Interested in AI safety talent search and development.
Interesting. Are there any examples of what we might consider a relatively small policy changes that received huge amounts of coverage? Like for something people normally wouldn’t care about. Maybe these would be informative to look at compared to more hot button issues like abortion that tend to get a lot of coverage. I’m also curious if any big issues somehow got less attention than expected and how this looks for pass/fail margins compared to other states where they got more attention. There are probably some ways to estimate this that are better than others.
I was interpreting it as “a referendum increases the likelihood of the policy existing later.” My question is about the assumptions that lead to this view and the idea that it might be more effective to run a campaign for a policy ballot initiative once and never again. Is this estimate of the referendum effect only for the exact same policy (maybe an education tax but the percent is slightly higher or lower) or similar policies (a fee or a subsidy or voucher or something even more different)? How similar do they have to be? What is the most different policy that existed later that you think would still count?
“Something relevant to EAs that I don’t focus on in the paper is how to think about the effect of campaigning for a policy given that I focus on the effect of passing one conditional on its being proposed. It turns out there’s a method (Cellini et al. 2010) for backing this out if we assume that the effect of passing a referendum on whether the policy is in place later is the same on your first try is the same as on your Nth try. Using this method yields an estimate of the effect of running a successful campaign on later policy of around 60% (Appendix Figure D20).
I’d be curious to hear about potential plans to address any of these, especially talent development and developing the pipeline of AI safety and governance.
Very interesting. 1. Did you notice an effect of how large/ambitious the ballot initiative was? I remember previous research suggesting consecutive piecemeal initiatives were more successful at creating larger change than singular large ballot initiatives. 2. Do you know how much the results vary by state?3. How different do ballot initiatives need to be for the huge first advocacy effect to take place? Does this work as long as the policies are not identical or is it more of a cause specific function or something in between? Does it have a smooth gradient or is it discontinuous after some tipping point?
This is an inspiring amount of research. I really appreciate it and am enjoying reading it.
That’s a good point. Although 1) if people leave a company to go to one that prioritizes AI safety, then this means there are fewer workers at all the other companies who feel as strongly. So a union is less likely to improve safety there. 2) It’s common for workers to take action to improve safety conditions for them, and much less common for them to take action on issues that don’t directly affect their work, such as air pollution or carbon pollution, and 3) if safety inclined people become tagged as wanting to just generally slow down the company, then hiring teams will likely start filtering out many of the most safety minded people.
I’ve thought about this before and talked to a couple people in labs about it. I’m pretty uncertain if it would actually be positive. It seems possible that most ML researchers and engineers might want AI development to go as quickly or more than leadership if they’re excited about working on cutting edge technologies or changing the world or for equity reasons. I remember some articles about how people left Google for companies like OpenAI because they thought Google was too slow, cautious, and lost its “move fast and break things” ethos.
Really appreciate this post. Recently I’ve felt less certain about whether slowing down AI is feasible or helpful in the near future. I think how productive current alignment and related research is at the moment is a key crux for me. If it’s actually quite valuable at the moment, maybe having more time would seem better. It does seem easier to centralize now when there are fewer labs and entrenched ways of doing things, though it’s possible that exponentially rising costs could lead to centralization through market dynamics anyway. Though maybe that would be short lived and some breakthrough after would change the cost of training dramatically.
Yes, it seems difficult to pin those down. Looking forward to the deeper report!
I really want to see more discussion about this. There’s serious effort put in. I’ve often felt that nuclear is perhaps overlooked/underemphasized even within EA.
This one actually made me laugh out loud.
Nice, yeah they did mention these. Good to have the links.
There’s a sister org working on it About Depression—StrongMinds America
Actually, they are the same type of error. EA prides itself on using evidence and reason rather than taking the assessments of others at face value. So the idea that others did not sufficiently rely on experts who could obtain better evidence and reasoning to vet FTX is less compelling to me as an after-the-fact explanation to justify EA as a whole not doing so. I think probably just no one really thought much about the possibility and looking for this kind of social proof helps us feel less bad.
Yeah, I do sometimes wonder if perhaps there’s a reason we find it difficult to resolve this kind of inquiry. Yes, I think they’re generally pretty wary of saying much exactly since it’s sort of beyond conceptual comprehension. Something probably beyond our ideas of existence and nonexistence. Glad to hear that! You’re welcome :)
On Flynn Campaign: I don’t know if it’s “a catastrophe” but I think it is maybe an example of overconfidence and naivete. As someone who has worked on campaigns and follows politics, I thought the campaign had a pretty low chance of success because of the fundamentals (and asked about it at the time) and that other races would have been better to donate to (either state house races to build the bench or congressional candidates with better odds like Maxwell Frost, a local activist who ran for the open seat previously held by Val Demings, listed pandemic prevention as a priority, and won. Then again, Maxwell raised a ton of money, more than all the other candidates combined, so maybe he didn’t need those funds as much as other candidates). Salinas was a popular, progressive, woman of color with local party support who already represented much of the district at the state level and helped draw the new one. So, it seemed pretty unlikely to me that she would lose to someone who had not lived in the state for years, did not have strong local connections, and had never run a campaign before, even with a massive money advantage. And from what I understand, the people in the district were oversaturated with ads to the point of many being annoyed. So I think of this as probably being an example where EAs would have benefitted from relying on more outside experts for which races to pick and how to run a campaign. There were a lot of congressional retirements this year, and there were probably better seats to try to win. Of course, nothing is going to guarantee a win though.On FTX: And it seems like if anyone had thought to ask to look at FTX’s balance sheets, things might have been different? At least, considering what a mess those balance sheets are (or whatever records make sense, I’m not a financial expert)? If FTX refused or if they shared something that didn’t make sense, maybe that would have been a warning sign. So that seems like another example of where more outside expertise could have maybe been beneficial and saved a lot of headaches. Individually, maybe no one has an incentive to vet FTX even if they get a grant from them. But if we care about the EA ecosystem as a whole, and hundreds of millions suddenly start pouring in from a new source, maybe someone with the relevant financial and accounting expertise should at least request to look at the balance sheets of the new megafunder, especially when it comes from an industry full of crashes and scams. I’m not sure if this would have changed things but the fact that it doesn’t seem to have happened means there are probably many other things that we are missing. Things that people with relevant expertise are more likely to see. And I know people have said “well look all these other VCs missed it, they never looked into it” but EA sort of prides itself on NOT just doing what everyone else does but using reason and evidence to be more effective. We could have had a process for investigating any new megafunder a bit more thoroughly, perhaps with the help of outside experts. Not just donating to the same charities or picking the same career paths or volunteering for the same organizations just because other people do but being effective. So why would we think this is a good reason for failing to attempt better due diligence with respect to movement finances? We can’t change the past, but surely we can change some things going forward.
I think the main obstacle is tractability: there doesn’t seem to be any known methodology that could be applied to resolve this question in a definitive way. And it’s not clear how we could even attempt to find such a method. Whereas projects related to areas such as preventing pandemics and making sure AI isn’t misused or poorly designed seem 1) incredibly important, 2) tractable—it looks like we’re making some progress and have and can find directions to make further progress (better PPE, pathogen screening, new vaccines, interpretability, agent foundations, chip regulation) and neglected right now and will matter for the next few decades at least unless the world changes dramatically. Also, it could be possible that there are “heaven” worlds and “hell” worlds that last an extremely long time, but not forever. Buddhist traditions are one group that tend to emphasize that all worldly places and experiences are impermanent, even extremely pleasant and unpleasant ones. “The kingdom of heaven is within you” comes to mind. I’ve always thought that was a very important verse. I imagine it may be talking about some kind of distinct and significant transformation that other religions might refer to by other names, such as awakening or enlightenment, that makes us durably and noticeably more peaceful and loving/kind toward others. These experiences are often described in a way that indicates the subjective experience of having a distinct, separate self diminishes or even disappears. It may not even make sense to think of heaven using our concepts of a ‘place,’ let alone one where what we perceive as a separate self would exist in.
Thank you—I had forgotten about that post and it was really helpful.
I’ve definitely seen well-meaning people mess up interactions without realizing it in my area (non-EA related). This seems like a really important point and your experience seems very relevant given all the recent talk about boards and governance. Would love to hear more of your thoughts either here or privately.