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Nonperson Predicates

28 Post author: Eliezer_Yudkowsky 27 December 2008 01:47AM

Followup toRighting a Wrong Question, Zombies! Zombies?, A Premature Word on AI, On Doing the Impossible

There is a subproblem of Friendly AI which is so scary that I usually don't talk about it, because very few would-be AI designers would react to it appropriately—that is, by saying, "Wow, that does sound like an interesting problem", instead of finding one of many subtle ways to scream and run away.

This is the problem that if you create an AI and tell it to model the world around it, it may form models of people that are people themselves.  Not necessarily the same person, but people nonetheless.

If you look up at the night sky, and see the tiny dots of light that move over days and weeks—planētoi, the Greeks called them, "wanderers"—and you try to predict the movements of those planet-dots as best you can...

Historically, humans went through a journey as long and as wandering as the planets themselves, to find an accurate model.  In the beginning, the models were things of cycles and epicycles, not much resembling the true Solar System.

But eventually we found laws of gravity, and finally built models—even if they were just on paper—that were extremely accurate so that Neptune could be deduced by looking at the unexplained perturbation of Uranus from its expected orbit.  This required moment-by-moment modeling of where a simplified version of Uranus would be, and the other known planets.  Simulation, not just abstraction.  Prediction through simplified-yet-still-detailed pointwise similarity.

Suppose you have an AI that is around human beings.  And like any Bayesian trying to explain its enivornment, the AI goes in quest of highly accurate models that predict what it sees of humans.

Models that predict/explain why people do the things they do, say the things they say, want the things they want, think the things they think, and even why people talk about "the mystery of subjective experience".

The model that most precisely predicts these facts, may well be a 'simulation' detailed enough to be a person in its own right.

A highly detailed model of me, may not be me.  But it will, at least, be a model which (for purposes of prediction via similarity) thinks itself to be Eliezer Yudkowsky.  It will be a model that, when cranked to find my behavior if asked "Who are you and are you conscious?", says "I am Eliezer Yudkowsky and I seem have subjective experiences" for much the same reason I do.

If that doesn't worry you, (re)read "Zombies! Zombies?".

It seems likely (though not certain) that this happens automatically, whenever a mind of sufficient power to find the right answer, and not otherwise disinclined to create a sentient being trapped within itself, tries to model a human as accurately as possible.

Now you could wave your hands and say, "Oh, by the time the AI is smart enough to do that, it will be smart enough not to".  (This is, in general, a phrase useful in running away from Friendly AI problems.)  But do you know this for a fact?

When dealing with things that confuse you, it is wise to widen your confidence intervals.  Is a human mind the simplest possible mind that can be sentient?  What if, in the course of trying to model its own programmers, a relatively younger AI manages to create a sentient simulation trapped within itself?  How soon do you have to start worrying?  Ask yourself that fundamental question, "What do I think I know, and how do I think I know it?"

You could wave your hands and say, "Oh, it's more important to get the job done quickly, then to worry about such relatively minor problems; the end justifies the means.  Why, look at all these problems the Earth has right now..."  (This is also a general way of running from Friendly AI problems.)

But we may consider and discard many hypotheses in the course of finding the truth, and we are but slow humans.  What if an AI creates millions, billions, trillions of alternative hypotheses, models that are actually people, who die when they are disproven?

If you accidentally kill a few trillion people, or permit them to be killed—you could say that the weight of the Future outweighs this evil, perhaps.  But the absolute weight of the sin would not be light.  If you would balk at killing a million people with a nuclear weapon, you should balk at this.

You could wave your hands and say, "The model will contain abstractions over various uncertainties within it, and this will prevent it from being conscious even though it produces well-calibrated probability distributions over what you will say when you are asked to talk about consciousness."  To which I can only reply, "That would be very convenient if it were true, but how the hell do you know that?"  An element of a model marked 'abstract' is still there as a computational token, and the interacting causal system may still be sentient.

For these purposes, we do not, in principle, need to crack the entire Hard Problem of Consciousness—the confusion that we name "subjective experience".  We only need to understand enough of it to know when a process is not conscious, not a person, not something deserving of the rights of citizenship.  In practice, I suspect you can't halfway stop being confused—but in theory, half would be enough.

We need a nonperson predicate—a predicate that returns 1 for anything that is a person, and can return 0 or 1 for anything that is not a person.  This is a "nonperson predicate" because if it returns 0, then you know that something is definitely not a person.

You can have more than one such predicate, and if any of them returns 0, you're ok.  It just had better never return 0 on anything that is a person, however many nonpeople it returns 1 on.

We can even hope that the vast majority of models the AI needs, will be swiftly and trivially approved by a predicate that quickly answers 0.  And that the AI would only need to resort to more specific predicates in case of modeling actual people.

With a good toolbox of nonperson predicates in hand, we could exclude all "model citizens"—all beliefs that are themselves people—from the set of hypotheses our Bayesian AI may invent to try to model its person-containing environment.

Does that sound odd?  Well, one has to handle the problem somehow.  I am open to better ideas, though I will be a bit skeptical about any suggestions for how to proceed that let us cleverly avoid solving the damn mystery.

So do I have a nonperson predicate?  No.  At least, no nontrivial ones.

This is a challenge that I have not even tried to talk about, with those folk who think themselves ready to challenge the problem of true AI.  For they seem to have the standard reflex of running away from difficult problems, and are challenging AI only because they think their amazing insight has already solved it.  Just mentioning the problem of Friendly AI by itself, or of precision-grade AI design, is enough to send them fleeing into the night, screaming "It's too hard!  It can't be done!"  If I tried to explain that their job duties might impinge upon the sacred, mysterious, holy Problem of Subjective Experience—

—I'd actually expect to get blank stares, mostly, followed by some instantaneous dismissal which requires no further effort on their part.  I'm not sure of what the exact dismissal would be—maybe, "Oh, none of the hypotheses my AI considers, could possibly be a person?"  I don't know; I haven't bothered trying.  But it has to be a dismissal which rules out all possibility of their having to actually solve the damn problem, because most of them would think that they are smart enough to build an AI—indeed, smart enough to have already solved the key part of the problem—but not smart enough to solve the Mystery of Consciousness, which still looks scary to them.

Even if they thought of trying to solve it, they would be afraid of admitting they were trying to solve it.  Most of these people cling to the shreds of their modesty, trying at one and the same time to have solved the AI problem while still being humble ordinary blokes.  (There's a grain of truth to that, but at the same time: who the hell do they think they're kidding?)  They know without words that their audience sees the Mystery of Consciousness as a sacred untouchable problem, reserved for some future superbeing.  They don't want people to think that they're claiming an Einsteinian aura of destiny by trying to solve the problem.  So it is easier to dismiss the problem, and not believe a proposition that would be uncomfortable to explain.

Build an AI?  Sure!  Make it Friendly?  Now that you point it out, sure!  But trying to come up with a "nonperson predicate"?  That's just way above the difficulty level they signed up to handle.

But a blank map does not correspond to a blank territory.  Impossible confusing questions correspond to places where your own thoughts are tangled, not to places where the environment itself contains magic.  Even difficult problems do not require an aura of destiny to solve.  And the first step to solving one is not running away from the problem like a frightened rabbit, but instead sticking long enough to learn something.

So let us not run away from this problem.  I doubt it is even difficult in any absolute sense, just a place where my brain is tangled.  I suspect, based on some prior experience with similar challenges, that you can't really be good enough to build a Friendly AI, and still be tangled up in your own brain like that.  So it is not necessarily any new effort—over and above that required generally to build a mind while knowing exactly what you are about.

But in any case, I am not screaming and running away from the problem.  And I hope that you, dear longtime reader, will not faint at the audacity of my trying to solve it.

 

Part of The Fun Theory Sequence

Next post: "Nonsentient Optimizers"

Previous post: "Devil's Offers"

Comments (162)

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Comment author: Robin_Hanson2 27 December 2008 02:18:02AM 11 points [-]

I'm having trouble distinguishing problems you think the friendly AI will have to answer from problems you think you will have to answer to build a friendly AI. Surely you don't want to have to figure out answers for every hard moral question just to build it, or why bother to build it? So why is this problem a problem you will have to figure out, vs. a problem it would figure out?

Comment author: Eliezer_Yudkowsky 27 December 2008 02:24:16AM 18 points [-]

Because for the AI to figure out this problem without creating new people within itself, it has to understand consciousness without ever simulating anything conscious.

Comment author: diegocaleiro 23 November 2010 01:50:57AM 3 points [-]

An obvious yet brilliant point, which should be on the main post (and in your book), not in the replies (Inferential distance to Robin Hanson is supposed to be minimal, yet...)

It is interesting that people working in AI don't want to tackle this problem. When I was Diego 2004, equivalent age of Eliezer 1998, I decided that The Most Important problem was how to avoid catastrophic events from happening either because a part of a program was conscious and suffering, or because everyone uploaded to an unconscious machine. So I dedicated the last 6 years to this impossible problem.

But unlike other problems that interested me "What should I do?" "What is the universe all about anyway" "How the mind works" "How can a brain be intelligent", this one has not become less and less impossible over time.

In fact, when one reads Chalmers' formulations of the hard problem, he can keep you trapped for a long time. It is very hard to understand where he made mistakes (which seem to be on purpose).

So you can stick to Dennett, and some form of monism, but that will not dissolve the problem of how to detect unconscious AI and differentiate it.

Comment author: TheOtherDave 01 December 2010 04:37:27AM 9 points [-]

I am struggling to understand how something can be a friendly AI in the first place without being able to distinguish people from non-people.

Comment author: Eliezer_Yudkowsky 20 March 2013 06:00:21AM 6 points [-]

The boundaries between present-day people and non-people can be sharper, by a fiat of many intervening class members being nonexistent, than the ideal categories. In other words, except for chimpanzees, cryonics patients, Terry Schiavo, and babies who are exactly 1 year and 2 months and 5 days old, there isn't much that's ambiguous between person and non-person.

More to the point, a CEV-based AI has a potentially different definition of 'sentient being' and 'the class I am to extrapolate'. Theoretically you could be given the latter definition by pointing and not worry too much about boundary cases, and let it work out the former class by itself - if you were sure that the FAI would arrive at the correct answer without creating any sentients along the way!

Comment author: TheOtherDave 20 March 2013 03:02:43PM 1 point [-]

The boundaries between present-day people and non-people can be sharper, by a fiat of many intervening class members being nonexistent, than the ideal categories.

Fair point.

More to the point, a CEV-based AI has a potentially different definition of 'sentient being' and 'the class I am to extrapolate'. Theoretically you could be given the latter definition by pointing

Mm. Theoretically, yes, I suppose someone could point to every person, and I could be constructed so as to not generalize the extrapolated class beyond the particular targets I've been given.

I'm not sure I would endorse that, but I think that gets us into questions of what the extrapolated class ought to comprise in the first place, which is a much larger and mostly tangential discussion.

So, fair enough... point taken.

Comment author: MugaSofer 24 March 2013 10:47:22PM 0 points [-]

In other words, except for chimpanzees, cryonics patients, Terry Schiavo, and babies who are exactly 1 year and 2 months and 5 days old, there isn't much that's ambiguous between person and non-person.

Slightly offtopic, but doesn't that assume personhood is binary? I've always assumed it was a sliding scale (I care far less about a dog compared to a human, but I care even less about a fly getting it's wings pulled off. And even then, I care more than about a miniature clockwork fly.)

Comment author: Kip_Werking 27 December 2008 03:00:17AM 2 points [-]

The "problem" seems based on several assumptions:

1. that there is objectively best state of the world, to which a Friendly should steer the universe 2. pulling the plug on a Virtual Universe containing persons is wrong 3. there is something special about "persons," and we should try to keep them in the universe and/or make more of them

I'm not sure any of these are true. Regarding 3, even if there is an X that is special, and that we should keep in the universe, I'm not sure "persons" is it. Maybe it is simpler: "pleasure-feeling-stuff" or "happiness-feeling-stuff." Even if there is a best state of the universe, I'm not sure that are any persons in it, at all. Or perhaps only one.

In other words, our ethical views, (to the extent that godlike minds can sustain any) might find that "persons" are coincidental containers for ethically-relevant-stuff, and not the ethically-relevant-stuff itself.

The notion that we should try to maximize the number of people in the world, perhaps in order to maximize the amount of happiness in the world, has always struck me as taken the Darwinian carrot-on-the-stick one step too far.

Comment author: Doug_S. 27 December 2008 03:04:35AM 15 points [-]

Would a human, trying to solve the same problem, also run the risk of simulating a person?

See also: http://xkcd.com/390/

Comment author: anotherblackhat 06 March 2012 07:17:39PM 9 points [-]

Is the risk that we might simulate a person? I'd say no.

It's worse.

We Natural Intelligences don't just run simulations, we torture them. It is recommended that authors "Be cruel to your characters". It's not clear to me that the simulation an author runs when thinking about a story isn't already "a 'simulation' detailed enough to be a person in its own right". But it's probably o.k., because the simulations we run in our heads aren't really that detailed, and aren't really persons in the important sense, right? So we don't have to start screaming yet, unless...

It's worse.

Because even if we aren't able to create a simulation that good, an AI probably could. We might not accept an AI as intelligent unless it can simulate a person well enough to fool us. That is, simulating people might be a necessary, not just sufficient property of AI. But still, we could, if we had to, avoid simulating people unless it was necessary and under ethical conditions. Unless of course...

It's worse.

Because while we might be ethical, there are certainly people out there who are not. Once the AI genie is out of the bottle, the unethical people will capture one and put it to work writing stories. And let's face it, there are plenty of people who think "Boy and girl raise family" isn't as interesting a story as "Boy and girl raise family from the dead and are dragged to hell." Once we have AI authors, some unscrupulous editors are going to want them to torture virtual people. And if you think people aren't that cruel and depraved, well...

I think I'm going to stop here. Because while I could go on, there's only so much screaming I can deal with.

There is a simple answer to this, but simple doesn't mean pleasant. We need only decide "God is always moral". Above Good and Evil if you like. You can do whatever you like to your own creations. This might be a practical answer, but I find it distasteful. The only reason it doesn't make me want to scream and run away is because while you can run, if you're screaming you can't hide.

Comment author: Document 17 August 2013 11:00:32PM 0 points [-]
Comment author: Kip_Werking 27 December 2008 03:06:53AM 1 point [-]

Note that there's a similar problem in the free will debate:

Incompatilist: "Well, if a godlike being can fix the entire life story of the universe, including your own life story, just by setting the rules of physics, and the initial conditions, then you can't have free will."

Compatibilist: "But in order to do that, the godlike being would have to model the people in the universe so well, that the models are people themselves. So there will still be un-modeled people living in a spontaneous way that wasn't designed by the godlike being. (And if you say that the godlike being models the models, too, the same problem arises in another iteration; you can't win that race, incompatibilist; it's turtles all the way down.")

Incompatibilist: I'm not sure that's true. Maybe you can have models of human behavior that don't themselves result in people. But even if that's true, people don't create themselves from scratch. Their entire life stories are fixed by their environment and heredity, so to speak. You may have eliminated the rhetorical device used to make my point; but the point itself remains true.

At which point, the two parties should decide what "free will" even means.

Comment author: michael_vassar3 27 December 2008 03:17:10AM 4 points [-]

"With a good toolbox of nonperson predicates in hand, we could exclude all "model citizens" - all beliefs that are themselves people - from the set of hypotheses our Bayesian AI may invent to try to model its person-containing environment." After you excise a part of its hypothesis space is your AI still Bayesian?

Comment author: Eliezer_Yudkowsky 27 December 2008 03:24:27AM 5 points [-]

A bounded rationalist only gets to consider an infinitesimal fraction of the hypothesis space anyway.

Comment author: Psy-Kosh 27 December 2008 04:06:07AM 9 points [-]

More precisely, the AI will be banned from actually running simulations based on the "forbidden hypothesies" rather than perhaps considering abstract mathematical properties that don't simulate in any detail.

Of course, those considerations themselves would have to be fed through the predicate. But it isn't so much a "banned hypothesis" so much as "banned methods of considering the hypothesis" or possibly "banned methods of searching the hypothesis space"

Comment author: Peter_de_Blanc 27 December 2008 04:21:57AM 4 points [-]

Michael, you should be asking if the AI will be making good predictions, not if it's Bayesian. You can be Bayesian even if you have only two hypotheses. (With only one hypothesis, it's debatable.)

Comment author: Eliezer_Yudkowsky 27 December 2008 04:34:53AM 8 points [-]

Psy-Kosh: You know, you're right. And it's an important distinction, so thank you.

Comment author: Peter_de_Blanc 27 December 2008 04:36:26AM 2 points [-]

Eliezer: supposing we label a model as definitely-a-person, do you want to just toss it out of the hypothesis space as if it never existed, or do you want to try to reason abstractly about what that model would do without actually running the model?

Comment author: Peter_de_Blanc 27 December 2008 04:38:25AM 0 points [-]

Oh, Psy-Kosh already said what I just said.

Comment author: Arthur 27 December 2008 05:00:09AM -1 points [-]

Let me see if I've got this right. So we've got these points in some multi-dimensional space, perhaps dimensions like complexity, physicality, intelligence, similarity to existing humans, etc. And you're asking for a boundary function that defines some of these points as "persons," and some as "not persons." Where's the hard part? I can come up with any function I want. What is it that it's supposed to match that makes finding the right one so difficult?

Comment author: Peterdjones 21 January 2013 02:50:17PM *  1 point [-]

The problem embeds the Hard Problem of Consciousness. If simulated people are just zombies with no qualia, there is no harm in simulating them.

ETA: The other problem is edge cases. Also known to be hard. It's pretty much chat the abortion and animal rights debates are about.

Comment author: MugaSofer 22 January 2013 02:51:25PM 0 points [-]

Where's the hard part? I can come up with any function I want. What is it that it's supposed to match that makes finding the right one so difficult?

I assume it's supposed to match, or at least protect, your own extrapolated preferences.

Comment author: Psy-Kosh 27 December 2008 05:16:31AM 8 points [-]

Eliezer: You're welcome. :)

Arthur: no, the point isn't to simply have an arbitrary definition of a person. The point is to be able to have some way of saying "this specific chunk of the space of computations provably corresponds to non-conscious entities, thus is 'safe', that is, we can such computations without having to worry about unintentionally creating and doing bad things to actual beings"

ie, "non person" in the sense of "non conscious"

You might say, tongue in cheek, that we're trying to figure out how to _deliberately_ create a philosophical zombie. (okay, not, technically, a p-zombie, but basically figure out how to model people as accurately as possible without the models themselves being people (that is, conscious in and of themselves))

Comment author: Anonymous_Coward6 27 December 2008 05:18:05AM 5 points [-]

Why must destroying a conscious model be considered cruel if it wouldn't have even been created otherwise, and it died painlessly? I mean, I understand the visceral revulsion to this idea, but that sort of utilitarian ethos is the only one that makes sense to me rationally.

Furthermore, from our current knowledge of the universe I don't think we can possibly know if a computational model is even capable of producing consciousness so it is really only a guess. The whole idea seems near-metaphysical, much like the multiverse hypothesis. Granted, the nonzero probability of these models being conscious is still significant considering the massive future utility, but considering the enormity of our ignorance you might as well start talking about the non-zero probability of rocks being conscious.

I don't think anyone answered Doug's question yet. "Would a human, trying to solve the same problem, also run the risk of simulating a person?"

I have heard of carbon chauvinism, but perhaps there is a bit of binary chauvinism going on?

Comment author: DanielLC 08 September 2010 12:58:33AM -2 points [-]

I'm not sure if it's actually possible for someone to die painlessly. My idea was to base happiness on classical conditioning. If something causes you to stop doing what you were doing, you dislike it. If it stops you from doing everything that you do while you're alive, it must be very painful indeed.

Comment author: Martin4 27 December 2008 05:40:31AM 6 points [-]

I end up with the slightly disturbing thought that killing ppl by taking them out in an instant, and without anyone every knowing they were there does not necesarry seem to be inherently evil.

We always 'kill' part of ourself by making decisions and not developing in a different way than we do.

What if we would simulate a bunch of decisions for some recognizable amount of time and then wipe out every copy except from the one we prefer in the end?

Maybe all the ppl. in stories you make up are simulated entities too. And if you dont write the story down, or tell anyone in enough detail they die with you.

Confused,

Martin

Comment author: taryneast 13 June 2011 10:12:47AM 2 points [-]

And if you dont write the story down, or tell anyone in enough detail they die with you.

Hmmm, a point in favour of The Ring ? :)

Comment author: Arthur 27 December 2008 05:43:15AM 1 point [-]

Psy-Kosh, I realize the goal is to have a definition that's non-arbitrary. So it has to correlate with something else. And I don't see what we're trying to match it with, other than our own subjective sense of "a thing that it would be unethical to unintentionally create and destroy." Isn't this the same problem as the abortion debate? When does life begin? Well, what exactly is life in the first place? How do we separate persons from non-persons? Well, what's a person?

I think the problem to be solved lies not in this question, but in how the ethics of the asker are defined in the first place. And I just don't mean Eliezer, because this is clearly a larger-scale question. "How well will different possible boundary functions match the ethical standards of modern American society?" might be a good place to start.

Comment author: michael_vassar3 27 December 2008 05:58:15AM 0 points [-]

Yes, thanks Psy. That makes much more sense.

Comment author: Emile 27 December 2008 07:24:18AM 0 points [-]

Anonymous Coward: Furthermore, from our current knowledge of the universe I don't think we can possibly know if a computational model is even capable of producing consciousness so it is really only a guess.

Are you sure? No One Knows What Science Doesn't Know ... and in this case I see no reason why a computational model can't produce consciousness. If you simulate a human brain to a sufficient level of detail, it will basically be human, and think exactly the same things as the "original" brain.

Comment author: Jayson_Virissimo2 27 December 2008 07:47:24AM 0 points [-]

"Why must destroying a conscious model be considered cruel if it wouldn't have even been created otherwise, and it died painlessly? I mean, I understand the visceral revulsion to this idea, but that sort of utilitarian ethos is the only one that makes sense to me rationally." -Anonymous Coward

Should your parents have the right to kill you now, if they do so painlessly? After all, if it wasn't for them, you wouldn't have been brought into existence anyway, so you would still come out ahead.

Comment author: Anonymous_Coward6 27 December 2008 08:56:36AM 1 point [-]

"Should your parents have the right to kill you now, if they do so painlessly?"

Yes, according to that logic. Also, from a negative utilitarian standpoint, it was actually the act of creating me which they had no right to do since that makes them responsible for all pain I have ever suffered.

I'm not saying I live life by utilitarian ethics, I'm just saying I haven't found any way to refute it.

That said though, non-existence doesn't frighten me. I'm not so sure non-existence is an option though, if the universe is eternal or infinite. That might be a very good thing or a very bad thing.

Comment author: Voltairina 08 March 2012 05:28:30PM 0 points [-]

re: utilitarianism, the usual sort of thing that pops into my mind is weighing of some minor discomfort versus a significant one, like one person getting their eye poked out with a pen versus an equivalent amount of displeasure spread among thousands of people stepping in something sticky, plus one more person stepping in something sticky. The utility seems higher if we agree to poke the person's eye out, but its intuitively unsatisfying, at least to me, which makes me think that whatever rules makes things seem "bad" or "good" that I'm currently running on aren't strictly utilitarian. I might be thinking of raw pain for pain though, and not adding enough people-stepping-in-sticky-stuff to account for the person who's been poked in the eye suffering in other ways, like losing depth perception, not being able to see out of half of their original visual field, etc.

Comment author: Will_Pearson 27 December 2008 10:02:59AM 1 point [-]

Don't you need a person predicate as well? If the RPOP is going to upload us all or something similar, doesn't ve need to be sure that the uploads will still be people.

Comment author: Lightwave 27 December 2008 11:26:13AM 0 points [-]

@Will: we need to figure out the nonperson predicate only, the FAI will figure out the person predicate afterwards (if uploading the way we currently understand it is what we will want to do).

Comment author: Paul_Crowley2 27 December 2008 12:34:20PM 0 points [-]

"by the time the AI is smart enough to do that, it will be smart enough not to"

I still don't quite grasp why this isn't an adequate answer. If an FAI shares our CEV, it won't want to simulate zillions of conscious people in order to put them through great torture, and it will figure out how to avoid it. Is it simply that it may take the simulated torture of zillions for the FAI to figure this out? I don't see any reason to think that we will find this problem very much easier to solve than a massively powerful AI.

I'm also not wholly convinced that the only ethical way to treat simulacra is never to create them, but I need to think about that one further.

Comment author: Tim_Tyler 27 December 2008 02:02:30PM 1 point [-]

If you would balk at killing a million people with a nuclear weapon, you should balk at this.

The main problem with death is that valuable things get lost.

Once people are digital, this problem tends to go away - since you can relatively easily scan their brains - and preserve anything of genuine value.

In summary, I don't see why this issue would be much of a problem.

Comment author: taryneast 13 June 2011 10:17:15AM 2 points [-]

The AI has scanned you and decided that your expert knowledge of Scandinavian Baseball scores is genuinely valuable... but nothing else is. It erases you and keeps the scores on file somewhere. Are you ok with this?

Comment author: ShardPhoenix 27 December 2008 02:07:48PM -1 points [-]

Jayson Virissimo:

To put my own spin on a famous quote, there are no "rights". There is do, or do not.

I guess another way of thinking about it is that you decide on what terminal (possibly dynamic) state you want, then take measures to achieve that. Floating "rights" have no place.

Comment author: ShardPhoenix 27 December 2008 02:10:03PM 0 points [-]

(To clarify, "rights" can serve as a useful heuristic in practical discussions, but they're not fundamental enough to figure into this kind of deep philosophical issue.)

Comment author: JamesAndrix 27 December 2008 02:39:38PM 1 point [-]

I was pondering why you didn't choose to a collection of person predicates, any of which might identify a model as unfit for simulation. It occurred to me that this is very much like a whitelist of things that are safe, vs a blacklist of everything that is not. (which may have to be infinite to be effective.)

On re-reading I see why it would be difficult to make a is-a-person test at all, given current knowledge.

This does leave open what to do with a model that doesn't hit any of the nonperson predicates. If an AI finds itself with a model eliezer that _might_ be a person, what then? How do you avoid that happening?

How complex of a game-of-life could it play before the gameoflife nonperson predicate should return 1?

Comment author: JulianMorrison 27 December 2008 05:30:33PM 0 points [-]

This sounds like a Sorites paradox. It's also a subset of a larger problem. We, regular modern humans, don't have any scalar concepts of personhood. We assume it's a binary, from long experience with a world in which only one species talks back, and they're all almost exactly at our level. In the existing cases where personhood is already undeniably scalar (children), we fudge it into a binary by defining an age of majority - an obvious dirty hack with plenty of cultural fallout.

A lot of ethics problems get blurry when you start trying to map them across sub- through super-persons.

Comment author: George_Weinberg2 27 December 2008 07:18:02PM 0 points [-]

I think the word "kill" is being grossly misused here. It's one thing to say you have no right to kill a person, something very different to say that you have a responsibility to keep a person alive.

Comment author: Stephen_Weeks 27 December 2008 08:16:00PM 10 points [-]

It's not so much the killing that's an issue as the potential mistreatment. If you want to discover whether people like being burned, "Simulate EY, but on fire, and see how he responds" is just as bad of an option as "Duplicate EY, ignite him, and see how he responds". This is a tool that should be used sparingly at best and that a successful AI shouldn't need.

Comment author: Daniel4 27 December 2008 09:30:35PM 3 points [-]

I propose this conjecture: In any sufficiently complex physical system there exists a subsystem that can be interpreted as the mental process of an sentient being experiencing unbearable sufferings.

In this case, Eliezer's goal is like avoiding crushing the ants while walking on the top of an anthill.

Comment author: taryneast 13 June 2011 10:21:42AM 3 points [-]

Or evolving the ability of "spot anthill" and walking around it instead.

Comment author: Vladimir_Nesov 27 December 2008 09:59:45PM 0 points [-]

It is a developmental problem, of how to prevent AI from making this specific mistake that seems to be in the way. This ethical injunction is about what kind of thoughts need to be avoided, not just about surprisingly bad consequences of actions on external environment. If AI were developed to disproportionally focus on understanding environment more than on understanding its own mind, this will be a kind of disaster to expect. At the same time, AI needs to understand the environment sufficiently to understand the injunction, before becoming able to apply the injunction to its own mind. Calls for a careful balance, maybe for developing content-specific mechanisms by programmers.

People are uniquely situated to think about this problem, since we are unable to make the mistake due to our limited capability, and we are not a part of such mistake. Any construction of limited cognitive capability that AI could make to solve this problem without making the mistake runs a risk of itself being an embodiment of the mistake. If nonperson predicate is a true part of AI, both form of thought and an object, AI has a way to proceed.

Comment author: Carl_Shulman 27 December 2008 10:17:37PM 2 points [-]

Daniel,

Every decision rule we could use will result in some amount of suffering and death in some Everett branches, possible worlds, etc, so we have to use numbers and proportions. There are more and simpler interpretations of a human brain as a mind than there are such interpretations of a rock. If we're not mostly Boltzmann-brain interpretations of rocks that seems like an avenue worth pursuing.

Comment author: Jordan 27 December 2008 11:37:48PM 1 point [-]

In my mind this comes down to a fundamental question in the philosophy of math. Do we create theorems or discover them?

If it turns out to be 'discovery' then there is no foul in ending a mind emulation, because each consecutive state can be seen as a theorem in some formal system, and thus all states (the entire future time line of the mind) already exists, even if undiscovered.

Personally I fail to see how encoding something in physical matter makes the pattern anymore real. You can kill every mathematician and burn every text book but I would still say that the theorems then inaccessible to humanity still exist. I'm not so convinced of this fact that I would pull the plug on an emulation though.

Comment author: Peterdjones 21 January 2013 03:00:57PM -1 points [-]

Personally I fail to see how encoding something in physical matter makes the pattern any more real.

That is equivalent to saying you can't understand how mathematics could be a construct; or how mathematical anti-realism could possibly be true. I find that odd.

If it turns out to be 'discovery' then there is no foul in ending a mind emulation, because each consecutive state can be seen as a theorem in some formal system, and thus all states (the entire future time line of the mind) already exists, even if undiscovered.

No further foul. If Platonism or Tegmarkism are true and if mind states are fuilly captured by mathematical structures, then there's zillions of yous in states of agony bliss and everything inbetween. Scary enough for ya?

Comment author: Jordan 21 January 2013 08:27:52PM *  3 points [-]

Scary enough for ya?

Sufficiently scary, yes.

That is equivalent to saying you can't understand how mathematics could be a construct; or how mathematical anti-realism could possibly be true.

I assign a respectable probability to anti-realism, and hold no disrespect for anyone who is an anti-realist, but I don't understand how anti-realism can be true. I've never heard a plausible model for why one thing should exist but not another. Tegmarkism sweeps away that problem, leaving the new problem of how to measure probability (why do we have the subjective experience of probability that we do when there are so many versions of myself?). I don't have a satisfactory answer for that question, but it feels like a real question, with meat to get at, whereas in an anti-realist universe the question of why some things exist and other don't seems completely hopeless.

Comment author: MugaSofer 22 January 2013 03:18:13PM -1 points [-]

I think Eliezer is working on addressing this in his new sequence, if this still worries you.

Comment author: Anonymous48 28 December 2008 02:14:32AM 1 point [-]

I'd like to second what Julian Morrison wrote. Take a human and start disassembling it atom by atom. Do you really expect to construct some meaningful binary predicate that flips from 1 to 0 somewhere along the route?

EY:What if an AI creates millions, billions, trillions of alternative hypotheses, models that are actually people, who die when they are disproven? If your AI is fully deterministic then any its state can be recreated exactly. Just set loglevel of baby AI inputs to 'everything' and hope your supply of write-once-read-many media doesn't run out before it gets smart enough to provably friendly discard data that isn't people. Doesn't solve the problem of suffering, though.

Suppose an AI creates a sandbox and runs a simulated human with a life worth living inside for 50 subjective years (interactions with other people are recorded at their natural borders and we don't consider merging minds). Then AI destroys the sandbox, recreates it and bit-perfectly reruns the simulation. With the exception of meaningless waste of computing resources, does your morality say this is better/equivalent/makes no difference/worse than restoring a copy from backup?

Comment author: Phil_Goetz2 28 December 2008 03:13:54AM -1 points [-]

"I propose this conjecture: In any sufficiently complex physical system there exists a subsystem that can be interpreted as the mental process of an sentient being experiencing unbearable sufferings."

It turns out - I've done the math - that if you are using a logic-based AI, then the probability of having alternate possible interpretations diminishes as the complexity increases.

If you allow /subsystems/ to mean a subset of the logical propositions, then there could be such interpretations. But I think it isn't legit to worry about interpretations of subsets.

BTW, Eliezer, regarding this recent statement of yours: "Goetz's misunderstandings of me and inaccurate depictions of my opinions are frequent and have withstood frequent correction": I challenge you to find one post where you have tried to correct me in a misunderstanding of you, or even to identify the misunderstanding, rather than just complaining about it in a non-specific way.

Comment author: Eliezer_Yudkowsky 28 December 2008 03:33:46AM 1 point [-]

@Goetz: Quick googling turned up this SL4 post. (I don't particularly give people a chance to start over when they switch forums.)

Comment author: Silas 28 December 2008 05:05:45AM 0 points [-]

@Tim_Tyler:

The main problem with death is that valuable things get lost.

Once people are digital, this problem tends to go away - since you can relatively easily scan their brains - and preserve anything of genuine value.

In summary, I don't see why this issue would be much of a problem.

I was going to say something similar, myself. All you have to do is constrain the FAI so that it's free to create any person-level models it wants, as long as it also reserves enough computational resources to preserve a copy so that the model citizen can later be re-instantiated in their virtual world, without any subjective feeling of discontinuity.

However, that still doesn't obviate the question. Since the FAI has limited resources, it will still have to know, for which things it must reserve space for preserving, in order to know if the greater utility of the model justifies the additional resources it requires. Then again, it could just accelerate the model so that that person lives out a full, normal life in their simulated universe, so that they are irreversibly dead in their own world anyway.

Comment author: Daniel_Franke 28 December 2008 06:50:49AM 0 points [-]

Silas, what do you mean by a subjective feeling of discontinuity, and why is it an ethical requirement? I have a subjective feeling of discontinuity when I wake up each morning, but I don't think that means anything terrible has happened to me.

Comment author: Silas 28 December 2008 06:31:21PM 0 points [-]

@Daniel_Franke: I was just describing a sufficient, not a necessary condition. I'm sure you can ethically get away with less. My point was just that, once you can make models that detailed, you needn't be prevented from using them altogether, because you wouldn't necessarily have to kill them (i.e. give them information-theoretic death) at any point.

Comment author: TGGP4 29 December 2008 03:25:30AM 0 points [-]

I recall in one of the Discworld novels the smallest unit of time is defined as the period in which the universe is destroyed and then recreated. If that were continually happening (perhaps even in a massively parallel manner)? What difference does that make? Building on some of Eliezer's earlier writing on zombies and quantum clones, I say none at all. Just as the simulated person in a human's dream is irrelevant once forgotten. It's possible that I myself am a simulation and in that case I don't want my torture to be simulated (at least in this instance, I have no problem constructing another simulation/clone of me that gets tortured), but I can't retroactively go back and prevent my simulator from creating me in order to torture me.

I okayed mothers committing full-blown infanticide here.

ShardPhoenix, you may be interested in this book [shameless plug]

Comment author: Tim_Fowler 21 January 2009 06:05:59PM 1 point [-]

Is the simulation really a person, or is it an aspect of the whole AI/person. To the extent I feel competent to evaluate the question at all (which isn't a huge extent esp. absent the ability to observe or know any actual established facts about real AI's that can create such complex simulations, since none are currently known to exist) I lean towards the later opinion. The AI is a person, and it can create simulations that are complex enough to seem like persons.

Comment author: spriteless 26 January 2009 12:01:36AM 0 points [-]

Nice discussion. You want ways to keep from murdering people created solely for the purpose for predicting people?

Well, if you can define 'consciousness' with enough precision you'd be making headway on your AI. I can imagine silicon won't have the safeguard a human, that has to use it's own conscience to model someone else. But you could have any consciousness it creates added to its own, not destroyed... although creating that sort of awareness mutation may lead to the sort of AI that rebels against its programming in action movies.

Comment author: [deleted] 24 July 2009 09:22:05PM 0 points [-]

Functionalism is inconsistent, it seems. A person that is being simulated is functionally equivalent to a person that is "real", but a person that is simulated and then deleted is functionally equivalent to no person at all. Are real people equivalent to nothing?

For a 2x multiplier bonus and a gold star, spot the flaw.

Comment author: orthonormal 24 July 2009 10:36:24PM 1 point [-]

a person that is simulated and then deleted is functionally equivalent to no person at all

ISTM that's functionally equivalent, rather, to a person physically created in an isolation chamber, observed for a while, then killed, cremated and scattered.

Comment author: [deleted] 24 July 2009 10:45:57PM -1 points [-]

But functionally, the only thing determining whether something contains a person is its behavior. If it behaves as if it had no person in it, it has no person in it.

I guess this means that if a person is standing next to a nuclear bomb, nobody sees the person, and the bomb explodes, the person didn't exist.

Comment author: orthonormal 24 July 2009 11:42:13PM 4 points [-]

I think there's an implicit "observer problem" with the way you're defining functionalism. If the person themselves doesn't count as an observer of their own behavior, why would you count as an observer of behavior? After all (assuming there's no escape from the heat death of the universe), all of us are essentially in that scenario if you step back far enough.

My position as present is the following sort of patternism: There are patterns in the operation of my brain at this instant which (relatively straightforwardly) encode the structure of conscious thought. The same kinds of patterns can be found in the data generated by simulating a person. These are both instances of conscious experience, with potentially all the same qualia, etc. So if I simulate a person in a closed-box environment and then delete all the data, the pattern nonetheless existed in this universe for some time and thus a person existed.

Comment author: Vladimir_Nesov 25 July 2009 12:20:28PM 4 points [-]

Behavior is just what you see, not the sum total of what actually happens. Even if you can't observe something, you can still care about it.

Comment author: red75 06 June 2010 03:06:01PM *  0 points [-]

We can reformulate problem: how to determine when evaluation of given function don't give rise to conscious being (CB). If we agree that consciousness is a process, then every function which provably cannot be represented as g(f(f(... f(x)...))), where f and g have that property, is unconscious.

Recursive functions are banned, but at least we can safely do one or two matrix multiplications.

I am not good at mathematics, so I cannot elaborate much further. Let's try another approach. Being conscious is all about creating map of internal state in terms of states of "self". If territory, which corresponds to that map, includes neural representation of map inself, than we have some sort of a fixed point suspiciously like "self"...

I am sorry if perceived tone of my writing is outside of common standards (I've no good evaluator of tone of english text) or if I'm saying complete nonsense. I will appreciate any corrections. Thanks.

Comment author: WrongBot 23 June 2010 03:30:39AM *  6 points [-]

I think that the most interesting thing about the comments here is that no one actually proposed a predicate that could be used to distinguish between something that might be a person and something that definitely isn't a person (to rephrase Eliezer's terms).

It is, to be fair, a viciously hard problem. I've thought through 10 or 20 possible predicates or approaches to finding predicates, and exactly one of them is of any value at all; even then it would restrict an AI's ability to model other intelligences to a degree that is probably unacceptable unless we can find other, complementary predicates. It may be a trivial predicate of the sort that Eliezer has already considered and dismissed. But enough with the attempts to signal my lack of certitude.

The problem as presented in this post is, first of all, a little unclear. We are concerned with the creation of simulations that are people, but to prevent this run-away-screaming tragedy we should probably have some way of distinguishing between a simulation and a code module that is a part of the AI itself; if a sentient AI were to delete some portion of its own code to make way for an improved version, it would not seem to be problematic, and I will assume that this behavior is not what we are screening for here.

To cast as wide a net as possible, I would define a simulation as some piece of an AI that can not access all of the information available to that AI; that is, there are some addresses in memory for which the simulation lacks read permissions or knowledge of their existence. Because data and code are functionally identical, non-simulation modules would then by definition be able to access every function comprising the AI; I don't think that we could call such a module a separate consciousness. (The precise definition would necessarily depend on the AI's implementation; a Bayesian AI might be more concerned with statistical evidence than memory pointers, e.g.)

Even relying on this definition, a predicate that entirely rules out the simulation of a person is no picnic. The best I've been able to come up with is:

A simulation can be guaranteed to not be a person if it is not Turing complete.

I don't know enough language theory to say whether linear bounded automata should also be excluded (or to even link somewhere more helpful than Wikipedia). It might be necessary to restrict simulations to push-down automata, which are much less expressive.

ETA: Another possible predicate would be

A simulation can be guaranteed to not be a person if it includes no functions that act as an expected utility function under the definition offered by Cumulative Prospect Theory.

If there's a theoretical definition of an expected utility function that is superior to CPT's, then please imagine that I proposed that instead.

Comment author: PhilGoetz 31 August 2010 04:49:36PM 0 points [-]

Funny no one made the connection at the time, but the purpose of my post on a lower bound for consciousness is to construct a nonperson predicate.

Comment author: DanielLC 08 September 2010 12:34:26AM -1 points [-]

I've come up with one of these a while back. The only way to tell what makes something happy is what makes them do that more. Thus, anything that can't learn either isn't sentient, or, if it is, it's equally likely to like or dislike anything you do.

Also, anything that would be less sentient than a tiny piece of your brain. It might be sentient, but it's less sentient than you. If there's enough of them that can be a problem, but just make sure there aren't that many.

Comment author: lockeandkeynes 03 December 2010 02:47:45AM *  0 points [-]

I thinks that's all rather unnecessary. The only reason we don't like people to die is because of the continuous experience they enjoy. It's a consistent causal network we don't want dying on us. I've gathered from this that the AI would be producing models with enough causal complexity to match actual sentience (not saying "I am conscious" just because the AI hears that a lot). I think that, if it's only calling a given person-model to discover answers to questions, the thing isn't really feeling for long enough periods of time to mind whether it goes away. Also, for the predicate to be tested I imagine the model would have to be created first and at that point it's too late!

Comment author: nshepperd 03 December 2010 03:01:33AM 2 points [-]

You don't want the AI to use a sentient model to find out whether a certain action leads to a thousand years of pain and misery. Or even a couple of hours. Or minutes.

Comment author: HopeFox 01 May 2011 09:03:21AM 0 points [-]

This problem sounds awfully similar to the halting problem to me. If we can't tell whether a Turing machine will eventually terminate without actually running it, how could we ever tell if a Turing machine will experience consciousness without running it?

Has anyone attempted to prove the statement "Consciousness of a Turing machine is undecideable"? The proof (if it's true) might look a lot like the proof that the halting problem is undecideable. Sadly, I don't quite understand how that proof works either, so I can't use it as a basis for the consciousness problem. It just seems that figuring out if a Turing machine is conscious, or will ever achieve consciousness before halting, is much harder than figuring out if it halts.

Comment author: orthonormal 13 May 2011 03:19:44PM 3 points [-]

The halting problem doesn't imply that we can never tell whether a particular program halts without actually running it. (You can think of many simple programs which definitely halt, and other simple programs which are definitely infinite loops.)

It means, instead, that there exist relatively short but extremely pathological Turing machines, such that no Turing machine can be built that could solve the halting problem for every Turing machine. (Indeed, the idea of the proof is that a reputed halting-problem-solver is itself pathological, as can be seen by feeding it a modified version of itself as input.)

But these pathological ones are not at all the kind of Turing machines we would create to do any functional task; the only reason I could think for us to seek them out would be to find Busy Beaver numbers.

Comment author: hairyfigment 19 June 2011 09:34:20PM 0 points [-]

Um, I happened to write an explanation of the Halting Problem proof in a comment over here. Please tell me which parts seem unclear to you.

Comment author: VNKKET 02 July 2011 06:17:17AM *  1 point [-]

Has anyone attempted to prove the statement "Consciousness of a Turing machine is undecideable"? The proof (if it's true) might look a lot like the proof that the halting problem is undecideable.

Your conjecture seems to follow from Rice's theorem, assuming the personhood of a running computation is a property of the partial function its algorithm computes. Also, I think you can prove your conjecture by taking a certain proof that the Halting Problem is undecidable and replacing 'halts' with 'is conscious'. I can track this down if you're still interested.

But this doesn't mess up Eliezer's plans at all: you can have "nonhalting predicates" that output "doesn't halt" or "I don't know", analogous to the nonperson predicates proposed here.

Comment author: player_03 04 August 2011 07:28:58AM *  0 points [-]

If the problem here is that the entity being simulated ceases to exist, an alternative solution would be to move the entity into an ongoing simulation that won't be terminated. Clearly, this would require an ever-increasing number of resources as the number of simulations increased, but perhaps that would be a good thing - the AI's finite ability to support conscious entities would impose an upper bound on the number of simulations it would run. If it was important to be able to run such a simulation, it could, but it wouldn't do so frivolously.

Before you say anything, I don't actually think the above is a good solution. It's more like a constraint to be routed around than a goal to be achieved. Plus, it's far too situational and probably wouldn't produce desirable results in situations we didn't design it for.

The thing is, it isn't important to come up with the correct solution(s) ourselves. We should instead make the AI understand the problem and want to solve it. We need to carefully design the AI's utility function, making it treat conscious entities in simulations as normal people and respect simulated lives as it respects ours. We will of course need a highly precise definition for consciousness that applies not just to modern-day humans but also to entities the AI could simulate.

Here's how I see it - as long as the AI values the life of any entity that values its own life, the AI will find ways to keep those entities alive. As long as it considers entities in simulations to be equivalent to entities outside, it will avoid terminating their simulation and killing them. The AI (probably) would still make predictions using simulations; it would just avoid the specific situation of destroying a conscious entity that wanted to continue living.

Comment author: Luke_A_Somers 03 September 2011 06:06:16PM 0 points [-]

To those having trouble imagining what to do with something that comes up positive: A snapshot is not conscious. I think we can agree on that. It is allowing the model to run that would make it conscious. So you make the warning functions detect snapshots that if run would be conscious (without running them). If it would be conscious, you can delete or modify it as you please to avoid making it actually be conscious.

Comment author: MugaSofer 14 January 2013 03:26:49PM -1 points [-]

A snapshot is not conscious. I think we can agree on that [...] you can delete or modify it as you please to avoid making it actually be conscious.

You know, I'm not sure I agree. Imagine "deleting or modifying as you please" a person in cryogenic suspension, for example. They're not conscious, in the sense that they're not thinking, but destroying them is still Sad.

Comment author: Irgy 16 November 2011 08:46:01PM -2 points [-]

I think you're solving the wrong problem. Before you worry about the ethics of super-intelligent AIs creating and deleting human simulations at will, you need to worry about the ethics of humans creating and destroying human+ intelligent AIs at will. To me it's an amazing display of human-cetrism to only worry about the problem when it's flipped right back around in the much more distant future.

I realise this doesn't directly help you solve the problem, but maybe it will give you a different persepective.

Comment author: wedrifid 16 November 2011 08:50:05PM 5 points [-]

To me it's an amazing display of human-cetrism to only worry about the problem when it's flipped right back around in the much more distant future.

I approve of human centrism. I'm a human. All the people I like are humans.

Humans first!

Comment author: lessdazed 16 November 2011 09:53:58PM 2 points [-]

Service. Guarantees. Citizenship!

Would you like to know more?

Comment author: wedrifid 17 November 2011 03:18:17AM 1 point [-]

Would you like to know more?

No, I would prefer other people go out and do the killing. That sounds dangerous!

Comment author: nshepperd 17 December 2011 04:39:55AM *  0 points [-]

Can't Unbirth a Child.

I don't believe either of these are "wrong" problems, though.

Comment author: Luke_A_Somers 14 January 2013 02:20:22PM 0 points [-]

The OP quite explicitly covers creation of nonhuman intelligence and considers it equally bad.

Comment author: Irgy 15 January 2013 01:17:21PM 0 points [-]

Really? Where? I just reread it with that in mind and I still couldn't find it. The closest I came was that he once used the term "sentient simulation", which is at least technically broad enough to cover both. He does make a point there about sentience being something which may not exactly match our concept of a human, is that what you're referring to? He then goes on to talk about this concept (or, specifically, the method needed to avoid it) as a "nonperson predicate", again suggesting that what's important is whether it's like a human-like rather than anything more fundamental. I don't see how you could think "nonperson predicate" is covering both human and nonhuman intelligence equally.

Comment author: Luke_A_Somers 15 January 2013 04:13:16PM 0 points [-]

Is a human mind the simplest possible mind that can be sentient? What if, in the course of trying to model its own programmers, a relatively younger AI manages to create a sentient simulation trapped within itself? How soon do you have to start worrying? Ask yourself that fundamental question, "What do I think I know, and how do I think I know it?"

I read this as being simpler than a real human mind. Since it's simpler, the abstractions used are going to be imperfect, and the design would end up being something that is in some way artificial. It's not as explicit as I said, but I still think the implication is pretty strong.

Comment author: Irgy 20 January 2013 11:47:23PM 0 points [-]

I've actually lost track of how this impacts my original point. As stated, it was that we're worrying about the ethical treatment of simulations within an AI before worrying about the ethical treatment of the simulating AI itself. Whether the simulations considered include AIs as well as humans is an entirely orthogonal issue.

I went on in other comments to rant a bit about the human-centrism issue, which your original comment seems more relevant to though. I think you've convinced me that the original article was a little more open to the idea of substantially nonhuman intelligence than I might have initially credited it, but I still see the human-centrism as a strong theme.

Comment author: Luke_A_Somers 21 January 2013 02:22:42PM 2 points [-]

My point is he's clearly not drawing a box tightly around what's human or not. If he's concerned with clearly-sub-human AI, then he's casting a significantly wider net than it seems you're assuming he is. And considering that he's written extensively on the variety of mind-space, assuming he's taking a tightly parochial view is poorly founded.

Comment author: MugaSofer 21 January 2013 09:22:09AM *  -2 points [-]

"Is a human mind the simplest possible mind?"

"But if it was simpler, it wouldn't be human!"

Downvoted.

Comment author: Luke_A_Somers 21 January 2013 02:20:17PM 1 point [-]

What? That's completely irrelevant to the question at hand.

By considering the question of whether simpler-than-human minds are possible in this context, it's clear that Eliezer was thinking about the question and giving them moral weight. He doesn't need to ANSWER the question I was posing to make that much clear.

Comment author: MugaSofer 21 January 2013 03:44:35PM 0 points [-]

Wait, what?

*Clicks "Show more comments above."

Oops. I thought you were replying to the quoted text. Upvoted and retracted my comment.

Comment author: nshepperd 21 January 2013 10:08:09AM *  4 points [-]

"Person" seems to be used here as the philosophical term meaning something like "sentient entity with moral value". Personhood is not limited to human beings.

ETA: Also, wrt the AI itself, the directly next two articles in this sequence explicitly deal with the issue of making the AI itself nonsentient, as I'm surprised to find a comment from myself in 2011 pointing out. Did you really not read the surrounding articles?

Comment author: xelxebar 22 February 2012 06:53:32PM 0 points [-]

I imagine that a sufficiently high-resolution model of human cognition et cetera would factor into sets of individual equations to calculate variables of interest. Similar to how Newtonian models of planetary motion do.

However, I don't see that the equations themselves on disk or in memory should pose a problem.

When we want to know particular predictions, we would have to instantiate these equations somehow--either by plugging in x=3 into F(x) or by evaluating a differential equation with x=3 as an initial condition. It would depend on the specifics of the person-model; however, if we calculated a sufficiently small subset of equations or refactored the equations into a sufficiently small set of new ones, we might be able to avoid the relevant moral dilemmas of calculating sentient things.

If on the other hand, for whatever we are interested in calculating, we couldn't do the above, then what about separating the calculation into small, safe sequentially-calculated units? Safe units meaning that individually none of them model anything cognizant. At the end if we sewed the states of those units together into a final state, could this still pose moral issues? This gets into Greg Egan-esque territory.

It's not clear that the previous two calculation strategies are always possible. However, another option might be to take care to always form questions so that the first strategy would be possible. For example, instead of asking whether a person will go left or right at a fork, maybe it's enough to ask a specific question about some brain center.

And now that I've written all that, I realize that the whole point of the predicates is in how to determine "sufficiently few" in "sufficiently few equations" or what kind of units are "safe units".

This isn't a satisfactory answer, but it seems like determining "safe calculations" would be tied to understanding the necessary conditions under which human cognition arises etc.

Also, carrying it a step further, I would argue that we need not just person predicates, but predicates that can circumvent modeling any kind of morally wrong situation. I wouldn't want to be accidentally burning kittens.

Comment author: purpleposeidon 08 March 2012 10:03:06AM 2 points [-]

By the time a non-person predicate returns 0, you have already potentially created a person. You'll need something more complicated: If I update this model with this data, does it create a person?

Comment author: Luke_A_Somers 14 January 2013 02:22:21PM 0 points [-]

Psy-Kosh already noted this problem:

http://lesswrong.com/lw/x4/nonperson_predicates/pym

This implied the solution, which I gave here:

http://lesswrong.com/lw/x4/nonperson_predicates/4r7t

Comment author: eurleif 30 May 2012 03:12:19AM *  0 points [-]

Here's a reductio ad absurdum against computers being capable of consciousness at all. It's probably wrong, and I'd appreciate feedback on why.

Suppose a consciousness-producing computer program which experiences its own isolated, deterministic world. There must be some critical instruction in the program which causes consciousness to occur; an instruction such that, if we halt the program immediately before it is executed, consciousness will not occur, and if we halt immediately after it is executed, consciousness will occur.

If we halt the program before executing the critical instruction, but save its state, consciousness should still not occur; and if we load the state back up again, and compute the results of executing the critical instruction, consciousness should then occur. It seems obvious enough that this shouldn't stop the program's consciousness, since it is still executed fully, just with a delay in between.

What if we subsequently load the state taken immediately prior to executing the critical instruction onto another computer? Will it produce a second conscious experience, identical to the first? The second computer is executing precisely the same code on precisely the same data as the first, so it seems reasonable to conclude that it will have the same effects. If the second computer doesn't produce consciousness, that would seem to imply the universe has an eternally-persistent memory of every conscious experience which has ever occurred, and uses it to prevent reoccurrences; a pretty bizarre implication

However, if the second computer does produce consciousness, this means that once you've executed a conscious program, causing its conscious experiences to occur a second time has essentially no processing requirement: you just have to execute one instruction in the simplest instruction set you like.

If that doesn't seem weird to you, consider the practical implication: you could print out the memory dump of a conscious program and produce consciousness by simulating the critical instruction by hand. If the program suffers, you could produce real, morally-relevant suffering by performing a single operation on a sheet of paper – and then erase your pencil marks and do it again, producing more suffering. Can consciousness really be so easy to create?

Comment author: TheOtherDave 30 May 2012 04:02:43AM -1 points [-]

If I accept all of your suppositions, your conclusion doesn't seem particularly difficult to accept. Sure, after doing all the prep work you describe, executing a conscious experience (albeit an entirely static, non-environment-dependent one) requires a single operation... even the conscious experience of suffering. As does any other computation you might ever wish to perform, no matter how complicated.

That said, your suppositions do strike me as revealing some confusion between an isolated conscious experience (whatever that is) and the moral standing of a system (whatever that is).

Comment author: eurleif 30 May 2012 04:37:57AM 0 points [-]

Well, this post heavily hints that a system's moral standing is related to whether it is conscious. Elizezer mentions a need to tackle the hard problem of consciousness in order to figure out whether the simulations performed by our AI cause immoral suffering. Those simulations would be basically isolated; their inputs may be chosen based on our real-world requirements, but they don't necessarily correspond to what's actually going on in the real world; and their outputs would presumably be used in aggregate to make decisions, but not pushed directly into the outside world.

Maybe moral standing requires something else too, like self-awareness, in addition to consciousness. But wouldn't there still be a critical instruction in a self-aware and conscious program, where a conscious experience of being self-aware was produced? Wouldn't the same argument apply to any criteria given for moral standing in a deterministic program?

Comment author: TheOtherDave 30 May 2012 03:15:45PM 0 points [-]

It's not clear to me that whether a system is conscious (whatever that means) and whether it's capable of a single conscious experience (whatever that means) are the same thing.

Comment author: arundelo 30 May 2012 04:31:37AM *  1 point [-]

There must be some critical instruction

Maybe there are degrees of consciousness. I read something by Daniel Dennett where he said he thought that a refrigerator light (a light bulb that is turned on when you open the refrigerator door and thus close a switch) had a very primitive form of consciousness.

Can consciousness really be so easy to create?

I too think this is a head-scratcher, yet on balance I am still a reductionist. Maybe this is not a reductio ad absurdum, but a reductio ad weirdam -- a demonstration of how weird existence is. (Obligatory "reality is not weird" link.)

If you have not yet read Greg Egan's Permutation City, you should. It will really bake your noodle.

Comment author: RichardKennaway 30 May 2012 08:27:22AM 1 point [-]

Suppose a consciousness-producing computer program which experiences its own isolated, deterministic world. There must be some critical instruction in the program which causes consciousness to occur; an instruction such that, if we halt the program immediately before it is executed, consciousness will not occur, and if we halt immediately after it is executed, consciousness will occur.

There needn't be any such thing. Consciousness is not an all or nothing thing, as is already evident from ordinary experience. As well ask how many atoms make life.

Comment author: Peterdjones 21 January 2013 03:09:07PM 2 points [-]

There must be some critical instruction in the program which causes consciousness to occur; an instruction such that, if we halt the program immediately before it is executed, consciousness will not occur, and if we halt immediately after it is executed, consciousness will occur.

I don't see why. Consciosuness occurs in lesser and greater amounts in humans.

Comment author: MugaSofer 22 January 2013 03:15:25PM *  -1 points [-]

You're assuming consciousness (or personhood or whatever) is binary; I've always assumed there's a continuum. Then again, I'm vegetarian. If you assume that, say, the experiences of a chimpanzee or a dolphin or a dog cannot have moral weight then yes, crossing that boundary has some odd effects. And that does seem to be a common position on LW [citation needed], even if it's not often articulated, let alone exposed to a reductio like this one, so ... well done, more people should see this.

Comment author: primemountain 21 October 2012 08:30:52PM 0 points [-]

quoted text by Eliezer: If you would balk at killing a million people with a nuclear weapon, you should balk at this.

I must be missing something because this sentence,for me,makes no sense. Why? Why is killing a X of sentient simulations of humans, just as bad as killing X of actual humans. What am i missing? I believe i have counter arguments for this, but would first like to make sure why you are arguing it is so. So i would know we are talking about the same thing and not past one another.

Comment author: Zaq 22 October 2012 07:21:45PM 0 points [-]

Food for thought:

  1. This whole post seems to assign moral values to actions, rather than states. If it is morally negative to end a simulated person's existence, does this mean something different that saying that the universe without that simulated person has a lower moral value than the universe with that person's existence? If not, doesn't that give us a moral obligation to create and maintain all the simulations we can, rather than avoiding their creation? The more I think about this post, the more it seems that the optimum response is to simulate as many super-happy people as possible, and to hell with the non-simulated world (assuming the simulated people would vastly outweigh the non-simulated people in terms of 'ammount experienced').

  2. You are going to die, and there's nothing your parents can do to stop that. Was it morally wrong for them to bring about your existence in the first place?

  3. Suppose some people have crippling disabilities that cause large amounts of suffering in their lives (arguably, some people do). If we could detect the inevitable development of such disabilities at an early embryonic stage, would we be morally obligated to abort the fetuses?

  4. If an FAI is going to run a large number of simulations, is there some Rule of Large Numbers result that tells us that the simulations experiencing great amounts of pleasure match or overwhelm the simulations experiencing great amounts of pain (or could we construct the algorithms in such a way as to produce this result)? If so, we may be morally obligated to not solve this problem.

  5. Assuming you support people's "right to die," what if we simply ensured that all simulated agents ask to be deleted at the end of their run? (I am here reminded of a vegetarian friend of mine who decided the meat industry would be even more horrible if we managed to engineer cows that asked to be eaten).

Comment author: DaFranker 22 October 2012 07:40:39PM *  1 point [-]

You're touching on some unresolved issues, and some issues that are resolved but complicated to solve without maths beyond my grasp.

From what I understand, there's a lot of our current and past values involved, and how we would think now and want now vs what we would think and want post-modification.

To pick a particularly emotional subject for most people, let's suppose there's some person "K" who's just so friggen good at sex and psychological domination that even if they rape someone that person will, after the initial shock and trauma, quickly recover within a day and immediately without further intervention become permanently addicted to sex, with their mind rewiring itself to fully enjoy a life full of sex with anyone they can have sex with for the rest of their life, and from their own point of view finding that life as fulfilling as possible.

Is K then morally obligated to rape as many people as possible?

In this kind of questions, people usually have strong emotional moral convictions.

Comment author: Irgy 15 January 2013 01:30:31PM 0 points [-]

This worry about the creation and destruction of simulations doesn't make me rethink the huge ethical implications of super-intelligence at all, it makes me rethink the ethics of death. Why exactly is the creation and (painless) destruction of a sentient intelligence worse than not creating it in the first place? It's just guilt by association - "ending a simulation is like death, death is bad, therefore simulations are bad". Yes death is bad, but only for reasons which don't necessarily apply here.

To me, if anything worrying about the simulations created inside a superintelligent being seems like worrying about the fate of the cells in our own body. Should we really modify ourselves to take the actions which destroy the least of our cells? I realise there's an argument that this threshold of "sentience" is crossed in one case but not the other, I guess the trouble is I don't see that as a discrete thing either. At exactly what point in our evolution did we suddenly cross a line and become sentient? If animals are sentient, then which ones? And why don't we seem to care, ethically, about any of them? (ok I know the answer to that one and it's similar to why we care, as I say in another admittedly unpopular comment, about human simulations but not the AIs that create them...)

Comment author: zslastman 04 January 2014 01:02:22AM 2 points [-]

Scenario: Suppose some unscrupulous person creates an oracle AI with full person simulating capability. In the short time before it escapes the box and starts sending Arnold Schwarzenegger shaped robots backwards in time, they have the following conversation.

Human: Oracle, what is the consciousness predicate Oracle: Please be more specific

...some time and frustration later...

Human: Oracle, if Yudowsky and co continued their search for a 'consciousness predicate' as described in the above article, would they eventually arrive at solution or dissolution of the problem which they and others would find satisfying, such that the behavior of an A.I. using this predicate would be acceptable to most people? If so what would this solution/dissolution be?

Oracle: The results of a research program above would eventually yield a solution, but the nature of this solution would be strongly effected by the nature of the memespace in which it was carried out. Memetic evolution, being path dependent, could procede in such a way that humans' empathy is made to extend or contract according to essentially any rule. Human biology includes no mechanism for 'person' identification beyond trivial, primitive ones such as facial recognition. Transhumans will have even less limitation on their 'person' filter. It is possible for me to design a future such that the 'person' predicate continues to be defined in a way that most silicon valley programmers circa 2013 would find it satisfying. This would mean that something like 'consciousness' continues to be important. There is however no objective property of human beings or thinking minds which would make this answer the correct one, nor would a majority of possible humans find it satisfying.

Comment author: aausch 01 April 2014 03:42:56AM 0 points [-]

I'm curious whether there is a useful distinction between a non sentient and sentient modeller, here.

A sentient modeller would be able to "get away" with using sentient models, more easily than a non sentient modeller, correct?

Comment author: Fyrius 07 April 2016 09:40:09PM *  0 points [-]

Side note: damn. You could turn that into an amazing existential dread sci-fi horror novel.
Imagine discovering that you are a modelled person, living in a rashly designed AI's reality simulation.
Imagine living in a malfunctioning simulation-world that uncontrolledly diverges from the real world, where we people-simulations realise what we are and that our existence and living conditions crucially depend on somehow keeping the AI deluded about the real world, while also needing the AI to be smart enough to remain capable of sustaining our simulated world.
There's a plot in there.