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What does (and doesn’t)
AI mean for effective
altruism?
Owen Cotton-Barratt
12th August 2017
Background ideas
 (moral) The long-term future is crucial
Background ideas
 (moral) The long-term future is crucial
 (empirical) AI could be radically transformative
Background ideas
 (moral) The long-term future is crucial
 (empirical) AI could be radically transformative
 (empirical) Influencing AI is a major lever
Background ideas
 (moral) The long-term future is crucial
 (empirical) AI could be radically transformative
 (empirical) Influencing AI is a major lever
 (empirical) Short timelines are plausible
Background ideas
Background ideas assumptions
Background ideas assumptions
Background ideas assumptions
AI timelines
AI timelines
 Predicting technology is hard
AI timelines
 Predicting technology is hard
 We should have broad distributions
Graph from
Grace et al. (2017)
Timeline scenarios
Imminent: ~5 years This generation: ~15 years
Next generation: ~40 years Distant: ~100 years
Imminent: ~5 years
 Key actors maybe
known
Imminent: ~5 years
 Key actors maybe
known
 No time for long
processes
This generation: ~15 years
 Building careers
This generation: ~15 years
 Building careers
 Building academic
fields
Next generation: ~40 years
 People retire,
paradigms shift
Next generation: ~40 years
 People retire,
paradigms shift
 Correct > fast
Distant: ~100 years
 Predictability low
Distant: ~100 years
 Predictability low
 Build broad
institutions
Distant: ~100 years
 Predictability low
 Build broad
institutions
 Other transformative
technologies matter
What should we focus on? Strategies
What should we focus on? Strategies
 Don’t take views
What should we focus on? Strategies
 Don’t take views
 May miss best
actions
What should we focus on? Strategies
 Don’t take views
 May miss best
actions
 Most likely
Probability
What should we focus on? Strategies
 Don’t take views
 May miss best
actions
 Most likely
 Ignores leverage
Probability
Leverage
What should we focus on? Strategies
 Don’t take views
 May miss best
actions
 Most likely
 Ignores leverage
 Highest
likelihood*leverage
Probability
Leverage
What should we focus on? Strategies
 Don’t take views
 May miss best
actions
 Most likely
 Ignores leverage
 Highest
likelihood*leverage
 Leverage varies
Probability
Leverage
What should we focus on? Strategies
 Don’t take views
 May miss best
actions
 Most likely
 Ignores leverage
 Highest
likelihood*leverage
 Leverage varies
 Think about portfolio?
Probability
Leverage
Portfolio approach
 Collectively discuss:
 Probabilities, leverages, diminishing returns
 Ideal portfolio
Portfolio approach
 Collectively discuss:
 Probabilities, leverages, diminishing returns
 Ideal portfolio
 Individually consider:
 Deviations from portfolio
 Comparative advantage
Comparative advantage
Comparative advantage
Comparative advantage
Comparative advantage
Comparative advantage at different levels
Comparative advantage at different levels
Comparative advantage at different levels
Comparative advantage at different levels
Thoughts on portfolio approach
 Most projects should have a main scenario in
mind
Thoughts on portfolio approach
 Most projects should have a main scenario in
mind
 Be careful about things that are bad for other
scenarios
Importance of community epistemics
Importance of community epistemics
Institutions for aggregating knowledge
Institutions for aggregating knowledge
Good local norms
Good local norms
Communicate reasons for beliefs
What should individual EAs do about AI?
 Consider assumptions
What should individual EAs do about AI?
 Consider assumptions
 Consider personal comparative advantage
What should individual EAs do about AI?
 Consider assumptions
 Consider personal comparative advantage
 Help promote good community epistemics

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What Does (and Doesn't) AI Mean for Effective Altruism?