MIRI 2024 Communications Strategy

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As we explained in our MIRI 2024 Mission and Strategy update, MIRI has pivoted to prioritize policy, communications, and technical governance research over technical alignment research. This follow-up post goes into detail about our communications strategy.

The Objective: Shut it Down1

Our objective is to convince major powers to shut down the development of frontier AI systems worldwide before it is too late. We believe that nothing less than this will prevent future misaligned smarter-than-human AI systems from destroying humanity. Persuading governments worldwide to take sufficiently drastic action will not be easy, but we believe this is the most viable path.

Policymakers deal mostly in compromise: they form coalitions by giving a little here to gain a little somewhere else. We are concerned that most legislation intended to keep humanity alive will go through the usual political processes and be ground down into ineffective compromises.

The only way we think we will get strong enough legislation is if policymakers actually get it, if they actually come to understand that building misaligned smarter-than-human systems will kill everyone, including their children. They will pass strong enough laws and enforce them if and only if they come to understand this central truth.

Meanwhile, the clock is ticking. AI labs continue to invest in developing and training more powerful systems. We do not seem to be close to getting the sweeping legislation we need. So while we lay the groundwork for helping humanity to wake up, we also have a less dramatic request. We ask that governments and AI labs install the “off-switch”2 so that if, on some future day, they decide to shut it all down, they will be able to do so.

We want humanity to wake up and take AI x-risk seriously. We do not want to shift the Overton window, we want to shatter it.

Theory of Change

Now I’ll get into the details of how we’ll go about achieving our objective, and why we believe this is the way to do it. The facets I’ll consider are:

  • Audience: To whom are we speaking?
  • Message and tone: How do we sound when we speak?
  • Channels: How do we reach our audience?
  • Artifacts: What, concretely, are we planning to produce?


The main audience we want to reach is policymakers—the people in a position to enact the sweeping regulation and policy we want—and their staff.

However, narrowly targeting policymakers is expensive and probably insufficient. Some of them lack the background to be able to verify or even reason deeply about our claims. We must also reach at least some of the people policymakers turn to for advice. We are hopeful about reaching a subset of policy advisors who have the skill of thinking clearly and carefully about risk, particularly those with experience in national security. While we would love to reach the broader class of bureaucratically-legible “AI experts,” we don’t expect to convince a supermajority of that class, nor do we think this is a requirement.

We also need to reach the general public. Policymakers, especially elected ones, want to please their constituents, and the more the general public calls for regulation, the more likely that regulation becomes. Even if the specific measures we want are not universally popular, we think it helps a lot to have them in play, in the Overton window.

Most of the content we produce for these three audiences will be fairly basic, 101-level material. However, we don’t want to abandon our efforts to reach deeply technical people as well. They are our biggest advocates, most deeply persuaded, most likely to convince others, and least likely to be swayed by charismatic campaigns in the opposite direction. And more importantly, discussions with very technical audiences are important for putting ourselves on trial. We want to be held to a high standard and only technical audiences can do that.

Message and Tone

Since I joined MIRI as the Communications Manager a year ago, several people have told me we should be more diplomatic and less bold. The way you accomplish political goals, they said, is to play the game. You can’t be too out there, you have to stay well within the Overton window, you have to be pragmatic. You need to hoard status and credibility points, and you shouldn’t spend any on being weird.

While I believe those people were kind and had good intentions, we’re not following their advice. Many other organizations are taking that approach. We’re doing something different. We are simply telling the truth as we know it.

We do this for three reasons.

  1. Many other organizations are attempting the coalition-building, horse-trading, pragmatic approach. In private, many of the people who work at those organizations agree with us, but in public, they say the watered-down version of the message. We think there is a void at the candid end of the communication spectrum that we are well positioned to fill.
  2. We think audiences are numb to politics as usual. They know when they’re being manipulated. We have opted out of the political theater, the kayfabe, with all its posing and posturing. We are direct and blunt and honest, and we come across as exactly what we are.
  3. Probably most importantly, we believe that “pragmatic” political speech won’t get the job done. The political measures we’re asking for are a big deal; nothing but the full unvarnished message will motivate the action that is required.

These people who offer me advice often assume that we are rubes, country bumpkins coming to the big city for the first time, simply unaware of how the game is played, needing basic media training and tutoring. They may be surprised to learn that we arrived at our message and tone thoughtfully, having considered all the options. We communicate the way we do intentionally because we think it has the best chance of real success. We understand that we may be discounted or uninvited in the short term, but meanwhile our reputation as straight shooters with a clear and uncomplicated agenda remains intact. We also acknowledge that we are relatively new to the world of communications and policy, we’re not perfect, and it is very likely that we are making some mistakes or miscalculations; we’ll continue to pay attention and update our strategy as we learn.


So far, we’ve experimented with op-eds, podcasts, and interviews with newspapers, magazines, and radio journalists. It’s hard to measure the effectiveness of these various channels, so we’re taking a wide-spectrum approach. We’re continuing to pursue all of these, and we’d like to expand into books, videos, and possibly film.

We also think in terms of two kinds of content: stable, durable, proactive content – called “rock” content – and live, reactive content that is responsive to current events – called “wave” content. Rock content includes our website, blog articles, books, and any artifact we make that we expect to remain useful for multiple years. Wave content, by contrast, is ephemeral, it follows the 24-hour news cycle, and lives mostly in social media and news.

We envision a cycle in which someone unfamiliar with AI x-risk might hear about us for the first time on a talk show or on social media – wave content – become interested in our message, and look us up to learn more. They might find our website or a book we wrote – rock content – and become more informed and concerned. Then they might choose to follow us on social media or subscribe to our newsletter – wave content again – so they regularly see reminders of our message in their feeds, and so on.


A diagram of rock content feeding into wave, and wave into rock.


These are pretty standard communications tactics in the modern era. However, mapping out this cycle allows us to identify where we may be losing people, where we need to get stronger, where we need to build out more infrastructure or capacity.


What we find, when we map out that cycle, is that we have a lot of work to do almost everywhere, but that we should probably start with our rock content. That’s the foundation, the bedrock, the place where investment pays off the most over time.

And as such, we are currently exploring several communications projects in this area, including:

  • a new MIRI website, aimed primarily at making the basic case for AI x-risk to newcomers to the topic, while also establishing MIRI’s credibility
  • a short, powerful book for general audiences
  • a detailed online reference exploring the nuance and complexity that we will need to refrain from including in the popular science book

We have a lot more ideas than that, but we’re still deciding which ones we’ll invest in.

What We’re Not Doing

Focus helps with execution; it is also important to say what the comms team is not going to invest in.

We are not investing in grass-roots advocacy, protests, demonstrations, and so on. We don’t think it plays to our strengths, and we are encouraged that others are making progress in this area. Some of us as individuals do participate in protests.

We are not currently focused on building demos of frightening AI system capabilities. Again, this work does not play to our current strengths, and we see others working on this important area. We think the capabilities that concern us the most can’t really be shown in a demo; by the time they can, it will be too late. However, we appreciate and support the efforts of others to demonstrate intermediate or precursor capabilities.

We are not particularly investing in increasing Eliezer’s personal influence, fame, or reach; quite the opposite. We already find ourselves bottlenecked on his time, energy, and endurance. His profile will probably continue to grow as the public pays more and more attention to AI; a rising tide lifts all boats. However, we would like to diversify the public face of MIRI and potentially invest heavily in a spokesperson who is not Eliezer, if we can identify the right candidate.


The main thing holding us back from realizing this vision is staffing. The communications team is small, and there simply aren’t enough hours in the week to make progress on everything. As such, we’ve been hiring, and we intend to hire more.


A diagram of the org chart of MIRI comms.


We hope to hire more writers and we may promote someone into a Managing Editor position. We are exploring the idea of hiring or partnering with additional spokespeople, as well as hiring an additional generalist to run projects and someone to specialize in social media and multimedia.

Hiring for these roles is hard because we are looking for people who have top-tier communications skills, know how to restrict themselves to valid arguments, and are aligned with MIRI’s perspective. It’s much easier to find candidates with one or two of those qualities than to find people in the intersection. For these first few key hires we felt it was important to check all the boxes. We hope that once the team is bigger, it may be possible to hire people who write compelling, valid prose and train them on MIRI’s perspective. Our current sense is that it’s easier to explain AI x-risk to a competent, valid writer than it is to explain great writing to someone who already shares our perspective.

How to Help

The best way you can help is to normalize the subject of AI x-risk. We think many people who have been in the know about AI x-risk have largely kept silent about it over the years, or only talked to other insiders. If this describes you, we’re asking you to reconsider this policy, and try again (or for the first time) to talk to your friends and family about this topic. Find out what their questions are, where they get stuck, and try to help them through those stuck places.

As MIRI produces more 101-level content on this topic, share that content with your network. Tell us how it performs. Tell us if it actually helps, or where it falls short. Let us know what you wish we would produce next. (We’re especially interested in stories of what actually happened, not just considerations of what might happen, when people encounter our content.)

Going beyond networking, please vote with AI x-risk considerations in mind.

If you are one of those people who has great communication skills and also really understands x-risk, come and work for us! Or share our job listings with people you know who might fit.

Subscribe to our newsletter. There’s a subscription form on our Get Involved page.

And finally, later this year we’ll be fundraising for the first time in five years, and we always appreciate your donations.

Thank you for reading and we look forward to your feedback.

  1. We remain committed to the idea that failing to build smarter-than-human systems someday would be tragic and would squander a great deal of potential. We want humanity to build those systems, but only once we know how to do so safely.
  2. By “off-switch” we mean that we would like labs and governments to plan ahead, to implement international AI compute governance frameworks and controls sufficient for halting the development of any dangerous AI development activity, and streamlined functional processes for doing so.

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