Re: Beyond evolution

From: Eliezer S. Yudkowsky (
Date: Sun Feb 04 2001 - 19:12:15 MST

Discussing things at this level of abstraction is pointless. If you
believe you've found a specific selection pressure that will necessarily
produce specific behaviors in a singleton seed AI that undergoes
successive rounds of self-modification, then say so, describe why, and
explain how you are extending the phrase "selection pressure" to usefully
apply in the absence of a population of replicators.

Be concrete.

Christian Weisgerber wrote:
> You can't outrun evolution. Not in this universe at least.

How would you know? Humanity is a very, very young species.

> It is a very fundamental principle, more fundamental than physical law.

Evolution certainly is more fundamental than our physical laws, since you
can get evolution under a variety of physical-law scenarios; however, all
we know about evolution is that we find a lot of it in the absence of
control by intelligence. This is not enough to make deductions about a
technological world.

> - A population of replicators.
> - Mutation.
> (In its widest meaning, i.e. some change to the replicators.)
> - A fitness function.
> - Limited survivability, typically by resource limitation.
> This may look like a lot of conditions, but good luck trying to
> find circumstances where they don't apply.

No population of replicators.

> All you are suggesting with your "casting aside evolution" is a
> replacement of the mutation mechanism, from random change to
> engineered change by the replicators themselves.

If mutations that lead to undesirable effects are deliberately excluded by
an intelligent mutation mechanism, then selection pressures for that
behavior are irrelevant - or, more accurately, the apparent selection
pressures do not exist, since the fitness metric includes "survivability"
under the observing mutation mechanism, as well as any trials in the
external world.

This is all we care about from the Friendly AI perspective, so whether or
not you can really call it "evolution" is wholly irrelevant.

> This may affect
> the mutation speed, but it doesn't change one iota about the
> applicability of the principle of evolution.

Evolution has certain characteristics by which it can be recognized. If
designed things look absolutely nothing like it, then it doesn't matter
whether or not you've expanded "evolution" to describe everything in the
Universe; it just means that you've expanded "evolution" to the point
where it becomes useless.

Evolution describes a specific subset of the Universe. It describes
bacteria and people, but not stars (random) or surge protectors
(designed). Calling something "evolved" is a useful statement, especially
in Friendly AI, because it enables us to predict certain characteristics
that appear in evolved things but not random things or designed things.
If you mutate the term beyond its fitness, it will die.

-- -- -- -- --
Eliezer S. Yudkowsky
Research Fellow, Singularity Institute for Artificial Intelligence

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