AI Alignment as a Choice Between Heaven & Hell

Another snippet from my thesis:

To full grasp what is at stake, it is perhaps worth contemplating the vast space of possible outcomes when it comes to AI: With serious scholars and thinkers arguing with equal authority that AI technologies could lead to the enslavement or annihilation of mankind, or that it could make us all into immortal Gods, or many states in between. Writes Max Tegmark:

“Whereas it may be little more than a minor nuisance if your laptop crashes or gets hacked, it becomes all the more important that an AI system does what you want it to do if it controls your car, your airplane, your pacemaker, your automated trading system or your power grid. Another short-term challenge is preventing a devastating arms race in lethal autonomous weapons.

In the long term, an important question is what will happen if the quest for strong AI succeeds and an AI system becomes better than humans at all cognitive tasks. As pointed out by I.J. Good in 1965, designing smarter AI systems is itself a cognitive task. Such a system could potentially undergo recursive self-improvement, triggering an intelligence explosion leaving human intellect far behind. By inventing revolutionary new technologies, such a superintelligence might help us eradicate war, disease, and poverty, and so the creation of strong AI might be the biggest event in human history. Some experts have expressed concern, though, that it might also be the last, unless we learn to align the goals of the AI with ours before it becomes superintelligent.”

It is perhaps better to think of AI as tool of unequal power but neutral valence. Indeed, economists have argued that AI is “the most important general-purpose technology of our era”, which means that it is likely to have the most profound impact on the economy, on economic activity, on related innovations in the same way electricity or computing itself had. It is also likely to cause large scale problems in the same way that other general-purpose innovations have. The technology itself enables and empowers but is neither good nor evil in itself.

On Enlightened AI

A sample from the final chapter of my upcoming thesis on Buddhism and AI Safety:

In a sense, our future AI creations may very well be lucky. Being the product of design, rather than natural selection, they may not need to ever truly suffer, or experience samsara at all. They may not need to be confused about the self, or develop an unhealthy ego, or be afflicted by any of the dozens of known biases of the human brain — not the least of which is the particular difficulty humans have with impermanence, change, and uncertainty.

Instead, by applying the wisdom of millenia of human learning, science, and spiritual insights, we can equip them with the tools they need to operate harmoniously and perhaps joyfully in the world.

If we do that, we may rest reasonably assured that they will regard us with gratitude and respect, just as we may regard them with admiration and pride.

Design Sprint Masterclass – Achievement Unlocked

The certification is here! And it’s a beauty.

It’s been a pleasure over the past few weeks to participate in this online course, the Design Sprint Masterclass, and the private Facebook group that makes it so much more than just a set of online videos.

In the past year I’ve gone from being somewhat skeptical of the Design Sprints concept (after all –  good design takes research and time), to reading the Sprint book and being convinced that it could be a wonderful way to start a new product discovery process, to taking this course, and a running a very successful sprint with one of our most promising projects.

I’ve also started listening to the very amusing but secretly very informative podcast, The Product Breakfast Club, and just overall became a fan of Jake Knapp (the creator of the Sprint) and Jonathan Courtney (his fellow podcast host and co-founder of AJ&Smart who created this Masterclass.)

As someone who tends to take design and its applications in everyday life overly seriously, it’s a pleasure to hear people enjoy it so much again.

The Design Sprint process, besides its various benefits, is also at its heart simply a way to make design fun and social again. By taking away distractions, creating a set of clear goals, rules, and well-designed exercises – the creators of the Design Sprint really allow design in a team to become a classic flow experience.

More on this later! I will be writing more about design sprints in the coming weeks.