Wednesday, March 15, 2023

The Calm Before the Storm

This week, OpenAI released GPT 4. This large language model boasts impressive achievements over GPT 3.5, and it seems the rapid advancements in large language models shows no signs of slowing down. Compute seems to be the main constraint towards making these models more intelligent, a constraint that is unlikely to be a real roadblock going forward. AI is constantly in the media, and Chat GPT is clearly the most interesting technology of the past twenty years. This technology poses massive potential benefits and massive potential harms. Everyone is talking about AI, and everyone seems to be using it. Still, compared to what is about to come, things are surprisingly calm. The world is about to change exponentially. We are not ready.

As of this time in March 2023, there are only around 300 AI alignment researchers. The population of the earth is 7,888,000,000. That means 0.000003803% of the planet is working on potentially the most important issue facing the remaining 99.999996197%. Out of everyone, 100% of people do not fundamentally understand how the most powerful neural nets work. There are three AI labs making progress on AGI (OpenAI, Anthropic, and Deepmind), and until last week only one had a published safety plan. There are only a couple of AI safety research companies, each extremely small and capacity constrained. Every company involved in AI, at the current moment, will admit that the problem of aligning AGI with human values is completely unsolved. Calling the future an “ethical minefield” is a massive understatement. AI drastically increases the risk of other existential threats (nuclear war, chemically engineered pandemics, black swan risk), and yet society is only thinking in terms of job replacement and training data bias.

At this point, we are floating in the open sea, simply feeling the ripples in the water around us. We are fearful that waves are approaching, fearful that our peace will be disturbed and that we will have to start swimming. Meanwhile, a tsunami approaches.

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