Manage episode 368150540 series 3477139
Can there be a more exciting and strange place to work today than a leading AI lab? Your CEO has said they're worried your research could cause human extinction. The government is setting up meetings to discuss how this outcome can be avoided. Some of your colleagues think this is all overblown; others are more anxious still.
Today's guest — machine learning researcher Rohin Shah — goes into the Google DeepMind offices each day with that peculiar backdrop to his work.
He's on the team dedicated to maintaining 'technical AI safety' as these models approach and exceed human capabilities: basically that the models help humanity accomplish its goals without flipping out in some dangerous way. This work has never seemed more important.
In the short-term it could be the key bottleneck to deploying ML models in high-stakes real-life situations. In the long-term, it could be the difference between humanity thriving and disappearing entirely.
For years Rohin has been on a mission to fairly hear out people across the full spectrum of opinion about risks from artificial intelligence -- from doomers to doubters -- and properly understand their point of view. That makes him unusually well placed to give an overview of what we do and don't understand. He has landed somewhere in the middle — troubled by ways things could go wrong, but not convinced there are very strong reasons to expect a terrible outcome.
Today's conversation is wide-ranging and Rohin lays out many of his personal opinions to host Rob Wiblin, including:
- What he sees as the strongest case both for and against slowing down the rate of progress in AI research.
- Why he disagrees with most other ML researchers that training a model on a sensible 'reward function' is enough to get a good outcome.
- Why he disagrees with many on LessWrong that the bar for whether a safety technique is helpful is “could this contain a superintelligence.”
- That he thinks nobody has very compelling arguments that AI created via machine learning will be dangerous by default, or that it will be safe by default. He believes we just don't know.
- That he understands that analogies and visualisations are necessary for public communication, but is sceptical that they really help us understand what's going on with ML models, because they're different in important ways from every other case we might compare them to.
- Why he's optimistic about DeepMind’s work on scalable oversight, mechanistic interpretability, and dangerous capabilities evaluations, and what each of those projects involves.
- Why he isn't inherently worried about a future where we're surrounded by beings far more capable than us, so long as they share our goals to a reasonable degree.
- Why it's not enough for humanity to know how to align AI models — it's essential that management at AI labs correctly pick which methods they're going to use and have the practical know-how to apply them properly.
- Three observations that make him a little more optimistic: humans are a bit muddle-headed and not super goal-orientated; planes don't crash; and universities have specific majors in particular subjects.
- Plenty more besides.
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Producer: Keiran Harris
Audio mastering: Milo McGuire, Dominic Armstrong, and Ben Cordell
Transcriptions: Katy Moore