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Venkat comments on Applause Lights - Less Wrong

91 Post author: Eliezer_Yudkowsky 11 September 2007 06:31PM

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Comment author: Venkat 24 September 2007 11:59:40PM 1 point [-]

That was kinda hilarious. I like your reversal test to detect content-free tautologies. Since I am working right now on a piece of AI-political-fiction (involving voting rights for artificial agents and questions that raises), I was thrown for a moment, but then tuned in to what YOU were talking about.

The 'Yes, Minister' and 'Yes, Prime Minister' series is full of extended pieces of such content-free dialog.

More seriously though, this is a bit of a strawman attack on the word 'democracy' being used as decoration/group dynamics cueing. You kinda blind-sided this guy, and I suspect he'd have a better answer if he had time to think. There is SOME content even to such a woolly-headed sentiment. Any large group (including large research teams) has conflict, and there is a spectrum of conflict resolution ranging from dictatorial imposition to democracy through to consensus.

Whether or not the formal scaffolding is present, an activity as complex as research CANNOT work unless the conflict resolution mechanisms are closer to the democracy/consensus end of the spectrum. Dictators can whip people's muscles into obedience, maybe even their lower-end skills ("do this arithmetic or DIE!"), but when you want to engage the creativity of a gang of PhDs, it is not going to work until there is a mechanism for their dissent to be heard and addressed. This means making the group itself representative (the 'multinational' part) automatically brings in the spirit if not the form of democratic discourses. So yes, if there are autocentric cultural biases today's AI researchers bring to the game, making the funding and execution multinational would help. Having worked on AI research as an intern in India 12 years ago, and working today in related fields here in the US, I can't say I see any such biases in this particular field, but perhaps in other fields, making up multinational, internationally-funded research teams would actually help.

On the flip side, you can have all the mechanisms and still allow dictatorial intent to prevail. My modest take on ruining democratic meetings run on Robert's Rules:

The 15 laws of Meeting Power