In a review of Superintelligence, NYU computer scientist Ernest Davis voices disagreement with a number of claims he attributes to Nick Bostrom: that “intelligence is a potentially infinite quantity with a well-defined, one-dimensional value,” that a superintelligent AI could “easily resist and outsmart the united efforts of eight billion people” and achieve “virtual omnipotence,” and that “though achieving intelligence is more or less easy, giving a computer an ethical point of view is really hard.”
These are all stronger than Bostrom’s actual claims. For example, Bostrom never characterizes building a generally intelligent machine as “easy.” Nor does he say that intelligence can be infinite or that it can produce “omnipotence.” Humans’ intelligence and accumulated knowledge gives us a decisive advantage over chimpanzees, even though our power is limited in important ways. An AI need not be magical or all-powerful in order to have the same kind of decisive advantage over humanity.
Still, Davis’ article is one of the more substantive critiques of MIRI’s core assumptions that I have seen, and he addresses several deep issues that directly bear on AI forecasting and strategy. I’ll sketch out a response to his points here.