Re: Collective Volition: Wanting vs Doing.

From: Samantha Atkins (
Date: Sun Jun 13 2004 - 15:29:38 MDT

On Jun 13, 2004, at 7:56 AM, Eliezer Yudkowsky wrote:

> Samantha Atkins wrote:
>> On Jun 12, 2004, at 6:57 PM, Eliezer Yudkowsky wrote:
>>> This question does appear to keep popping up. Roughly, a collective
>>> volition is what I get when:
>>> (a) I step back and ask the meta-question of how I decided an
>>> earlier Eliezer's view of "Friendliness" was "mistaken".
>>> (b) I apply the same meta-question to everyone else on the planet.
>>> Whatever it is that you use, mentally, to consider any alternative
>>> to collective volition, anything that would be of itself friendlier
>>> - that's you, a human, making the decision; so now imagine that we
>>> take you and extrapolate you re-making that decision at a higher
>>> level of intelligence, knew more, thought faster, more the person
>>> etc.
>> Yes, I get that and it is enticing. But precisely how will the FRPOP
>> gets its bearings as to what is the "direction" of "more the person"?
>> Some of the others are a bit problematic too. But this one seems
>> the best and central trick. More the person I would like to be? I,
>> with all my warts? Wouldn't I have a perhaps badly warped view of
>> what kind of person I would like to be? Would the person I would
>> like to be make indeed better choices? How will the AI know of this
>> person or model this person?
> Samantha, you write that you might have a badly warped view of what
> kind of person you would like to be. "Badly warped" by what criterion
> that I feed to the FAI? Your criterion? Someone else's? Where am I
> supposed to get this information, if not, somehow, from you? When you
> write down exactly how the information is supposed to get from point A
> (you) to point B (the FAI), and what the FAI does with the information
> once it's there, you'll have something that looks like - surprise! - a
> volition-extrapolating dynamic. It's not a coincidence. That's where
> the idea of a volition-extrapolating dynamic *originally comes from*.

That is my point. The information is not necessarily available from
the person[s] in sufficient quality to make wise decisions that
actually work for the good of humanity.

>>> The benefit of CV is that (a) we aren't stuck with your decision
>>> about Friendliness forever (b) you don't have to make the decision
>>> using human-level intelligence.
>> Well, we don't make the decision at all it seems to me. The AI does
>> based on its extrapolation of our idealized selves.
> Not precisely, but it's closer than saying that we would make the
> decision using (EEK!) human-level intelligence.
>> I am not sure exactly what our inputs would be. What do you have in
>> mind?
> Our inputs would be our current selves, from which the decision of a
> future humankind might be predicted.

I hear you but I am doubtful it can both be done and generate human

> In the spiritual exercise your idealized self will never be any
> smarter than you are, never know anything you don't.

That is not helpfully so. Taking the time to invoke the "higher self"
and see through its eyes is a lot smarter than when we don't take the

> It will say things that sound wise to your current self - things a
> village elder might say - things you might severely disagree with if
> you did know more, think smarter. Can you ask your idealized
> spiritual self to build a nanobot?

Yes and no. The idealized self and invoking others to see from their
idealized self is far more likely to devote the energies necessary to
build a nanobot and not misuse the technology than otherwise.

> I don't trust the notion of *spiritual* extrapolation for grounding;
> I think that's the wrong direction.

Well, ok. But you do a fine job of something that looks very much like

> The word "spirituality" makes people people go warm and fuzzy, and yes
> we need the warm fuzzies, but I think that if we took people and
> filtered out everything that a member of the Fluffy Bunny Coven would
> call "unspiritual", we'd end up with unhumans.

Do not mistake the ineffectual type of bliss-babies (or more often
would-be bliss babies) for the extend of spirituality and what it
offers. Some of the most spiritual people I know are also some of the
most hard-headed and realistic.

> It's more an order-of-evaluation question than anything else. I
> currently guess that one needs to evaluate some "knew more" and
> "thought faster" before evaluating "more the people we wished we
> were". Mostly because "knew more" and "thought faster" starting from
> a modern-day human who makes fluffy bunny errors doesn't have quite
> the same opportunity to go open-endedly recursively wrong as "more the
> people we wished we were" evaluated on a FBer.

Well, we all can make whatever assumptions we wish for what "knew more"
and "thought faster" would and would not remove or add to in our bag of
human characteristics.

> One obvious rule for order-of-evaluation would be to define a metric
> of distance (difficulty of explanation to current self) and carry out
> shorter-distance extrapolations before longer-distance extrapolations.

Yes, this is always a good way to proceed.

>>> Maybe a better metaphor for collective volition would be that it
>>> refers questions to an extrapolated adult humankind, or to a
>>> superposition of the adult humanities we might become.
>> So the AI becomes an adjunct and amplifier of a specialized form of
>> introspective spiritual exercise? Wild! AI augmented
>> self-improvement of humankind.
> Right. AI augmented self-improvement of humankind with the explicit
> notation that the chicken-and-egg part of this problem is that
> modern-day humans aren't smart enough to self-improve without stomping
> all over their own minds with unintended consequences, aren't even
> smart enough to evaluate the question "What kind of person do you want
> to be?" over its real experiential consequences rather than a small
> subset of human verbal descriptions of humanly expected consequences.
> So rather than creating a *separate* self-improving humane thing, one
> does something philosophically more complex and profound (but perhaps
> not more difficult from the standpoint of FAI theory, although it
> *sounds* a lot harder). One binds a transparent optimization process
> to predict what the grownup selves of modern-day humans would say if
> modern humans grew up together with the ability to self-improve
> knowing the consequences. The decision function of the extrapolated
> adult humanity includes the ability of the collective volition to
> restrain its own power or rewrite the optimization function to
> something else; the collective volition extrapolates its awareness
> that it is just an extrapolation and not our actual decisions.

Excellent. I get it!

> In other words, one handles *only* and *exactly* the chicken-and-egg
> part of the problem - that modern-day humans aren't smart enough to
> self-improve to an adult humanity, and that modern-day society isn't
> smart enough to render emergency first aid to itself - by writing an
> AI that extrapolates over *exactly those* gaps to arrive at a picture
> of future humankind if those problems were solved. Then the
> extrapolated superposed possible future humankinds, the collective
> volition, hopefully decides to act in our time to boost us over the
> chicken-and-egg recursion; doing enough to solve the hard part of the
> problem, but not annoying us or taking over our lives, since that's
> not what we want (I think; at least it's not what I want). Or maybe
> the collective volition does something else. I may have phrased the
> problem wrong. But for I as an FAI programmer to employ some other
> solution, such as creating a new species of humane intelligence, would
> be inelegant; it doesn't solve exactly and only the difficult part of
> the problem.
> I may end up needing to be inelegant, but first I want to try really
> hard to find a way to do the Right Thing.

Thanks. That clears up a lot.

- samantha

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