August Newsletter: New Research and Expert Interviews

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Greetings from the Executive Director

Dear friends,

My personal thanks to everyone who has contributed to our ongoing fundraiser. We are 74% of the way to our goal!

I’ve been glad to hear from many of you that you’re thrilled with the progress we’ve made in the past two years — progress both as an organization and as a research institute. I’m thrilled, too! And to see a snapshot of where MIRI is headed, take a look at the participant lineup for our upcoming December workshop. Some top-notch folks there, including John Baez.

We’re also preparing for the anticipated media interest in James Barrat’s forthcoming book, Our Final Invention: Artificial Intelligence and the End of the Human Era. The book reads like a detective novel, and discusses our research extensively. Our Final Invention will be released on October 1st by a division of St. Martin’s Press, one of the largest publishers in the world.

If you’re happy with the direction we’re headed in, and you haven’t contributed to our fundraiser yet, please donate now to show your support. Even small donations can make a difference. This newsletter is ~9,860 subscribers strong, and ~200 of you have contributed during the current fundraiser. If just 21% of the other 9,660 subscribers give $25 as soon as they finish reading this sentence, then we’ll meet our goal will those funds alone!

Thank you,

Luke Muehlhauser

Executive Director

Summer Fundraiser Ends August 15th!

With only a few days left, we’ve raised 74% of our goal for our summer matching challenge. Many thanks to everyone who has contributed!

Donate on or before August 15th to double your donation and help us reach our goal of $200,000 raised ($400,000 with matching).

If we’re able to reach our goal, then not only will we be able to continue to run research workshops and our other programs, but we might also be in a position later this year to hire our first new full-time mathematical researcher to work with Eliezer Yudkowsky on open problems in Friendly AI theory (e.g. the Löbian obstacle). We can’t promise we’ll decide that hiring a new FAI researcher is the optimal use of those funds at that time, but it is a serious option we’re discussing internally. Our research workshops have been an excellent tool for evaluating potential hires.

Feel free to contact Luke Muehlhauser ( directly for more details on how marginal funds will be used at MIRI, especially if you are considering a major gift ($5,000 or more).

Algorithmic Progress in Six Domains

MIRI has released a new technical report by Katja Grace: “Algorithmic Progress in Six Domains.”

The report summarizes data on algorithmic progress – that is, better performance per fixed amount of computing hardware – in six domains:

  • SAT solvers,
  • Chess and Go programs,
  • Physics simulations,
  • Factoring,
  • Mixed integer programming, and
  • Some forms of machine learning.

MIRI’s purpose for collecting these data was to shed light on the question of intelligence explosion microeconomics, though we suspect the report will be of broad interest within the software industry and computer science academia.

4 New Interviews; 2 New Analyses

Our blog was especially active this past month, with 4 new expert interviews and 2 new analyses.

New analyses:

  • What is AGI? A quick explanation of the concept of artificial general intelligence, and a selection of operational definitions that allow us to be even more specific about what we mean by “AGI.”
  • AI Risk and the Security Mindset: “A recurring problem in much of the literature on ‘machine ethics’ or ‘AGI ethics’ or ‘AGI safety’ is that researchers and commenters often appear to be asking the question ‘How will this solution work?’ rather than ‘How will this solution fail?'”

New expert interviews:

Burning Man Camp for Effective Altruists

The effective altruism movement (GiveWell, 80,000 Hours, etc.) is one of MIRI’s intellectual communities. If you’re going to Burning Man this year (Aug. 26 – Sep. 2) and would like to camp with many of MIRI’s closest friends (including e.g. Anna Salamon of CFAR), then you may want to consider applying to the Burning Man theme camp for effective altruists, called Paradigm.

Paradigm has an excellent location on 6:30 and A, near Center Camp. Its organizer is Nevin Freeman ( Paradigm will build a large dome called the Temple of Skeptical Consequentialism, which will host talks about effective altruism and rationality. Additional details, maps, and photos are here.

Spots are limited and many are already taken, so if you’re interested, apply ASAP!

Job Openings at Giving What We Can and 80,000 Hours

Our friends at 80,000 Hours (80k) and Giving What We Can (GWWC) — two Oxford, UK organizations in the effective altruism movement — are hiring.

GWWC is hiring a Director of Communications, a Director of Community, and a Director of Research. Under “Why You Should Apply,” they give these reasons:

  • ImpactA lot of charities will tell you that you can make a difference. Here we actually calculate that difference and we are driven by improving the measurable results of this organisation.
  • InspirationOffices don’t come much more intellectually stimulating than ours. Based in offices shared with the Future of Humanity Institute at Oxford University, you’ll be part of a team that dedicates itself to understanding how we can do the most good – and actually delivering on those ideas.
  • Personal developmentAll three positions offer fantastic personal development opportunities. We’re looking for talent as well as experience – and you’ll have opportunities to learn on the job, supported by a community dedicated to boosting their personal effectiveness.
80k is hiring a Careers Analyst, a Director of Fundraising, and a Finance Manager. See their (longer) pitch for why you should apply here.

Featured Volunteer – Bikramjeet Singh

Bikramjeet Singh is a 24 year old volunteer from India who first found out about MIRI’s work when he was 16 – almost 8 years ago! He became acquainted with our deputy director Louie Helm 2 years later. After doing some work with promoting MIRI and volunteer searching, he was introduced to Michael Anissimov and became his personal media assistant. He remained in that position until February 2012, and joined the system in December 2012. His motivation for volunteering for MIRI stems from his interest in existential risk reduction and his judgment that FAI is the best way to solve that problem. Bikramjeet’s dream job is to be an AI researcher and a science fiction author.

Thanks for all your help Bikramjeet!