I used to think pretty much exactly the argument you’re describing, so I don’t think I will change my mind by discussing this with you in detail.
On the other hand, the last sentence of your comment makes me feel that you’re equating my not agreeing with you with my not understanding probability. (I’m talking about my own feelings here, irrespective of what you intended to say.) So, I don’t think I will change your mind by discussing this with you in detail.
I don’t feel motivated to go back and forth on this thread, because I think we will both end up feeling like it was a waste of time. I want to make it clear that I do not say this because I think badly of you.
I will try to clear up the bits you pointed out to be confusing. In the Language section, I am referring to MIRI’s writing, as well as Bostrom’s Superintelligence, as well as most IRL conversations and forum talk I’ve seen. “bits” are an abstraction akin to “log-odds”, I made them up because not every statement in that post is a probabilistic claim in a rigorous sense and the blog post was mostly written for myself. I really do estimate that there is less than 2−170 chance of AI being risky in a way that would lead to extinction, whose risk can be prevented, and moreover that it is possible to make meaningful progress on such prevention within the next 20 years, along with some more qualifiers that I believe to be necessary to support the cause right now.
Thank you for your response and helpful feedback.
I’m not making any predictions about future cars in the language section. “Self-driving cars” and “pre-driven cars” are the exact same things. I think I’m grasping at a point closer to Clarke’s third law, which also doesn’t give any obvious falsifiable predictions. My only prediction is that thinking about “self-driving cars” leads to more wrong predictions than thinking about “pre-driven cars”.
I changed the sentence you mention to “If you want to understand present-day algorithms, the “pre-driven car” model of thinking works a lot better than the “self-driving car” model of thinking. The present and past are the only tools we have to think about the future, so I expect the “pre-driven car” model to make more accurate predictions.” I hope this is clearer.
Your remark on “English that’s precise enough to translate into code” is close, but not exactly what I meant. I think that it is a hopeless endeavour to aim for such precise language in these discussions at this point in time, because I estimate that it would take a ludicrous amount of additional intellectual labour to reach that level of rigour. It’s too high of a target. I think the correct target is summarised in the first sentence: “All sentences are wrong, but some are useful.”
I think that I literally disagree with every sentence in your last paragraph on multiple levels. I’ve read both pages you linked a couple months ago and I didn’t find them at all convincing. I’m sorry to give such a useless response to this part of your message. Mounting a proper answer would take more time and effort than I have to spare in the foreseeable future. I might post some scraps of arguments on my blog soonish, but those posts won’t be well-written and I don’t expect anyone to really read those.
My troubles with this method are two-fold.
1. SHA256 is a hashing-algorithm. Its security is well-vetted for certain kinds of applications and certain kinds of attacks, but “randomly distribute the first 10 hex-digits” is not one of those applications. The post does not include so much as a graph of the distribution of what the past drawing results would have been with this method, so CEA hasn’t really justified why the result would be uniformly distributed.
2. The least-significant digits in the IRIS data are probably fungible by adversaries. It is hard to check them, and IRIS has no reason to secure their data pipeline against attacks that might cost tens of thousands of dollars, because there are normally no stakes whatsoever attached to those bits.
Random.org is exactly in the business that we’re looking for, so they’d be a good option for their own institutional guarantee. Otherwise, any big lottery in any country will work as a source of randomness: the prizes there are bigger, which means that, even if these lotteries could be corrupted, nobody would waste that ability on rigging the donor lottery.
I’d like to see some justification for using this approach over the myriad of more responsible ways of generating random draws.