RE: SIAI's flawed friendliness analysis

From: Gary Miller (
Date: Fri May 30 2003 - 08:19:42 MDT

> Angels and ministers of grace preserve us, Ben, I hope you were
> talking about an AI and not a human child! Just reach into a human
> mind and tamper like that? Thank Belldandy my own parents didn't have

> that capability or I'd be a nice, normal, Orthodox Jew right now.

Too bad Jeffrey Dahmer's parents didn't interfere with his
and seek help for him before he exercised his self-determination and
tortured , and canibalized his victims!

It is every parent's responseability to provide a positive role model
and encourage
healthy moral development to the best of their ability. I would hope
if as child your parents found you mutilating animals they would have
had the
good sense to interfere with your self-determination as well!

I would hope that if you developed an FAI and it developed the habit of
BDSM and hate group web pages that you would at least exercise some
judgement and
at a minimum question it's motives in doing so!

-----Original Message-----
From: [] On Behalf Of Ben
Sent: Friday, May 30, 2003 9:35 AM
Subject: RE: SIAI's flawed friendliness analysis

> > As a parent, I would interfere with my child's self-determination if

> > they were going to do something sufficiently destructive. I'd also
> > try to change them so that they no longer *wanted* to do the
> > destructive thing.
> Angels and ministers of grace preserve us, Ben, I hope you were
> talking about an AI and not a human child! Just reach into a human
> mind and tamper like that? Thank Belldandy my own parents didn't have

> that capability or I'd be a nice, normal, Orthodox Jew right now.

Well, if one of my children were suicidal (far from the case,
thankfully!!), I would try to help them to not be suicidal, via
medication, psychotherapy, etc. What is this but "reaching into a human
mind and tampering"? If they were confused and not sure they wanted my
help, damn right I'd try to push my help on them. And after my
intervention had succeeded, in all probability they'd thank me.

I have not had that kind of experience with my kids -- they're rather
weird (surprise, surprise!) but generally happily and well-behavedly so.
However I HAVE seen other parents deal with similar situations. For
instance, parents of a kid who was taking way too many drugs, and
involved with a lot of senseless vandalism and violence and other
destructive behavior. They sent him to a posh "reform school" --
against his protests -- and it actually did reform him, and now I
believe he's genuinely glad they did.

You mention religion -- now, I'm fairly ardently non-religious, but one
of my kids is very interested in the Bible and shows signs of
potentially becoming a religious person. Am I gonna try to force him
not to be that way? Of course not. Am I gonna tell him really clearly
and repeatedly and calmly what I think of religious dogma, and am I
gonna give him stuff to read reflecting a scientific view of religion?
For sure.

> > Because we have values for our kids that go beyond the value of
> > volition/self-determination...
> What about the kids' values for themselves? Parents don't own
> children.

Well, we may not own our children -- but when you're stopping your
2-year-old from running across the busy street even though their
volitional self-determination tells them to do so, there's some kind of
cousin to "ownership" going on...

Compared to most parents I see, I tend very much toward "children's
rights" ... for instance, I have given my children the choice of whether
to attend school or not, and for a while they were home-schooled.
However, even I, as a lenient and child's-rights-respecting parent, can
envision many situations where I would unreservedly try to "tamper" with
my children's motivational structure (like the examples described above,
of suicidal or extremely self-destructive behavior).

There is a radical philosophy of child-raising ("Taking Children
Seriously") that believes parents should never try to coerce their
children at all. See . One individual
involved with this philosophy is physicist David Deutsch, a pioneer of
theoretical quantum computing. Before having kids myself I might have
agreed with this, but in the thick of raising three kids I have to say
it seems unproductively extreme.

> > But we presumably don't want a Friendly AI to take on this kind of
> > parental role to humans -- because it's simply too dangerous??
> Because I think it's wrong. Direct nonconsensual mind modification
> seems unambiguously wrong. I'm not as sure about gentle friendly
> advice given in the service of humane goals not shared by the
> individual; that strikes me as an ethically ambiguous case of "What
> would humanity want to happen here?"

Well, there is a big middle ground between "direct nonconsensual mind
modification" and "gentle friendly advice."

The kinds of things normal parents can and will do to affect their
children's motivations and attitudes lie in this middle ground.

Similarly, the interesting moral issues pertaining to future AI's
interfering with humans, also lie in this middle ground.

After all, if a superintelligent AI is going to interact with us, it's
certainly going to influence us, and if it's really clever it may be
able to achieve amazing amounts of "coercion" by indirect means. It may
be able to lead us along just as easily as we can lead a dog into a room
it's afraid of, by tempting it there with doggie treats.

Free will itself is a can of worms, now isn't it? Can we tell a future
AI not to mess with our free will, when we don't even know what it is?
... and when we in fact know from cognitive neuroscience (e.g.
Gazzaniga's work) that much of our subjective experience of freedom and
conscious decision-making is illusory, being a matter of the conscious
mind making up decision-stories for things that the unconscious mind has
already decided. If the future AI understands human psychology at all,
it will understand the complexity and fuzziness of the distinction
between influencing a human's unconcsious and controlling its conscious
decision-making processes. Actually "volition" is just as tricky as
"happiness", maybe more so..

-- Ben G

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