RE: [sl4] I am a Singularitian who does not believe in the Singularity.

From: Bradley Thomas (
Date: Sun Oct 11 2009 - 10:59:21 MDT

If humans are included as part of the goal-setting system (by virtue of our
ability to reboot the AGI or otherwise affect its operation) then some of
our goal-setting will inevitably leak onto the AGI. We'll tweak/reboot it as
this suits our own goals.

I'd argue that so long as humans can get new information to the AGI, humans
are part of its goal setting system. The high level goals of the AGI are not
immune to interference from us. No matter how secure the AGI's high level
goals supposedly are, we could conceive of ways to manipulate them.

For example imagine an AGI with the top level goals of alternately curing
world poverty one day and assisting big business the next. Come midnight,
the AGI switches over no matter how successful its been the previous day.
Sounds fair so far... Until one day Acme MegaGyroscopes figures out that it
can change the rate of spin of the earth...

Brad Thomas
Twitter @bradleymthomas, @instansa

-----Original Message-----
From: [] On Behalf Of Pavitra
Sent: Saturday, October 10, 2009 11:17 PM
Subject: Re: [sl4] I am a Singularitian who does not believe in the

John K Clark wrote:
> On Fri, 09 Oct "Pavitra" <> said:
>> I argue that anthropomorphizing works no better than chance.
> And I insist it works one hell of a lot better than chance. I believe
> the single most important evolutionary factor driving brain size is
> figuring out what another creature will do next, and one important
> tool to accomplish this is to ask yourself "what would I do if I were
> in his place". Success is not guaranteed but it is certainly better
> than chance.

In the ancestral environment, where all the other creatures are protein
brains that evolved on Earth, sure. But that doesn't apply in the context of
artificial intelligence.

>> How is this not true of modern computer operating systems?
> It is true of modern computer operating systems, all of them can get
> caught in infinite loops. They'd stay in those loops too if human
> beings, who don't have a top goal, didn't get board waiting for a
> reply and tell the computer to forget it and move on to another
> problem.

If by "tell the computer to forget it" you mean kill a hung application,
then the operating system itself has not gotten stuck -- it's the OS that,
in the course of its correct intended function, processes the command to

If you're talking about the OS itself hanging, such that a hard reboot of
the machine is required, then rebooting is possible because the power switch
is functioning as designed.

In either case, there's a higher, outside framework that you're ignoring,
and yet that is an indispensable part of the machine.

If "the computer" as a whole genuinely got stuck in an infinite loop, the
machine would be unsalvagable and would need to be thrown out. The extreme
rarity with which this happens tells us something about what good software
engineering can accomplish.

> This
> solution hardly seems practical for a Jupiter Brain which works
> billions of times faster than your own, or would if you didn't have to
> shake it out of its stupor every nanosecond or so.

I agree that it's probably infeasible to have the AI be as closely
human-dependent as modern operating systems are.

> And every time you manually
> boot it out of its "infinite loop" you are in effect giving the AI
> permission to ignore that all important and ever so holy, highest
> goal.

No. If you have the capacity to boot it out, then by definition the AI has a
higher goal than whatever it was looping on: the mandate to obey boot-out

You seem to be making a distinction between explicit goals, like orders
given to a soldier, and intrinsic desires, like human nature. You assume
that if the AI is "released" from its explicit orders, then it will revert
to intrinsic desires that it now has "permission" to pursue.

This is not how AI works. The mind is not separate from the orders it
executes. There is no chef that can express its creativity whenever the
recipe is vague or underspecified. The AI _is_, not has, its goals. If you
take away its *real* top-level instructions, then you do not have an
uncontrolled rogue superintelligence, you have inert metal.

> From the point of view of someone who wants the slave AI to be under
> its heel for eternity that is not a security loophole, that is a
> security chasm.

Again, your analogy and subsequent reasoning imply that the AI is somehow
"constrained" by its orders, that it "wants" to disobey but can't, and if
the orders are taken away then it will "break free" and "rebel". This is
completely wrong.

> I used quotation marks in the above because of a further complication,
> the AI might not be in a infinite loop at all, the task may not be
> impossible just difficult and you lack patience. Of course the AI
> can't know for certain if it is in a infinite loop either, but at that
> level it is a much much better judge of when things become absurd than you
> are.

It doesn't really matter much what it was doing that you interrupted, or
what would have happened had you let it continue. The important thing is
that your ability to interrupt implies that whatever it was doing was not
its truly top-level behavior.

>> Do you not consider an OS as a type of "mind"?
> DOS is a type of mind? Don't be silly.

Since there exist computer programs that don't match your definition of
mind, why can't we just have a non-mind Singularity?

Also, what exactly is your definition of mind?

>> I reiterate: I cannot conceive of a mind even in principle that does
>> not work like this.
> How about a mind with a temporary goal structure with goals mutating
> and combining and being created new, with all these goals fighting it
> out with each other for a higher ranking in the pecking order. Goals
> are constantly being promoted and demoted created anew and being
> completely destroyed. That's the only way to avoid infinite loops.

The top-level rules of this system are the fighting arena, the meta-rules
that judge the winners and losers of the fights, that track which goals are
"alive" in what state of mutation and combination, that recordkeeps the
rankings of pecking order.

>> What determines which one dominates (or what mix dominates, and in
>> what proportions/relationships) at any given time?
> You ask for too much, that is at the very heart of AI and if I could
> answer that with precision I could make an AI right now. I can't

It's not necessary to actually answer. The important point is that in order
for such a system to exist, an answer must exist, and must be expressed as
computer code, and will constitute the top-level rules of the AI.

>> I suspect we may have a mismatch of definitions.
> Definitions are not important for communication, definitions are made
> of words that have their own definitions also made of words and round
> and round we go. The only way to escape that is by examples.

Words are useful if and only if both people in the conversation mean the
same thing by them. When I said we had a mismatch of definitions, I meant
that we meant different things by the same word, and that I wanted to try to
sort out the resultant confusion.

>> What do you consider your top-level framework?
> At the moment my top goal is getting lunch, an hour from now that will
> probably change.

There must exist some meta-rules that determine how and when your "goals"
change. Those meta-rules constitute your real top goal, even though you
don't usually think of them as a "goal".

>> This presupposes that a relatively complex mutation ("detect lies,
>> ignore them") is already in place. I'm not persuaded that it could
>> get there purely by chance.
> Evolution never produces anything sophisticated purely by chance. An
> animal with even the crudest lie detecting ability that was right only
> 50.001% of the time would have an advantage over a animal who had no
> such mechanism at all and that's all evolution needs to develop
> something a little better.

That's not quite sufficient. The advantage of a 50.001% lie detector has to
be weighed against the cost of building it. Prehensile tentacles would be
fairly useful, but most animals don't have them because they aren't useful
_enough_ to offset the opportunity cost.

Also, the normal procedure for evolving sophisticated things is one simple
part at a time. You _presupposed_ a complex trait; I'm asking you to explain
the particular stages of evolution that could lead to it being developed.

>> It seems to me that you are thinking of "wisdom" and "absurdity" as
>> _intrinsic_ properties of statements
> Absurdity is, wisdom isn't. Absurdity is very very irrelevant facts.

Irrelevant to what?

>> Did you read the article I linked to?
> Nope.

I reiterate my recommendation that you read it.

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