This post is not a detailed strategic plan. For now, I just want to provide an update on what MIRI is doing in 2013 and why.
Our mission remains the same. The creation of smarter-than-human intelligence will likely be the most significant event in human history, and MIRI exists to help ensure that this event has a positive impact.
Still, much has changed in the past year:
It’s this last pair of changes I’d like to explain in more detail below.
You can get it here. It is available as a “pay-what-you-want” package that includes the ebook in three formats: MOBI, EPUB, and PDF.
All sources are DRM-free. Grab a copy, share it with your friends, and review it on Amazon or the iBookstore.
Can Lean Startup methods work for nonprofits?
The Lean Startup‘s author Eric Ries seems to think so:
A startup is a human institution designed to create a new product or service under conditions of extreme uncertainty… Anyone who is creating a new product or business under conditions of extreme uncertainty is an entrepreneur whether he or she knows it or not, and whether working in a government agency, a venture-backed company, a nonprofit, or a decidedly for-profit company with financial investors.
In the past year, I helped launch one new nonprofit (Center for Applied Rationality), I massively overhauled one older nonprofit (MIRI), and I consulted with many nonprofit CEOs and directors. Now I’d like to share some initial thoughts on the idea of a “Lean Nonprofit.”
Update: See Reflection in Probabilistic Logic for more details on how this result relates to MIRI’s research mission.
In a recent blog post we described one of the results of our 1st MIRI Workshop on Logic, Probability, and Reflection:
The participants worked on the foundations of probabilistic reflective reasoning. In particular, they showed that a careful formalization of probabilistic logic can circumvent many classical paradoxes of self-reference. Applied to metamathematics, this framework provides (what seems to be) the first definition of truth which is expressive enough for use in reflective reasoning.
In short, the result described is a “loophole” in Tarski’s undefinability theorem (1936).
An early draft of the paper describing this result is now available: download it here. Its authors are Paul Christiano (UC Berkeley), Eliezer Yudkowsky (MIRI), Marcello Herreshoff (Google), and Mihaly Barasz (Google). An excerpt from the paper is included below:
Unfortunately, it is impossible for any expressive language to contain its own truth predicate True…
There are a few standard responses to this challenge.
The first and most popular is to work with meta-languages…
A second approach is to accept that some sentences, such as the liar sentence G, are neither true nor false…
Although this construction successfully dodges the “undefinability of truth” it is somewhat unsatisfying. There is no predicate in these languages to test if a sentence… is undefined, and there is no bound on the number of sentences which remain undefined. In fact, if we are specifically concerned with self-reference, then a great number of properties of interest (and not just pathological counterexamples) become undefined.
In this paper we show that it is possible to perform a similar construction over probabilistic logic. Though a language cannot contain its own truth predicate True, it can nevertheless contain its own “subjective probability” function P. The assigned probabilities can be reflectively consistent in the sense of an appropriate analog of the reflection property 1. In practice, most meaningful assertions must already be treated probabilistically, and very little is lost by allowing some sentences to have probabilities intermediate between 0 and 1.
Another paper showing an application of this result to set theory is forthcoming.