Richard Waters wrote a story on MIRI and others for Financial Times, which also put Nick Bostrom’s Superintelligence at the top of its summer science reading list.
It’s a good piece. Go read it and then come back here so I can make a few clarifications.
1. Smarter-than-human AI probably isn’t coming “soon.”
“Computers will soon become more intelligent than us,” the story begins, but few experts I know think this is likely.
A recent survey asked the world’s top-cited living AI scientists by what year they’d assign a 10% / 50% / 90% chance of human-level AI (aka AGI), assuming scientific progress isn’t massively disrupted. The median reply for a 10% chance of AGI was 2024, for a 50% chance of AGI it was 2050, and for a 90% chance of AGI it was 2070. So while AI scientists think it’s possible we might get AGI soon, they largely expect AGI to be an issue for the second half of this century.
Moreover, many of those who specialize in thinking about AGI safety actually think AGI is further away than the top-cited AI scientists do. For example, relative to the surveyed AI scientists, Nick Bostrom and I both think more probability should be placed on later years. We advocate more work on the AGI safety challenge today not because we think AGI is likely in the next decade or two, but because AGI safety looks to be an extremely difficult challenge — more challenging than managing climate change, for example — and one requiring several decades of careful preparation.
The greatest risks from both climate change and AI are several decades away, but thousands of smart researchers and policy-makers are already working to understand and mitigate climate change, and only a handful are working on the safety challenges of advanced AI. On the present margin, we should have much less top-flight cognitive talent going into climate change mitigation, and much more going into AGI safety research.
Read more »