be applicable at any age.
I am familiar with Bryan Caplan's main theses formulated in the Case Against Education or Robin Hanson's Elephant in the Brain arguing that education is mostly about signalling and stuff. I therefore partly understand what's wrong and I am... (Read more)
Still standing by this: Covid-19: My Current Model
Remember last week when I opened with this?
I remember when people on Twitter had constant reminders that today was, indeed, only Wednesday, or whatever day it happened to be. Time moved that slowly.
Time has sped up again.
Well, yeah. Not so much anymore.
In March and April I found myself constantly checking Twitter and the financial markets for news, frantically hunting for ways to get a handle on what was happening in the world, worried everything would fall apart. Wo... (Read more)
Let's say you have an idea that you think might be interesting to investigate, possibly a new aspect in AI safety, maybe some new algorithm.
If you're an experienced researcher, you probably have plenty of intuition to think through it, consider the possible outcomes and decide whether it's worth investigating.
If you have a decent academic network, you can probably bring it up even in casual conversations with people who are as good or better than you in the field to get a sense of their intuitions.
What if you have none of those things? Is there an online forum for such discussi... (Read more)
Elizer Yudkowsky wrote an interesting comment on What Universal Human Experiences Are You Missing Without Realizing It?
... (Read more)
It was the gelling of the HPMOR hatedom which caused me to finally realize that I was blind, possibly I-don’t-have-that-sense blind, to the ordinary status-regulation emotions that, yes, in retrospect, many other people have, and that evolutionary psychology would logically lead us to expect exists.
…It was only afterward that I looked back and realized that nobody ever hates Hermione, or Harry, on account of either of them acting like they have more status than someone else
Some back of the napkin math. Suppose we:
That would mean:
There seem to be various ways to decrease your chance of death from the coronavirus by 100x or more by going from "normal careful" to extremely careful.
This is the sixth post of the "a non-mystical explanation of the three characteristics of existence" series.
Like no-self and unsatisfactoriness, impermanence seems like a label for a broad cluster of related phenomena. A one-sentence description of it, phrased in experiential terms, would be that “All experienced phenomena, whether physical or mental, inner or outer, are impermanent”.
As an intellectual claim, this does not sound too surprising: few people would seriously think that either physical things or mental experiences last forever. However, there ... (Read more)
Suppose that I have a great model for predicting “what will Alice say next?”
I can evaluate and train this model by checking its predictions against reality, but there may be many facts this model “knows” that I can’t easily access.
For example, the model might have a detailed representation of Alice’s thoughts which it uses to predict what Alice will say, without being able to directly answer “What is Alice thinking?” In this case, I can only access that knowledge indirectly, e.g. by asking about what Alice would say in under different conditions.
I’ll call information like “What is Alice thinki... (Read more)
Buddhists talk a lot about the self, and also about suffering. They claim that if you come to investigate what the self is really made of, then this will lead to a reduction in suffering. Why would that be?
This post seeks to answer that question. First, let’s recap a few things that we have been talking about before.
In “a non-mystical explanation of ‘no-self’”, I talked about the way in which there are two kinds of goals. First, we can manipulate something that does not require a representation of ourselves. For example,... (Read more)